Machine Translation

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 55-68

First online:

Power shifts in web-based translation memory

  • Ignacio GarciaAffiliated withSchool of Humanities and Languages, University of Western Sydney Email author 

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Web-based translation memory (TM) is a recent and little-studied development that is changing the way localisation projects are conducted. This article looks at the technology that allows for the sharing of TM databases over the internet to find out how it shapes the translator’s working environment. It shows that so-called pre-translation—until now the standard way for clients to manage translation tasks with freelancers—is giving way to web-interactive translation. Thus, rather than interacting with their own desktop databases as before, translators now interface with each other through server-based translation memories, so that a newly entered term or segment can be retrieved moments later by another translator working at a remote site. The study finds that, while the interests of most stakeholders in the localisation process are well served by this web-based arrangement, it can involve drawbacks for freelancers. Once an added value, technical expertise becomes less of a determining factor in employability, while translators lose autonomy through an inability to retain the linguistic assets they generate. Web-based TM is, therefore, seen to risk disempowering and de-skilling freelancers, relegating them from valued localisation partners to mere servants of the new technology.


Translation memory Localization Internationalization Machine-aided translation Web-based translation