Localization Terminology Management – Top Tips

I am always happy to have guest posts by companies who are fully engaged in terminology management. Karl Pfeiffer works as Senior Language Lead at Argos Multilingual (see bio below) and has written this post on terminology and localization. I must confess I have rarely referred to localization in this blog, although it is one of the fields that manage terminology the most. So, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have them publish a post here. Big thanks to Argos Multilingual and Karl Pfeiffer for this opportunity to share their terminology love!

Businesses with plans to grow globally need to pay attention to terminology management. Consistent terminology helps to enable high quality translations, saves costs and time, and helps to build your brand worldwide. This article provides insights into Terminology Management in a localization project.

Why should you be bothered?

Easy: Your business needs to build and protect its brand and corporate image – whichever markets you choose. By establishing business-specific terminology, you avoid misrepresentation of your brand caused by mistakes in the translation of industry and product-critical words and phrases. By having a consistent global message, you can ensure the accuracy of your translated content and your communications will hit the mark consistently, globally!

What’s more, a precise and unambiguous terminology database (termbase) made for your business will help to save both time and costs during the translation process. Linguists work more efficiently when they can refer to existing approved terms and phrases, because they spend less time researching vocabulary and can instead focus on translating. When everyone working in a language uses the same termbase, inconsistencies can be avoided and a high-quality translation can be assured.

How can you introduce terminology management in your next localization project?

The key to terminology is to get started – even small terminology databases of approved content will result in more consistently high-quality translations.

The initial creation phase for terminology has two parts.

  1. Term mining is the process of extracting terminology “candidates”. This is usually done automatically through specialist tools.
  2. Candidate “selection” is a human process. A terminologist examines the automatically extracted term candidates in order to select those which should be counted as genuine terminology.

Once a list of genuine terms has been compiled, the terminologist adds metadata fields to the database, which help to define precisely how a term should–and equally when it should not–be used. Metadata fields can include sentences showing how a term is used in context, whether a term is translatable (Yes/No), the term’s part of speech (verb/noun etc.), the product line the term belongs to, who approved the term, its translation and the date it was approved. Metadata can be as extensive as you want, and should be agreed and established up-front.

One of the most important aspects of terminology management is that once terms have been established, it becomes straightforward to check that it has been used correctly. Using language checking tools, semi-automatic checks can verify that terms have been used correctly, helping to assure the quality of your multilingual communications.

What do you need to be careful about?
  • It might be tempting to include everything possible in your glossary. But that is the wrong approach. The emphasis needs to be on quality over quantity. Your list should include key concepts and acronyms which are commonly used in your business.
  • Terms should normally be between 1 and 4 words in length and should not include prepositions and articles which can alter the meaning of the term in a given context.
  • You should look to avoid duplicated entries or conflicting entries where a term is listed in singular and plural forms, but where the terms are conceptually the same.
  • Your list should include compound entries in full. For example, in construction and farming machinery terminology, the term “loader” is translated differently in many languages in its compound forms such as “front loader”, “wheel loader” or “backhoe loader”.
  • Be careful to manage the difference between product names and feature names carefully – for example, a product called “Slide Show” might not be translatable, but when it describes a feature of the product such as running a “slide show” in the tool it might still need to be translated.
  • Be sure to assign owners for each target language. These people are then responsible for reaching a consensus and making the final decision on what the correct translations for terms are. Glossaries are easily corrupted once multiple in-country persons make terminology choices based on their preferences at a given time. This can lead to inconsistent translations.
  • After establishing a termbase, bear in mind that some businesses have terminology which is constantly evolving and growing. Therefore, the glossaries should continuously be updated with new terms.

Terminology Management plays a crucial role when it comes to expanding and localizing your business to foreign markets. It helps to build and protect your brand and ensures consistent, high-quality translations. Take care to build your termbase correctly from the start, and you can reap ongoing rewards.

Argos Multilingual (link to: http://www.argosmultilingual.com/ ) is a leading translation company providing global language solutions. Our mission is to provide high-quality innovative language solutions to our customers while being the most respected business partner in the localization industry. We provide a full range of language translation services that cover all our clients’ needs.

Karl Pfeiffer
Karl Pfeiffer is an ATA-certified English>German translator. After graduating from the University of Tübingen, Germany,
with a degree in Physics, he focused on translating engineering documents, specializing in satellite technology (telematics, precision farming etc.) and the lifting industry (cranes, aerial work platforms).  He is now Senior Language Lead at Argos Multilingual.  His portfolio of responsibilities (for example, source review; compiling and/or updating client, subject matter, and project glossaries; defining project instructions; feedbacking the translation/revision teams (LQA); performing final quality checks, as well as analyzing and processing critical client feedback) combines the skill sets of a terminologist and a QA specialist.


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