Package Insert 38
Interesting facts and figures for customers and partners of mt-g.
September 2016
Terminology – Overview
When someone is getting into the translation world for the first time and becoming familiar with the various subjects, some areas are not quite so clear-cut as others. The subject of terminology management is one of those aspects of the translation industry where the procedure is not always immediately obvious. In our “Terminology” series, we explain what exactly working on documents involves and what has to be considered in order for a terminology management system to run successfully in the long term. This article marks the start and provides an overview of the foundation work involved in this area before we go into terminology work in more detail in forthcoming editions.
Although terminology is not such a common term as, for example, translation memory – this is now just about considered a stock phrase –, it should nevertheless not be disdained. The fact that less attention is paid to it is probably due to the fact that translation memories have a direct influence on translation costs and make a major contribution towards obviously and tangibly reducing costs and therefore tend to focus the attention, whereas the benefits of successful terminology management are not directly tangible in the same way.

Basic principles – terminology work and term database

Before we get into the benefits of good terminology management, we'll take a look at the foundation work. Companies who approach us frequently do not know even where to start with terminology work – which means that glossaries or lists of terms often do not exist. The point we are making here is that a term has to find its way from the documentation into an appropriate database. What documents will form the basis, what fields will be covered, what terms are already obsolete and what to do about newly encountered superfluous words found – all of these considerations should be included in a plan created prior to term extraction. This is because term extraction, i.e. the identification and selection of terms in the documentation, is at the heart of terminology work. This step, which sets the course for the wording in the documentation and commits copywriters and editors to a particular term for the foreseeable future, is to some extent also a strategic decision, which should be given careful consideration. Successful terminology management is largely responsible for long-term, across-the-board consistency within a company’s documentation, something which can have the secondary goal of making the company stand out in the industry and amongst other firms and in turn help to create unique selling points versus competitor products. Any increase in consistency makes the translation process more reliable, shorter and more streamlined because the potential time spent on revisions can be reduced and possible revision loops may then become redundant.

Whether term extraction is performed manually or is semi-automated is first and foremost a question of the available resources. Nowadays, there is a clear trend towards semi-automated versions, in which a terminologist extracts terms with the aid of software and afterwards decides which words actually to keep. Whether semi-automated or manual, searching a company’s documents for terms, comparing them and rejecting what is superfluous is always a time-consuming process. The planned scale of the terminology work plays a part. Whether the objective is wide-ranging cleaning with a large number of documents or very intensive work on just a few documents, central, approved documents with high term density should be used in both cases to keep the time involved within reasonable limits. As soon as the basic framework is in place, i.e. a list of relevant terms has been generated, the majority of work in the source language will already have been accomplished.

A term database such as this is worth a great deal more than might appear to be the case at first sight – it is an investment in the structure as well as the conformity and consistency of a whole company’s documentation. Incidentally, it is initially of secondary importance whether a term database is managed in Excel or an investment is made in appropriate term database software – most programs offer export functions for extracting the content into more common formats (e.g. .csv files). However, it should be noted that the proprietary databases of individual manufacturers may export into the same format but reimporting into a different system is sometimes not possible without considerable effort. It is therefore important for the compatibility of the exported files to be guaranteed by the language service provider – we are available to our customers and together we will check whether such an exchange is possible without any problems.

The road to target-language terms

What happens next depends on whether any translations have already been produced in the past and whether their quality is suitable for re-use. If the customer already has approved foreign-language documents, the same process must be followed with the documents which are the target-language counterparts to the source documents. The relevant translations of the terms will be implemented language by language in the term database and linked to the term in the source language. A shortcut can be taken if the previous translations were produced in CAT tools and thus TMs were created. In this case, bilingual term extraction is possible. However, if target-language documents are not yet available, one option is to translate and approve the term database.

After this final step, you have your database in your virtual hands and have thus created a foundation for consistent translations in future. To maintain this consistency in forthcoming translations, we always send our translators glossaries or term databases if we have been provided with them. We prepare the term databases received from customers and incorporate them into our CAT tools, thus ensuring that the translator has direct access to the terms during the translation process without having to change programs. The CAT tools detect whether a translation segment contains a term that is also present in the term database and suggest this term to the translator. Various checking mechanisms within Across or SDL Trados Studio detect whether the translation possibly contains terms which differ from those entered in the term database. The translator is informed accordingly and can decide whether or not a revision is necessary.

Benefits and further application

It is easy to appreciate that this subject can become very complex as the number of documents and languages increases. This is why our customers often leave terminology management in our hands and trust our expertise in this area. Translation orders always lend themselves to the efficient incorporation of new terminology, i.e. having it incorporated into the term databases directly by the technical translator, without a lot of detours. Through the various approval processes, we do, of course, offer customers the opportunity to check and change these terms actively – in this way, their approval always rests with the customer. If the customer makes any changes, these should be conveyed to us to guarantee continuous use of the approved terminology throughout the entire life cycle of the document.

As we have now obtained an overview of the steps involved in creating a terminology database, we will return at this point to the previously mentioned benefits: although introducing terminology management involves some initial outlay, subsequent costs decrease successively while the benefits increase simultaneously. With successful terminology management, the company increases the quality of its documents by consistent use of terminology, resulting in a saving of time and costs in the translation process. This is why automotive manufacturers, software houses and other global players invest huge sums in this area every year.
If you have enjoyed this taster, you can look forward to the forthcoming editions of the Package Insert, in which we will look in more detail at how to carry out term extraction and show you how translators work with your terminology.

If mt-g can assist you with your terminology management in the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can help you from term extraction to ongoing multilingual terminology management.


Bernd Mayer

Member of Management, Head of Customer and Project Management
Tel. +49 731 176397-30
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