What Is Segmentation in Translation?

Adedamola Ojedokun
27 Dec 2023

11 min. read


When you find yourself face-to-face with a long and complex text for translation, the best strategy is to divide and conquer. Specifically, break the text down into smaller, more manageable units.

This approach is referred to as segmentation in translation. And below is your in-depth guide to it.

Pro tip: Use a professional localization management suite like Centus to streamline segmentation in translation through automated and customizable rules, real-time previews, segment-level editing, and integration with translation memories. Learn more.

What is segmentation in translation?

what is segmentation in translation

Segmentation is the process of breaking down a source text into smaller, more manageable components known as segments. These segments differ in size and include:

  • Phrases
  • Sentences
  • Paragraphs
  • Tables
  • Terms

Segmentation helps translators work with smaller and more manageable units, thereby facilitating the translation processes. It also helps novice and professional translators focus on translating one unit at a time, which improves consistency and enhances overall workflow efficiency.

Furthermore, translators can use translation procedures and strategies that are unique to each segment by breaking a complex sentence into units. This offers more precision and accuracy in presenting the intended meaning of the source text.

The segmentation strategy adopted should be compatible with the requirements and capabilities of the translation tools and technologies that are used. Since computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools usually rely on segment-based processing, the segmentation strategy should be compatible with the capabilities of the tool to maximize efficiency.

How the segmentation process works

Segmentation allows the CAT tool to identify and handle each translation unit. The segmentation process separates the source text into sentences or paragraphs, depending on the type of content being processed.

Here’s how the segmentation process works:

Determining the type of segmentation

Depending on the nature of the file being translated, the CAT tool will allow you to segment the text into sentences or paragraphs. It is usually preferable to segment the text into sentences for better alignment with linguistic units.

However, it may be preferable to segment the text into paragraphs for certain forms of content, such as tables and lists.

Segmenting text into sentences

The CAT tool uses different punctuation marks as markers to segment the text into sentences. Examples of these punctuation marks include full stops, line breaks, exclamation and question marks, colons, and semi-colons. The CAT tool establishes the borders of each sentence by identifying these punctuation marks in the source text.

Segmenting text into paragraphs

Segmenting texts into paragraphs is usually more appropriate for texts that contain tables, lists, or other structured formats. This ensures that the content remains organized and follows the planned structure.

This segmentation process improves text alignment with the visual arrangement and the logical flow of information within the source text.

Benefits of segmentation in translation

Segmentation is beneficial in translation for different reasons. Not only does it ensure efficient project management, but also the use of tools such as translation memory and terminology databases.

Here are the key benefits of segmentation:

Leveraging translation memory

Segmentation aids the efficient use of general translation memory, which is an important feature in translation and localization projects. Translation memory stores previously translated segments (i.e., already translated sentences) and matches them with new segments depending on similarity. Using already existing translated content aids future translation project.

With segmentation, translation memory can recognize matches with higher accuracy, thereby saving translators time and effort. Translation memory maintains consistency and ensures the use of approved terminology and preferred translations by reusing already translated segments (i.e., existing translations).

The use of translation memory improves the overall quality and translation consistency throughout the project.

Enhancing terminology consistency

Another important resource for translation projects is terminology databases. These databases contain domain-specific terminology and phrases relevant to a specific industry, customer, or project. Properly segmented texts help novice and professional translators easily access and reference the relevant terminology databases.

Consistent use of specialized terminology ensures accurate and precise translations, especially in technical or industry-specific content. Segmenting texts appropriately helps translators quickly identify and incorporate the right terminology, improving translation consistency and adherence to industry standards.

Common segmentation rules in translation

segmentation rules in translation Segmentation rules are used to produce effective and accurate translations for diverse audiences. These rules provide guidelines for breaking the text into meaningful translation units called segments, allowing translators to adjust their method and language choices to the specific needs of each segment.

Here are the common segmentation rules in translation:

Sentence structure and length

To improve readability and comprehension, segmentation rules usually involve changing the length of sentences. Long, complex phrases can be broken down into shorter ones for clarity and to avoid information overload.

Furthermore, translators modify sentence structure to conform to the conventions and preferences of the target language, ensuring that the translated text flows organically.

Paragraph organization and coherence

To maintain logical flow and coherence within paragraphs, segmentation rules govern how translators organize information. Paragraph breaks are strategically placed to separate different ideas or thoughts, allowing readers to easily understand the text.

Translators also modify paragraph structure to meet the preferences of the target language, ensuring that the translated material is cohesive and well-organized.

Headings and subheadings

Segmentation rules guide the creation and use of clear and informative headings for various translation units. Headings guide readers through the text and indicate the main topics and sections. Translators adapt headings to match the expectations of the target audience, ensuring that the essence of the article is successfully captured.

Technical terminology

Segmentation rules guide the adaptation of technical terms for different segments in a text. Depending on the level of expertise of the target audience, translators may simplify or clarify complex terminology while ensuring the accuracy of the translated terms.

How to test segmentation rules

how to test segmentation rules Testing the accuracy and efficiency of segmentation rules helps translators align their segmented translations with their expectations. Here are the key methods for testing segmentation rules:

Open a sample file or segment in your CAT tool

Segmentation rules can be tested by examining a sample file or a segment of the source text within your computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool. This helps you understand whether the text is segmented according to your rules and identify segments requiring correction.

Check segmentation with preview or analysis features

A CAT tool identifies the segmented text and also provides useful metrics such as word count, match rate, and quality score. Use these features to determine the impact of segmentation on the metrics. This allows you to test the efficiency of your segmentation rules in terms of consistency, accuracy, and alignment with the source text.

Identify problems and inconsistencies

You can also test your segmentation rules by identifying any translation issues or inconsistencies in your segmented translations. These could include unsuitable segment breaks, poor sentence patterns, or wrong alignment with headers and subheadings. Note these inconsistencies and change your rules accordingly.

Adjust segmentation rules

Refine and adjust your segmentation rules as the need arises, depending on the results obtained from testing the rules. This method helps you optimize segmentation for more consistency, accuracy, and readability in your translations.

By paying attention to feedback and addressing the identified problems, you can modify your segmentation rules to better align with the intended meaning.

Key considerations for segmentation rules

Consider the following factors when creating segmentation rules for translation:

Length and complexity of the document

The length and complexity of the source document play a significant role in determining the appropriate segmentation rules. Longer and more complex documents often require breaking them down into smaller, more manageable units to ensure accurate and coherent translations.

Type of document

Different types of documents, such as legal, technical, or marketing materials, have distinct language patterns and structures. Consequently, the segmentation strategies employed may vary.

For instance, legal documents may require segmenting based on specific sections or clauses, while marketing materials might benefit from segmenting into paragraphs.

Learn more about legal translation and marketing localization strategies.

Target audience

The target audience for the translated text is crucial when defining specific segmentation rules. The way a text is segmented can impact its comprehensibility for the target audience.

Technical texts may require more granular segmentation to assist specialized readers, whereas general audience translations might benefit from broader segment units that preserve the overall flow of information.

Language pair

The language pair involved in the translation can have an impact on segmentation rules. Different languages have varying sentence structures, punctuation usage, and stylistic conventions that may impact the segmentation approach.

For example, languages with shorter average sentence lengths might require different segmentation strategies compared to languages with longer, more complex sentences.

CAT tools

CAT tools can assist in the segmentation process. Some CAT tools come with pre-defined segmentation rules for various language pairs, while others allow translators to customize their own rules. The choice of CAT tool can influence the segmentation possibilities and ease of implementation.

Translator's experience

The expertise and experience of the translator are essential factors in creating effective segmentation rules. Experienced translators can identify complex sentence structures, ambiguous contexts, or terminological challenges that require specialized segmentation approaches.

They can leverage their linguistic knowledge and translation skills to develop rules that result in accurate and coherent translations.

3 Examples of segmentation in translation

Here are the 3 examples of segmentation in translation:

Sentence segmentation

Sentence segmentation breaks the source text into individual sentences. Each sentence forms a separate segment. This method allows translators to focus on translating a complete idea at a time. By dividing sentences into segments, translators can ensure that translations are accurate, coherent, and consistent.

Sentence segmentation is usually used in translation memory technologies because it helps in retrieving and reusing translated sentences, thereby improving translation consistency and efficiency across projects.


Source text: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The dog barks loudly.

  • Segment 1: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
  • Segment 2: The dog barks loudly.

Paragraph segmentation

Paragraph segmentation breaks the source text at the paragraph level, where each paragraph becomes a separate segment. This type of segmentation is useful for segmenting longer pieces of text or texts that rely on distinct paragraphs for organizing content.

Paragraph segmentation helps translators preserve the context and flow of ideas in each segment, thereby ensuring that translations are consistent while efficiently managing larger portions of text.


Source text: Centus provides tools for managing all aspects of localization, from translation to quality assurance. This helps to ensure that your translations are consistent and accurate across all markets. Centus supports dozens of languages, allowing you to localize your content for almost any market.

  • Segment 1: Centus provides tools for managing all aspects of localization, from translation to quality assurance. This helps to ensure that your translations are consistent and accurate across all markets.
  • Segment 2: Centus supports dozens of languages, allowing you to localize your content for almost any market.

Phrase segmentation

Phrase segmentation focuses on smaller units of meaning by breaking the source text at the phrase or expression level. This type of segmentation is useful when translating idioms, proverbs, or technical terms that must be consistent across the text.

By segmenting texts at the phrase level, translators can ensure the accurate translation of certain phrases or expressions, thereby creating cohesion and consistency across the entire document.


Source text: As they say, “time is money.”

  • Segment: Time is money.

How to perform segmentation in translation

how to perform segmentation in translation

Follow these steps to effectively perform segmentation in translation:

Identify the type of document

Start by understanding the nature of the document you are translating. Different types of documents may require specific segmentation approaches. For instance, legal documents might require different segmentation strategies compared to marketing documents.

Consider the length and complexity of the document

Evaluate the overall length and complexity of the text. Lengthy or intricate documents may necessitate breaking them down into smaller translation units or segments to facilitate the translation work process and maintain clarity.

Identify the target audience

Consider the target audience of the translated text. The target audience can influence how the text is segmented. For example, if the translation is meant for a technical audience, the segmentation might differ from a translation intended for a general audience.

Define the segmentation rules

Establish clear and consistent rules for segmentation. Different approaches can be used, such as sentence segmentation, paragraph segmentation, or phrase segmentation. Choose the rules that best suit the specific document and desired translation outcome.

Segment the text

Begin the actual segmentation process, either manually or by using a Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) tool. Manually segmenting the text involves dividing it into smaller units according to the defined segmentation rules.

Alternatively, CAT tools can automate the process by applying pre-defined rules or allowing the translator to create custom segmentation rules.

Review the segmentation

After segmenting the text, it is crucial to review the segmentation to ensure accuracy and consistency. Check that each segment is appropriately delimited and that there are no errors or inconsistencies in the segmentation. This step helps maintain the quality and coherence of the translation.

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