What are translation glossaries and when should you use them?
By United Language Group
Terminology guides or glossaries provide a collection of frequently used terms, definitions and the appropriate translations for your specific audience. Developing a terminology guide is critical to achieving consistent translations, which can be particularly important when dealing with specialized terminology in contracts or vital documents. It usually includes approximately 100 terms that are specific to your audience, company and/or products. It should also include terms that can be translated multiple ways, or may be confusing for even the most experienced linguist. For best results, make sure to get buy-in and approval from in-region or native reviewers during the glossary creation. This establishes reviewer buy-in and enables you to standardize the way your messages should be communicated in advance, saving everyone time and frustration during the review process.
How do I create a glossary?
Typically, your translation provider will create the glossary for you by sifting through your content. Often it will take the form of a spreadsheet, but larger enterprises may leverage more sophisticated tools. For example, at VIA we typically insert the approved terminology guide into a computerized term-based program to automatically assist the linguists and reviewers.
They’ll start by providing you with a list of terms used in your materials to be translated, and may request an explanation of the word and an example of it being used in a sentence. The translator will then add the translated version of the term and send it to your reviewers for approval. You don’t need to boil the ocean. Just stick to what’s specific to your industry and company messaging.
When should I create a glossary?
This is usually a separate service so you may have to pay extra for it because it requires a fair amount of coordination by the project manager. If you’re simply submitting a one off one-page document to be translated, it might not be necessary. But, in many situations it’s worth it!
- Keeps everyone on the same page.
- Avoids inconsistencies.
- Eliminates subjective or late changes.
- Reduces the revisions and corrections required by expensive legal personnel and mitigates this potentially costly risk.
For example, we have several clients that have contracts or vital documents with similar content translated frequently. (Don’t confuse a glossary with Translation Memory. You can learn more about TM in this blog post). We also have several clients who need complicated multimedia learning and/marketing materials about new technical products localized clearly. In these situations, using a glossary in conjunction with translation memory and a style guide can save hours during the review process, which will ultimately help to reduce costs as well.
Ideally, you would create the glossary before you start a big project or a relationship with a new translation provider, but sometimes it’s an iterative process. If you notice that the linguists are translating the technical terminology in your materials incorrectly, it’s probably a good sign that you should take a step back and create a glossary to get everyone on the same page.
Translation can be subjective, for instance, in Latin America there are at least 10 ways to translate the word “bean”. And words can have many different meanings. For example, many technology companies operate in the “cloud”. However, until recently, a cloud was just a thing in the sky that might block the sun. And, remember way back when a “link” was something you only considered part of a chain? So, it often requires some back and forth at the beginning of a new project or relationship with a translation provider to work out the correct translations for particular words.
Spend a little time up front and you’ll save countless hours of frustration later.
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