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Originally written
February 6, 2019
Updated
January 7, 2021

WPML and most professional translation services use a translation memory. This saves translations and prevents you from needing to translate the same content again.

WPML can save you valuable time and money thanks to its translation memory. Translation memory saves the translations you have previously created and applies them automatically as you translate pages with the same sentences.

For example, we have translated the content below using the Advanced Translation Editor. Once completed, these translations are saved in the translation memory.

Translating a page with the Advanced Translation Editor
Translating a page with the Advanced Translation Editor

When we use one of the same segments on another page, the saved translation is automatically applied to the matching segment when we go to translate it.

Translation memory applies the saved translation automatically
Translation memory applies the saved translation automatically

Translation memory also works for strings. If you translate a string and use the exact same string again later, the saved translation will be applied in String Translation and the Classic Translation Editor.

Translation memory FAQs

Can the Advanced Translation Editor remember translations that were previously done by a professional translation service or the Classic Translation Editor?

In some cases, you may be able to view the previous translations in the Advanced Translation Editor. This allows you to copy and paste the translations into the appropriate translation fields as opposed to translating from scratch.

If you have recently switched to using the Advanced Translation Editor from using a different translation method, you will need to retranslate some of your content when you make updates.

Because the original translations were created by a different translation method, they are not saved in a translation memory that the Advanced Translation Editor can use. The content you need to retranslate will depend on the original method you used to generate the translation. Please see the following table for more:

Original translation method What needs to be retranslated if you use the Advanced Translation Editor
WordPress editor or a page builder (manual translation) The entire page needs to be retranslated.
WPML’s Classic Translation Editor The page body has to be retranslated. Strings and short segments do not need to be retranslated because they are saved by WPML.
WPML’s Advanced Translation Editor The Advanced Translation Editor’s translation memory will automatically keep the original translations. Only edited sentences need to be retranslated.
Professional translation service Because WPML does not share the translation service’s translation memory, the surest way to keep your translations is to resubmit content to the original translation service for updates. Most often, they will be able to identify only the parts that need to be translated based on their own translation memory.

If you are making a small change, you can update the translation yourself using the Classic Translation Editor. These changes will need to be retranslated by the translation service if you ever submit the content to them for updating.

If you would like to use the Advanced Translation Editor for updates, you will need to retranslate the page body.

In all cases, if you switch to a new translation service, the new service will need to retranslate the entire page in order to form their own translation memory.

Does translation memory update the default language content if I manually change the translation?

The Advanced Translation Editor compares the translations to the content in the default language. If you change the original content, WPML will “remember” the translations of the unchanged sentences. This means you will only need to translate the new content.

WPML will not “see” translations that have been manually edited using the WordPress editor or a page builder. If you edit the translations later using through Translation Management or the Advanced Translation Editor, the manual translations will be overwritten and lost.

Read more about translating your site manually.

Why does my translation disappear from the Advanced Translation Editor when I update my default content?

If you translate a segment with the Advanced Translation Editor then change the content in the default language, it may seem like the previous translation is missing when you go to update the translations.

This is expected behavior and happens when the default language content has been altered too much for the translation memory to recognize it and apply the saved translation. It is considered a new segment that needs to be translated for the first time.

In the example below, we previously translated the segment, “John has a cat and a dog,” then updated the default content to read, “John has a dog and a cat.” When we go to update the translation, the previous translation does not appear. This is because the translation memory is not able to recognize the updated sentence and is therefore unable to apply any saved translation.

Translation memory does not recognize the updated segment and treats it as a new segment that needs a translation
Translation memory does not recognize the updated segment and treats it as a new segment that needs a translation

Translation memory can recognize some sentences with minor differences like a single word or styling change. See the examples below:

Translation memory applies a saved translation that is different by one word Translation memory applies a saved translation that is different in styling
Translation memory applies a saved translation that is different by one word Translation memory applies a saved translation that is different in styling

If the translation memory does not recognize a segment, you will need to translate it as new.

What happens if I switch from using the Advanced Translation Editor to using a different translation method?

You might decide to change the translation method back to Classic Translation Editor or even WordPress editor. Your completed translations will be saved, but any in-progress translation jobs will be lost. Please see our article about turning off the Advanced Translation Editor for more information.