Business translation is hardly ever a one-off job. Chances are your global marketing strategy involves more than one language and, as a result, translation has become a complex process. Web pages and documents will be updated as product specifications (or employee guidelines) change, and different pieces of this material often share some of the same content.
These are good reasons to maintain a translation database or a translation memory. Why reinvent the wheel by re-translating content, especially when you own it?
Moreover, maintaining your institutional translation memory isn’t just about saving your work; it’s also about maintaining and improving its quality. A fact of language is that translation is more of an art than a science (this is why machine translation is still no match for intuitive human translators). Two good translations of the same source text will probably not be identical, even though they have the same meaning. But the differences in wording could lead to confusion down the road.
A translation database lets you avoid repeated effort and potential pitfalls so your company can speak with one voice, even in a dozen or more languages. Put another way, translation memory provides speed, quality, and linguistic consistency.
What Is Translation Memory?
It’s just what it sounds like—the ability to recall, and refer back to, the translation projects your company has already completed or are currently in the middle of.
For companies already active in international marketing, maintaining and organizing translation memory is no small task. Rather it is an ever-growing process, not only because you’re creating new content all the time, but because you’re likely translating that content into more languages as you enter new markets and expand your market penetration efforts.
A World of Languages
The days when the web was mostly in English are long gone, per a 2013 report at Internet World Statistics which found only about a quarter of Web users used English as of two years ago. Chinese is of a similar leading portion, and it will only get bigger with time. But even the top 10 languages together—English, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, German, French, and Malay—account for less than 85 percent of the world’s web users.
Companies, including your competitors, have been responding to this trend by making their content available in these languages. The average number of languages leading brands supported (in addition to US English) more than doubled from 12 a decade ago to 28 by last year.
Multiply this by the number of web pages or documents that need to be available in each language, and keeping track of them becomes the greatest challenge. This is where a well-organized, readily accessible and affordable translation database comes in to maintain your firm’s translation memory.
Keeping Translations Straight
Translation memory saves you time when pages and documents need to be updated, just because a small change has been introduced. An improved product may have new features you want to call attention to, for example, but it still does the job the earlier version did. So, these updates don’t require a complete rewrite.
The work saved by referring back to your translation database also means a faster translation process, allowing your improved product to reach global customers that much sooner.
But there are some more subtle advantages to a well-maintained translation memory, as well. Namely, it improves consistency with new translations into different languages and successive translations into the same language.
Speed, quality, and linguistic consistency will all benefit from a well-supported translation database. And it will save you from having to reinvent the wheel.
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