Boosting Productivity with Translation Memory and Glossaries

Linguistic resources, including translation memories and glossaries, can be the most valuable part of any CAT tool. Today, we'll look into how corporate translation departments rely on these materials and how they help businesses save money. This article is best suited for people who still don't work with translation memories and glossaries or who've just forgotten how easy they are to use.


Translation memory

To put things simply, a translation memory is a database where everything you've previously translated is stored. The more translations a company completes, the richer the memory becomes. Translation memories are made up of translation matches that are in turn comprised of single sentences.


A translation memory is a database where everything you've previously translated is stored

Why they are important

Translation memories let users benefit over and over again from text they have already translated. If a sentence has already been translated once, then there's no need to ever translate it again: translation memories keep track of all repetitions and matches. Texts can either be completely or partially identical, such as when a word has a different form than previously found (contractcontracts).

An IT company launches its product in five countries and prepares documentation in five different languages. Two months later the team revamps their solution, but the accompanying documentation is only changed slightly, as the documents prepared previously still make up the bulk. If the original translations were done using a translation memory, then localizing the updated materials will take much less time than starting them over from scratch.

The translation industry has a preconceived notion that using translation memories for marketing texts doesn't make much sense, as there are typically few matches, and word-for-word repetitions don't add any real benefit. But in reality this is not the case: translation memories speed up the localization of any text type with the exception of fiction. Indeed there are fewer repetitions than, for example, in a legal document, but translation memories nonetheless make the process run faster, as continuity is maintained between translators and specific wording is confirmed faster.

The savings

Companies save tons of time and money thanks to the repeated use of already complete translations. Translations using a translation memory are completed faster and cheaper, with companies saving an average of 30%. The bigger your translation memory, the more you save.


Glossaries are mini dictionaries that contain terms and their definitions. Companies maintain glossaries when they translate specialized texts that require important terms to be represented accurately every time, such as technical materials, medical documents, and other projects with a highly specific focus. But glossaries are indispensable no matter what the project, as it is always of the utmost importance to maintain the consistent use of terms.

Why they are important

Glossaries help avoid mix-ups with terms, maintain the continuity and cohesiveness of translated texts and improve translation quality. If a company prefers to translate the Spanish contrato as agreement, and not contract, just make a note of that in your glossary and every translator will use the term you choose. This way the text on your site, in your technical documentation, and in the App Store will always be in line with corporate standards, regardless of the language.

The savings

When companies use glossaries they decrease the number of errors in meaning by 70%. This means they spend less time re-working completed texts, and save the resources of their department, managers and translators. If new translators are suddenly needed, the company can integrate them into the project quicker and show them the proper way terms must be translated.

Quality, cohesive translations are invaluable for a company's good reputation, and glossaries help your product's website, ads, and interface all speak in the same language to users.

Any and all employees can use glossaries, even if they aren't using them strictly to translate. These mini dictionaries do wonders for salespeople or business development departments when it comes to speaking with international clients. If every employee uses the same terms approved by the company, then there will be fewer mix-ups involving a word's meaning down the road when discussing legal and financial questions.

How to put together translation memories

If you don't already have a translation memory database, you can do one of two things:

  1. Create a new project using your CAT tool and go to Settings to enable translation memories to be saved. Use the same database when creating new projects in the future. It will save every translation you make, grow with each project and help you work smarter all thanks to translations you've done in the past.

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  1. If you've already translated texts from English to Spanish, for example, you can use them to create a translation memory. To do this, upload the original and translations into Aligner: this program 'levels out' the texts to create a complete translation memory that you can use with any future projects. There is a paid version of Aligner available as well.


  1. All modern CAT tools list repetitions in the statistics when creating a new project, which includes text matches with the open translation memory, and how many repetitions are in the text itself. Companies can therefore directly see the savings of translation memories from any given project.


How to make a glossary

If a company doesn't use CAT tools, it makes its glossaries in the following way:

  1. Managers and translators pick out important terms from the original by hand and enter them into a table.
  2. The terminology is translated and checked against itself.
  3. After each term is translated, it is added to the dictionary.


Maintaining a glossary is much easier using technology. Translators and managers now use a program to extract terms (a term extractor): the original is uploaded and an algorithm makes a list of phrases based on frequency and other parameters. Then the translators and managers check over that mini dictionary, remove and add new terms as they see fit, translate, make adjustments, and the glossary is ready to go. To make them even more helpful, users sometimes add descriptions, examples of use, and other information. The completed glossary is uploaded in the CAT tool and starts helping from the very first segment.

Glossaries must also be maintained so they continue to help the translation process. New terms must be added, or translators should be asked to enter in new concepts as they carry out their work. Modern CAT instruments can automatically analyze text and suggest terms for the glossary: translators and managers will see a notification where new terms can be either accepted or rejected.

Tip: Make separate translation memories and glossaries for each subject area. Never mix materials for technical, financial, and marketing projects.

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