Language focus | 04.03.2014

Terminology Management

The ability to manage terminology in any language is crucial to maintaining brand value in the different markets in which you operate. So what are the best practices for achieving this goal?

We firstly need to define terminology management: terminology is essentially a word or a short phrase that defines a concept.  The management of this terminology becomes increasingly important in foreign language markets, as a concept that is clearly defined by a particular term in one language may be defined by a number of equally valid terms in other languages. Consider the terms memory stick, flash drive and usb key in English: all these terms are used to mean the same product, however you wouldn’t want to give the same product one name in a brochure and then a different one on your website. Without clear guidance to the translators, these inconsistencies can easily creep in, hence the need for a solid terminology strategy.

So what is the best way to manage terminology? There are a number of different approaches, ranging from a simple bilingual table in Excel or Word that translators can refer to, right through to complex Termbases in specialist software packages, which are detailed glossaries giving context, definitions and forbidden terms (those which should never be used). These Termbases can even be stored in the cloud where they can be accessed by a number of different stakeholders from translators to company validators. The huge advantage of systems like this is that they can be used in conjunction with Translation Memory Systems so that you don’t have to rely on the translator manually checking the document and using the right term. These systems alert the translator automatically when a term from the Termbase occurs in the text. The Language Service Provider (LSP) can even run an automatic check to ensure that the translator has not ignored the Termbase suggestions.

Once you have decided which method to use to manage the terminology, you will need to set out the process and decide upon a number of key variables:

  • Which terms should go in the Termbase?
  • Who is responsible for translating the foreign language terms? The LSP or one of your product managers?
  • Is it possible to data-mine existing material to compile the Termbase?
  • Do you have associated metadata (definitions, pictures, context, etc.) to complement the Termbase?
  • Do the terms need approval before they are used as part of the translation process?

You will also need to consider new terminology and how best to tackle the process for new words and terms that arise in your content. You may also want to ensure that all translation buyers (or even employees who occasionally translate material) within your business are aware of the Termbase so they can use the appropriate translations.

Although it may sound a little daunting, implementing the right terminology strategy can save significant and potentially costly amendments further down the line, and a good LSP will guide you through the process and help find the right solution for your business.

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