Translation Memory Basics Explained

October 24, 2018

A translation memory, or TM, is a centralized database of translated content stored in segments. Think of a sentence as being a segment in writing. However, for a TM, it may not actually be a full sentence, but rather a grouping of sequential words, which allows the translator to have some context to provide an appropriate translation of the segment.

Translation Memory Categories

There are three categories for TM matches:


Repetition is a full segment match within a source file for words in a duplicate segment.


100% match is a match against an existing translation memory for the client and not within the current source file being reviewed. This is leveraging translation previously performed from a prior project.


Fuzzy match is a match of a segment that is very similar to a 100% match against an existing memory, but not exact. It may be just an additional space, a change of a word or two, change in punctuation or some other very minor difference. Usually, a percentage is seen on quotes for the segment variation such as 75% to 99% or some mix within this range. But it is not as simple as a percentage. An algorithm will dictate if a 'fuzzy' is close enough to be a useful match. Matches below 75% are not expected to be useful and they would most likely begin to take as much time or more time for a translator to address rather than if translating from scratch. These lower matching fuzzy segments will be counted as new words and treated as such.


New words are when a segment has no match within the source file or against an existing client translation memory and are classified as new words and quoted at a full translation rate.

How does TM impact translation costs?

Across the localization industry, repetition and 100% matches are charged at 30% of a new word rate for a language. Fuzzy matches are charged at 70% of a new word rate (with some companies offering a variation of this if they offer broken out ranges between 75% and 99%). But again, the percentage concept is misleading and may not be a true percentage of the difference within a segment.


This is consistent with how vendors pay translators for their review of these matches. A fuzzy match will take a translator more time than a full match (repetition or 100% match) to review so the cost is higher. A fuzzy match may be a simple, quick edit or could require a full segment to be rewritten. But on average, it takes less time for a translator to address than it would for a new segment.


Translation memories are useful for both the client and translation teams as they help create consistent and cost-effective translations.

Further Resources on Global Business


Globalization Partners International (GPI) has extensive experience localizing marketing materials, technical documents, and large, scalable websites. We have previously posted a number of useful guides for best practices in this area. Feel free to review our blogs that are particularly relevant:



Please feel free to contact GPI at with any questions about our language and technology services. Also let us know if you have any interesting blog topics you would like us to cover in our future blogs. You may request a complimentary Translation Quote for your projects.

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Translation Memory, Translation Memories

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Peter has over 20 years’ experience in business development within the localization industry supporting clients for documentation, software and website globalization services. He started his career in the translation industry in 1995 and over the years has worked for several leading localization service providers including LMI, Berlitz, Welocalize, GPI and Beyondsoft. Throughout his career Peter has led by example and always put his clients’ needs first to ensure client expectations are understood and successfully met. Over the years Peter has trained extensively in Solution Selling, Action Selling and Localization Sales, Testing and Project Management. Peter handles many of GPI’s global accounts helping educate clients on GPI’s comprehensive suite of globalization services and industry best practices.