100% matches – game, set, match?

by Ursula Fuchsloch

100% match – what’s that?

Are you familiar with the term “100% matches”? In the world of translations, it is a common concept. You may have encountered it already in subsequent translations and offer calculations. What is this actually all about? To translate texts efficiently, translators work with a translation memory system. A translation memory is a database that stores translations. Texts that have already been translated are stored here in a structured manner and can thus be used again. While we at exact! are translating, our respective translation memory system (or TM system, for short) compares the text to be translated with the translation database. A 100% match is a unit with original text and a translation that already exists in the translation database and that occurs again in a text to be translated in exactly the same form, so with the same content AND identical formatting. The TM system offers the possibility of applying existing 100% matches. They then appear in exactly the same form in the target text. In this way, 100% matches make the translation process easier, because the translator can draw on work carried out in the past. The application of 100% matches also means savings of both time and costs. In this article, I would like to examine whether that always leads to the desired translation goal and whether it really saves time and costs.


How does a 100% match work in translation practice?

Let’s take an example to make this clearer:

as a translator at exact!, I receive an order from my customer to rework a text that I had already translated. If my original translation is stored in our TM system I can – at least, theoretically – apply my earlier translation 1:1 to the unchanged sections (that is, the 100% matches). There is no need for any research or typing effort, it’s convenient, and it saves time and so costs. It sounds like a good solution, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, though, things aren’t always so simple.

On the one hand, it may turn out that there are several target-language variants for a particular source-language segment. This can happen, for instance, with short segments (= individual words) or different contexts for the respective translation. As the translator, it is up to me to decide which variant is the right one. And I can only make this decision by checking all of the possible translations and choosing the most suitable one – a task that takes time. In this way, a part of the time advantage has already been lost.

On the other hand, the TM system may contain not only my own translations, but also others by colleagues or from other sources. So then I need to ask myself the question whether I can apply these 100% matches “unseen” or whether I need to check them. Ultimately, the translation needs to be a coherent, high-quality product. And this check costs time, too. In a translation project with a high level of 100% matches, the time factor is not inconsiderable.


Can you save translation costs with 100% matches?

Apart from the aspects of time and quality, the translation costs also play an important role. Naturally, my customer is reluctant to spend money on something that already exists. In general, it is important to clarify the following with the customer in advance: will we be working with the customer’s translation memory? Or are all the previously translated texts stored in our system? If the customer provides a translation memory when awarding the project and instructs us to apply 100% matches from the memory without any further checking, then the customer can save translation costs. However, there is then a danger that matches are added that may possibly not suit the relevant context, may be outdated or – in the worst-case scenario – may even contain errors. If it is necessary to arduously rework the text at a later stage, the 100% matches will have really not provided any benefit. If the translator works with their own TM system, they are also responsible for the content and need to check 100% matches before applying them – in other words, to select the right match depending on the context, correct it or possibly even translate it from scratch. Although this is more time-intensive and so also incurs costs, it is the only way to guarantee quality.


Conclusion:

100% matches can guarantee the quality and consistency of a translation if they are checked and corrected, if necessary. This calls for translator expertise and time, but that is an investment that pays off: not only in terms of the quality of the present translation, but also of all the subsequent ones.

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