Understanding Terminology Management in Language Translation Services

Each field and industry have their own language, their own jargon. Reading specialized documents without understanding this jargon can feel like learning an entirely new language. While industry experts can dive in and familiarize themselves, industry-specific words and terms can present a challenge for translation projects. For example, there is legal jargon and IT jargon. A professional translator needs more than an understanding of both the source and the target language- they must also have a clear and firm understanding of the subject matter they’re working on and its jargon. But even subject matter experts cannot keep every term they need in their head, accessible when they need it. And for many companies, common words or phrases take on a new meaning that’s specific to them. That’s where terminology management usage in translation services comes in. Whether you’re working on a big translation project or a routine document translation,  having a terminology management document is useful to both your internal team and your translation agency to maintain consistency and accuracy during your translation efforts. In this translation blog post we’ll define terminology management, explore why it’s important for successful translation projects, and walk through the process of creating a terminology management document.

What is Terminology Management?

Terminology management is the process of creating a systematized document of terms. Terms are the words or phrases that identify a particular item or concept for a company. These terms may be specific to the company with no outside definitions, or they may be common words repurposed for internal use. A terminology management document can be as simple as a list of words, a dictionary of phrases and equivalents, or as complex as a map linking concepts together. Oftentimes these documents contain a list of terms, their definitions, translated linguistic equivalents, and possible contextual examples of usages.

Why Use Terminology Management?

Having a terminology management system in place makes translation projects move smoothly. Terminology management documents eliminate confusion, standardize terminology, and ensure consistency throughout translation projects especially in large projects where a team of translators is used. Since these documents establish preferred terms and translations in advance, it saves time and reduces redundancy during the translation process by removing ambiguity for the translators involved. This document can also answer questions non- translatable terms – to keep in the source language, forbidden terms – terms that should not be used, acronyms and if they are going to be translated and how. Using a glossary is helpful to translators and clients alike. Clients can create their glossary to highlight key terms and use it for future projects for consistency, and this document can also be used by copywriters, developers, or designers.

Creating a Terminology Management File

Your terminology management system can appear in whatever form you desire, but a glossary is the most common. A bilingual glossary is a collaborative database compiling key terms in the source languages and approved terms in the target languages. It can be an excel file a word document. A glossary per language pair should be created at the start of a translation services project if the contracting company does not have one. To create the document, an internal team member must read the source text and determine the key terms. Terms that appear frequently, are specialized, or carry weight in the document should be included. It’s important to note that terminology management is not final, and a glossary can and should be updated as needed. Terminology management should also contain terms that are not translated, such as brand or company names, trademarks, proprietary terms, and how to translate products. In the translation industry, translation companies use special software to extract terms from content to be translated and create multilingual glossaries to load into the CAT tools during the translation process. CAT tools or Computer-Assisted Translation programs is software in computers to support translators and linguists to create, edit, and store translations. If the contracting company provides a bilingual glossary per language for the project, the translation company should review and approve that glossary to start with a revised and updated version so the linguist can use a glossary that is known and approved by all the parties involved.

What to Include in Your Glossary?

  • Business information. This includes information like company name, product names and specific services, slogans, and taglines. It can also contain internal-facing information such as processes or standard abbreviations.
  • Industry and preferred terms. Every industry has its own specific set of jargon and terms, and when there are options, a glossary provides the answer to the preferred term.
  • Non-translated Words. If there are any terms or words that should not be translated (like company name), that should be denoted as well.
  • Forbidden words. There might be a set of words to avoid. Either because they are use by competitors or are not to be used for other reasons.
  • SEO keywords. Keyword research can depend on location, so including specific keywords will ensure they’re used properly and effectively.
  • Acronyms– How are the abbreviations going to be translated if they are going to stay in English or not.
  • Other Important information. This is subjective for each company, but additional information important to the translation process should be included.
Additionally, your glossary isn’t carved in stone. It should be updated and changed as your business evolves. The more you use your glossary, the more robust and valuable it becomes.

Glossary Creation Process

  1. Term sourcing: pulling the terms needed in the glossary.
  2. Creating the glossary: creation of the terminology management document
  3. Editing: removing redundancies and words that are easily translated
  4. Approving: internal approval process for the document with all necessary stakeholders
  5. Translation: a translation company identifies appropriate translations for all terms
  6. Approving: internal stakeholders approve the translated terms
  7. Updating: terms are edited and updated as needed.

Frequently Asked Questions About Terminology Management

What is a term?

A term is a word or phrase that identifies an item associated with a particular company, brand, or market. Terms are the technical language of an industry.

What is terminology?

Terminology is the study of terms and their use.

What is terminology management?

Industry or company-specific terms must be consistently translated with clear governing rules. Terminology management is the identification, storage, and management of terms and their rules with the ability to edit, adjust, and remove terms to ensure the correct terms are used in translation services project across all type of content: from website translation to document and video translation.

What is a glossary?

A glossary is a terminology management file that includes a list of key terms. Also called a terminology database, term base, or lexicon. A glossary creates a benchmark for terms used in any context or situation as a reference for anyone creating, editing, or translating content.

What is a bilingual glossary?

A bilingual glossary includes the translated equivalent of the key terms in the source language.

In what type of products are bilingual glossaries useful?

Bilingual glossaries are useful in almost every project, but in particular for content that is very specialized and when there is knowledge for previous translation projects to share between the hiring company and the translation agency. Example:
  • Website about Tools for products names and features of the tools to use in the translation.
  • Medical content for the exact translation of terms in the new languages
  • Technical content for videos, to use the appropriate translation for every market and language
  • In localization for a particular marked, software localization for different Spanish speaking countries

Final Thoughts

A terminology management file essentially boils down to a rule of lists for the translator to follow concerning specialized terms. Having one of these on hand is beneficial to the client and the translator and leads to expedited and more accurate and consistent translations of technical and specialized content. Having a robust glossary makes for a smooth translation process and ensures translation consistency in future projects. Terminology management is important and beneficial for the contracting company and for the translation services company.

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