How to Get the Most from Terminology Management Tools

May 18, 2021
pair working together on project

Terminology management tools can be a powerful option for maintaining consistency over all of your translated content.

But, how do you ensure that you are using these tools effectively?

Is it enough to just have the right software package?

What is the best way to get the most from a translation management tool?

When you create content for global markets, consistency of translations can become a huge problem. If you don’t actively work to maintain consistency, you can soon find yourself in a situation where different markets are using different terms for the same concept.

Companies that are less familiar with translation are sometimes uncertain about investing in terminology management.

Clients who don’t have a lot of localization experience sometimes see it as an unnecessary step. They just want the translation done. That’s quite a naive impression to have, I think, because we do often see the consequences of poor terminology management.

Mai-Anh Peterson, Senior Project Manager at Rubric

Such consequences include inconsistent use of important terms, reworks of already-translated content, and the resulting delays in project deliverables.

Why use terminology management software?

Terminology management tools help you to ensure that you are always using the same translation for the same term. This is particularly important for technical terms and company-specific terms (for example product names, brand names, and marketing phrases).

A database of accepted terms is stored within the software along with accepted translations of each term. The tool automatically detects the terms in the source text and offers them as suggestions to the translators.

The biggest benefit of using terminology management is that it keeps consistency across all of your content. But, many people don’t realize that using terminology management can also help you make better use of your translation budget.

Mai-Anh says:

It’s the kind of thing that can save you money in the long run. If you are planning to have a wider portfolio of global content, you will inevitably have to spend quite a lot of money paying translators to go back over old work and make adjustments if the terminology wasn’t agreed in the first place.

Where terminology management tools fit in a global company

If you think that you only need to invest in a terminology management tool, think again. It’s not enough to just use the software.

In a global company, many stakeholders influence the use of terms across your content. Everyone needs to be on the same page with how terminology management fits into the content creation process. This is as much a people-management task as it is a software task.

Mai-Anh explains some of the difficulties that can arise:

One of the biggest problems that we experience is teams working in silos. With one client, for example, we’re working with over 40 languages on a global scale. They have marketing coordinators for each language who act as the reviewers. There are also different reviewers for different products.

A lack of communication between the reviewers in one product team and the reviewers in another team means that they request different terminology changes in different projects.

But, a good translation provider can help by providing a consistent overview to those disparate teams:

All of the teams on the client side are working in silos. But, all of us at Rubric are working together. We see connections between different projects that they don’t necessarily see.

This objective view can be extremely useful when you are trying to get the most from terminology management tools.

A common mistake with terminology management tools

Let’s say your company has committed to using a terminology management tool. You have agreed that you will invest the time and effort to create a central glossary of accepted terms.

Is that enough?

Not quite. There are also various process changes that you need to make to ensure the terminology really is being used consistently.

Mai-Anh describes a common issue that companies run into, even with the right tools in place, when their content is centralized in their Head Quarters (HQ):

Content is first produced by HQ. They then send it to us so we can roll out the translations in the international markets. We need those markets to come back to us with suggestions so we can update everything in the centralized repository.

Sometimes, those markets will just take it upon themselves to change everything the way that they see fit to launch in their own markets without coming back to us at all. In the worst case, we never see those changes and the local markets end up using completely different terminology to what we are maintaining as the correct terminology.

This is why it is vital that everyone is on the same page and understands the importance of maintaining centralized terminology management.

Many localization providers don’t have the right systems in place to notice this sort of inconsistency. They will just provide you with the translations and leave the management entirely up to you.

At Rubric, we always look at your localization as a whole. And, we will often push back if we think you and your teams could do better.

Mai-Anh says:

More and more, we’re trying to push back on the project leaders and product owners who are working, for example, at HQ or in Europe. We urge them to stress the importance of that centralized management to the marketplaces themselves and encourage them to work with Rubric.

How good terminology management benefits everyone

Let’s say that your local markets do take it upon themselves to make changes locally, despite your efforts to keep terminology management centralized.

How can you encourage those markets to honor the centrally-stored terminology?

After all, your people in those markets probably feel it’s easier and quicker to make changes to the local files themselves. They don’t (yet) recognize the need for consistent terminology. They’re just trying to get the translated content out the door as quickly as possible.

Mai-Anh explains that people often recognize the benefit of centralized terminology management when they see how much time it can save them in the long run:

For example, we handle a lot of software products where the client is doing rolling updates, perhaps on a bi-weekly or a monthly basis. Our final delivery format is in software files that go directly to the developers.

What we have seen in the past is markets directly changing the code in the software files. Of course, that software gets updated a month later and we send an updated version. Because they’ve hot-fixed the final format, they’re just going to have to make that change again.

It’s in their interest to come back to us and say “We want you to change this sentence.” We can do it at a centralized level and they will see their changes reflected in the next set of files that get delivered to them.

By centralizing all the translations – rather than markets making their own last-minute changes – you ensure that all your content goes past that same terminology management tool.

This makes everyone’s life easier and gives you the confidence that your terminology really is consistent across all your markets.

Learn 33 more ways to improve your content workflow

Implementing terminology management is just one of the many ways that you can improve your content workflow and get more from your translation budget.

There are many tweaks and changes that you can make to improve your content creation workflow even further.

In our guide 33 Content Translation Hacks to Simplify Your Life you will learn a selection of changes you can make to get more from your translation. Download the e-book using the link above.

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