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Translation terminology list? Reference files? What are those?

Just think of the word coffee. Ever used another word for it? A cup of Joe? A cup of java? A little bit of black bean perhaps?

In any language, there are often numerous words to say the same thing. In the case of a company, upholding the use of a single word can be crucial to the quality of your translations.

Let us say that your business is in the field of teaching. What do you call the person who teaches the students? I theory, in the English language, you could say “teacher”, “instructor”, or even “trainer”. Just ask yourself this question: Do you want the word “teacher” to be used on your company website and the word “instructor” to be used in your company brochure? Probably not.

This is why companies develop what is known as “company terminology”. Even if company owners do not do this consciously, they develop a set of terminology for their respective business and business environment.

What does this have to do with translation? Well, quite a bit. Does this also concern technical translations? Answer: Especially technical translations. When describing the rubber seal between two joints, do you use the word, “seal ring”, “seal gasket”, or “sealing washer” to be used?

How does the translator know what your preference of words is? How do they know if they should use the word “teacher”, “instructor”, or “trainer”? Well, the answer is, they don’t know. A translator translates to the best of his/her ability according to what they perceive as being correct. Seeing that they do not work at your company or know it, it is important that they are provided with something to go by.

Here is how to do that:

Provide reference data:

If your company has any material about it or what it does, make sure to give it to the language service provider as a reference (e.g. company website, brochure, manuals, etc.). It is not the most efficient method, but at least the translator can browse through the files a bit to get them familiar with the style and wording you use.

Provide previous translations:

The same goes for previous translations that you have done. The most efficient way here is to provide two documents that have exactly the same format. This could be two word files, one in English and one in Spanish for example. An alignment of these documents can be made and imported into a translation memory. This translation can be used in your current translation to improve consistency.  Please see the article on translation memories on this blog, if you are not familiar with this term.

Provide a terminology list:

Making your own list of terminology is easy. Here is how:

  1. Think about all the words that you use in your texts that appear again and again.
  2. Make an excel file with the terminology that you want to be the same in all of your translations in the source language, in the language you speak and write your texts in.
  3. I you already know the translation that you prefer in the target language, they provided that in the Excel column next to the word.
  4. If you don’t know what that word is, then have that list translated.
  5. Every time you have something to translate, give that list to the translator and tell them that the terminology has to be used.

It is common for larger corporations to provide lists consisting of 500 words and up in 10 different languages and more.  Is this a problem? Not at all.

Using current CAT (computer –aided translation) tools, it is possible for the translator to import these lists and ensure the usage of these words in the translation. In addition to human proofreading, the language service provider also uses QA (quality assurance) programs to ensure the correct usage of the terminology. If you are not familiar with the terms CAT tools and QA programs, please be sure to read the article on these topics right here at this blog.

All in all, you as the client, buyer, purchaser or customer for that matter can do a lot to ensure the quality of your own translations just by providing as much information as possible.

Just in case any of this is not completely clear, don’t worry. The easiest way is to ask the language service provider to help you create a terminology list.

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