Translation management systems and translation memories (sometimes called "translation memory systems") are often used synonymously, which is not correct. A translation management system can comprise a translation memory component, but not every translation memory system is part of a translation management system. Does it sound confusing? Well actually, it's not.
As the name indicates, the translation memory is a centralized, customer-specific translation repository in which every translated segment (which usually consists of one sentence) is stored bi-directionally in the source and target languages. In this way, translators do not need to translate similar or identical sentences over and over again. Companies also benefit from this functionality, as recurring sentences are usually not paid for at the full word rate. In the ideal case, customers can save up to 80 percent of their translation costs.
Translation memories are a key component both of translation management systems and of CAT (computer-aided translation) tools. Many freelance translators use CAT software. In the work interface, they can see the source and target segments as well as entries from the translation memory and terminology database. They can also benefit from the various quality management functions provided in the tool.
A translation management system, on the other hand, provides even more functions. Among other things, it enables the various parties in the supply chain to be connected. By means of role systems, project managers, translators, reviewers, correctors, and terminologists can be connected. Depending on the respective function, each party has different system rights.
For example, when translators receive tasks via the translation management system, they normally also receive the customer's associated translation memory. As described above, the entries are displayed to the translators in real time. Following the final quality check, the new translations are stored in the translation memory.
Of course, translators can also create their own projects and translation memories in the CAT tool without connecting to any translation management system. This is probably the reason why the two terms are often confused.