The secret weapon for any professional translator? Translation memory software.
Today, most translation software options are part of larger translation management systems. A subset of computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools, translation memory helps to:
- Speed up the translation process
- Ensure consistent and high-quality translations across projects
- Provide a database which you can analyze to determine number of words translated in a given project, calculating cost and turnaround time
- Save costs
Other features of CAT tools include a glossary or terminology management, also known as a termbase, which you can learn more about here.
What is translation memory software?
Translation memory (TM) software or tool is a database of sentences, or segments of texts and their translations that can be automatically reused when translating similar or identical content in your translation projects. Everything that you (or any other team members) type into an editor, upload or set via an API is saved automatically in the translation memory for future translations. This way, your previous translations will always be ready to use again.
When performing concordance searches within translation memory databases, you’ll find three types of matches:
- Exact match looks for phrases and sequences of words within a translation memory database that are 100% of a match, meaning it’s likely to be re-used
- Fuzzy match looks for phrases and sequences of words within a translation memory database that aren’t 100% exact, but a translator can make a judgement call based on the context whether or not to use the translation
- 101% matching is when the text of a string matches the text of a string and the context in the translation memory.
This allows translators to easily pick and choose terms that are already translated in the course of moving between different languages. Most translation memory software supports multiple file formats, so it stores information regardless whether you’re using Microsoft Word, HTML, or something else. Unlike machine translation, which suggests possible translations, it’s up to the professional translator to look at the context of the new translation to see if there’s a possible fit.
With translation memory, even if you have a team of translators, you know the most important terms will be the same — saving you both time and money on re-translations.
The best translation memory software
Today’s translation memory software tools are usually integrated within translation management systems (TMS) like Lokalise. The difference is that translation memory software alone is used by translators, while TMS integrates into the entire localization process and other translation tools and is used by project managers, engineers, and designers in addition to in-house or freelance translators.
If you want a tool that can integrate with the rest of your tech stack and do it all, a TMS is the right choice, since most TMS include translation memory software.
Note: I recognize that TMS could also stand for “translation memory software” — the subject of this article. Moving forward, please note that TMS = “translation management system” (like Lokalise!) and TM software = “translation memory software.”
Using a TMS is like using a smartphone — unlike first-generation cell phones, you can use a smartphone to call, text, scroll social media … whatever you want!
TM software can only do one thing: serve as the database of existing translations, similar to how first-generation cell phones could only be, well, a phone.
Traditional TMS vs. modern TMS
When looking for the best translation memory tools, then, you’ll have to consider not only the specific translation memory capabilities (how precise the matches are, how robust the database is, etc) but how it fits into using the TMS. You’ll want to evaluate:
- Available features
- Integration capabilities
- Overall ease of use and user experience
Traditional TMSs operate with larger teams — and while it may be more convenient to have project managers and coordinators from your vendor, you pay for it. Traditional TMSs tend to be less transparent than their modern counterparts, so it’s more difficult to assess project status.
In the case of translation memory, using a traditional TMS means you won’t own it or be able to download it, meaning you’re locked in to using one vendor if you want to leverage the benefits of using translation memory.
Modern TMSs, on the other hand, require more hands-on work from you. While it can be great to have more control over the translation process, particularly in terms of integrating it more smoothly into your overall localization workflow, it does take time. You’ll have with most modern TMS the flexibility to jump between vendors and evaluate your options, as well as integrate seamlessly with the rest of your tech stack.
Here are the best TM software options from both traditional and modern TMSs:
The best free translation memory software
It’s challenging to find free translation memory software that will give you the quality you need. However, there are some freemium options out there if you’re not sure which vendor fits your team best, so you can try a few options before you buy.
Those free options include:
Did you know? Lokalise also has a free plan option that includes 500 hosted keys (strings) and supports two total projects.
The best paid translation memory software
Like any service, you get what you pay for. Free tools don’t always support all the features you need. The best paid translation memory software is often wrapped into TMSs like:
- SDL Trados
- DEJA VU
Of course, we can’t help but recommend our own tool — Lokalise! Here’s how translation memory works.
Using translation memory in Lokalise
In the Lokalise editor, translation memory shows up as a suggestion while creating a new entry, or you can pull up the TM widget anytime with the CTRL/CMD-G shortcut. TM is cloud-based and updated in real-time, so you can access it anywhere.
With the widget, you can also perform concordance search, allowing you to look for specific words or phrases you’ve already translated before. You can conduct exact matches, searches in specific target languages, or include certain regions.
When uploading translation files, you may also enable the Pre-translate with 100% TM matches option. When this option is enabled, Lokalise fetches each base language value from the uploaded file and searches for a matching entry in the translation memory among your selected language pairs. If a 100% match is found, the corresponding translation will be populated for the given key, provided it doesn’t already have a translation attached to it.
You can apply TM to multiple keys by selecting one or more translation keys and then choose Apply TM to from the bulk menu. Adjust the match percentage, choose a language, and click Apply.
To manage translation memory (.tmx) files, team administrators can go to the team settings under the Translation Memory tab:
This way, you can export your translation files from another tool like Wordfast, SDL Trados Studio, or Metatexis and turn your .docx or .pdf files into .tmx files, which can then be uploaded into Lokalise’s system.
For your projects, it may help to set up separate translation memories so you can establish different styles, tones, voice, or industry-specific terms based on your website or product architecture. That way, you don’t have to worry about your more technical content in your help center getting confused with marketing language or step-by-step directions in other parts of your software application.
In the example above, you’ll see the “B2B” and “HelpCenter” databases are selected. When this is selected, you’ll only see suggestions from those two translation memory databases. Similarly, you can choose a target location where you can save your new strings to your translation memory, so you can easily export it.
Get the benefits of TM + TMS with Lokalise
With Lokalise, you’ll always have control of your data. Lokalise translation memory isn’t just beneficial to translators or translation agencies — it’s also an asset to your product, engineering, design, and marketing teams. With Lokalise, you can:
- Recycle translations you’ve used before with translation memory, saving time and money
- Stay flexible and unattached to one technological solution, easily exporting and importing your translation memory databases
- Access and update your TM in real-time, giving you transparency and control of your assets
Harness the power of Lokalise’s translation memory software. Lokalise’s translation memory software is only an element — an important and priceless element — of our broader TMS, so you can do it all.
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