Guidelines for termbase design – SDL webinar by Prof. Klaus-Dirk Schmitz

Once again, I couldn’t pass the opportunity to give an overview of Prof. Schmitz’s webinar organized by SDL. As in past summaries (read  here) I think the initiative by SDL Trados is worth praising, not only because it’s something that we need to see more often, but also because the instructors are top-class terminologists who are sharing with us their knowledge and passion for terminology.

Watch the 50 min. webinar by clicking on this link: For some of the terms used in this post, I have added a link to related posts in this blog.

Prof. Schmitz started by explaining the importance of terminology for technical writers, linguists, companies, and organizations in terms of improving communication and consistency and reducing costs. Also, a termbase has to be carefully designed as correcting it later is a very arduous process and the objective of having a well-design termbase is to allow for data exchange and interoperability. He made an analogy with a messy closet. If you have a well-organized closet you can find things more easily, whereas a disorganized closet makes you waste a lot of time searching for them.

Before designing a termbase you need to (1) analyze the needs and objectives, (2) specify the user groups, tasks, and workflow, (3) define the terminological data categories, (4) take into account the basic modeling principles, (5) model the terminology entry, and (6) select, adapt, or develop the software.

His presentation focused on 12 aspects for termbase design, as follows:

(1) Specify languages, both the termbase user interface language and the termbase content language (language fields), so that the users can easily identify the type of information in every entry.

(2) Select data categories, one of the most important steps. Decide what type of information you have to deal with and consult ISO 12620 or ISOCAT to get a better idea of your options.

(3) Follow the granularity principle, the level of detail for each data category to document the information for each term. Higher granularity is preferred from lower granularity for better retrievability

(4) Specify the type of data categories. Complex categories are either open (term, definition, note) or closed (gender, part of speech, geographical use—e.g. US or British English). Simple categories require context that responds to Yes or No (e.g. masculine, noun). In termbases such as MultiTerm this category is called Boolean.

(5) Use closed data categories (picklists), whenever possible. This will ensure consistency in the termbase and make the task of data creation and editing faster. It also gives you the option to filter and export information and allow for interoperability.

(6) Use the right level forf data categories. He presented and explained the different types of data categories with some examples, namely, (i) concept-oriented: subject field, image, (ii) language-oriented: definition; (iii) term-oriented: part of speech, context, (iv) administrative: author, date, note, and (v) special data categories: term, language, and shared resources such as bibliographical references. Usually the type of data categories gives you an indication about the level in the term entry where the categories should belong to, but, in some cases, the decision depends on the objective and even the philosophy of the termbase. He gave an example with an image of a bicycle. If the image is a road bike, you can put it in the concept-oriented level, but if the bike has legends with parts of the bike in a specific language, it would be better placed at the language level.

(7) Design the terminological entry. At this point you have to be aware that deleting or changing data categories or reallocating levels in the data model is no longer possible. Your only option would be to export the data and create a new termbase.

(8) Follow the concept orientation approach. The information contained in a term entry belongs to one concept only, for every language. He explained in detail the onomasiological approach in terminology.

(9) Implement term autonomy. Prof. Schmitz calls this the “human rights of terms”, meaning that each term has the right to be treated as one separate concept in one term entry.

(10) Support users by providing templates, layouts, etc. When you have different groups of users you don’t create a termbase for each. You create different views or layouts to fit their needs. Set up a user rights management system and user-specific templates and layouts. For example, read-only mode, mandatory fields, monolingual view, etc. A French translator, for example, should not have user rights to change an entry in German.

(11) Test prototype in real life for a defined period. Be ready to monitor the process and document all user complains, problems and errors that may occur.

(12) Be prepared to re-design the termbase. If you designed it correctly, you won’t have to worry about this issue!

He concluded by suggesting that we consult literature and guidelines for terminology management. A new Handbook of Terminology written by Prof. Schmitz and Prof. Petra Drewer will be published this year. He also recommended to follow terminology standards, such as ISO 704, 1087, 12620, 26162 and 30042, and to create guidelines and quality procedures for your own terminology work and your own terminology management solution.

If you liked this summary, I suggest you watch the full video for the details that I couldn’t include. This post has been saved under my tag cloud “videos”.

Take note that this was the first webinar. The second webinar will take place soon. Read about all the webinars here.

Klaus-Dirk Schmitz graduated in computer science and mathematics at the University of Saarland, and worked on the machine translation system SUSY during the 1980s. In 1992 he was appointed professor for translation-related terminology at TH Köln, where he is now Managing Director of the Institute for Translation and Multilingual Communication (ITMK). He is also head of the German Standard Committee for Terminology at DIN and the vice-president of TermNet. Read the interview made to Prof. Schmitz by TermCoord by clicking here.

4 Comments on “Guidelines for termbase design – SDL webinar by Prof. Klaus-Dirk Schmitz

  1. Thanks for the feedback. I´m glad you liked it.

  2. It’s good to be reminded of this now and again. Thanks!

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