Managing Insurance Terminology across different languages using Termbases

As global companies generate greater levels of content in different languages, the management of terminology is increasingly crucial to maintaining brand value. So what are the best practices for achieving this across the different languages in which you operate?

Defining Terminology

We firstly need to clarify terminology management and the reasons why its management is so important: terminology is defined as a word or a short phrase that defines a specific concept.  In some languages, there may be various equally valid terms that to describe the same product or service. The terms excess and deductible are often referred to by different insurers  to mean the same thing, but a company  may always choose use one or the other in their documentation. Consider also the English terms memory stickflash drive and usb key: all these terms are used to mean essentially the same product, however without a clear terminology process, there may be a risk that people (perhaps from outside the business) writing content about your business will, for example, use one term in a brochure and then a different one on your website. Without clear guidance to the translators, inconsistencies can easily creep in, hence the need for a solid terminology strategy.

Many companies, realising the value of this approach, now manage their terminology in all languages in which they operate and even stipulate ‘forbidden terms’, which they know may be used but which they do not want to appear in their content. So what is the best way to ensure anybody creating content for your company only uses your approved terminology?

Using Termbases

There are a number of different approaches to managing terminology, ranging from a simple bilingual table in Excel or Word that translators or writers can refer to, right through to complex Termbases in specialist Translation Management software packages, in which context, pictures, definitions and the aforementioned forbidden terms can be stored. The advantage these systems have over a simple document in Excel (aside from all the rich contextual information) is that, when used in conjunction with Translation Memory Systems, they alert the translator or writer automatically when a pre-defined term occurs in the text, along with the preferred corresponding translation. Automated checks can also be run on the document to check that the Termbase has not been overridden. This method of using Termbases to manage terminology gives you the reassurance that anybody writing about your business will have excellent supporting material and will use your preferred terminology.

Although these systems are used predominantly by Language Service Providers (LSPs), many global organisations have made the investment in the technology themselves. Even if you decide not to go down this route, your LSP may be able to provide a cloud based system, in which you can validate the terminology yourself, and which can also be used in the translation process.

If you decide to opt for a Termbase, you will need to set out the process and decide upon a number of key variables:

  • Which terms should go in the Termbase? Companies usually choose those terms that are specific to their business or processes, or preferential terms where there may exist multiple possible expressions in the target language.
  • Is it possible to data-mine existing foreign language material to compile the Termbase? Previous translations are an excellent source for retrospectively compiling this type of tool.
  • Who is responsible for translating the foreign language terms? The LSP or one of your product managers?
  • Do the terms need approval by one of your employees before they are used as part of the translation process?
  • Do you have associated metadata (definitions, pictures, context, etc.) to complement the Termbase?

Once the Termbase is compiled, you will also need to consider how to manage new terminology and how best to tackle the process for new words and terms that arise in your content.

Although it may sound a little daunting, implementing the right terminology strategy upfront can avoid significant and potentially costly amendments further down the line, as inconsistent terminology can seriously damage your brand’s reputation, whichever industry you are in. Using a Termbase, either managed yourself or in conjunction with an LSP, offers an extremely efficient and practical way to make sure your brand image remains consistent across all languages in which you produce content.

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