Terminologist or Terminology Project Manager?

To be or not to beOne of the first questions I asked myself when I decided to look for training opportunities in terminology was “What does a terminologist do?” I wanted to know exactly what I was signing up for. The two sources that I found at the time are included in my section The Terminologist’s Job Description: One of them says terminologists are “specialists in compiling, describing, maintaining and propagation of monolingual and multilingual specialised vocabularies.” The other one describes them as “experts in formulating, describing, managing and distributing mono- and multi-lingual terminologies.”

But would a terminologist (or translator) be qualified to be a successful terminology project manager (TPM)? You do need to have at least some basic knowledge of the specialized area you will be working on to be a good project manager, but there is more to it than you might think. Many people think that you have to be an expert translator or terminologist to be a terminology project manager, but in most cases you just need to have a special mix of skills. Actually, some people say you even need to have a special type of personality to succeed as a project manager, which might be leaving some people out of the game before it starts!

You might not recall it but I had previously promised to talk about this subject before and created a section called “The how-to of Terminology Projects”. This is why in the following posts I would like to bring up this subject again and share some basic information that you should know if you ever decide to become a TPM. There are many aspects involved in PM such as defining goals, knowing your stakeholders, managing risks and conflicts, motivating people, knowing the project cycle, etc., and all of these topics (and more) are also part of being a TPM.

Obviously, I do not intend to prepare you to take up a new job as TPM, and just like the purpose of this blog, what I intend is to guide and provide information for beginners who are looking at this for the first time, and having some basic project management skills will come in handy in order to know exactly what you are signing up for. And if you want to be certified, you should look at my section Training and sign up for TermNet’s courses (which also include some basic information on PM) and other training opportunities. And, of course, there are lots of free courses on PM available online which I will be also sharing as we go along.

In the meantime, take a quick look at this two and a half minute cartoon on project management to get an idea of what’s to come ahead.

Welcome First Day of Autumn 2014!

As Google welcomes today the first day of Autumn so do I welcome a new stage in my blog. After a long vacation and a transitional period, I’m reviving the blog by sharing a few things here and there while reorganizing my notes.

So let’s start by sharing the latest news in terminology databases, WIPO’s Pearl, a multilingual terminology database “providing free access to a wealth of multilingual scientific and technical terminology”. Seems to be a true pearl in the terminological ocean.

Another one is UN’s Research Guide, a short but useful list of other databases (some of them already on my list of resources). I personally plan to check out the multilingual UNBIS Thesaurus which contains the terminology used in subject analysis of documents and other materials relevant to United Nations programs and activities. What you used it already?

So, happy Autumn to all of you and thanks for following my blog! Many good things to come!

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Summer is here!

The past few weeks have besummer_is_hereen pretty hectic, so, as you have probably noticed, I was forced to put off writing for this blog. It is very frustrating when you have so many ideas and you want to sit down and write, but the truth is I had to restrain myself from doing it because I’d rather not write than writing something that does not have the quality that readers deserve. Also, I keep in mind that I started this blog mostly to offer a learning place for beginners and it is important that I make sure that the information and resources are accurate and useful.

I had not been totally disconnected from this adventure. I recently completed a MOOC on Principles of Project Management to deepen my knowledge on some important concepts that were covered during the ECQA TM certification by Termnet. So, if you didn’t hear about me during the past few weeks it did not mean that I had given up on my blog. On the contrary, there were some really good concepts that I learned that I hope to put in writing in the future. Also, having a full time job is what puts food on my family’s table, and I have to figure out how to do that and prioritize other projects, and I have to be thankful that I have a good job that I enjoy, even if it means putting aside other important projects.

And, of course, there is the perspective of taking the advanced course by the end of the year, if TermNet confirms the dates, which will give me a lot more material and resources to share. So I leave tomorrow to spend summer in Barcelona, with the hope to recharge energy and survive the second semester of 2014. It hasn’t been and it won’t be an easy year in terms of workload, but I know I can do it with the support of the people who have been rooting for me since day one.

In the meantime, if you are interested, the class I took was provided by Open2Study, where you can check out this and other courses, especially if you are interested in getting the ECQA TM certification. The course included excellent additional materials that complemented short videos by the instructor (from 5 to 8 minutes). Each video was followed by a short quiz  and you can go at your own pace (but it had a deadline to finish the course). Again, I believe that the most valuable thing is the additional materials (videos, articles, websites) that they offer. So, I highly recommend it. I took a MOOC on PM before this one, but it didn’t compare to the one offered by Open2Study, in terms of quality and additional resources.

So, take care and thank you again for following my blog. See you soon and enjoy your summer.


Term-ific and term-ful sources

cornucopiaIt is the six-month anniversary of InMyOwnTerms, and I would like to thank you for being here and supporting this blog. It is really hard to keep up with the amount of information that I find every day. Anyway, I guess that’s good news for the future of my blog, right? So, this brief post is about thanking and sharing more. I wanted to take a break to share some valuable terminology resources that I have recently found.

But before I do that, check out the new resources I have added to my Spanish, French, and Portuguese sections. Thanks to those who have shared information to update them.

Now, take a look at this. It’s Maria Pia’s Montoro’s scoop.it page (“Terminology that Rocks”) in which she frequently shares articles, posts, and other useful information on terminology. If her name rings a bell, yes, she is the owner of the excellent terminology blog WordLo. You will find a cornucopia of information such as “Ten good reasons why you should validate your translated terminology”, “Glossary versus terminology–What’s the difference?”, “How to choose the right terminology resources”, among others.

And great news this week: the InterActive Terminology for Europe (IATE) has made its terminological database available for download! You can download it by clicking here.

Students from the Rice University of Houston, Texas, have created a database on university neologisms (almost 10.000). It might not be so useful in our daily work, (well, you never know!) but I found it very enlightening. You would think that it would be a very simple database, but it is very well structured.

Finally, this short video (1min 18sec), posted today in Facebook by Professor Uwe Muegge from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, promotes his course “Introduction to Computer-Assisted Translation”, the only CAT course in the world that uses cloud-based technology, not only for conducting translation exercises in a web-based translation memory environment but also for student testing, capturing results of group work, and making instructor slides and reading materials available online. You have to love technology and how it has changed the way people learn!

So, I hope you liked this little post. I will be sharing more information before summer and vacation time get here. Enjoy the rest of the week!

Erratum: My blog is only five months! I feel like it’s been longer. So many good things have happened!

Deconstructing Designations: Term, Appellation, Symbol


Click to enlarge

In previous posts I have referred to conceptual systems, definitions, and the semantic triangle. Today I talk about designations. Together, they make up the basis that underpins terminology work. ISO 704 states it clearly: “Objects, concepts, designations and definitions are fundamental to terminology […]. Objects are perceived or conceived and abstracted into concepts which, in special language, are represented by designations and described in definitions. A set of designations belonging to one special language constitutes the terminology of a specific subject field.”

ISO 704 goes on to say that “designation acts as a synthesis of the definition. A designation is a representation of a concept by linguistic or non-linguistic means.” So, terminology is not just words. In natural language, concepts can take the form of terms, appellations, definitions or other linguistic forms; in artificial language, they can take the form of codes or formulae while in graphics, they can take the form of icons, pictures, diagrams or other graphic representations. There are three types of designations as defined by ISO 704:

Term: A term is a linguistic designation consisting of one or more words representing a general concept in a special language. A term may be simple, expressed in its basic form, that is, it contains only one root (e.g. “sustain”) or complex, containing two or more roots (a root word accompanied by another word or with added prefix or suffix {e.g. un+sustain+able}). It is typically a common noun or noun phrase. ISO 1087-1:2000 also defines it as a verbal designation of a general concept in a specific subject field. Terms may contain symbols and have variants, e.g. different forms of spelling.

Appellation: An appellation is a linguistic designation of an individual concept. It is a unique concept. It derives from the French word “appeler” which means to name. It becomes unique when you give it a unique name (Nike, Chanel, George Washington, Internet, etc.). In a blog post (see source 4) Barbara Inge says: “Technically, appellations are not translated but remain in their original language. However, an individual concept may have an appellation in different languages.” Good examples are international organizations which tend to have appellations in all languages of the member states, such as the European Union, die Europäische Union, or l’Union européenne”.


Symbol: Designates both individual and general concepts. A symbol should be simple and easy to recognize and, if possible, self-explanatory, monosemic in a specific context, unambiguous, easy and economical to reproduce, and consistent and appropriate, i.e., designed to permit coordination with and differentiation from other related symbols.

Formula: Non-linguistic designation consisting of symbols or symbols related to other mathematical, physical or chemical characters.

NOTE: When the concept depicts a single object, it is called an individual concept and is represented in special language as an appellation (e.g., United Nations, Internet, Worldwide Web) or a symbol (e.g: the Möbius Loop icon). When the concept depicts a set of two or more objects, it is called a general concept and, in special languages, the designation takes the form of a term (e.g., floppy disk, liquidity, money market fund, etc.) or a symbol (©, ≥, $).


Imbalances between designations and concepts may result in ambiguity during concept analysis. For example, in synonymy one concept has several designations (e.g. (cell phone [US] mobile [UK], handy [DE].); in polysemy, one designation represents two or more concepts sharing certain characteristics (e.g. bridge: structure to carry traffic over a gap; dental plate), and in homonymy one concept represents two or more unrelated concepts (e.g. bat the animal and the instrument used to hit a ball, or Apple the brand and the fruit).

Finally, take a look at the presentation called “Rethinking Terminology Standards: 704 & 1087” (from page 15) in which the authors provide a different perspective on designations as defined by those two ISO standards (see source 6).

Sources and further reading:

  1. What can be an Object of Terminological Description in a Term Bank? Igor Kudashev of University of Helsinki. Read here.
  2. Introduction to Terminology Management for Localization by Sorrell Ritter. Read here.
  3. A Flexible XML-Based Glossary Approach for the Federal Government: The Next Generation by Ken Sall. Read here.
  4. Blog entry in Bikterminology: Jump List? Or what should we call it? By Barbara Inge Karsh. Read here.
  5. Language, concept and definition. Read here.
  6. Rethinking Terminology Standards: 704 & 1087 (July 2013) by Rute Costa and Christophe Roche Read here.
  7. Glossary of terminology management by TermCoord. Read here.
  8. Terminology. Tutorial for ISO/TC 211Project Leader, Experts and Delegates, by Andrew Jones. Read here.

2015 Pompeu Fabra’s terminology courses in Spanish

This is great nstudy timeews for us Spanish speakers interested in terminology! The Universitat Pompeu Fabra of Barcelona will be offering the following online terminology classes in Spanish:

Who wouldn’t want to enroll in classes under the academic leadership of M.Teresa Cabré Castellví! The guru of all terminology gurus!


MySmarTerms 5: The Semantic Triangle: Words don’t mean; people mean

Foolish Questions” (William Cole)

Where can a man buy a cap for his knee?
Or a key for a lock of his hair?
Can your eyes be called an academy
Because there are pupils there?
In the crown of your head, what jewels are found?
Who travels the bridge of your nose?
Could you use in shingling the roof of your mouth
The nails on the end of your toes?
Could the crook in your elbow be sent to jail?
If so, what did he do?
How can you sharpen your shoulder blades?
I’ll be darned if I know, do you?
Can you sit in the shade of the palm of your hand
And play on the drum of your ear?
Do the calves of our legs eat the corn on our toes?
Then why does it grow on the ear?
Can the calf of his leg eat the corn on his toe?—
There’s somethin’ pretty strange around here.


According to the Oxford Dictionary, the 500 most used words in the English language have at least 14,070 different definitions. This is an average of 28 meanings per word. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that our communication attempts sometimes fail because of misconceptions and ambiguity. We need to have clear and precise concepts connected to our terms in order to design reliable termbases and glossaries.

Given that one of the goals of terminology management is to facilitate communication and avoid misunderstandings and confusion, it would be helpful to understand the basics of the semiotic triangle, not only because it introduces and explains some of the basic elements upon which terminology is grounded, but also as a foundation for further reading and research.

Englishmen Charles Kay Ogden and Ivor Armstrong Richards wrote the book “The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of the Influence of Language upon Thought and of the Science of Symbolism” (1923), and the semantic triangle was the means they used to explain that understanding comes from within the people rather than from the words they just interpret or, as the saying goes, words don’t mean; people mean.

In their book they presented three theories: The Meaning Theory (There is not a single “correct” meaning associated with each and every word because each word means something different to each person); the Definition Theory (In order to avoid this ambiguity we need to define terms or concepts) and the Symbol Theory (words evoke images and personal meaning is based on experience). Communication breaks when people attempt to communicate through the use of arbitrary words. Words have no exact or clear meaning, and meaning depends on context.

You will find different triangles with different terminology, so I mention here the most common ones: The Sign or Symbol or Term (Representation) is the actual word, term, or sign; the mental image or idea that the person has of this representation is the Thought or Reference or Concept. If the Thought is adequate, the hearer is able to connect it to the Referent or Object.

semiotic-triangletriangle orage










All meaning is elicited through symbols, or is arrived at through personal interpretation. The meaning does not go with the word, it emerges by the person hearing it, thinking about it and ultimately arriving at meaning. (See this Prezi presentation for more examples and also the video I included as Source 6 below).

Richards and Ogden’s triangle has been challenged over the years by other semioticians, such as Umberto Eco, who maintain it is overly simplistic. According to Sue Ellen Wright (see Source 2 below) “One of the major deterrents to using the triangle is its numerous interpretations and the variable of terminology associated with the nodes of the triangle”, but then she adds that the triangle is useful “particularly for non-linguists approaching terminology practice for the first time”. And even in more advanced terminology work and studies, the semiotic triangle has proven to be useful as a basis for further research. See, for example, the article “Semiotic Triangle Revisited for the Purposes of Ontology-based Terminology Management” by Igor Kudashev and Irina Kudasheva, in which they adapted the traditional triangle and suggest an alternative model for their terminology project TermFactory. Also, take a look at Source 5 below, in which the authors compare the triangle used in traditional Terminology theory versus the sociocognitive Terminology theory.

Terminological data must be handled efficiently and effectively through careful terminology planning and analysis as we constantly process specialized and complex information on how objects are perceived, how we come up with concepts for new or existing terms, and how these perceptions are represented and described. So just by looking at the terminology works mentioned above it is more than evident that understanding the semantic triangle is a relevant topic for terminologists.

The Semantic triangle is also known as Triangle of Semantics, Triangle of reference, the Semiotic Triangle, the Referent Triangle, Triangle of Meaning, the Ogden-Richards Triangle, and the Meaning of Meaning Model.

In my next SmarTerm I will talk about Designations (Term, Appellation, and Symbol) a subject closely related to this topic.

Sources and further reading:

  1. Introduction to Richards, by Peter Muntigl
  2. Semantic Triangle of Meaning for Interpersonal Communication. A YouTube video by Nadine CiChy, Associate Professor at Sinclair Community College
  3. Semiotic Triangle Revisited for the Purposes of Ontology-based Terminology Management” by Igor Kudashev and Irina Kudasheva
  4. Standards for the Language Industry, by Sue Ellen Wright in Terminology, Computing and Translation (Google Books)
  5. The Meaning of Meaning Model by communicationtheory.org.
  6. Towards New Ways of Terminology Description. The Sociocognitive Approach, Rita Temmerman (in Google Books).
  7. Understanding and being understood by Dr. Sandford I. Berman (PDF shared by the Department of Communication of the University of California.
  8. What Do You Mean: A Brief Look at Ogden and Richards’ Theory of Meaning by A. Bosco. 2002

I am officially ECQA TM certified!

I completed and successfully passed the final examination today! Woot Woot!!!

Now, with this luck, my forecast for tomorrow is Costa Rica 3, England 1!!!


What a great week for terminology!

finish lineFor many years until recently I had been doing triathlons. What a rush of adrenaline! Racing was great but the best part was receiving the support and encouragement of family and friends. When I started this blog I was not sure if I would achieve much (having a full time 9 to 5 office job, and all), but yesterday I had my final presentation to the ECQA Terminology Manager Certification course and I felt that adrenaline rush again! And just like in racing, it felt awesome to have the support of family, friends, and colleagues. Not only that but I had the opportunity to take a first-hand look to actual terminology projects from my classmates. What an honor! Such a great learning experience! The final step is passing the final ECQA examination on June 23, but that will be another post!

The other major thing this week happened today: This morning I woke up earlier than usual and checked emails: They had the results of bab.la’s best language blog competition! No, now, don’t get too excited. I didn’t make the final 25. BUT, I was sooo proud and happy to see the blog of the 3 top-notch terminologists who have supported me since day one! TermCoord’s blog placed fourth! (headed by Rodolfo Maslias, who I recently interviewed), Terminologia, etc. by Licia Corbolante, with her great terminology blog in Italian, placed sixth, and WordLo, by Maria Pia Montore, another great Italian with an excellent terminology blog in English, made the 24th cut in the language twitterers category. In other words, major achievements for the only active terminology blogs that exist right now!

Please, please, go to my section “More Terminology Blogs” and visit them. Give them a big thank you and congratulations! They truly deserve it!

Rodolfo, Licia, and Maria Pia: You are my inspiration and my daily terminology vitamin to keep on going. Thank you for your kind words today and every day, for your constant support and useful information.

Special thanks to ECQA instructor Blanca Nájera (with extended thanks to Gabrielle Sauberer) for letting me start this project as part of the certification. I know it was very unusual.

Thank you followers for voting for me and reading my blog posts and sharing. I can’t wait to sit down and keep writing, and hopefully soon I will be involved in a termbase project. So I can’t be any more excited!

To the most important person in this world: My husband, Sergi. He is my biggest supporter, always praising and encouraging me every day. I wouldn’t know what I would do without him!

Right now, still with that feeling of adrenaline rush in the body I am ready to get out there and just do it!

Rita Temmerman talks about her sociocognitive terminology theory

Earlier this year, TermCoord interviewed Rita Temmerman, another one of my terminology gurus. I share one of the questions, but you can read the full interview here, which includes a short bio. At the end I offer a short list for further reading. Hope you like it and find it useful!

You developed the Sociocognitive terminology theory, based on case studies on categorisation and naming in the life sciences (DNA technology), which led to the publication of your book “Toward New Ways of Terminology Description. The Sociocognitive Approach”. The highlight of this book is the fact that you question the validity of traditional terminology theory. How would you define terminology then? And can you explain us briefly the Sociocognitive Approach that you present?

My criticism of the traditional Vienna school of terminology was a consequence of years of frustration in teaching terminology theory based on the Vienna school approach. Together with two of my colleagues working at the Brussels school for translation and interpretation, I took a training at Vienna Infoterm in 1986. We were taught the principles of “terminology work” (as it was called there, a literal translation of German Terminologiearbeit). The Vienna approach was onomasiological. The idea was to first delineate “a concept”, then to give it a place in a tree structure (based on logical (IS_A) or on partitive (PART_OF) relations), then to define the concept in an Aristotelian definition and finally to choose a preferred term to name the concept. The Vienna school approach was allegedly not interested in language as a cognitive tool, but only in the naming potential of language.

These principles were clear-cut and straightforward. The problem was that my students in translation and interpretation were not field specialists but applied linguists who needed textual information to understand a subject matter and to make a terminological analysis. In most texts we wanted to use for terminological analysis with our students, we found ambiguity, synonymy, vagueness and – what was worse from a Vienna school perspective – we became increasingly aware that there were good reasons for these phenomena in language, because the advancement of understanding and the negotiation of meaning go together. We concluded that terminology studies needed to be descriptive and that occasional prescriptivism was not for translators to decide but rather for field specialists or legal specialists for that matter.”

Further reading:

I also mention some of her works in different places in my blog, which you can find by doing a search, but here is a short list of some of her works that can be read online.

1.  A review of her book “Towards New Ways of Terminology Description: The Sociocognitive Approach.” Read here. The book can be partially consulted in google books here.

2. Questioning the univocity ideal. The difference between socio-cognitive Terminology and traditional Terminology. Read here.

3. Research Gate offers a list of several articles published by Temmerman. Consult here. (You have to sign up to get access to the articles).


Terminology and product liability

chain liabilityThere’s no denying that terminology inconsistency could not only undermine customer trust in our products, but also have serious legal implications for a business when its documentation –such as user manuals, technical manuals, online help, training, tutorials, etc.– uses different terms for products that are published or marketed internally or externally, nationally or internationally. There could be a high risk of injury or damages if measures are not taken from the beginning of the manufacturing process to make sure that terminology is managed properly. This will avoid having after-sale issues and eliminate the risk of costly remedial measures such as unnecessary customer support service calls or even product recalls.

By avoiding errors in technical texts, terminology management will reduce the risk of liability claims, damage compensations (financial loss), safety procedures, product failure, and even human injury or loss of life. It becomes even more critical when you are selling “intelligent products” such as software, medical devices, pharmaceutical products, etc. Mistranslations in medical texts or user’s manuals for heavy machinery, for example, could cause serious injuries or even death. Therefore, maintaining consistency and accuracy in terminology is vitally important to the health and safety of patients, and even more so when we are dealing with many languages.

In order to maintain its position in the market, nationally and internationally, a business should comply with terminology requirements to ensure that its product information and documentation is reliable and will not give way to possible legal actions.

In 2007, the FDA had to recall a device due to terminology inconsistency. The manufacturer’s reason to recall was “Mislabeling: Reporting terminology in the Syphilis IgG APF CD is not consistent with the distributed Instructions for Use. (Non-Reactive and Reactive rather than Negative and Positive)”. Not only was this costly but also it damaged the image of the manufacturer, and it possibly caused other major issues.

To avoid these problems, the best way to proceed is to manage terminology from the beginning and comply with quality standards, general standards (such as the widely known ISO 9000 series), industry standards (such as DIN 2345 for contracts between translators and clients and EN 15038 for translation service providers that ensures the consistent quality of the translation service) and translation quality metrics (such as the SAE J2450 standard for translations of automotive service information).


Sources and further reading:

  1. Focus on Terminology Management. Neglect it at your own peril. Uwe Muegge. Read here.
  2. FDA Class 3 Recall BioPlex 2200 Syphilis IgG Kit. Read here.
  3. Economic Aspects of Terminology Management by Dr. Frieda Steurs. Read here.
  4. Multicorpora in pharmaceutical/medical scenarios. Read here.
  5. Technical translations: challenges and possible solutions (Blog entry by Octopus translations)
  6. Terminology precision. A key favor in product usability and safety, by Barbara Inge Karsch and Gabriele Sauberer. Read here.
  7. Are they worthy What terms belong in a termbase? by Hanne Smaadahl. Read here.