Any translation company works the same way when receiving a new document. They analyze the file with what is called a Translation Memory (TM). This is a file in which previous translations for the same client have been saved. Analyzing the file utilizing a TM allows you to separate words and expressions as different levels of “matches”. You thus get an amount of “new words”, different levels of “fuzzy matches”, “repetitions” and “context matches”.
Here’s an easy way to understand what they stand for:
- New Words: Words and expressions never encountered.
- Fuzzy Matches: Expressions that are rather similar to what was done in the past but for which the context, order and such will be different.
- Repetitions: Words or expressions appearing a number of times in the document. While those need to be translated multiple times, we need to remember that it has been translated once and translate it the same way for the rest of the document.
- Context Matches: as states the name, words, and expressions that appear in the same context than previous translations and for which the translation in the TM is obviously correct without double-checking.
This is actually very similar to how learning a language goes. The more we learn a language, the more levels of knowledge we obtain. There are words that we have never seen (New Words), words that we somehow remember but feel different (Fuzzy Matches), words that we keep on seeing and thus only need to search for once (Repetitions) and words that we understand perfectly and do not need to look up at all anymore (Context Matches).
The more translations you do for the same client, the bigger the TM becomes, the more we get context matches, high percent fuzzy matches and the less we get new words. As a result, the task itself becomes faster and cheaper for the client (as the prices differ between each level).
When you learn a language, as we become more knowledgeable in a language, texts become easier to read. There are fewer words that we have never seen, more that we somehow understand and more that we naturally understand. Any word learned has to go through all the above stages to be perfectly remembered.
Furthermore, there are different levels of Fuzzy Matches, separated in ranges of percentage. Just like in learning a language, words that you somehow feel like you know enter slowly but surely your brain and consolidate little by little before reaching the actual level of “known” to us.
When you learn a language, be patient and appreciate the evolution of the words you assimilate as you go. Remember that word X was hard to learn, and smile when you realize that you’ve just read it without even wondering about it.
When practicing your language, put an emphasis on fuzzy matches first to understand the general meaning and then dive into details by going after the new words that you don’t understand at all.
Transform your brain into a Translation Memory file and you will realize that the process of learning any language is similar and evolves in stages.