Note: This blog entry was originally written in Japanese in 2019 for our Japanese website. We used our machine translation platform Translation Designer to translate the entry into English and to post-edit the output for readers outside of Japan. The original Japanese entry can be found here.  

Have you heard of the term "translation asset"? Although it is not often heard in Japan, the term is commonly used internationally. In many cases, translation assets are materials and linguistic data used in translation work, such as translation memories (TMs), glossaries, and style guides.

For US and European companies that market products and services outside their countries using local languages of the area, translation is not just a one-time task but a continuous work that is linked to the product release cycle. Also, the translated language is not just one. In many cases, it is translated into multiple languages. Under such circumstances, various linguistic data generated from translation work are carefully managed and operated as assets.

In this part one entry, we will explain how to utilize TMs, which is the core of translation assets, and look at the benefits of using them.

What is a TM?

A TM refers to a database in which the original text and the translated text can be registered as a pair. The unit of the text registered in a TM is basically by sentence. While a glossary is a database registered by word or phrase, a TM divides a document to be translated into sentence units and stores them in the database. In addition, a TM registers more than just the original text and the translated text. It can improve manageability by adding other information such as the registered date and time, updated date and time, name of the person who registered it, and title of the document from which it was registered. Furthermore, in recent years, TMs have a function to consider some contextual information by adding the information of the immediately preceding original text in addition to the original text and translated text pair.

How to use a TM

To utilize a TM, it is common to use software called a translation support tool or CAT (computer aided/assisted translation) tool. By referring to the TM using a CAT tool and reusing past translations, you can proceed with your translation work efficiently.

TMs referenced by CAT tools are often in a unique file format, so there is no compatibility between software. However, recently, if you convert it to a file format called TMX (Translation Memory eXchange), which is a compatible format that does not depend on a tool, it can be used between different tools.

Benefits of TMs

A TM stores sentences that have been translated in the past in a database and reuses them when translating new documents. It can improve the efficiency of human translation and consistency of the translated sentences.

Translators use CAT tools to check if there are existing translations in the TM that can be reused during the current translation work. If there is a matching sentence, translators can use the TM instead of translating it from scratch, improving the efficiency of their translation work. Once translated, the text will never have to be human translated again — this is the basic idea of a TM.

TMs are most useful for technical documents such as product manuals that are regularly revised. For example, for products that have new models released every year, their manuals will also be changed. But only a part of the product is changed, and most of it may remain unchanged from the previous model. In this case, by storing the translation data of the previous model as an asset (TM), the existing translations can be automatically reused. Only additional or changed parts such as a section for new functions need to be human translated, which is the actual and necessary cost and time. The time and cost saved by this is a great advantage over looking for a low-cost translator or having vendors compete for lower pricing. However, some documents are not suitable for using TMs. One of the examples are when even if the original text is the same, it has to be translated differently according to the context. Also, they might not be suitable in cases when sentences are freely translated, meaning that they are translated without having the original text and the translated text as a pair. In that case, a TM becomes a shackle for the creativity of the translator.

An essential tool for industrial translation

A TM is a tool developed for efficiency, in other words, for cost reduction. Productivity is as important as quality in the field of industrial translation, and for quality, it is essential to have consistency with the past translations. It can be said that it is very difficult to achieve efficiency, or cost reduction, without utilizing TMs.

If you are involved in the translation work of similar documents mentioned above in your company and have not used a TM yet, we highly recommend you utilize it. Recently, with the advent of neural machine translation (NMT), efficiency improvement using MT has become popular. But as a translation company, we recommend to first utilize your existing translations as an asset and then consider using MT.


We hope this entry gives you an idea of TMs. This time, we explained the outline and benefits of utilizing TMs. In the part two entry, we will introduce concrete methods for those who want to utilize TMs from now on.
Summary of part one:
- A TM is a database that stores the original text and the translated text in a bilingual format.
- TMs can be used with CAT tools
- By utilizing TMs, it is possible to improve quality while reducing costs and turnaround time.
- Although some contents are not suitable for utilizing a TM, it is an essential tool in the field of industrial translation.

Kawamura's Translation Service

Kawamura International not only provides translation services utilizing your TMs but can also create TMs for your company. Kawamura is certified with ISO 17100, the international standard for translation services, and ISO 27001 (ISMS), the international standard for information security. We offer comprehensive solutions to all your problems. Please feel free to contact us for translation requests or if you have any questions about translation services in general.