Photo Credit: Kake . via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Kake . via Compfight cc

Establishing a glossary of preferred terminology is a critical first step toward a globalization campaign for your business. By defining your core vocabulary and vetting translations of these terms, you create a solid foundation that will save time and expense when you translate your content for your target markets.

What is a termbase?

Terminology is a body of specialized words relating to a particular subject. In business, it is the system of words you use to describe your products and services and engage your customers. It may include highly technical words and phrases as well as stylistic choices. While all businesses use terminology, oftentimes the terminology database or “termbase” only exists in the heads of the employees. Words are chosen for various reasons by employees in different roles, including creative teams in marketing campaigns, technical writers preparing product documentation, and customer service representatives communicating with your client base. Codifying your termbase and establishing a shared vocabulary for key concepts, products, and services unifies the brand message and ensures consistency across all your content.

Establish a termbase before translating your content

If lack of coordination on the matter of terminology creates problems in your native language, these problems will multiply when you translate your content for foreign audiences. If you establish a termbase before beginning translation and localization, not only will you communicate more effectively with your business partners and customer base, but you will also lay the foundation for a strong global communication platform. If you skip this step, when translation begins you will have translators struggling to understand what you “really meant” when the source words they are looking at are confusing or inconsistent. These generate queries whose resolution can cause delays in the editing and proofreading stage.
Establishing a set of terms and their preferred translations at the beginning of the process also prevents problems with internal review. Internal review is notorious for creating delays because the employees doing the review may disagree with the terminology choices made by the translator. If you plan on having bilingual experts within your company review the translated materials, you should first engage them in reviewing the translations for the termbase. This will streamline internal review because the reviewers are invested in the project from the start. For example, when working with a client to translate dermatology materials into Japanese, our first step was developing a termbase and securing the approval of the Japanese clinical review team ahead of time.

How do you create a termbase?

If you don’t already have a corporate glossary, we can use industry standard tools to extract terminology from a set of existing corporate documents, often referred to as “corpora.” The program looks for certain patterns in your corpora, such as repeated use of words or phrases that are not common dictionary terms. From your provided corpora, we can help you identify a set of potential key terms, which you can then pare down to the terms that comprise your essential message. The key terms are translated by subject matter experts and vetted by your internal reviewers. While it is often easiest for clients to review the termbase in an Excel spreadsheet, after it has been finalized it will be integrated into our CAT (Computer-Aided Translation) tool. This ensures that translators and proofreaders receive prompts whenever key words and phrases appear in the source content. With the terms integrated into the translation tool, translators won’t miss them, ensuring accuracy and consistency across all your translation projects. If you are optimizing your website for foreign search engines, this process will also give you a head start on multilingual keyword research.

Establishing clear and concise terminology is the foundation of a solid communication strategy for reaching new markets. Consider your terminology before embarking on your translation projects, and save yourself a lot of trouble when you go global.