The Ins and Outs of Term Validation

validationEvery step in term processing during the preparation of glossaries or updating of termbases is important, but probably the one that will save you the most time is term validation. How and when it’s done is key to achieve cost-effective/efficient validation.

What is term validation?

Validation (conceptual/linguistic) is the verification and quality control process used to make sure a term or list of terms is accurate according to preferred usage or requirements established by the terminologist or the team involved in the process. It includes a series of steps such as evaluating the quality of the resources available (e.g., corpora) and consolidating terminological data (e.g. into glossaries). It involves choosing between several term candidates to pick a preferred term or even creating your own terms (neologisms). In some cases, validation also includes writing new or updated definitions.

Who does term validation?

The domain expert(s) and the terminologists(s)/translator(s) are usually the main players, but it can also be done by a translator with specialized knowledge on the subject field (or consulting with a domain expert). For larger projects, stakeholders also may include legal experts, technical writers, product managers, engineers, and consultants, among others.

Rute Costa et. al., in a presentation in 2011, gave a general description on the expertise of their team members: (1) Translators: huge domain knowledge; (2) Experts: validate the designation, validate the relation between designation and concept, validate the micro-conceptual system, definition in the natural language; (3) Terminologists: responsible for the methodological design, mediators between the experts and the translators.

How are terms validated?

For organizations or companies, an internal process is usually established (a guide/criteria are usually drawn up at the beginning of the process). In some cases, a Word or Excel file is shared by validators and, in other cases, a page is created in the intranet to facilitate communication. In more informal settings, exchanging emails or other type of communication is also employed. Also, using web-tools like TermWiki, for collaborative terminology management is a good option to automate large parts of the terminology validation process (see image below).

Validity decisions are based on usage and up-to-dateness of the available terms. Corpus analysis takes place and a list of candidates is drawn up, by language. Contents and definitions are extracted and/or researched, or consulted with domain experts.

When should terms be validated?

Ideally, terms should be validated before a project starts. It would be vital to have the client or the team come to an agreement on the terms that will be used before starting the translation. Changing terminology at the end of the process will delay delivery of products/services and cost you and your client extra money, and probably cause loss of confidence and end up in useless arguing and finger-pointing.

Why is it important?

Feeding your termbase with terms that are not validated will produce a low-quality termbase. Once you make sure that your terms have been validated by a domain expert and you keep it up-to-date, you are sure to have a clean working tool. In addition, even if you have validated your terms from the beginning, there is the risk of receiving changes to the source document in the process, new terms might come up or decisions might be made that lead to the change of already existing terms. If you are dealing with multiple translators, there is an impending need for close coordination. Keeping term consistency will be a challenge, but keeping track of terms from the beginning and adjusting them when necessary will produce quality translations.

The Interval Project (see Source 1 below) underlines the following benefits of validating terminology:

  • “lowering the cost of initial terminology creation;
  • improvement of the quality and consistency of terminology;
  • facilitation of terminology maintenance and reusability;
  • insuring maximum compatibility between different sources of terminology;
  • a starting point for international standardised methods.”

Examples of validation

Uwe Muegge made a short but enlightening presentation in 2011, (See source 2 below), in which he provides useful illustrations on validation tools such as TermWiki (visit the link for more examples):

validation termwiki pic

Validation in TermWiki

 

Sources and further reading:

  1. The Interval Project: European terminological resource validation project, co-financed by the EC (DG XIII) within the framework of the Language Engineering programme.
  2. Muegge, Uwe. “Terminology Validation”. A Presentation dated June 2011.
  3. Costa, Rute; Silva, Raquel, Soares de Almeida, Sara. Terminology in the Portuguese Parliament: collaboration between terminologists and domain experts in the validation process of terminological content. A presentation dated October 2011.

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