Focus on One Step of the Localization Process: Terminology Management

Terminology is an integral part of translation, and by extension, of localization. How can terminology management be put into practice and what are its practical assets?

What is terminology management?

For translation and localization agencies, terminology management consists of laying down rules for all terms specific to a firm’s activity, so that they can be translated and used properly in the target text.

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” Mark Twain

What is terminology management used for?

Establishing specific term base allows a firm to highlight its the corporate identity and to differentiate itself from the competition. For instance, an automotive company could choose to describe one of its products using the term “car”, where another may choose the term “vehicle”. When these terms are not clearly defined, it can cause both internal and external communication problems, misunderstandings and translation mistakes.

Dictionnary - Terminology

Moreover, these terminological considerations are important for optimizing documents for translation: when a word is clearly defined, the translator saves working time, especially when several translators work at the same time on the same source material, which is a very common process when a project has a limites deadline.

How is terminology managed?

First of all, terminology management is a long-term work. So what are the steps that need to be to followed for better terminology?

  • Discussion with the client is needed! The agency defines the expertise of the company and establishes the vocabulary specific to their line of business. The existing documentation can be analyzed using specialized software in order to extract recurring terms and define which terms do not need to be translated.
  • In order for the writing and the translation to be uniform and consistent, the terms are gathered in a so-called terminology database. The extracted terms and those that were specified by the client, are entered in a software database such as SDL Multiterm. This step is often a question of negotiation as the client sometimes expects a specific translation of certain terms without thinkingabout whether it might  lead to misunderstandings or misinterpretation.
  • The next step is to frequently update the terminology database. The translation or localization agency regularly enters new terms into the database, as they come up in the different translations. Then, the agency sends the terminology database to the client for approval.

Terminology management is as beneficial to the clients as it is to the translation or localization agency. The client will receive more satisfactory translations as the translated terms will be more adapted and more precise. For the agency, this process will allow its translators to work more efficiently which saves them both time and money.