Translation Industry News | 17.01.2010

A review of IATE – the importance of consistence of terminology to the EU and generally speaking. The role that the IATE database plays to these translators

The Translation People understand that consistent use of terminology throughout a company’s documents is paramount and we appreciate that it’s essential to project a coherent message to clients and suppliers alike. Imagine for a moment, if you can, how difficult this must be in an institution the size and scale of the European Union! It was with this in mind that IATE (“Inter Active Terminology for Europe”) was conceived.

IATE is the EU’s inter-institutional terminology database. It was launched in 1999 to create a single web-based interface for all EU terminology resources, demystifying jargon for all users, making the information more easily available and ensuring its standardisation throughout the EU institutions. Prior to this date there were several different databases, including one for each of the three main EU institutions – the European Commission (EURODICAUTOM), the European Parliament (EUTERPE) and European Council (TIS). Although it has been used internally within EU institutions since 2004, the public interface was only officially opened on 29 June 2007 and since then its multilingual term base has been at the disposal of everyone in the EU. The overall development costs of the database from 1999 to 2003 were €1.41 million and the annual maintenance costs for 2007 were €627 000. These costs are covered by the budgets of all the participating institutions and bodies of the EU.

IATE plays a major role in assuring the quality of all written communication of EU institutions and bodies. By offering easy access to validated EU-related terminology, it aims to ensure the consistency and reliability of terminology which is crucial for producing the clear and unambiguous texts necessary to guarantee both the validity and transparency of the legislative process and effective communication with the citizens of the Union.

IATE is managed by the Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union in Luxembourg and is a “live” and interactive database, meaning that anyone can contribute and the content is constantly being updated. Anyone accessing the database can make changes but, in order to ensure the quality of the individual contributions, a change in the database automatically launches a validation cycle, whereby terminologists in the translation departments validate new and modified information. The database covers all 23 official European languages although the content volume per language varies, depending primarily on the length of time each language has been an official EU language. In the long term, the aim is to have equal volume in all languages. According to latest figures on the IATE website (, the database, contains not only 8.7 million terms EU-specific terms , but also 500 000 abbreviations and 100 000 phrases from areas such as agriculture, law & IT.

The database was conceived as an answer to problems with consistency of terminology in EU documents, to provide a tool facilitating the drafting of multilingual EU texts on any given subject. However, there are still concerns over the quality of some translations, especially legacy data from previous lists. All translations are given a star rating from one star (Reliability not verified) to 4 (Very reliable) depending on the reliability of the source and whether the translation has been officially approved. The consensus seems to be that IATE is a useful source, but one that should be used in conjunction with other reference sources and not relied upon 100%.

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