Terminology Resources: How Alignment Saves Money and Improves Efficiency

In an increasingly globalized and digitalized world, where your customers can now be found in every corner of the globe, it’s essential to communicate consistently and appropriately with your target audience, to reassure them and make sure they’re all on the same page, regardless of their origin.

We’ve already talked about the importance of investing in quality translations. But it’s not enough to use a translation once and then archive it properly. The whole point of a good translation is that it’s the foundation of smooth, trouble-free communication with your audiences and can be reused.

Why Capitalize on What Already Exists

There are two major benefits of reusing existing terminology resources:


By reusing past translations, you ensure the consistency of future translations and the messages you want to convey to your customers. This also helps to use the technical terminology, internal jargon, style, tone, etc. defined in your style guide.


It’s also worth thinking about reusing existing language resources to save money. You can optimize translation costs by retaining past translations (whether in the form of translation memories, glossaries, multilingual documents, etc.).

But how? Gathering, sorting, and organizing all these elements may seem impossible. And yet, there’s a simple and effective way of gathering terminology data to optimize and improve the quality of your translations.

This is where alignment comes in.

This is a linguistic process that involves matching a source text with an existing translation using a computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool to create something called an alignment.

Aligning Your Documents: A Long-Term Investment

It’s important to consider translation and terminology resource management as an investment, just like hardware or R&D.

If you don’t yet have up-to-date terminology resources, but already have existing translations, it may be worthwhile to turn to alignment.

What is an alignment?

This is a linguistic process that involves matching a source text with an existing translation using a computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool to create something called an alignment. Alignment is based on text segmentation rules. The software reads the text and splits it into segments at each period, paragraph break or other selected parameter. A translator reviews the resulting segments and links those that match.

The bilingual file generated by this process allows the aligned text to be imported into a translation memory (TM). Once added to the TM, this content is then used as a reference for future translations.

When to Use Alignment

Whether you regularly use translation agencies or write your multilingual content in-house, it could be worthwhile to capitalize on these existing terminology and linguistic resources.

Alignment can be very useful when you already have documents translated into several languages, or when updating a document. For example, rather than retranslating your terms and conditions when only a few elements have changed, it makes sense to create a TM using the alignment process. In this way, you can use existing translations and isolate only new content. This will ensure consistency between the old and new texts.

Alignment Workflow

This is all very useful but requires careful implementation. Poor alignment or a poor-quality source text can have serious consequences on the quality of a translation. That’s why it’s a good idea to turn to professional language service providers for this work. At ITC, we can advise you on the quality and organization of your resources. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before aligning documents:

Where does the translation come from?

It’s essential to check where the translation comes from before embarking on alignment work. Depending on whether the translation was done in-house or by a professional translator, this may influence the reliability of the alignment results:

  • Who did the translation (an employee, a professional, a machine translation tool)?
  • Has the translation been approved internally?
  • What happens if the translation is not 100% identical to the original, but has been approved? Which language takes precedence?
  • Is there a native speaker in-house who can answer questions from the translator doing the alignment?

What kind of alignment do you need?

Once we’ve established where the translation comes from and its quality, we need to specify our requirements. There are several possibilities, depending on the number of files to be aligned and the consistency between source and target. Here are a few examples:

  • Align a pair (or several pairs) of files: suitable when you want to associate a source document with its corresponding target document and generate a single alignment result file.
  • Alignment without proofreading: suitable when you simply want to create TM matches for your project.
  • Alignment with proofreading: suitable when the source files you are aligning are not exact translations of your target files.

What happens in practice?

The first step is to review the source file(s) and the translated file(s) and analyze their quality. This step is extremely important before you start aligning existing files. If the quality of previous documents is poor, this can have an impact on alignment quality, and consequently on future translations based on it.

The best way to do this is to contact a professional who specializes in the language pairs concerned. They can then check the grammar, spelling and general quality of the translation.

Next, it’s important to determine if the files require any preparation beforehand to achieve the best possible result. For example, it is worth checking:

  • General correspondence between source and target (number of pages, document structure, etc.).
  • Tables with numbers
  • Non-translatable text and non-editable elements or text boxes

The final step consists of aligning the files in the CAT tool, and importing the result into a translation memory, which will then serve as a reference for the next translation.

Now you know a little more about alignment techniques and why they’re useful. Alignment can be a key step when starting a translation project, especially if it involves updating a document, for example, and our team understands this.

It’s important to call in the professionals so your translations accurately convey the intention and meaning of your original text. At ITC, we can help you prepare and complete your translation projects. Contact us for more information!

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

five × one =