The History of Cloud-Based Translation Memory Technology

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As a constant in the development of humanity, translation has always played a crucial role in interlingual communication by allowing for the sharing of knowledge and culture between different languages.

This diffusion of information can be found as far back as the ancient world through to the industrial age and into the global village of today, where technological advances opaque our perception of translation and the ascendancy of English as the lingua franca can easily lead us to believe that everything we know, and indeed everything worth knowing, somehow exists in one language.

With Internet users now numbering in the billions and growth far from tapering off, translation technologies have been looked toward to provide solutions to this explosion of content that traditional human translation processes simply cannot manage.

These technologies have developed vis-à-vis other information and communications technologies over recent decades and have even enabled such developments in return by providing a means of wider and more efficient interlingual communication that had hitherto been impossible (e.g. global simultaneous distribution of digital content such as computer software into tens of languages), all while transforming the very nature and practice of translation.

One such advancement is the evolution of cloud-based translation memory technology. While the cloud-based translational memory, has the power to change the face of translation, it is critical to examine the evolution of translation memory and cloud-based translation memory.

Brief History of Translation Memory

The basic ideas behind TM technology arose in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as part of work undertaken in the scope of ‘translator workstations.’ As opposed to the utopian goal of fully automated machine translation, these workstations aimed to provide translators with several different resources that would allow them to carry out their work more accurately and efficiently.

In addition to the more obvious utility of term banks and glossaries, early researchers had already envisioned the use of translation archives as a reference tool. Translators would be able to quickly consult past translations to see how certain terms, phrases and even sentences had been translated in the past.

The growth in both the storage capability and processing power of personal computers in the 1980s eventually enabled the development of several commercial computer-aided translation tools inspired by the research done in the 1970s. Large databases of previous translations could be stored, indexed and searched efficiently, finally making the concept of TM available to ordinary translators.

A Broad History of Cloud-Based Translational Memory Technology

In a traditional computing environment, all processing power and data is located on an autonomous local device, typically a desktop or laptop computer. In a cloud-based environment, on the other hand, the local computer serves primarily as an input/output device that communicates with a remote server, and it is within this remote server that most of the processing power and data reside.

Consequently, the term ‘cloud-based translation memory system’ refers to a TM system, where the translation memory software and linguistic assets (i.e. the translation memory database, glossaries, etc.) are hosted on remote, web-enabled servers that linguists access using either a thin client or just a standard web browser.

This type of translation tool made its debut approximately sixteen years ago when large translation service providers and large buyers of translation services started deploying web-enabled translation management systems, such as Lionbridge’s Freeway and Idiom’s World Server. At that time, only those translators working for one of the few owners of these systems had access to them.

In the second half of the 2000s, things changed dramatically. In 2007, Lingotek, a newly founded translation technology company, made its cloud-based translation memory system available to any translator for free. However, it was in June 2009 that cloud-based translation memory became known to a wider audience for the first time when Google launched the Translator Toolkit: a free, full-featured cloud-based translation memory system that was primarily designed to improve the translation quality of Google Translate, Google’s proprietary machine translation system.

Today, while established players such as Lingotek, Lionbridge, Sajan, SDL, and Welocalize continue to make noise about crowd-in-the-cloud translation management, upstart entrepreneurs are jumping into the fray with innovative technologies modeling new approaches to the crowd- and cloud-based translation systems. Most are web-resident applications (metaphorically ‘in the cloud’), but several go further, deploying literal in-cloud-computing architectures such as Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

Unlike in the past, cross-platform support has been a major issue with commercial translation memory products. While it is certainly true that translation memory systems for non-PC operating systems have been available for over a decade (with Wordfast being a pioneer in this area), market-leading translation memory systems run exclusively on Windows, even today.

Translation Memory Technology Today

Today, with the advancement of technologies, and also due to the fact that cloud-based translation memory systems typically require very little processing power and memory on the user side, these systems support not only computers that run traditional operating systems (e.g., Windows, Mac OS, Linux), but also iOS- and Android-based mobile devices.

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Also, with developments in the world of cloud-based translation memory systems, translators no longer need to have expensive computers with fast processors and lots of disk space to take advantage of the latest translation technology. Any Internet-ready device, including tablets and also nowadays smartphones, can do the job!

The Future of Cloud-Based Translation Memory Technology

While the future of cloud-based translation memory technology is still unclear to many around the world, developments are gradually transforming its approach. Speculators are of the opinion that there will be an incessant rise in acquiring translation management on a subscription basis using Software as a Service (SaaS).

This means you don’t have any overheads, capital expenditures, or added expenses from storage space or electricity usage. No long-term subscriptions are required, you can choose to renew (or not) each year, and a TMS is also very customizable.

While some translators and agencies may not readily embrace cloud-based translation memory technology for reasons of their own, it is a safe bet that five years from now, most translation providers and buyers will use cloud-based translation memory systems/technology to conduct business.

As more translators become aware of what cloud-based translation systems can do for their business, and as more translation buyers start asking their suppliers to provide the level of customer service only a centralized automated system can deliver, the adoption rate of cloud-based TM systems will begin to increase rapidly.

 

Author bio:

Taylor Welsh has a degree in Mechanical Engineering and works as a professional technology programmer/writer at Ax Control Inc. — an automation control device service and supply company based out of North Carolina. They specialize in new and obsolete drives, PLCs, HMI, and related control devices. Taylor was also the former President of the North Carolina InfraGard Cyber Club. Please show your appreciation for Taylor’s article by visiting their website AxControl.com.

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