What is Terminology Management?

Terminology management consists of two main activities:

  • The ongoing maintenance of key terminology specific to a company’s content
  • The continuous translation of this terminology in multiple languages

Why does terminology management matter?

To establish a successful global brand, you need to address your audience in a clear and consistent manner—in all languages.

Your content, products, and services are unique—and, often, designed and developed with a specific target market in mind. By identifying, defining, and accurately translating the specific terminology used throughout your messaging, you can ensure your brand resonates with consumers across the globe.

Content creators, product developers, and translators must collaborate to maintain a global company’s glossary, ensuring each term speaks to the end-users in a local fashion.

Using consistent terminology allows for smooth navigation across your platforms, and showcases your brand’s professionalism—both within your original content, and throughout its international counterparts. The more intelligible and consistent your global content, the greater weight your brand will be perceived to place on its target markets.

In short, managing your terminology helps differentiate your brand from competitors who may be overlooking this step. Terminology management may not be top of mind for a business looking to localize their product, but this process can have a tremendous impact on your potential global customers.

How can overlooking terminology management hurt your global business?

Many companies take generic terms, and transform them to serve distinct and specific purposes. (Consider the way Facebook employs the word Like, or Samsung’s use of the term Galaxy.)

In the event these terms are translated in their generic sense, the core idea they represent will be totally misconstrued. Global customers may become confused and lose interest, directly impacting your bottom line.

Similarly, if the same key term is translated differently on your app and website, or in different sections of your documentation, consumers may struggle to take in your message, and your brand’s value may suffer the consequences.

How do I create a glossary?

Terminologists follow a generic process to produce key terminology:

  • Source content gathering
  • Key terms identification
  • Glossary creation
  • Glossary curation
  • Glossary annotation
  • Glossary approval

The terminologist starts by collecting as much source content as possible (full website download, documentation gathering, etc.).

They then use specialized tools to extract a list of terms (either single words or a string of terms) that appear throughout your content with a high frequency, and collect them in a glossary.

They then curate the glossary by eliminating unambiguous words with standard translations (computer or Internet, for example). They may also combining synonyms into a single entry, and make other adjustments as needed.

Finally, terminologists collaborate with the client to annotate the glossary, defining any complex terms, as well as generic terms employed in a unique manner by the client. This allows linguists to develop the most appropriate translation in their target language.

The result of this process is an approved glossary that is representative of the customer’s brand, unique messaging, and content.

How do I translate a glossary?

Terminologists then collaborate with linguists to translate the key terminology. Steps include:

  • Glossary translation
  • Glossary review
  • Glossary approval

Each professional linguist translates the glossary into their language, clarifying terms with the terminologist and/or the client whenever any ambiguity remains.

The translated glossary is then reviewed by the client. Larger companies involve their global marketing division and/or their local distributors and marketers at this stage. The translation of complex or subtle terms may be modified to better reflect local nuances.

This process iterates until the terminologist can finalize a global glossary that will be the foundation to any further translation project.

How do I maintain a glossary?

It is important not to overlook a robust terminology maintenance system. As the company’s products and services evolve, new features are created, and old one eliminated. It’s crucial to keep the terminology in sync with the current  content.

Ensuring the glossary remains relevant is particularly important in the context of continuous translation: as new content is added and localized, the terminology must be regularly maintained and updated. Over time, you’ll find that certain terms may lose relevance or need a wording adjustment, while other previously absent terms may emerge.

Terminology Management and Translation Management

The benefits of terminology management are manifold for the management of your translation process.

First, a terminology management system helps to increase linguists’ productivity, as documenting all key terms makes their job a little easier.

Most significant is the impact on the quality of content, as the glossary allows for top-notch consistency and accuracy. The end result is a positive reflection on your brand image and user-friendliness.

Finally, once you have a solid glossary in place, it becomes easier to manage translation teams. Should the main linguist handling your content in a particular language be on vacation or sick—or even leave the team— it will be far easier to onboard a replacement. Your glossary ensures the proper terminology is consistently employed in new translations.

At e2f, we place a lot of emphasis on Terminology Management. Don’t hesitate to request our help in building and maintaining your global key terminology.