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Your Master's Voice: Use Your Memory Wise

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4 minute read

Memory-Foam-Mattresses

We were standing on the balcony of our office and my learned colleague Anett told me that in her experience many companies and translators do not use working and master TMs – they just work with one. Now, at the first glance, it may sound like a boring subject, but it really isn’t – and you know what? It reminded me of a story.

Many years ago, in those prehistoric times before the appearance of translation memories, or before the arrivals of computers that could be switched on just under 10 minutes, I lost an amazing job among spectacular circumstances. I was working, as a student, for an international partnership between two gangs of politicians – one gang English, one gang Hungarian.

The English gang was arriving to visit the Hungarian gang and they sent ahead a lot of documents to prepare for the boring part of their meetings. (You see, most of the excitement took place in taverns, fancy restaurants and wine cellars – not at the meeting table.) I translated the documents into Hungarian to perfection on my desktop computer (remember i486? probably not…), and left the document opened on the screen while going about my business -- fully trusting my friend who was waiting rather impatiently for me to finish the day’s work in the office. I printed all the documents (it was the age of printing-it-all), then I placed the stuff in neat little folders to be handed out to my political acquaintances late next morning. Then we set out for a night of entertainment with my friend.

Late nights, translating all the time,
and now sleeping seems more like a myth?
If it is hard to get a handle on the work maybe it is time!

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Next day, during the meeting -- where I was also required to interpret -- came one of the nastiest surprises of my early days as a wannabe interpreter-translator. I realized that this idiot of a friend played the stupidest trick on me: just before I started printing the documents, he added a few comments to the text describing some of the points as “boring, but we can still talk about it”, “now, that shit will never work”, even “good God, how much I hate to translate this crap”, and so on. The result was disastrous. I was standing there among a number of esteemed looking guys wearing expensive suits looking at me as if I were a giant pink toad in underpants. Well, I was one, for sure. Soon I had to find other means to support myself through college.

Why I am telling you is this: in this day and age of amazing translation tools, this blunder can easily happen to you too. And I am really certain, judging by what Anett is saying it certainly is happening to a lot of us right now.

“I am too busy. I cannot be bothered by using a master TM or whatnot.” 

Well, I am telling you that working without a master TM is like allowing your impatient friend - maybe a bit too eager for the first pint - to sit dangerously close to your computer with the files open. Any stupid thing can happen and will be stuck there. Forever.

So what is this thing with working and master TMs?

It is only logical that you need somewhere to store all the segments when you translated and confirmed them. In an ideal world, this will be your primary or working TM. If an “I-will-add-this-funny-thing-for-a-good-laugh”-type of thing happens during the translation process, that will be committed into this memory only.

The master TM will run in the background, added to the project – out of reach of thirsty friends. The master TM only contains approved translations that have already been reviewed by the proofreader, the editor, the terminologist, the project manager, maybe even the client or the priest of your local parish – so they are finished, approved, sound and neat, and will not contain anything remotely like what I talked about above. To make sure it stays like this you will not be able to save things into the master while working on the translation. In most cases, only the project manager has write access to the master TM, everybody else is restricted to lookups.

Think about it as if you had a draft and a finished TM.

Nipper knew that treating his master('s voice) with respect was a good idea (Francis Barraud)

After every contributor (proofreader, terminologist, project manager, local priest) is happy and finished with their work, you can synchronize the two memories – this way you will commit only fully approved segments into the master TM. Thus you can use it confidently in future projects. You will never use the working TM again – you only needed it temporarily.

Now, if you are using only one TM as working and master, you are running the risk of a tainted translation. What is worse, a single occurrence of an “I-will-add-this-funny-thing-for-a-good-laugh” could pop up in multiple translations with multiple translators using the same memory. Anett came up with a good analogy: the pharma industry. If one series of a drug has a problem, it is enough to identify that lot, and recall only one series of the drug – you do not face the problem of recalling the entire production. If you use a working TM, you will only need to deal with the issues that arise locally.

There are even more goodies that involve updating the master TM and deleting the working one after the project is finished and delivered. These can be achieved through project templates – we will talk about them later here.

Anyhow, using TMs sensibly is part of the job. Why not use them right?

(Besides, it won’t hurt to lock your screen whenever you leave your desk.)


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