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How to create a Glossary or Terminology Database

How to create a Glossary or Terminology Database

Every company, author or blogger, should create a Glossary (also known as a Terminology Database or Termbase). Regardless of the volume and scope of your documentation, a glossary will ensure clarity and consistent messaging. In this article, we will be at looking at how to create a glossary, and how to maintain it. But before we get there, what is a glossary?

What is a Glossary?

A glossary is simply the list of terms that are frequently used by the author(s). In academic papers these terms conventionally appear at the end of an article, thesis, or book. So glossaries are simple lists, or larger databases, containing words (terminology) preferred by each client. In other words, a list of words in a spreadsheet.

Glossaries can be monolingual, however some glossaries feature many languages, and some are just bilingual. A translation glossary contains terminology data in different languages. Viewed as a spreadsheet, preferred translations typically appear in the next column. Depending on the topic and how technical it is, the size of a termbase can vary between one, and millions of words.

Ideally, a translation agency should create a glossary for every customer — at QuickSilver Translate, we do! After creating it, an internal reviewer (the client) should validate it. At this point, they can make any changes they like. Once the glossary has been approved, it is in use and on-going. It is important to keep a glossary up to date — for example, to include new products or services that your company are offering.

7 simple steps to create and maintain a Glossary

Step 1: Who is your audience?

First of all you should define your target audience and corporate voice. Is your style formal, and targeted towards experts or educators? Or is it more casual, inclusive, intended to introduce your product to new customers, or people without insider knowledge? Once these parameters are defined, you’ll be able to decide on what words to pick, to adapt your glossary to your preferred style and tone.

Step 2: Identify both uncommon and frequently-used Terms

Note all the terms/words that you feel might not be familiar to your target audience, and also repeated terms; that should be translated the same way each time. For example, a pharmaceutical company should ensure the term medical condition is not translated into Spanish in different ways. The translator could translate it as ‘enfermedad’‘afección’ or ‘problema de salud’. They are all correct. However, we should always choose the option agreed in the glossary, to maintain clarity.

Step 3: Market research

Ask your customers whether your messaging is clear, or which terms were unclear, and they had to look up elsewhere.

Step 4: Gather The Terms

Gather the terms in an Excel spreadsheet, Word doc, or similar.

Step 5: Define The Terms

Clearly define each term, and make sure that you keep any additional explanations simple and to-the-point. This will help the translator to choose the most appropriate translation.

Step 6: Review the translations

Review the translations to confirm you are happy with the equivalent terms chosen (you will need to do this for each language). You may need to use a specialist reviewer for this process.

Step 7: Keep it Up-to-date!

Add terms relating to any new products, new technology, or to reflect changes in common usage.

Integration with CAT tools

A glossary integrates with Computer Assisted Translation software. Therefore, regardless of which translator is working on your project, the translator will only use previously approved terminology in the translation. This enables us to increase both the quality and consistency, of our translations.

CAT platforms also use Translation memories (TM). The advantages of working with a Translation Memory cannot be overstated. A TM is essentially a database which ‘remembers’ and takes advantage of previous translations. New texts are analysed by the software to check if any segments (sentences, phrases, product name, etc) have been translated before, in which case the previous translation is suggested and the translator can choose whether to use it or not.

Find out more: What is Computer Assisted Translation (CAT)

Case study: The Importance of establishing a Translation Glossary: Behälder/Flasche

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