The Role of Technology in the Translation Industry

Technology has impacted all areas of our lives greatly and the translation industry is no exception. In the past, translators did their work using paper and pen, typewriters, and dictionaries. As you can imagine, without the aid of technology, the translation process took a lot of time to complete. Fortunately, much has changed since the rise of the computer and the internet—word processor, access to many more digital resources (dictionaries, glossaries, corpus), reduced research time (no need to go to the library and flip through big books), faster communication with clients and between peers, and access to the best talent in the world make translation work easier and more effective.

Let’s take a closer look at how technology has impacted the translation industry. 

How Technology Has Impacted the Translation Industry

The advancement of computer technology and the internet created a wide range of tools and convenience for every industry, but the translation industry specifically started its road of exponential growth when technology stepped in. As technology expanded, so did our access to other corners of the world. Given the amount of content that needed to be translated to reach other markets and audiences, technology also needed to provide enhanced productivity, communication, and quality assurance tools.

CAT tools were the first big revolution in the translation field and absolutely changed how translators worked thanks to the implementation of translation memory, term bases, and QA checks. While at the beginning CAT tools were deemed to be a threat to human translators, it soon became clear how much they had to offer. Linguists became more efficient and productive, and found in them ways to reduce human errors. Now it seems inconceivable to work without them.

Machine Translation (MT) can be considered the next big revolution. This technological solution was created to help meet that vast demand for fast translation services at a cheaper cost. While the quality standard with MT can be questionable and there’s a lot of room for improvement, there’s no denying that to some extent and in some fields the use of MT can prove to be invaluable.

As demand for translation services grew, other technological tools came to the rescue in order to keep track of everything. Translation Management Systems in particular provide a wide variety of solutions to common translation struggles. This tool organizes all kinds of translation and localization workflows. Some of the benefits of a Translation Management System include: 

  • 24/7 access
  • Automation of workflows
  • Assignments by AI
  • Centralized linguistic assets
  • Easy collaboration
  • Progress tracking
  • Simple integration
  • Built-in accountability
  • Scalability
  • Deadline management
  • Improved translation quality
  • Transparent ROI

The Takeaway 

Technology has its faults—there’s no doubt about that—but in the translation industry it has been an enabler for progress. As long as all parties involved in the process understand that technology has its limitations, it can be used to do more, better, and faster work. In a world where access to information in a language everybody understands has become critical, having technology on our side is an enormous help.


Translation Memories: Create, Use, Maintain

Translation memories (TMs) are a recurring star in localization workflows. They can help both clients and translators save time and costs, ensure consistency, and serve as a consultation source. They may be a giving resource, but TMs need to be managed carefully and systematically in order to leverage their utilities and potential. Let’s take a look at how a TM develops throughout time and the best practices for dealing with it.

Too Many Cooks Won’t Spoil the Broth

On some occasions, a TM begins when translators start working on a document from a client or account. While translating, the source segments and their corresponding target text are stored in the same bilingual databases TMs are stored. In other instances, it’s possible to create a TM using past translations with the alignment function or reusing old TMs. With the alignment feature, the CAT tool compares an original document with its translation, finding alignment pairs and storing them in a TM.

After their creation and during the course of projects, a lot of people can have access and modify the TM. For example, not only translators or editors, but also project managers (PMs) may be in charge of overseeing it. Sometimes, due to compatibility, a PM exports, imports, or exchanges TMs, changing formats or settings. The client’s reviewers can also proofread and insert changes in TMs. To keep a useful and healthy resource despite the many people that work with it is possible through good practices of TM management.

Maintaining a TM

In regards to linguistic quality, the role of quality assurance (QA)  managers and editors is crucial. By defining stylistic preferences and reviewing projects, they ensure that documents and hence TMs are consistent, which reduces risks and errors. It’s also possible to entrust TMs proofreading for important clients or accounts, to keep them updated and free of typos and omissions.

Additionally, to avoid error propagation, PMs and vendors need to be cautious with locked segments and context matches that sometimes are not under scope. It’s important to unlock and correct them or let the PMs know that there are errors so that they can evaluate the course of action.

Most TMs can be exported as bilingual files in xliff formats, which allows running QA checks in CAT Tools or in QA automation software to fix consistency or terminology errors, numeric mismatches, typos, tags, etc.

Best Practices

A TM can store years of work, the effort of localization professionals, hours of research, translation, and review. So such a valuable resource implies it’s not affordable to lose it. Keeping backups is a mandatory action when dealing with TMs, such as saving a copy on more than one cloud-based storage or in a local disk. Moreover, being organized with TMs, but also with term bases, references, style guides or whichever resource in hand, we’ll help make them easily available. Defining a naming convention for TMs can be a great place to start: will you organize TMs by account, language pair or domain subject? What’s the best fit for your workflows? Besides, filling thoroughly metadata info will keep TMs classified and easy to find.


How Humans Shape AI and Fuel Translation Technologies

Major technological advancements are made every single day and the driving force behind these life saving and world altering advancements is always human. Machines are accelerating processes and providing alternative solutions for many of the repetitive and everyday tasks humans tire of, and the translation industry is no exception. However, not all tasks are repetitive when it comes to translation. For these automatized solutions to work and improve, the involvement of human linguists is imperative. It’s very important to acknowledge that behind any great machine is a super human. Let’s take a closer look at how humans are shaping AI and fueling translation technologies. 

Machine Translation

Machine translation technology has made massive strides in recent years. Long gone are the days of rule based machine translation. Thanks to the introduction of AI and machine learning, machine translation output quality has been improving at a faster rate. It’s worth noting that there are still limitations to this technology — limitations that require human intervention to overcome. In order for machine translation engines to learn, someone has to teach them. As a result, linguists must be involved both before and after a translation takes place. Linguists must “train” the engines to predict how a translator would proceed through post-edition work

Post-edition occurs when a human translator corrects the machine generated text and provides explanations for each of the corrections. They then explain why they decided to do what they did, which helps improve the machine translation’s capabilities. Next, engineers process this information and feed the engine with more data. The goal being, that as time moves on, there is less human interference required to produce human-quality translations. To achieve this goal, more and more industry specific machine translation engines are being created and companies now have the possibility of training machine translation engines for their own use.

Transcription Services

In the case of transcription services, we’re seeing an increase in use of speech recognition software. It’s important to pause here and draw a line between speech recognition and dictation. Dictation occurs when the speaker purposefully modulates and uses commands to be understood, which can be easier to decode, because usually the speaker is intentionally being clear. The difficult task is to decode speech when it’s not dictated, such as during a lecture or an interview.

Similar to machine translation, speech recognition software requires training. The developers of speech recognition software apps are collecting massive amounts of data from the users’ recorded sentences and correcting the transcribed text in order to train the software and make it more accurate when it comes to elements like accents, jargon, and speed. This is no easy task as no one human speaks exactly the same. Similar to how no two people are alike, deviations in speech patterns and accents must be taken into account. Any type of anomaly, like an accent, can cause speech recognition software to mis-interpret certain aspects of a conversation. This is why having a human review the output — no matter how strong the technology is — is imperative. If you’re struggling to visualize what this technology looks like, pick up your smartphone. Often, when you get a new smartphone you have to train your phone’s digital assistant (like Apple’s Siri) to recognize your specific voice. In many cases, the phone will only respond to your voice and won’t work for someone else.

The Takeaway

As impressive as machine translation and tools like speech recognition software are, they still require human supervision in order to achieve the best results. There are very necessary human touches that can take the content created by AI and make it more accurate and effective. The post-editing of machine translated texts and transcription QA checks are a necessary step a human linguist must take, as there are times when the sensitivity of the materials require that no risks are taken (such as with medical translation) and that humans are the ones making the important decisions.


What is Translation Memory Alignment and How Can I Use It?

Technology can sure come in handy sometimes, especially in the translation industry. CAT tools are one such piece of technology that can make translation work faster and more accurate. CAT, which translates to “Computer Assisted Translation”, is a term that can describe software used by translators to improve their efficiency and quality. A translation memory (TM) is just one feature of CAT tools, but is an important one. A TM serves as a database which stores previously translated text such as words, phrases, and sentences. Despite how useful a TM is, clients may not always have access to one. Let’s look at why that may be and how the issue can be remedied through the use of translation memory alignment. 

Why a Translation Memory May Not Be Used

Using a TM with previously translated text is extremely beneficial to achieve consistency in style and terminology throughout all translated materials, but in some cases clients can’t provide linguists with TMs. This means that neither translators nor clients can leverage prior work when translating new documents. 

There are a variety of reasons why a TM may not be available for use. It could be because the linguist wasn’t using a CAT tool at the time they began translating documents for a client. In some cases, the client may simply not have access to a TM file utilized by a translator they no longer work with and who did not deliver the file during their handoff.

Regardless of the reason a TM may not be available, if the original files and the translated versions are at hand, this inconvenience can be quickly overcome.

Where Translation Memory Alignment Comes In

For those who want to utilize a TM, without having to start from scratch, translation memory alignment allows for the user to import two files representing the same text in two different languages and align the sentences side by side to generate a TM file. This process allows you to build a repository of translation units that will be saved to the TM and can be utilized in future translation projects. 

The translation memory alignment process can be completed through different tools. Most CAT tools offer their own alignment feature, but there are others in the market as well that specialize in this process.

A Personal Touch

Some alignment tools will generate a report with a “quality score” that gives an indication of how successful the alignment was. Translation memory alignment projects should always be performed by a linguist who knows the two languages being handled. The linguist will check each segment and approve correct matches or fix incorrect matches in order to perfect the TM. Human work will help ensure the alignment is 100% correct. This intervention is especially helpful when dealing with documents that have complex formatting that can lead to accuracy issues during the alignment process.


The Three Essential IT Resources for Translation Workflows

Several specifications and challenges can determine a localization project, like references, term lists, a big team with a large workload or tight deadlines. Because of this, computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools are the best allies when handling translation workflows. First, they help the management team organize assignments and monitor the vendors’ progress. They also assist translators and editors with many useful features (like terminology management, spellcheck, search options, shortcuts, etc.). And lastly, they benefit quality assurance managers providing tools to revise and run tests on the project’s documents. 

Hence, the value CAT tools add in each of these steps is fundamental for a smooth workflow and, as a result, high-quality deliverables. In particular, three features of translation software impact consistency, productivity and optimal terminology management. These are translation memories (TM), term bases (TB) and alignment pairs.

1. Translation memories

This segment has a 101% match with one stored in the TM.

TMs are bilingual databases that store pairs of translated segments (source + target text). They are integrated into CAT tools, so linguists can reuse previous translations and save the new ones. First, this speeds up the process of writing. Second, it’s the basic resource for ensuring consistency within documents and projects.

There are different possible levels of matches between a segment that needs translation and the ones stored in a TM.

0-50% – No MatchThe segment to be translated is new, so there is no suggestion available in the TM. 
50-99% – Fuzzy MatchThere is a partial match between a segment to be translated and a segment in the TM. There can be low or high fuzzy matches.
100% – Full MatchThe segment is identical to one stored in the TM, so there is a full match.
101% – Context MatchThe segment is identical to one stored in the TM, so there is a full match. Also, segment’s context is the same. 

TMs are very valuable databases that can be shared, exported or imported in different software applications. 

2. Term bases

An example of an English-Spanish term base.

A TB is a database containing pairs of terms (words or expressions) in two or more languages. TBs can be created or edited using the CAT tool in an ongoing project. In addition, it’s possible to create a TB by importing an existing list of terms from a bilingual or multilingual document (like an Excel sheet). 

Suggestions for terms in a CAT tool.

Glossaries ensure consistent management of terminology across documents and projects. Skilled use of term bases will provide multiple advantages for translation workflows, because TBs can help with:

  • Forbidden or incorrect words
  • Preferential expressions 
  • Recognizing terms despite inflection
  • Providing context or conditions for a term
  • Distinguishing terms according to their letter case

An English-Spanish term base with forbidden terms.

3. Alignment

This is a feature of CAT tools that allows importing pre-existing translations. The software automatically aligns the segments of a pair of files (the source text and its translation) to create a bilingual document. This way, linguists can have access to these translations, reuse them or store them in a TM. Therefore, the information present in the document (terminology, references) is easily accessible to the linguists working in the project, as any other CAT tool resource. 

Alignment is an effective way of handling previous translations sent as reference, because it allows to import them in the tool. This way, the processing of this information and the consistency with it is ensured.


Integration Between Tools: Make It Work


Within the localization industry, there is a wide range of technology solutions. For instance, some computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools are specifically designed to translate mobile applications, while others work perfectly for website localization or software development. They also vary in complexity, size or usability. Quality assurance (QA) checks as well as terminology and project management features are also factors that change among translation tools.

Operating in a business with such diverse opportunities implies that sometimes we have to work in very different tools, with their pros and cons. For example, a client may require vendors to use a certain software application, say, a web-based editor, that may not be that handy if the hired Language Service Provider needs to coordinate simultaneously the work of several linguists. When this happens, the management team can obtain better results both in terms of quality and time by exporting files, termbases and translation memories, and then work in a more suitable CAT tool. This is what we call integration between tools.

Reasons and Benefits

Working across tools is possible thanks to XLIFF files, which are a kind of XML-based format. They are compatible with any localization software, thus they can be exported and imported between different applications.

There are multiple reasons for using a different CAT tool than the one originally provided. However, this decision is only convenient in some specific scenarios, and must be always done with clients’ approval. For instance, some web-based editors only allow one linguist to log in at a time. In that case, exporting the files and using a desktop application may be a better option if the project managers (PMs) need to put together a large team of vendors. Desktop versions allow the management team to properly divide the amount of work and assign it neatly. Having total control over document batches and assignments also results in reducing production time. PMs can establish a schedule with partial deliveries, so translators and editors can work simultaneously.

QA Power

QA tools

However, the salient advantage of exchanging files within tools is the possibility of using different quality assurance (QA) utilities. In the market, there are many options of specialized software for automation of QA, such as Xbench or Verifika. CAT tools also include different types of quality control features, so it may be helpful to run checks in more than one software. Both specialized software and integrated functionalities spot and resolve errors in bilingual files, detecting formatting, consistency, terminology, grammar and spelling errors, and numeric and tag mismatches. Linguists can correct them manually or use the auto-correction feature these resources offer.

When to Integrate?

To tackle a project across tools is possible under certain conditions. First and foremost, working in a different software must be the best option for that particular case. The decision must be quality-driven and the result of a risk management approach. This is, after considering the original tool and the possibilities it offers, the management team decides that they will export the file and work with it in another software, because they will benefit incomparably from its features. Second, this workflow is only possible when web-platforms or applications allow importing/exporting using standardized files, such as XLIFF files. IT managers first test with small files whether the process runs correctly, and only in that case the workflow moves forward with the entire project.

Quality and value

Integrating files and tools is one of the ways in which project and quality assurance managers can add value during the translation process. They bring their experience, teamwork and analytical insight to assess which options can offer more quality and accuracy to the localization workflows they manage.


Terminology Management: What is It & Why It’s Needed

Let’s talk about communication. See what we did there? All jokes aside, communicating is one of the most important things we do in our daily lives. On a bigger scale, proper communication is especially vital to organizations who deal with the public in one format or another. Nowadays, organizations can operate in a multitude of different linguistic communities. Each of which can require the use of different languages. Achieving the highest quality communication in a variety of languages demands professional translation services. Top tier translation professionals often utilize a proactive approach that includes terminology management in order to ensure effective communication.

What is Terminology Management?

When it comes to translation, terminology management can guarantee the usage of correct terms in all materials and communications that come from an organization. Terminology should be consistent across all areas of a company, such as in product development and distribution. 

In order to successfully manage terminology, one must collect the terms that are of specific interest to an organization. For example, a medical device manufacturer may utilize highly-specific medical terms. An engineering firm would need to master the translation of terms relating to materials and mechanical processes. Once the translation team collects the appropriate terms, a vital part of terminology management surrounds documenting the terms properly. In other words, identifying definitions, usage guidelines, product associations, and parts of speech. Terminology management can also guide both writers and translators towards using consistent language.

What is a Term Base?

An important part of terminology management is having a robust term base. A term base is a database where terminology is normally managed and published. Term bases can contain words and expressions that have specialized meaning. For example, these terms can be technical, scientific, market-specific, or political. The terms can also be ones that are prominent in any customer-facing materials. Such as slogans, names of products, features, programs, parts, and packaging.

Term bases are commonly used within CAT tools, which can come in handy during the translation process as it allows translators to review just one document while working. During the translation process, the software can identify and highlight any terms that are already in the term base. The translator can then review the suggested translation that appears in the term base.

By utilizing a centralized term base, writers and translators can work towards ensuring appropriate use of language throughout the organization. When working without a term base, you risk editors having to work through language problems with only their personal knowledge as a guide. This can lead to missing inconsistencies and issues with text. 

Term base management combines terminology work and database administrative tasks that support the systematic collection, description, processing, presentation, and distribution of information about the terms and linguistic units used throughout an organization. Parts of speech, grammar, context, usage notes, and definitions of terms can find a home in the term base.

What are the Benefits of Terminology Management? 

Translators and writers clearly benefit from the usage of terminology management. These guides allow them to work quicker and increase accuracy. Those benefits can reach every area of an organization. Proper terminology management can help improve productivity, profitability, customer relations, and the public perceptions of a brand. Not to mention, you can potentially increase safety and lessen opportunities for confusion amongst your customer base. Consistency can also help improve an organization’s professional reputation. Which is why it’s important to treat managing terminology as an ongoing project. As language and the needs of the organization evolves, it’s important that terminology management improves as well.

translation memory

Translation Memory: How it Works and Why You Need It

In life, win-win scenarios can be hard to come by. But for translation professionals and their clients, the use of translation memory is something worth celebrating. Translation memory helps translators work faster and more efficiently. Not only does this improve the work flow process for the translator, but it helps ensure the client receives high quality and accurate work in a more timely fashion. And last but certainly not least, the client can save money thanks to this productivity boosting tool. The benefits are pretty indisputable. So let’s take a deep dive into the benefits of translation memory. 

What is a translation memory?

In short, a translation memory acts as a database that can store text that was previously translated. This can include words, sentences, and even whole paragraphs of text. The translation memory breaks up these chosen areas of text into two parts. The source, and the target. The source refers to the original language of the text entered into the translation memory. The target is the translation of the original text. Together, these pairs are known as “translation units” or “TUs”. It is possible to have a translation memory for each language pair. Companies who have content translated into multiple languages would need a translation memory for each pair, such as one for German, French, or Spanish. 

How does it work?

Translation memories are a part of a larger system called a CAT (computer assisted translation) tool. This somewhat broad term generally describes software that professional translators use to increase productivity, catch mistakes, and improve consistency. CAT tools segment text that need translation and in return present the text in a way that is much simpler to translate. 

Translation memories are an important part of CAT tools. When using such a tool, a translator will start by opening the document that needs translation, also known as the source file. Then the translation memory will check to see if any of the recently uploaded content was already translated. The tool will search for any “100% matches” (identical matches) as well as any “fuzzy matches” (similar matches, but not exact). A fuzzy match occurs if there is no exact match for a term or phrase, but there are segments in the translation memory that are similar to the text that a translator is currently working on. Sometimes the difference could be as small as a single word.  

When working through a source file, translators can either accept, modify or override suggestions from the translation memory.  Human judgement is of the utmost importance. Even if a translation memory finds a translation match, the translator has to be very careful and verify the accuracy in a given context. They may have to update the translation accordingly. When a segment doesn’t have a match (this occurs if it hasn’t been translated previously), the translation memory will store the new TUs and this allows the translation memory to continue to grow and improve. 

The Benefits

Utilizing translation memories helps support the localization process. It can also help improve the quality and consistency of a translation job, as well as help complete the work faster. Working with translation memories is not the same as using machine translation (MT) tools. Unlike MT, a tool which automatically translates without human input, professional translators create translation memories. That personal touch accounts for subtleties and contextual scenarios that occur in varying languages and cultures. Both the client and translator will gain confidence and peace of mind by using translation memories throughout their translation work. This tool helps improve the consistency, quality, and speed of work. See, a win-win for everyone.

CAT Tools: Benefits for Both Clients and Translators

CAT Tools: Benefits for Both Clients and Translators

Technology has its faults, but the progress it has made is undeniable. In a fast paced world, efficiency is key. For translators and their clients, CAT tools are one asset that makes translation work faster and more accurate. Sounds great, but you might be wondering, what exactly is a CAT tool?

CAT translates to “Computer Assisted Translation”. CAT is a broad term. It can be used to describe software translators use to improve their productivity. Many professional translators utilize CAT tools as it can help them increase productivity, catch mistakes, achieve consistency, and eliminate repetitive translations. CAT tools segment the text that requires translation and then present the segments in a way that is easier and faster to translate. 

There are many benefits to utilizing CAT tools for both clients and translators. CATs generally come with the following features that exemplify how useful these tools are.

Translation Memory

Essentially, CAT tools allow translators to save each translated sentence in a database called Translation Memory (TM). The CAT tool then uses this TM to analyze every sentence of text that needs translation and provide a match, if any. If there’s a 100% match, it will provide the exact translation previously stored. And if a sentence is slightly different, it will show the translation stored and point out what the differences are. Allowing these sentences to be translated faster and enabling the translator to use his time more efficiently. For larger projects, TM allows multiple people to work collaboratively.

The TM can save clients money, especially if they have recurring translation needs. For clients who have large and regular translation needs, the TM will become more valuable to them over time. As many words and phrases will be repeated and stored in the TM, the translator will be able to take advantage of this stored content for use on future projects. This value is especially helpful for clients with specialized vocabulary needs such as those found in the medical, engineering, or manufacturing industries. The TM can also help increase accuracy with less commonplace terminology. 


Both translators and clients can create a terminology base where they add the translation for specific terms. This glossary is called the Termbase (TB). You can even include definitions or provide context in which to use each term. The Termbase is very useful for highly technical texts. Clients and translators can use the Termbase to ensure consistency in the use of terminology. This collaboration between the client and translator can also save valuable time and limit mistakes in translation. 

Desktop Publishing

CAT tools allow you to translate virtually any document format and export the final translation with little work on the design. This process works by extracting the text from the original file to work in the CAT tool interface. Once the translation is finished and exported, the final file will retain most of its original formatting. If adjustments are needed once exported, this is done in the original file format (Word, PowerPoint, etc.).

This feature is very useful in formats like Word, to assist with tables, font formats, WordArt, and other style elements. In more complex formats or layouts it’s frequently necessary to work with a (Desktop Publishing) DTP specialist

Machine Translation

Usually, the term “Computer Assisted Translation” makes people jump to the conclusion that machine translation is used. CAT tools are not synonymous with machine translation. Machine translation is an optional feature that can be used as a jumping off point for translators, as it can speed up the process. Some translators may utilize machine translation to translate a text and and then make edits after, ensuring the piece is still translated by a human. Other translators do not use the feature at all. 

What CAT Tools to Use

There are many different CAT tools, but memoQ, Trados, and Wordfast are some of the most widely used by both translators and companies. Each offers the same core features as previously outlined. It’s worth experimenting with different tools to see which you and your team personally prefer. The below survey, conducted by ProZ, highlights the usage rates of different CAT tools by translators. 


Source: ProZ.