Why a translation memory?
A translation memory is the single thing that can save you the most when buying translation. Such memory represents a retrievable archive of everything being translated for your company. This way, when you need a slightly different version of something already translated in the past you don't need to pay for the whole thing again.
One main advantages of this memory is that you don't need to "remember" that something similar was translated in the past. This is done automatically by the support TMS (Translation Management Systems) that main providers use.
Another advantage is that even for documents quite different some savings may be achieved. Think about things like headers and footers and other information from your company that remain reasonably unchanged over time. You shouldn't be dinged every time this content is sent for translation. A good TM will retrieve such past translation over and over again saving you big bucks as well.
Translation memories work really well with technical translations. Whether you need a technical German to English translation or a translation from English to Spanish, a translation memory can bring you many benefits.
What is a translation memory?
A Translation Memory is a file that is created at the beginning of your relationship with your provider. After that, this TM will increase in size and content. Today's technology support a virtually unlimited size for such memories. However, for the sake of manageability some companies will keep a TM for each department or branch - for instance.
This is a copy of how a Translation Memory look like. This one is the most adopted technology everywhere.
Who will provide me with a TM?
Your language service provider is supposed to advise you about that from the get-go. Not all providers share about this memory with their clients altough virtually all of them will use this technology to their own advantage.
It is important that you feel confident that your provider will actually share the savings from this technology with you. A main evidence that your provider will do so is when they share spontaneously about this technology. If you need to ask them about the potential savings coming from repetition, this may be a sign that they will be reluctant about extending this benefit to you.
Remember your provider will be the one creating and managing the memory. It is quite rare for clients - even large corporations - to manage their own translations. However, it is important that your provider do share a copy of the TM every now and then. This way, if you need to take your business elsewhere you are able to that without losing everything you have accumulated in this TM.
Translation memory is not just about savings. It is also about quality and consistency.
Think about a technical document. You don't want a certain technical term to be translated in ten different ways. You want the same translation to be used consistently throughout a document, a project, or a large set of content veicles.
A translator - even a seasoned professional one - may forget about how he has translated a technical term written 2 months ago. The TM will help by "retrieving" the translation of this term and "showing" to the translator when he reaches such term again.
Now imagine a team of translators working in a large project with hundreds of documents. It is key that a TM is shared over a server so all these professionals may be supported by the same terminology being retrieved when necessary.