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Translation memory: the basics

Computer Aided Translation (CAT) software splits a source text into manageable units known as “segments”, and builds databases of equivalent segments in different languages. A segment is the basic semantic unit of a text: ‘the red house’, for example, or ‘eighty-three’. CAT software learns that ‘the red house’ means ‘la casa roja’ in Spanish, say, and the next time that it comes across ‘the red house’ in an English to Spanish translation, it automatically suggests the translation it has already seen. The translator can accept the suggestion (the ‘candidate’), replace it with a fresh translation, or modify it to match the source.

CAT makes the translation process faster and more cost-effective, as it means that our team of translators don’t need to spend time or energy on something which has been translated before.

The databases of these matching segments form what are called Translation Memories (TM). TMs store all of the segments pertaining to a particular client.

This enables a consistency of translation in the work we do for any client. Regardless of which translator worked on a given text, we build up a TM for each client, ensuring that we use consistent terminology in all translations for them.

It also enables us to store industry-related terminology, guaranteeing a precise and accurate translation of technical vocabulary.

TMs allow greater flexibility in translation, adapting themselves to the needs of different clients and different contexts. They are highly customizable, and the bigger they get, the better!

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