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Translation Memory: Should You Start Over If You Switch Providers?

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Translation Memory: Should You Start Over If You Switch Providers? image confused business woman 300x194When translation quality keeps missing your standards, you might decide to switch translation partners. Early discussions with your new translation project management team will include translation memory. Will you bring this resource with you? (It is your intellectual property, after all.)

It’s not always a simple question. If you took advantage of translation memory with your previous vendor but translation quality wasn’t to your liking, you might not want to take this resource—composed of all your organization’s previously translated content—with you. You don’t want to face the same quality challenges with your new provider. Yet it took a great deal of time to build up this repository, and you don’t want to miss out on its cost savings potential.

When quality is concerning, should you just start over and build translation memory from scratch?

First, define “quality”

Translation quality is subjective–especially with marketing materials. You shouldn’t toss your translation memory in the garbage bin without insight into why your translation quality is poor. If you do, you could risk enduring these same quality challenges when you switch translation partners—even if you decide to leave your translation memory behind.

Are there consistent grammar and punctuation errors? Style and word choices not up to your standards? If you have style guides and glossaries, are linguists abiding by them? Answering these questions can help you pinpoint translation quality issues and articulate your expectations to your new translation team. You want everyone involved in the translation process to understand how your organization’s content should be translated so your style preferences can be met. This is important regardless of whether or not you bring translation memory with you.

If the quality of your translation memory is suspect . . .

Sajan can do a frontend assessment of your translation memory using a computerized analysis tool. This tool combs through all your previously translated segments and identifies any obvious errors with punctuation, grammar, measurement conversion, capitalization and more. You then get a report which points out areas that should be addressed, several options for cleansing and updating your translation memory and the costs associated with each solution. This step is recommend before you decide to forego using your previous translation memory altogether, because you may find your quality is better than expected.

While this technology cannot recognize stylistic issues, we can take a previously translated project—along with any style guides and other multilingual resources you may have—and put it through our extensive quality scoring method so you can see how well your previously translated content meets your style and tone expectations.

After you have a clear understanding of your translation memory’s quality, you can decide which route to take to improve it.

Why put off ‘til tomorrow what can be done today?

You may decide to have Sajan clean up your translation memory and fix any obvious errors before you move forward with new translation projects. There may be some fees associated with this, but it will rid your content of these faults right away.

For a more thorough cleanup, we can have professional linguists look through all your translation memory to identify more than just apparent errors—such as style and word preferences. While this tends to be a very time-consuming and costly process, it helps ensure your quality expectations are met right off the bat with future translation work.

Slow and steady wins the race

A more budget-friendly option instead of completely scrubbing translation memory of errors before you start any new initiatives is to do it gradually. Sajan’s robust translation management system technology, Transplicity, can be set up with custom workflows to improve your translation quality over time.

During the translate-edit-proof process, professional linguists review all your segments—even the ones derived from translation memory—to ensure they meet your quality expectations. If changes are made (or errors are fixed), revised segments are automatically updated in your translation memory to be used for future translation projects. We can even incorporate your internal reviewers into the workflow so their changes are updated in translation memory—this saves them from having to make the same alterations over and over again.

In this scenario, you pay the lower per-word rate for a translation memory match and avoid the costs associated with cleansing your translation memory right from the get-go.

Within Transplicity, you can track your translation quality improvements through on-demand segment change analysis reports. These reports show how many changes were made—and where they were made—in the translation process. Over time, you should start to see fewer and fewer revisions as translation quality—and therefore your translation memory—improves. You can also use Transplicity’s quick text search tool to make sure any given segment is updated correctly in translation memory.

Starting from scratch

If you have no confidence in the quality of your translation memory, you may elect to start fresh. In this case, you have a clean slate. You can tell your new provider your quality preferences and face less risk of poor quality translations seeping into your database.

Going this route means initially missing out on cost savings derived from translation memory as you work to rebuild it to what it was. However, you could avoid the soft costs that go along with fixing and reworking translations. For example, fewer errors to correct may mean your internal reviewers spend more time on other revenue-producing responsibilities—not solely translation.

In most cases, we wouldn’t recommend starting translation memory from scratch. We can take a look at what you’ve got to work with and suggest the best route for realizing cost savings and translation quality goals.

Improving your translation memory database really comes down to communicating your expectations, but your localization partner should help you reach your quality goals, too. Check out the whitepaper Ensuring translation quality: 10 questions to ask your translation vendor for tips on how to gauge your vendor’s commitment to quality.

When you switched translation providers, did you elect to clean up your translation memory or start from scratch? What was your experience, and why did you do this?

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