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When TMs jump the shark

When TMs jump the shark"Raw data, including translation memory data, has no value per se".

Or so is the opinion of Jost Zetzsche, as expressed in the current Translation Journal. In the article, he ponders the sudden availability of large amounts of bilingual data that can be used in translation memories ("TMs").

What is interesting about Jost's piece is that it goes beyond the question of "is a huge, shared TM a good idea?" (we have weighed-in on this before) and poses a more fundamental question:

Is bigger really better when it comes to TMs? Or: Is there a point where a TM jumps the shark by becoming too large, too unwieldy, and too cumbersome?

Jost does a nice job providing pros and cons. And from our own experience here at ForeignExchange, I can also say that it's impossible to give a black-and-white answer. However, what is very clear is that size for the sake of size is not a good thing.

In fact, we have recently gone the other way, proactively reducing the size of TMs by separating them (by client, division, product group, etc.) and culling segments based on age or attributes. Like Jost, we have started to wonder whether or not we are spending too much time updating old, outdated segments.

This "small is beautiful" approach is yielding better output and an overall lower cost - even though we are pulling somewhat fewer matches from TMs. Like all TM efforts, though, it needs to be managed.

The appeal of large "Big Mama" TMs is that they're easier to administer. Just throw anything in there. Being selective about TM contents means that a human specialist has to make manual determinations about what segments should and should not be included. In the current economic environment, that flies in the face of "doing more with less".

What is your approach to TMs: Small and beautiful? Or Big Mama style?

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  1. Alejandro said...
    After testing both methods, I prefer small and beautiful.

    When I need a Big Mama, I use the biggest Mama: Google Translator :)
    Diego said...
    Definitely, small is beautiful.

    However, guided and with intelligence and an accurate procedure! At least, this is what we do at Ta with you.

    For the big mama, Alejandro is right, use Google if you don't care privacy or adaptability.
    ForeignExchange Translations said...
    @Alejandro - good point about the biggest Mama of them all! That is, if (as Diego points out) you don't care about privacy.

    For readers who are interested in a further discussion, also check out the comments in the related post The "super cloud" of TM sharing?.
    Kevin Lossner said...
    I use a mixed approach usually - a project TM that I regard as a throwaway (and often fill with client-supplied content) backed by a "Big Mama" for reference. The latter gets fed with appropriate attributes for classification after a final version is achieved. Occasionally, if there is too much "noise" in the concordance, I'll drop the second TM during the actual translation. Once in a while additional small, specialized TMs will be used as well (i.e. 3+ TMs in simultaneous use). Google is of little interest, because I usually don't trust work of unknown provenance.
    Adriana said...
    The big mama is the translator's own brain, skill, reference material and knowledge, not a massive contradictory obsolete TM. We supply the big mama with a small and beautiful, clean and focused TM and "voila les jeux sont faits" perfect results. I alway says that TMs should be cleaned, divided by client, subject, and age every 2 years, and if the client is prolific every year. Some clients change tone of voice, marketing direction, audience segment every year and an old TM will not reflect that. Plus one big mama shared by clients could force a translator to use my competitor's terminology - a clear no no.

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