terminology management as part of the translation workflow

When we think of terminology management in the translation and localization lifecycle, we often think of adding a new or unknown concept into an Excel spreadsheet and maybe translating it into another language. That's actually a very simplified way of looking at terminology management and the real work is much more complex than this.

The image shows a simple example of a workflow of a translation project which includes terminology management. The translation and revision steps were simplified merely to emphasize what it takes for a terminologist to finish a lifecycle of adding one single term into the termbase.

Terminology as a discipline stretches back to the 18th century and identifies Carl von Linné as the founder of terminology organization, standardization, and planning. According to ISO, terminology is associated with particular areas of specialist knowledge. In terminology, we are not dealing with everyday worlds, with general language. But what we do we do with terms then that belong to special or technical language? According to Barbara Inge Karsch, a terminologist and a professor of terminology management "we collect or extract terms. We research their underlying concepts. We document terms and approve or fail them. We might research their target language equivalents. We distribute them and their terminological entries. We use them. Whatever you do with terms, don’t translate them." And she explains: "While both translators and terminologists research terms, the product of their work is different. The translator is responsible for the delivery of a correct target language text with correct technical terms (parole or language in use). The terminologist is responsible for the creation of a correct and complete terminological entry in a database."

In terms of a translation workflow, a terminologist needs to be fast enough to provide a solution to an issue triggered by the translators otherwise translators will find an ad-hoc solution to the problem which might be not as good or accurate. At the same time, terminology entries need to be precise, correct, long-living, and in line with the other entries. And that takes time. Generally, one single entry takes about 20 minutes from researching and validating to term entry and release. If there are 10 terms to be researched and entered, that takes about 200 minutes, and so on.

While ad-hoc terminology management has the advantages of being quicker and, it's inevitable to see that systematic terminology management solves more problems in the longer run. Consistency and domain-oriented approaches are just a few of them.

More and more companies and businesses realize the importance of including terminology management in their workflows. If the content creators and/or translators don't know something, they ask questions, those questions need to be answered by someone and if they don't get an answer, assumptions happen, which will lead to errors and mistakes, which will create confusion, and that costs more money and takes more time for the company to fix the issues than to implement an extra but essential step into their workflows. Instead of asking, what does it cost to include terminology management, the question is, what they can lose if they don't include it?

While in the beginning, just like with any other investments, terminology management might seem a bit luxurious, in the longer run, the cost will come down dramatically, as terminologists and other terminology stakeholders become more efficient in the process, standards, and tools. Investing in terminology management will create a clear and exact message about the company's brand, products, and/or services.



Author: Annamaria Szvoboda, May 13, 2021