Productivity vs Quality? A pilot study on the impact of translation memory systems

TitleProductivity vs Quality? A pilot study on the impact of translation memory systems
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsBowker, L
JournalLocalisation Focus - The International Journal of Localisation
KeywordsPilot study, productivity, quality, Translation memory

Translators working in the localisation industry are faced with the task of producing high-quality translations in a very short turnaround time. One way in which they are trying to balance these goals is by using translation technology to help. One of the most popular translation technology tools available is the translation memory (TM). TMs are often promoted as tools that can help translators to improve their productivity, but less is known about the impact that the use of such tools can have on the quality of the translation. This article investigates the impact of TMs on both speed and quality by presenting the results of a pilot study in which three groups of student translators were asked to translate the same text. Translators in Group A did not use a TM, and while their translations were of relatively high quality, they took longer to produce. Translators in Group B used an “unadulterated” TM, and they were able to translate more quickly, but there were some minor concerns with the quality of their work. Translators in Group C used a TM that had been deliberately “seeded” with a number of translation errors, and while they were able to work quickly, the quality of their translations was lower than that of the other two groups. The results of this small experiment seem to indicate that, when faced with the pressure to translate quickly, translators using TMs may not be critical enough of the proposals offered by the system. This in turn indicates a definite need for proper training in the appropriate use of translation technology.

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