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The vital role of translation memory within hazardous industries

Author : Alan White, The Translation People

08 March 2021

Global economic challenges have hit the oil, gas and chemical industries more severely than any previous hurdle before. These sectors might be used to the usual ups and downs of trading cycles, but data shows global oil demand fell by as much as 25 per cent in April 2020, while predictions state that unless the shale market quickly transforms itself to be more eco-conscious, its future will be different to its current, prosperous state.

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As such, many organisations will be looking at how they can streamline their operations to make financial savings, without compromising on the high levels of regulation, safety and process required to remain compliant in their vital relationships with international partners. Digitalisation is expected to be a key part of this transition, with companies looking at how they can use technology to reduce the costs of currently expensive parts of their operations, to free up capital which enables them to be more flexible and agile in the future.

For those that want to expand their footprint across the world, or improve relationships with existing international suppliers, they will come to rely more closely on translation services to deliver accurate and relevant communications in multiple different languages. Those working in these highly regulated industries who haven’t used translation before may worry that a service provider either won’t understand their terminology, or that suitable translations into other languages aren’t available and therefore won’t make sense to the end user.

However, there is technology available which supports businesses in hazardous sectors to make efficiencies, but which also ensures – when used by specialist linguists – that crucial pieces of collateral such as technical brochures, data sheets, and health and safety processes use accurate terminology across different languages to ensure consistency, reduce costs and streamline timings.

For example, certain translation technologies incorporate bespoke ‘memories’ of a company’s most frequently used terminology and language. They are built by specialist technical translators during the course of translation projects to ensure that complex phrases and words are translated consistently in multiple different languages, ensuring high-quality translation output, no matter which country in the world it is being used, as well as a more streamlined, more efficient and, ultimately, a more cost-effective process. 

Designed to make the process of translation smarter, translation memory software also enables greater automation and increased precision. With the ability to store and remember words, phrases and even entire sections of text in company-specific, secure databases, if the translation of previous technical material is already within the translation memory, it will issue a prompt to the translator that there is bespoke information available which can be reused to speed up the process. As a result, the translator can focus on the content to be translated, meaning that the client doesn’t have to pay twice for two identical sets of translations.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

If parts of a previous document have been translated in a similar but not identical way before, the translation memory will highlight this to the translator too, with the necessary changes marked.

In the below example from a set of chemical safety data sheets, there are similar storage instruction phrases that can be efficiently translated using translation memory. Consider these three sentences:

• Provide a good standard of general ventilation

• Provide a basic standard of general ventilation

• Provide a good standard of controlled ventilation

During the process of translating these pieces of guidance, a specialist translator will translate the first sentence. When it reaches the second sentence, translation memory technology will indicate that something within the sentence has already been translated previously, but it will mark any words that require a change – i.e. from ‘good’ to ‘basic’ – enabling the translator to translate the sentence more quickly than if from scratch. Then, they will receive a second flag when the translation memory reaches the third sentence, displaying the original translation and indicating that ‘general’ should be changed to ‘controlled’. The remainder of the second and third sentences will have automatically been updated, based on the translation memory’s knowledge of the first sentence, achieving greater efficiencies compared to translating from scratch. In one case of using translation memory on a 46,451-word project, we only needed to translate 18,993 words with the remainder reused via the translation memory, equating to a cost saving of thousands.

Alan White, The Translation People
Alan White, The Translation People

Terminology management is also key when it comes to producing translation, and this may include an instruction to translate a word in a particular way or – alternatively – to not translate certain words or phrases at all. For example, the name of a product may stay the same regardless of what language is being used or there may be a preference in one region to use a specific translation instead of other words. To enable this, translators use Termbases within translation memory software – specialist applications which develop glossaries, giving more detailed context or definition to specific words used within a text, and indicating the preferred translation where there may be multiple options.

As such, it’s essential for translators to work with clients to develop a comprehensive understanding of the terminology a business prefers to use across its product names, corporate language and for terms that might have multiple options within a local language. Available via the cloud, all relevant parties contributing to a translation project have access to the glossary to ensure that terms are pre-approved by the client. When used in partnership with translation memories, the outcome is translation which uses consistent and preferred terminology, resulting in greater time savings and cost reductions, as well as a quicker review process.

Using translation memory, global businesses working in highly technical industries can benefit from consistent translations across their regulated documents to ensure compliance and improve their communications in different languages, but also identify ways to make efficiencies at a more pressurised time than ever before. By putting faith in a translation services provider, which combines specialist technical linguists with technology to create memories and glossaries that are completely in tune with their brands, companies will be better equipped to get ahead of digitisation and will benefit from increased flexibility so they can quickly produce new documentation and marketing materials as they expand into new territories.

About the author:

Alan White heads up the Business Development Team at The Translation People, working with a variety of clients. With 20 years’ experience in the translation industry, his role today centres on advising best practice when it comes to communication with international audiences. Fluent in French and Spanish, Alan is passionate about languages and breaking down communication barriers. He is committed to providing companies with customised solutions.


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