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Why I use Translation Memory software

by Steven Marzuola

In my opinion, no translator should be without a translation memory program, unless perhaps he or she translates literature. But for most commercial translations —technical, legal, medical, business— almost every translator can benefit by using this technology.

At its best, it enables a natural synergy between the strengths of a computer and those of a human translator. The computer retrieves text, quickly and automatically, leaving the operator to supervise the process and intervene where the computer cannot help.

There are several choices. The market leader is SDL Trados. However, in one sense it doesn't matter which one you use. Many programs share the same basic concepts, and when you learn one TM program, you learn something about about all of them. I purchased Déjà Vu from, and it's still my favorite program. But almost any TM is better than not using one at all.

The main benefit is as a memory retrieval and retyping system. If I have translated something before, and added it to my memory, the TM program remembers it and types it for me. This promotes consistency, and speed, while leaving the translation under my control at every step.

Another benefit, at least in DV, is that the source and translation are very close to each other. It's easy to scan back and forth, to confirm that each translated sentence includes all the parts of the source sentence. You won't waste time trying to find your place in the source document, as you might when the source is on paper or in another window on your computer.

Many TM programs contain other tools and features that promote quality and consistency. For example, many of them have a terminology check function. When it is run, it compares the translation to a list of required translations. If a particular source sentence has a term on this list, the programs ensures that the specified translation is present on the target side.

Many translators say that their customers require them to buy Trados. However, several other TM programs can read the Trados format. That means you can accept so-called “Trados jobs”. Sometimes, you might need the Trados demo version for a particular reason such as to segment a file, and there are translators who use Trados for other functions. But many of them prefer to actually do the translation using another program such as Déjà Vu.

Other translators say: “My customers don't require Trados, so I don't need any TM program.” In my opinion, that's where TM is the most useful: for customers who don't care how I get the job done. And unlike the customers who specify Trados, those other customers don't ask for discounts for repetitive text.

I have been telling people for years:  When you're not using TM, it's like being on foot as you cross the countryside. Using  TM, it's like riding a horse or motorcycle.  You move faster and can see farther.

Last revised: June 1, 2012
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