No one likes to correct the same mistake twice, because it usually means wasted time and may also cause embarrassment. Translators and translation buyers are no exception. The good news is that they do not have to rely exclusively on their memory to remember the corrections, since they have a translation memory—a database that stores all previous translations. Keeping this TM current ensures that mistakes will not repeat. This post explains when and how to do it.
Once corrected in the past, mistakes can reoccur when translators use outdated translation memories. A TM becomes outdated when someone makes changes to the translation directly, bypassing the TM. Usually, this is either the translator or the client revising the translated files. Let’s look at these two scenarios in detail.
Changes made by clients
Clients typically revise translated files in their final form, i.e., without any TM running in the background, and send the changes for the translator to approve. Now, whether they ask the translator to reproduce the changes in the TM as well or not, it is the translator’s responsibility to do so. The translator should review the changes and implement them in the TM. Not only will he keep the TM updated for future projects, but he will also learn from the corrections.
Changes made by translators
Just because translators work with a TM does not mean they will not make changes to translated files directly. A translator may find it easier to proofread translated files in their final format and make adjustments there. There can also be technical reasons to bypass the TM. However, regardless of why translators choose to bypass the TM, they must make it a habit to mirror each change in the TM as well. Having the discipline to do so will make things easier in future work for the same client.
A useful perspective to approach the process of making such changes is putting the TM first; that is, translators force themselves to make all changes to the TM and then re-create translated files from the TM instead of tampering with translated files. Doing otherwise means lower productivity. Firstly, you spend time unproductively mirroring the changes in the TM. Secondly, by “decoupling” your translated files from the TM, you lose all the benefits that CAT (computer-aided translation) tools provide. For example, if you need to make global changes later, you need to struggle with doing this directly in the translated files, which is suboptimal compared to making changes globally in a CAT tool.
You can take this even further by committing yourself to make no corrections in translated files at all, meaning, for example, that if you encounter formatting problems in the translated files, you will try to prevent them by modifying the source files and then re-creating the translated files.
What happens if you do not keep your TM current
The worst thing that can happen is a client telling you that you made the same mistakes they had corrected in your previous translation. Not only is a mistake bad in itself, but a repeated mistake sends a clear message to the client that you did not listen to their feedback and do not take quality seriously.
Another consequence is time wasted on both ends. Your clients will feel you do not respect their time, because you force them to make the same corrections again—sometimes caused by your errors in the first place! You spend time unproductively, too, mainly because you have to rely on your memory to recall which changes were made last time.
Failure to update the TM with the client’s changes also means that you are not learning from your mistakes as much as you should, missing the opportunity to serve your client better next time.
I cannot think of any good reason for translators not to commit to keeping their TMs updated with the latest translations, whether those come from themselves or their clients. Not only does it help avoid clients’ complaints because of repetitive errors, but it also makes translators’ work more efficient. Read more about why people fail to use TM properly.