TM – Can I buy yours?

Translation memories are fantastic! I have been working with these since I begun translating, and I love being able to quickly search for a term that I know I translated before, and thus keeping consistency. But every now and then, I hear a story about someone who changed carreer and is now selling their TM. Or this amazing website with a TM repository that you can buy. There is a catch in this.

I could never sell my TM. First of all, because this is my work. I’ve been compiling it for years, many times at the cost of my sleep and health! No money in the world could buy the knowledge I have acquired producing this TM, the time I spent researching and consulting experts. In addition, the person who would acquire it would not understand my choices of translation. Of course, I’m assuming you would only be interested in acquiring a TM if you had very little or no experience, and at this level we understand very little about translation choices and how they are made. Would it make sense a more experience translator be interested in this sort of trade?

Secondly, talking about trade, my TM has trade secrets in it, and I signed an agreement saying I would do my best efforts not to disclose these secrets. By selling it, I’m breaching the agreement and am, thus, liable. If anything happens, my neck is on the line. Selling my TM would bring me more expenses than revenues…

Finally, after weighing what is at stake here, my TM would be so freaking expensive you would not consider this deal a good one – the number of words you would need to translate before being able to pay for it would generate a generous TM of your own, and now you wouldn’t need mine, right?

There are smart shortcuts, those that save you time. But do not aim for those that save you work. There are some shortcuts that are just you asking for trouble, mister.

About Michele Santiago

Translation, localization, editing, subtitling. 7 years of experience in English and Spanish into Braz. Portuguese, specialized in Medical, Pharma and IT. Love rainy days, travelling and gadgets. Not necessarily in that order.

  1. Alina

    The only situation where using someone else’s TM is, for example, if you have a client who has always requested a TM with the translation project and, one time, the translator that usually works on their materials is unavailable and you need to find a different translator. It would be beneficial to use the first translator’s TM to ensure consistency.
    Otherwise, like you said, might infringe some copyright.

    5 years ago

    • Michele Santiago

      Hi Alina,

      Thank you for the input. I agree, when the client sends the TM along with the project, no problem there.

      You reminded of something that I overlooked in this post: assigning a task to a third party. Unless your client knows and agreed to this, you should never EVER subcontract, since you could be breaching a non-disclosure agreement, by providing the TM and the document to be translated. You never know, right? Better safe than sorry 🙂

      5 years ago


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