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About Translation Memories

NB: This is a theory section. You will find how to handle TMs in Wordfast below, or by clicking HERE.

Translation memories being a very important part of CATs, I will try to give a little more information on them here. You can find more data in the manual, or diverse resources on the net.

Wordfast TMs are in tab delimited text format, and you can open them using virtually any text editor (Word, Wordpad, WordPerfect, Star Write,....), spreadsheet or database application (Excel, Works, Star Calc, Access,...).

The TM contain the following parts:

  1. Heading
  2. Source and Target language designation
  3. Attributes
  4. Translation Units (TUs)
  5. Usage count


The heading will, amongst other things, contain the creation date of the TM, a list of the existing attributes for the TM and the software that was used to create it (in our case, Wordfast)


A TM will contain the language designation of the source and target language, such as EN-US for US English, FR-FR for French (France), and so on. You will find a rather comprehensive list of these in the manual.


Attributes are additionnal information added on a TM, such the User ID of the translator, the field of translation (IT, Commercial,...). Actually, language is also an attribute. Attributes in a TM are used to attach information to the translation units. For instance, if you use a TM created by someone else, you will be able to differentiate your translations from those of other translator(s), and translations belonging to a different field then the one you are working with. Say you are translating IT, and the TM you are using contain Marketing translations. The two fields being different, you might be interested to differentiate them.

Translation Units:

Translation Units (TUs) are simply source segments, followed by the target segments (translations), each being introduced by the appropriate language designations, with the date of creation, attributes and usage count.


Date User ID Usage# Srce lang. Source Seg Tgt L Target Segment At Attrib.
20020713~194241 SG 0 EN-US This is a sentence. FR-FR Ceci est une phrase. IT TEST

Usage Count:

Usage count is a number that represents the number of times a translation unit was re-used. ("0" in the example above). It is very interesting to determine the value of a translation unit. If a translation unit is re-used (meaning it was presented as a match and was approved) often, it is a very valuable one. On the other end, a translation unit that you do not re-use is of little value.

To learn how to handle translation memories in Wordfast, click NEXT.