Translation memory software


The translation industry has certainly progressed during my time in it. When I first started, I remember one older gentleman who would bring me a translation scribbled onto loose pieces of paper. I had to hire a typist, who would fix some of his blatant mistakes, and then a proofreader to polish up the language.

For a long time I would have to take a 45 minute bus to the city center to deliver a nicely printed translation in a plastic sleeve with a floppy disk in it. This was not fun when the job was only three pages, but at least I had a fax, saving me from having to pick it up as well. Then the need to also have a printer made entry into the industry a little more expensive.

Eventually the big floppies were replaced by an amazing technology, a hard, smaller version. Things were progressing at lightning speed.

At that time the rage was a dos-based software called T602, a local production. It even had the amazing capability of exporting the text based file into Rich Text Format (RTF). There was no mouse and you had to press TAB a lot of times when trying to format a document.

Then along came the amazing world of Windows 3.0. Later on Windows 95. I had a computer friend back in Vancouver, Canada, and boasted over the phone how I had a whopping 256MB of memory (no, not ram). He sent me by post some programs on two boxes of disks, one of which compressed everything, even my Windows operating system, such that I could now have more than 500MB of data on my disk! I was amazed, but my friend laughed that I will use that up soon enough.

Then there came modems. I was excited at the opportunity to send files to my customers over the phone instead of taking the long bus. I taught all my customers how to use it and set it up on their computers. One of them commented I was like a missionary.

Eventually along came the internet. At this point I was still working next to a massive bookshelf of dictionaries, within arms reach as I spent much of my day fumbling through pages of different books, looking for a particular term.

Of course eventually came digital dictionaries, and I presume you can imagine the rest.

Translation memory software

Lets say you work for a real estate agency and translate a lot of rental and other contract. Such as:

Bob hereby agrees to furnish Sue with the property located at 115 Deepdene Drive, Prague, Czech Republic.

And later you get another translation job:

Tom hereby agrees to furnish Sam with the property located at 417 Sussex Ave, Prague, Czech Republic

A good translation memory (TM) software will take your translation of the plain, non-bold text and replace the bold text with the new bold text. The software does not know that they are names that do not need to be translated. And even if they were not names and did need to be translated, you would only need to translate the bold text.

Another big advantage is that the software usually has an internal dictionary which you can build up yourself, so every time a word in the dictionary appears in the source or target file, it will be marked in some way and the translation of that term shown in a little window. This saves having to go to some other software, type in the word and so on.

There are more advantages but these two are the main ones.

Different software

Over the years I have tried all sorts of software (because different agencies use different software and you are forced to install/purchase if you want work from them).

The most popular seems Trados. Easy to set up a project and quickly get statistics on a file, such as the total number of words and the fuzzy matches.

Fuzzy matches are the percentage of words or sentences in the document that duplicate, or are similar or the same to your previous TM. In our rental contract example above, that looks like it would have a fuzzy match of roughly 80% (for that particular sentence). Meaning that roughly 80% of the sentence has already been translated and you only have to worry about the remaining 20%. In our example, you would be lucky because you could just quickly look at it and realize it does not need to be translated at all, because it concerns names.

Here is a table showing the standard in the industry concerning payment of fuzzy matches:


Obviously the higher the percentage fuzzies, the less you would get paid from the base price.

A lot of agencies demand their translator to have Trados, and because of its relative ease of use, those are probably the primary reasons why it is the most popular. I tried it a few times but personally found it rather slow, comparatively to my preferred software.

When I was in the market of buying such a software, I had landed the greatest mega project < of my career. 3.5 million words in eleven languages, distributed to just over one hundred translators. I did some quick research and consultation with an expert and eventually decided on the below. I’ll go over some of its advantages and how I use it. Not as a sales pitch for the company but just to show some of the features that such software should have. It was expensive, but I was not looking for software for myself as a translator, but as a project manager, which is quite different.

Termstar Star Transit <

The main reasons I chose this software over Trados were the following:

  • much more powerful from a project manager’s point of view
  • there was a free version for the translator, whereas the translator version of Trados was still fairly expensive. I did not want to limit my pool of translators to only those who had this software

Later on when I reverted back to me personally translating, and forced to use Trados because of some customer, I found Transit overall much faster to work with, and with more tools.

Below I will list some of its qualities. Could easily be overkill considering your actual needs as a translator, but at least you can see what such a software is capable of, for your own personal consideration. On a side note, there are numerous software which work to some degree with Microsoft Word, meaning that the agency can prepare files in Word so that the translator is not forced to buy the same software.

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