Basics: What localization terms do you need to know?

Localization (or L10n) involves translation, but its main goal is to make a product feel like it has been created especially for a specific target market.

For example, when translating content from Japanese into English, there are other considerations that won’t always be included in the translation process. These include converting currency from Yen into the local tender, formatting addresses and dates, and adjusting the website’s layout according to cultural and technological preferences.

If you’re new to localization, you may not know all the terms used in the business (the language services industry does love to make things complicated). Luckily, our #l10n glossary can help give you a quick overview of the most commonly used terms to help you get started.

Here are the industry’s most common concepts, explained:

Machine translation

Also called automatic translation, machine translation is the translation supplied by a computer without any human involvement. There are many concerns about the quality of this type of translation because it is based on computer algorithms and the text is provided without being seen by a human.

Translation memory (TM)

Translation memory is a database that stores previously translated content and makes it available to translators for reuse. For companies with highly repetitive content, it can be a powerful tool to improve speed, consistency and cost-effectiveness.

Exact matches

Exact matches are suggestions from TM that suit the text to be translated completely. These matches correspond to the actual text 100% — so these suggestions don’t need to be edited and can be used as the final translation.

Fuzzy matches

Fuzzy matches are rough matches suggested by translation memory. They suit a given text from anywhere between 55% and 99%. So, they do need to be edited somewhat to create the final translation.

Continuous translation

Continuous translation (also called continuous localization) is the process that provides human translation around-the-clock for streaming and frequently updated content. The enemy of the traditional translation processes, it integrates translation smoothly into an agile development process. Continuous translation typically features:

  • High frequency of projects
  • Agile and fast translation cycles
  • Small translation volume
  • Quick turnaround

Internationalization (i18n)

Internationalization is the basis for fast localization and translation of software. It is typically the process of extracting all texts from a software or product and placing them into resource files — non-executable data files used by your application, such as image, audio, and video files.


Frequently used in localization, it consists of a set of parameters that defines a user’s language and country or region. In translation and localization projects, a locale typically consists of a language identifier and a region identifier.

Minimum viable localization (MVL)

Typically used in mobile app localization, MVL is a great way to test certain markets at low costs. It refers to a strategy for testing different markets and their potential for an application by localizing your app store description and metadata for various international markets without translating the application itself.


Although machine translation quality is far behind that of human translators, post-editing uses machine translation and human translators together to increase the quality. Texts are machine translated and then edited by professional human translators to provide high-quality translations in a short amount of time.

Resource file

Resource files are language files used for an application’s or document’s source texts and to store translations. Typically, resource file names include the language abbreviation or locale to classify the file’s language.

Right-to-left (RTL)

RTL refers to languages that are written and read right to left, like Arabic, Hebrew or Urdu. Translating your application or document from a left-to-right language (like English) into a RTL language involves considerable changes in layout.

Term base

Also known as a glossary, a term base is the primary tool for terminology management in translation and localization projects. They are compiled using company- or industry- specific terms and typically consist of:

  • Terms (source language)
  • Approved translations (target languages)
  • A description
  • Terms that are not to be translated but kept in the source language


Unicode is an international computing industry standard used in most writing systems for text representation and handling. The most commonly used are UTF-8 and UTF-16.

Did we miss any key localization terms? Share them with us in the comments below!

Go global with Gengo’s people-powered translation platform.

   or Contact us

Megan Waters

The author

Megan Waters

Megan manages all things translator-related as Gengo’s Community and Digital Content Manager. Born in South Africa but now based in Tokyo, she’s passionate about languages and people. Megan spends her free time exploring secondhand shops, camping in the mountains and hosting the occasional dinner party.

Stay informed

Subscribe to receive all the latest updates from Gengo in your inbox.

Translator Resources [EN]

Get the leads of users from translator resources page.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Business Resources

Discover everything you need to know about going global.

Translator Resource Page

Discover everything you need to know about translating with Gengo.

Translator Forum