What is Terminology Management and Do You Need It?

May 3, 2021
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Does your business have technical terminology?
When you’re translating your content, terminology can sometimes cause issues.
Your reviewers come back with many comments, complaints, and changes every time you translate a piece of content. There are inconsistencies in the way that pieces of terminology are translated over different projects.
Perhaps your product names are being translated when they shouldn’t be. Perhaps technical descriptions are mistranslated, leading to difficult-to-spot mistakes that could have serious implications if they got in front of your end-users.
How can you ensure that terminology remains consistent over all your translations?
Terminology management tools can make your life much easier… if you use them correctly.
They can even reduce the cost of your translations.

Common concerns with terminology in translation

International companies are often concerned that their content is too technical for translators, especially if they have had bad experiences with translation in the past.
We work a lot with companies in highly technical industries, such as manufacturing, automotive, life sciences, and finance. These are fields with highly specialized terminology that may be unfamiliar to people working outside of those industries.
If you create technical content, you might be doubtful that translators will understand your content. You might worry that they will mistranslate important terms.
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This was the situation with our client Marshall Bolton from (fictionalized) company Tech Corp. He regularly needed to print a 5000-page product catalog in multiple languages. Among other items, the catalog included safety components for elevators that needed to be described with complete accuracy or there was a real risk to human life.
With his previous translation providers, Marshall had experienced huge discrepancies in the way that technical details were translated. He had resorted to manually checking through the 5000 pages in every language to ensure that the translators hadn’t changed vital technical detail.
Terminology management was one of the differences we introduced when we started working with him.
You can read more about Marshall’s situation and how he overcame it in our case study eBook.

What is terminology management?

Terminology management tools provide translators with a database (known as a glossary) of accepted terms that are used by a particular company. The tool automatically detects key terms in the source language text and notifies the translator that an accepted translation exists in the database.
The use of terminology management and other computer-assisted translation tools is an effective way to streamline your translation workflow.
Even if you don’t use a terminology management software tool, you can still get some of the benefits of terminology management by implementing a basic glossary. In this case, it is up to your translators to manually check the glossary rather than having the tool do this automatically, which is not ideal but it’s better than nothing.
By using terminology management, you ensure that everyone is on the same page with important terminology in the business. It also allows you to control exactly how these key terms are translated even if the translation work is carried out by different translators, or even different localization providers.

How terminology management works

The basic functionality of a translation management tool is provided by database software. If you are using a computer-aided translation (CAT) tool this may be within the same tool or it could be a separate program.

What’s included in a glossary

A term could be a word, phrase, or acronym. For each term in the terminology management tool’s glossary, various types of information can be included.
For example:
  • Accepted translations of the term into all your languages.
  • Specific usage notes for that term.
  • Examples of good and bad usage of the term.
  • Extra contextual information that’s helpful for translators.
With a terminology management tool, this information is displayed to the translator whenever a term is detected in the source text.
You can be confident that key terms will be translated in the right way.

Creating a terminology glossary

The first step to using terminology management is to identify a translation provider that is capable of handling the technology. Then, you need to work with your provider to develop a glossary of accepted terms.
Creating a terminology glossary can take a lot of work. However, it is very worthwhile.
There are 2 basic approaches to creating a glossary:
  1. You can create a glossary upfront. This is what we did with AccuWeather when we helped them implement terminology management for their website. It takes more initial work but ensures you get the benefit as soon as possible.
  2. You can build a glossary as you go. This requires more consistent ongoing work from you and your translators to keep adding terms as they come up in the content.

Keeping the database updated

Your terminology glossary will only continue to serve you well if you keep it up to date.
This involves revisiting the glossary periodically to check if any terms have changed or have fallen out of use within your company. Also, we recommend that you maintain a good back and forth between your team and the translators to ensure that they keep the glossary current.

The impact of good terminology management

When you implement terminology management with your provider — and you use it in the right way — there are various benefits that you will start to see, including:
  • Consistency — Key terms will be translated consistently across all your content, markets, and translators.
  • Quality — The quality of translations will increase as there will be much fewer reworks caused by wrongly translated technical terms.
  • Quicker, more cost-effective translations — As your terminology glossary grows, each successive translation will be more cost-effective as you won’t pay for translations that have already been made in the past. Also, translation will be completed faster as there will be less back and forth trying to get the terms right.

Learn more tips to improve your content workflow

Implementing terminology management is a great way to improve your translation workflow. But, it’s not the only way.
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 our free ebook

33 Content Translation Hacks to Simplify Your Life

THE Cheat Sheet for Content Creators Who Want to Retain Control of Their Translated Content