Creating a Glossary or Termbase

You will often hear the words term base and glossary used when preparing your projects for translation, so what is the difference?

Creating a glossary or termbaseTerm base is a contraction of “terminology database”; it could also be described as a database containing approved terminology (or terms). A glossary can serve as a basis and can be imported into a term base.

While both term bases and glossaries can be multilingual, a term base may be a collection of different equivalents used in translation rather than strictly an explanation of meanings as found in a glossary.

Selecting the right terms

One of the most widely spoken languages in the world, hated by some and loved by others, Spanish has evolved from a rich blend made up of languages as different as Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, French, Italian and other European expression systems into our European Spanish and Latin American Spanish of today, where each country and province has its own set of lingos, slang and idioms that identifies each of them. Semantics and pronunciation differ even in the same language. Read more

Selection criteria revolve around looking at things in a certain way. It boils down to asking the right questions of each term candidate. In medical settings the wrong choice of a word can have tragic consequences.

If we answer “yes” to any of the following questions, then almost certainly the term should be included:

  • Does the term belong to a specific language variant or dialect?
  • Is the term equally used in your organization’s headquarters and on site?
  • Is the term unclear or confusing to translators, users or anyone else?
  • Is the term often used incorrectly?
  • Where is it used?
  • Does the term lead to cultural references?
  • Are there multiple synonyms for the term?
  • Does the term concept belong to technical language related to your product and not to general speech?
  • Is the concept specific to your target audience?
  • Is the understanding of the term the same for everyone in your organization?
  • Does the term have negative, sexual, comical connotations?

The importance of managing terminology goes beyond selecting the terms you want to use in all your materials. However there are other applications for terminology use.

SEO and social media

Up to this point, the process has been about refining terms so that we reduce similar word and synonym usage in order to get to a consistent, single term. But SEO is where things get flipped on their heads. With SEO, you want to cast the net as wide as possible and find all the terms that people are using to describe a concept. You may ask, “what are the most generic terms for this concept? What is it that people are searching for?” and there will be several answers because you are looking for multiple, high-ranking keywords. Unlike traditional terminology work, which is one concept to one term, SEO work is about one concept to several words (which may be, in fact, terms).

A blended approach applies to hashtags (which are really just keywords) in social media when trying to join trending conversations. You have to use what people are searching for in order to be found, but at the same time, you may want to bring them back to how you want to refer to things so that you have a consistent brand voice. With hashtags, it’s a marketing balancing act between casting a wide net with a lot of terms and choosing a very specific term related to your brand that your audience may or may not be using yet.

How do linguists use glossaries?

A glossary of terms is your translator’s bible for your terminology. Along with a style guide and translation memory, translators, editors, interpreters use your glossary as a key tool to improve the consistency of the translation and ensure that all translated materials meet your quality requirements from one project to another. A defined glossary eliminates uncertainty, allowing the translator to work efficiently. Each time a defined key term appears, the translator can make sure that it is used consistently and correctly.

How does a glossary benefit your company?

Terminology is harmonized throughout your projects and reinforces consistency: a glossary provides the basis for consistency and is especially beneficial if more than one translation resource is used on any given project, or across many projects. Linguists take vacation, retire or even quit. Glossaries, termbases and TM remain forever and grow with time.

Glossaries reduces time frame and costs. This is particularly true during tight deadlines when many translators and reviewers may be working on various elements of a project simultaneously. It will also save clients reviewing and verification time.

It is far more costly to rework materials after the fact than to establish approved translation of terms before a project begins. It also means savings in translation costs over the long term.

Your glossary should grow and evolve as your business/product/service does. A review of your established source glossary should be performed every 6-12 months, which would include translation of any new terms or re-translation of outdated terminology.

Simply put, good terminology management reduces miscommunication, time, and additional cost when fixes are required. Like everything else, start with good habits, get a system in place and define the rules for what term gets used, where and when.

Questions about the creation of a glossary or term base? We can help, answering your questions and send you examples of multilingual glossary or termbase formats.

Category: Translation Tools

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