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What is translation memory (TM), and how does it help with localizing websites?

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If you’re localizing your website, you likely know that you need to first translate your website text. You’re probably also aware of the translation challenges that may come your way. For one, translation takes time – especially if you’re doing it manually. There’s also the issue of maintaining translation consistency if you’re translating text that appears on your website multiple times.

Such obstacles can be overcome by investing in a website translation solution with built-in translation memory. This feature helps the website translation solution “remember” translations for certain text, so it can automatically reuse them when it needs to translate identical text later on. Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?

Translation memory is a must-have if you want to translate website content at scale, and in a consistent manner for a good user experience. Keep reading as we share more on how translation memory works and how it can help you localize your website.

What is translation memory and how does it work?

Translation memory is a database of previously translated texts. The database contains multiple segments of text fragments – such as sentences, phrases, and paragraphs – in their source language, and their translated equivalent in the target language. Each such source/target language pair is referred to as a “translation unit.”

Translation memory is a common feature in translation software such as website translation solutions and computer-assisted translation tools (also known as CAT tools). Here’s how it typically comes into play in a translation project:

The translator runs the original text through their translation software. The software’s translation memory feature then uses statistical machine learning models to analyze the text, and match it against previous translations in its database.

If the software finds an exact match between the current source text and an existing translation unit, then great! It can then reuse the previous translation wholesale.

Translation memory vs. termbase: what’s the difference?

Apart from translation memory, translation software also often have termbase features. However, a termbase isn’t the same as translation memory. Here’s a quick overview of the difference.

While translation memory stores original text segments and their translated segment equivalents, a termbase is a searchable database of multilingual terms and rules regarding their usage. Also known as a translation glossary, a termbase may contain information on:

  • Term definitions to help translators understand how to translate specific terms.
  • Translation preferences when a translator has the choice of using two similar translations for a particular term.
  • Terms that should never be translated, such as brand names or product names.

Unlike translation memory, which is automatically generated by software, termbases are created manually.

Despite their differing roles, translation memory and termbases are used hand in hand to ensure that certain words or brand concepts are translated in the same manner. In turn, they facilitate more consistent translation throughout the project. This is especially important if multiple team members with different translation styles are working on the project simultaneously.

What are the benefits of translation memory?

Using translation memory, translation becomes a much faster process. Businesses that are translating text won’t have to repeatedly translate the same text over and over again. This is especially the case for calls to action or quotes that are used in multiple places throughout your site.

With such translations out of the way, businesses can then focus their time and resources on translating more novel or technical text that requires specialized attention.

How does translation memory help you localize your website?

Website localization is the process of adapting your website’s contents for the local context. Given the possible language differences between different local contexts, a large part of website localization involves translating your website content to another language. Translation memory can help do this quickly and efficiently by retrieving previous translations of text phrases found in your content and then automatically associating them with the new content.

Here’s an example to illustrate: let’s say a fictional business called ACME Corporation is expanding into Spain. In this case, it should probably localize its English-language website for the Spanish market.

Now, it just so happens that the business’s website has multiple website call-to-action buttons that read “Get in touch.” The Spanish translation of “Get in touch” is “Ponerse en contacto,” which ACME Corporation’s translation software has saved in its translation memory. In this case, the business can potentially translate all “Get in touch” website button text to “Ponerse en contacto” in one shot!

This process repeats for all other translation units in the translation memory of ACME Corporation’s translation software. The business will then have a decent first draft of translated content, which it can further refine for its Spanish audience.

How to apply translation memory to enhance your website localization

For effective website localization, your translations will need to be not only accurate but also consistent across your entire website. Using a website translation solution that features translation memory can achieve these two aims.

That’s because as the website translation solution is translating your website, its translation memory will automatically store your existing translations in its database. The software then automatically uses these translation units while translating the rest of your website.

There are many website translation solutions and translation management systems on the market with built-in translation memory functionality, and Weglot is one of them. It uses a proprietary mix of machine learning translations, such as DeepL and Yandex, to translate websites with a high degree of accuracy.

After Weglot has translated your website content, you can review the machine translations in a central dashboard and add collaborators to assist in tweaking them. And if you need professional translation expertise, you can also easily order translations from Weglot’s partner agencies from the Weglot Dashboard.

Weglot provides seamless, no-code integrations with WordPress, Shopify, Webflow, and other leading platforms required. You can try Weglot for free here.

Benefits of using a translation tool that features translation memory

When you use a translation tool that features translation memory to translate your website, you stand to benefit from:

A faster and more consistent localization process

No more spending hours translating the same phrases manually each time or going back to check which word you had previously used for translating a particular phrase. Your localized text will be more consistent with the help of translation memory because you are reusing the same translations you had used previously.

Higher-quality translations

Most translation memory tools use sophisticated machine translation technology to enhance translation accuracy. With the help of such technology, you’ll get a high-quality first pass of translation that you can perfect for your needs.

Some comprehensive translation tools will also allow you to purchase professional translation services directly inside the tool.

Cheaper localization costs

It can be rather cost-prohibitive to hire professional translators to translate your entire website – especially if you need translations in multiple languages. In this regard, translation tools present a more affordable alternative, helping you translate content at a mere fraction of the cost of engaging a human translator. For more information, check out our full comparison on translation pricing per word for different translation options.

Even if you’ve used a translation tool to translate your website, you can still get a translation agency to fine-tune the translations for certain key portions of text. The scope of such custom translation work will be lower, lowering your bill from the agency while keeping the quality of your website translations high!

Weglot checks off all the above boxes

Do the above benefits sound familiar? They should – because we’ve covered many of them when explaining how our Weglot website translation solution can meet your business’s translation needs above!

Leveraging the power of automation, Weglot can translate your website quickly, consistently, and with a high degree of accuracy. It can also help you save time and reap significant cost savings.

With Weglot, you can take advantage of translation memory – and more.

Weglot packs in proprietary machine learning translation technology for generating high-quality translations instantly. Weglot also facilitates efficient collaboration among team members and external parties, making it a truly end-to-end translation and localization solution for multilingual websites. Sign up here to try Weglot for free now.

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