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Translation memories, also known as translation databases, are collections of entries where a source text is associated with its corresponding translation in one or more target languages.
Typically, TMs are used in translation tools: when the translator "opens" a segment, the application look up the database for equivalent source text. The result is a list of matches usually ranked with a score expressing the percentage of similarity between the source text in the document and in the TM.
A feature used more and more in TMs is the use of machine translation to create fuzzy matches, allowing some level of integration of MT systems without changing the whole translation process.
There are many advantages in using TMs:
There are also some drawbacks:
Translation memory is a powerful technology that can help lowering the cost of localization. However, the use of TM needs to be weighted and all factors taken in account.
To allow better interoperability between different tools, the Translation Memory eXchange format (TMX), has been created.