During the recent discussion on volume discounts, a number of readers brought up the (very valid) issue of translation memory discounts. I feel a can of worms about to open here, but I’ll inject some of my thoughts on TM discounts.
First caveat: I am neither a huge fan of nor a heavy user of TM. I own and use both OmegaT and Wordfast, and I really like both of them for different reasons. However because my favorite kind of work is translation that requires excellent writing, I only use TM when necessary. I find that because of the “chunked” nature of working in a TM tool, the flow of my writing really suffers when I use one. I do gain a pretty significant speed advantage when using TM, but I find that if the document needs to sound really natural in English, the extra editing time eats up the time I saved during the translation.
That being said, there are some projects where it would be suicidal not to use a TM. I work on several recurring projects for international development entities. These might involve multiple countries submitting funding applications using the same template, so it would be a huge waste of time to start each application from scratch. In those cases, I’m all about TM leverage.
There are two basic sides to the TM discount debate:
- Agency says: if some of the content in this document is recycled from a TM that we provide, why should we pay the translator’s full rate for the recycled portion? The TM is the result of work that we paid for originally, so we want to realize the benefit of it.
- Translator says: I purchased the TM tool and used my own time to learn to use it. I pay for the upgrades and for the computer system that runs the TM. The time that I save by using the TM is a result of this investment, and I want to realize the benefit of it.
Over the years, I’ve struggled with the issue of TM discounts. In some specializations (i.e. software and documentation), the situation may be different from what I experience. But I find that editing fuzzy matches (i.e. anything below 100%) takes at least as long and sometimes longer than just translating the segment from scratch. Therefore, the only TM discount that I offer is that if the client is extremely confident in the reliability of the TM that they provide, I will not charge for 100% matches if I accept them without proofreading them. Meaning that in Wordfast Classic, if a segment shows up green (Wordfast’s color code for a 100% match), I just click Alt-down (Wordfast’s command for accepting a segment) without reading it. I feel that for clients who put in the work to maintain a reliable TM, this is a fair compromise. But because I’ve run the numbers on the time it takes to edit fuzzy matches, I don’t offer TM discounts other than this.