How terminology management helps to increase productivity

terminology productivityThe second of the four series of free webinars by SDL Trados, coordinated by Kate Smith, SDL’s Field Marketing Manager, “How terminology management helps to increase productivity” was in charge of Barbara Inge Karsch, a well-known terminologist who has worked for J.D. Edwards and Microsoft, and teaches the online Master’s Program at NYU. She is also a delegate to TC 37 and Chair of ATA’s Terminology Committee. The video lasts 45 minutes and you can it watch here.

She started by going over the basic translation process which starts with reading your translation and understanding its content, then you research concepts and find equivalents, translate and edit. The research stage is related to terminology and the analysis of meaning. You mark up unknown terms and names, do the relevant research (on the Internet, consultations with the client, asking experts, etc.) and the information you obtain is used to produce a translation that is accurate.

Why should we document terminology?

Barbara explains that once you have done your research you want to be able to reuse it. If you don’t document you can’t reuse. Based on her experience, 90% of the time is spent researching terminology and 10% documenting it in a terminology management system (TMS). There might be some reluctance in documenting your terminology because it takes time, but she provided some tips to do this quickly.

But first, she referred to a study by Guy Champagne of Canada that measured how long it took a team that worked on product documentation to research a term and the result was an average of 20 minutes. Based on her own experience, it takes 18 minutes to research a term and 2 minutes to document it (that is, add it to a termbase). This is a good benchmark that you can use to give the client a general idea, although sometimes it takes less time when you follow the rules and know what you should document, but 20 minutes seems to have become an industry standard, she added.

The study also found that on average 5% of terms require researching and if you have to deal with a wide variety of documents or if you deal a lot with one client, terminology management then is highly recommended.

The process of terminology work includes 4 steps: (i) extraction of key terms, names and concepts identified in the source text; (ii) research and documentation of the terms in the terminology management system (TMS); (iii) distribution to vendors or freelancers, which more and more includes an authoring process in which the source text is checked for spelling errors and corporate language; and (vi) feedback and maintenance in which you update your termbase when, for example, a client asks you to change a term. Usually between 5% and 10% of term entries need to be changed, but if you have done an effective documentation process this could take less time.

What to document?

First, she went over the type of lexical units that you don’t document, such as words that belong to general language (that is, they are not technical terms) and words that do not represent a concept (that is, there is no meaning behind them and therefore might be ambiguous). For example, marketing terms sometimes don’t have concepts behind them and you can’t define them very well and if you are dealing with large teams you might create a lot of confusion.

Technical terminology that belongs to a subject field has to be documented. Terms that represent general concepts and names that represent individual concepts (that is, they only exist once in the world) are usually included. Terms may refer, for example, to different types of “windows”, and a name may also refer to “Windows” Microsoft’s operating system. You may include, for instance, product names, organization names, and company names.

You can also include abbreviations, homographs (terms have multiple meanings: they have the same spelling but there are different concepts behind their spelling), synonyms.

As refers to abbreviations, she gave two examples of terms that she had to deal with while working at J.D.Edwards: (1) MRP could be used for “manufacturing resource planning”, “materials requirement planning”, “mid-range planning”, or “maintenance recovery period”. MRP is an example of a homograph, an abbreviation that has different meanings; and (2) business unit could be abbreviated as “BU”, “Business U”, “B/U”, or “bus. unit”. Actually, Barbara and her colleagues collected about 14 different abbreviations for this term, and therefore it is be key to first do some control to the source language. Managing this type of terms in your TMS will help you have a better control.

As refers to synonyms, she gave the example of “USB flash drive”, which can take the form of many other terms that have the same concept behind them, such as, memory key”, key chain, key drive, pen drive, flash drive, and many others. It took her team a lot of time to figure out that those terms were referring to the same object.

Freelancers have an advantage because they own their termbases and have some leeway in terms of making decisions on what to include. You can even document in your TMS terms that you really have a hard time typing, for example, the German term “Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung” (referred to auto insurance). In her translation career she had to deal a lot with terms like this and it was very useful when she could just copy them from the termbase when she was working.

Of course, she was not recommending that you include all the terms that are hard to type, but just the ones that you decide you need and add them under a special category. Actually some terminologists with a more purist approach would not include this type of terms, but from a practical point of view, you as a freelance translator who manages your own termbase are the one who ultimately makes the decisions to get the most out of your TMS, even if it´s just a typing help.

As long as you follow terminology best practices and ISO standards you should be OK, because you never know what you might want to do with your database down the road. You might join a team and share your termbase with them or with a colleague. It´s critical in databases that we apply standards and we follow them.

How to document it?

We can document terminology in, ideally, a terminology management system or in a spreadsheet if we are not ready to invest in a TM system, but from her experience working with different companies, information recorded in a spreadsheet usually doesn’t follow terminographical rules. The idea behind using the rules is that you will be more productive and efficient, because your TMS will perform faster and more accurate searches if you do follow them. Also, if you have to share your terminology with other stakeholders, following the rules will make other people’s work easier and avoid confusion.

Always document your terms in their canonical form [by “canonical” Barbara means in its most rudimentary form.

  • Nouns are entered in singular form, not plural (with rare exceptions like “data”), not capitalized, and not preceded by definite or indefinite article: Use “window” not “Windows” or “the window”. If it’s a proper noun such as “United Nations” obviously you would leave it in plural form and not “United Nation”, or “The Bahamas” would keep the article too (but not “Bahamas, The”). In other words, list names in their spoken order.
  • Verbs are entered in their uninflected form (not preceded by “to” and don’t use the gerund form “-ing”). For example, “forecast”, not “to forecast”, “forecasting”, or “forecasted”.
  • Adjectives are entered in the positive, uninflected form; for example, “familial”.

In her final remarks for freelancers, she indicated that you as a translator have to do the terminological research anyway, so spend two extra minutes to put it in your TMS. She added that with the information she provided you might even get it down to 30 seconds. Also, learn what terms are appropriate to your termbase and become proficient in terminography rules.


For companies and organizations, her final remark was that the cost of initial researching will be compensated by documenting your terms in your database. When one person researches concepts along with their related names and terms with the right spelling and so on, others will be saving time as it takes less than one minute to look up your term in the termbase. Lastly, companies can reuse your terms not just for translation but also for other processes.

Thanks again to SDL Trados and Barbara for such a practical and enlightening webinar. Stay tuned for my third summary.barbara-221x3001

Read my first webinar summary here.


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Improve translation quality and protect your brand with terminology management

“I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.” - Emily DickinsonA few weeks ago, SDL Trados had a series of 4 free webinars on terminology management. I am very happy that companies such as Trados take the initiative to improve our terminology management skills and invite guests who are renowned terminologists. We need more of this! So great job, Trados. Kudos to Fiona Mermood, SDL Senior Marketing Executive for coordinating this webinar. This and the other related posts will be tagged under “videos” in my cloud.

Gabriele Sauberer, PhD, MBA is the Director of TermNet, Co-founder of the Language Industry Certification System (LICS) Quality Auditor for ISO 17100 and EN 15038 since 2007, and Head of Training for LICS auditors. She presented the topic “Improve translation quality and protect your brand with terminology management” Click here to watch (1 hour). The following aspects were covered. Read More

Summer is here! Coming up…

summerSummer is here and everything slows down, even a blog like IMOT that so far has been trying to publish at least once weekly. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t. I know many of you will be slowing down too, so I don’t want to overwhelm you with post after post, and I also need a vacation, even if I´m not going out on a vacation.

So the following posts will be easy-going. I am preparing the highlights of each of the four free webinars on terminology management that SDL Trados organized. There was a lot of good information so I will make a summary of each. You can also view the videos, but if you are too into vacation mode and don´t feel like watching, I will give you the highlights and you will decide if it´s something you´d like to learn about now or later. I will tag them under “videos”, so that you can visit any time you feel like doing it.

Every week starting tomorrow I will post one summary. After that, another review of the course I previously promoted here by the University of New York, which is currently half-way. This is an expensive course but from a prestigious university. What will the final verdict be? Will terminology prevail? Stay tuned!

So, sit back and relax, or, as the image says, go crazy and enjoy your summer!

By the way, thanks to the new subscribers and welcome to the world of terminology. If you want to catch up, visit my recent online course on terminology, which provides most of the highlights of this blog.


Reviving the Terminology Handbook by Silvia Pavel and Diane Nolet

pavelMany of you probably already know Pavel’s Tutorial, which is an online course that presents the basics on terminology with useful exercises. The Tutorial it’s a great place to start, but also Silvia Pavel and Diane Nolet of the Terminology and Standardization Directorate of the Government of Canada had published the Terminology Handbook in 2001. 172 pages full of useful information.

The Directorate put together the work methods they developed over the years of intense terminological work in the form of this handbook, with the aim of sharing its acquired knowledge with other organizations. So it’s another great reference document that you should at least browse and keep in your favorites. As with the tutorial, use it taking into consideration that many developments have occurred since its publication in 2001. Here is a summarized list from its table of contents:

Read More

Getting into the groove of term formation – Part II

two chicksMy previous post introduced briefly the topic of first and secondary term formation, a concept developed by Juan C. Sager. So, let’s go a little bit into detail.

According to Sager (1997)[4] the first process where the new concept is named by its creator in his/her native language is primary term formation and when the name given to a concept by its original creator passes from its original language into other languages it is secondary term formation. Below are the differentiating characteristics. Read More

Terminology in Padlet – An interview about IMOT and Terminology

Map of the world with the people of earth represented by hands in different colors. Conceptual image of population, global friendship and teamwork.“Where Translation, Linguistics, and Technology Meet”. That is the title of an interview published by Padlet on this blog. I was very excited to be able to talk about terminology and reach out to new audiences. I hope you enjoy it.

Click here to read.

Getting into the groove of term formation – Part I

chicken coming out of a brown eggTrue. It might not be too often when we have to create a term “from scratch”. Terminologists rarely create terms and, when they do, it’s usually with the help and concerted effort of an expert. However, if you are a translator, you will probably have had the need to come up with new terms in your target language to convey the message of the source language.

So, the first case (creating a term from scratch in a source language) is called primary term formation, and the second case (creating a term by translating it into a second target language) is called secondary term formation.

But before we get into that, let’s take a quick look at how terms are formed. Maybe the easiest way to define them is by enumerating some of their characteristics:

  1. Terms are created by a special language community, for example, experts from the chemistry field. Usually as a perceived need of the creator (known as the “motivation” of term formation).
  2. Terms are created to transfer knowledge and improve communication among community experts, that is, an engineer communicating with his/her peers to promote the use of a standardized language.
  3. Terms are usually created by combining existing lexical elements in particular ways, for example, the term “supercharge” is the combination of the words “super” and “charge”.
  4. It is less spontaneous than word creation. Term creation usually occurs in a “more of less conscious creation” process (Sager).
  5. Many terms are created by combining an object and a function. For example “greenhouse”
  6. Even though term creation is currently dominated by the English language, particularly in the IT field, other languages have proved to have great creative potential.

Ariane Großjean mentions the following term formation methods: (i) terminologization, a common word is repurposed into a new term (e.g., bridge—construction and bridge—dentistry). (ii) derivation, a prefix or suffix is added to an existing root (e.g., de-caffein(e)-ate); (iii) compounding, two terms are combined to form a new term: noun-noun, adjective-noun, verb-noun, etc. (e.g. triple heart bypass –adjective+noun+noun) (iv) shortening, is done by clipping terms (e.g., influenza—flu), abbreviating (radar—radio detection and ranging), or blending (e.g., cybernetic organism—cyborg); (v) borrowing, words loaned from other languages (e.g. kindergarten, from German).

My next post will refer back to primary and secondary formation. Stay tuned and check out the Sources to get deeper into the term formation groove.

Sources and further reading:

Bowker Lynne, Variant terminology: frivolity or necessity?

Brenes, Patricia. De-Re-Terminologization. A blog post by IMOT.

Großjean, Ariane, Corporate Terminology Management. An approach in theory and practice.

Inge Karsch, Barbara. BIK Terminology. Blog posts on term formation

Sager, Juan C., A Practical Course in Terminology Processing.

Sasu, Laura. Terminology dynamics – conceptual patterns of term formation. 2009

Temmerman, Rita. Primary and secondary term creation and the process of understanding. A PowerPoint presentation. September 2013

Wright, Sue Ellen and Budin, Gerhard. Term Formation. Concept Representation. Handbook of Terminology Management. Volume 1.


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New About page

Hello readers,

I just found out that the WordPress widget for profiles will be disabled starting July 1, 2016. I used to have a widget linked to my page on the sidebar, so I have deleted the widget and created an “About” page in my main menu by adding more info to the profile taken from, so that visitors know who I am and how this blog came to life.

Feel free to visit and learn a little bit about me. Click here.

Thanks again for subscribing to this blog and a special warm welcome to the new subscribers. This blog wouldn’t exist without your support.

The page is still working and you may visit by clicking here.

Have a nice day!


5th place again! Thanks for voting

Slide1Just a short note to let you know that’s and Lexiophiles international blog competition is over and I managed to keep my 5th place in the Professional Language Blog category and also placed 25th in the overall classification.

Thank you so much for voting and sharing. I wouldn’t have been able to make it without you.


Also, huge congratulations to Licia Corbolante (@terminologia), who placed 2th in the same category and 7th in the overall classification, plus 14th in the Twitter category. A special thanks to her who asked her blog subscribers to vote for me. Thank you, Licia, and congratulations! 

My other long-time supporter, TermCoord placed 6th and Olga Geno (@OlgaJeno), who participated for the first time, placed 8th both in PLB category and Facebook category. Great job, Olga! And the awesome Maria Pia Montoro (@wordlo) placed 17th on Twitter too. Another great supporter, Nuria de Andrés (@nundrea) placed 8th in Language Twitters.

Thank you. Gracias, Grazie, Merci, Obrigada, Danke.




Danae Parmaki, winner of the translation book raffle

Danae terminologyDanae was the winner, along with Olga Umaña, of the book raffle that I recently ran on the occasion of IMOT’s second anniversary. I asked her to write a short bio to share with you. I really enjoyed reading it, and I´m sure you will too.

Danae Parmaki is an active translator and interpreter with an ever-growing love for languages since childhood: cried and moaned for running out of letters when learning her first alphabet. She is native Greek, adding new languages regularly, starting at the age of 4 with music, being the most widely understood one. After having read and partially memorised all children’s books in Greek from the local library, she requested learning English, at around 7 years old. By 11 she asked for French classes, at 15 she found Italian fascinating, adding up to Latin, while the love for Russian blossomed at the age of 16, excited how grammar would resemble that of Ancient Greek.

In the meantime, at around 12, she had already figured out what she wanted to do for life and where the closest University Department for Translators and Interpreters was located. Indeed, she took her diplomas of Translation and, later on, of Interpreting from the Department of Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting of the Ionian University in Corfu, Greece, in cooperation with the University of Surrey, in the UK. Upon starting her studies, she couldn’t but add more languages, so she took classes of Turkish, as well as Dutch – leading her to continuing her studies in the Netherlands, where she took her Master’s Degree on Slavic Languages and Cultures from the University of Leiden in cooperation with the University of Amsterdam. Read More

EAFT Summit 2016: hosted by the European Parliament in Luxembourg

eaftTermCoord is hosting The European Association for Terminology (EAFT) Eight Terminology Summit to take place in Luxembourg, on November 14-15. It will be EAFT’s 20th anniversary and the summit’s title is “Visions and revisions”.

They also recently called for presentations. Here is the information in more detail:

Follow all the details in Twitter with the hashtag #EAFTSUMMIT2016.  I will definitively be attending, so send me a note in Contact Me to let me know if you are planning to attend.

Stay tuned!


Last days to vote!

Vote for my blogJust a friendly reminder to ask you to vote if you haven’t done so yet, or get another vote from a colleague or friend. Let’s see how we do this year. 

Remember, every vote counts! Monday is the cut-off date, but don’t delay. Remember time differences so the sooner the better.