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How to build a company term glossary

Denisa Kytová Ciferník15.05.2020 For Customers Reading time: 4 min.
Company term glossary Lexika

We discussed the benefits of a company glossary in our previous article, in which we briefly explained what such a glossary actually is. In this article, we would like to highlight the importance of a glossary of terms and call your attention to what it should contain as well as show you how easy it is to create yourselves.

Let’s start by reminding ourselves why a glossary of terms is useful. The main benefits include consistent translation, reduced translation time, and subsequent cost-cutting. Translations done without the help of termbase are estimated to raise the cost of additional editing by as much as 15%.

How does a term glossary work in practice?

Imagine that you work in the automotive industry and need to translate a manual of several pages from German to English. In this manual, the word “car appears on almost every page. The noun car can be translated from German into English using several different expressions, such as motorcar, automobile, or vehicle. By specifying in the glossary that the word car should be translated into English solely as automobile, you will prevent the translator from using a different expression in their translation.

In addition, the majority of translators and translation agencies today work with computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools, into which term glossaries can be imported in advance. If a predefined term appears in the text, the software will alert the translator to use the required translation. This means that the translator does not need to spend time and effort looking for these expressions.

When should you create a term glossary?

Ideally, you would create a term glossary before commencing the translation, or before assigning the text to the translator. Whether you assign translations to your own internal translators or hire a translation agency to do the job for you, it is always useful to have the term glossary ready and to provide it as reference material along with the text to be translated.

The term glossary can also be created while the translation work is in progress. However, in this case you need to allow for the extra time (and possible financial costs) necessary to consolidate the terminology.

The term glossary is alive, which means that you can change it, add to it, or remove terms it currently contains. It should therefore be sufficient to create a term glossary with a small number of entries to start with. Additional entries can then be added one by one while additional texts are being translated. This means that, along with the finished translation, you can ask your translator or translation agency to send you a list of suggested additional terms to be added to your term glossary.

What terms should your glossary contain?

Put simply, we can say that a high-quality term glossary should first and foremost contain terms related to your company, the industry in which you work, and expressions/terms which define your company in some way. To break it down for you, these are:

  • specific company terms – terms used in and typical of a given company. These can be product names, trademarks, and other expressions which have a special meaning within the company environment. If there are terms or names that are not to be translated, they should also be included in the term glossary. This way, you can prevent translators from translating the name of your trademarked product into another language, so your products do not lose their unique status.
  • specific industry terms – particularly terms which have several different meanings or can be translated in more than one way (such as the noun car mentioned above). By defining these words in your term glossary, you will be able to avoid inconsistencies in any texts translated for your company. What is more, the translators will become familiar with your preferences for translating the said expression.
  • key terms – these include terms which boost your company’s visibility online. These words and their translations play an important role in ensuring your visibility on the market, making it easier for customers searching online to find you.
  • prohibited terms – these are optional: you can include them in your glossary, but can also choose not to. Prohibited terms are terms which must not appear in your translations. Once again, take the example of the noun car – just as you can define the preferred term automobile in your glossary, you can add the forbidden term car to it in the same way. This way, the translator will know which terms to use and which to avoid.

In addition to terms and their equivalents in any given language, you can include term definitions as well as usage examples in your term glossary. By doing so, you will help your translator to familiarize themselves with the terminology.

Please note: Each term is always given in a certain context, and even if you provide your translator with a perfect glossary of terms, there will be times when the predefined term is not suitable for the context. The translator will then decide to choose a different, more fitting expression. In particular, such situations can arise when working with polysemous terms, i.e., words that have two or more distinct meanings. However, the translator should always draw your attention to any change in such cases.

How many terms should your glossary contain?

It is important to note that the quality of the term glossary is not dependent on the quantity of terms it contains, i.e., the equation “more terms = better quality” does not apply. The number of terms in the term glossary depends on the size of the document, as well as the extent such key terms are used in the document. It is equally important to ensure that each term appears in your glossary only once, especially for collocations.

And now... let the creative juices flow! Or... maybe not?

By now you should know everything that should be in your term glossary. However, if you still do not feel up to the task of creating one, do not worry. You can leave the job to your translator or translation agency. This will ideally be a collaborative process between the two of you. A glossary can be developed in two ways:

1. You will come up with a list of terms, the required and any prohibited translations, as well as a list of terms not to be translated. Then send your list to your translator or translation agency. They will review your list and, if necessary, suggest different, more appropriate term translations.

2. Right before commissioning the translation and using either the source text or the reference materials, you will ask your translator or translation agency to draw up the term glossary for you and send it to you for final approval.

If you are embarking on creating a term glossary for the very first time and are at your wits’ end, please let us know. We will be happy to help you and advise on how to compile a glossary and what to include. And if you do not have time to create one, do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to create a term glossary for you according to your specifications.

Denisa Kytová
Project manager

I started working at LEXIKA in 2017, shortly after getting a degree in translation and interpreting. I was overjoyed to be able to work in the field in which I majored. I work as a project manager and oversee the processing of projects, such as specialised (uncertified) translations, interpreting projects, and other related services. A pleasant and friendly atmosphere prevails in LEXIKA and while working, I learn a lot about the world of translation and interpreting, and it also helps me to grow as a person. (2020 Update: After more than two years, I decided to return to my home town, but I will always keep fond memories of LEXIKA and look forward to paying them a visit. I am happy and grateful that I could be part of the LEXIKA team.)

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