Why is having a glossary important?

A glossary documents the key words and phrases which are regularly contained in your content and are therefore regularly translated. Glossaries are especially important when multiple translators are involved in a project or where a project is completed in stages and different linguists might be used. By utilising a glossary, you ensure your translations remain consistent and your content is translated to the highest quality and accuracy. In the case of a technical translation, it is unacceptable for key words and phrases to be translated differently each time. The glossary acts like a bespoke dictionary for the translators, to ensure your translations adhere to your brand guidelines and tone of voice.

Using a glossary can also be a cost and time saving exercise. Our statistics indicate that 15% of all re-worked translations are due to terminology issues. Providing a glossary at the outset of the project can reduce internal cost on review, as terminology will be accurate to your specific requirements from the outset. It will also remove any ambiguity over industry-specific phrases or technical jargon, reducing the number of translator queries to enable a quicker project turnaround.

By using an up-to-date glossary you also get piece of mind. Your content is part of your brand identity and tone of voice, which impacts your reputation in your target markets. Having a systemised, documented approach to terminology guarantees your content remains relevant and your expertise is conveyed with conviction in all international markets.

What should be included?

A glossary should be clear and concise. The document should be easy-to-use and only contain the key phrases necessary, as too many will slow down the translation process. Terms and phrases should be business-specific and not generic or industrywide and the document should contain contextual information as well as a definition. Some examples include:

  • All branded names, registered trademarks etc.
  • Job titles
  • Abbreviations
  • Acronyms
  • Frequently used terms
  • Department names

An effective glossary serves as a guide for the translator and should provide enough information for them to understand how and when the term should be used. It may also include a list of terms which should remain in English and never be translated. For example, product names are typically not translated, having these terms in the glossary will ensure that this happens. Again, it is important to include the context as sometimes a term may need to remain in English and in other instances it will need to be translated.

How can I create a glossary?

Historically glossaries have been created manually from existing source content. This is a slow process, but does provide terms in context and examples of use. More modern methods include automated term mining, where computer assisted translation (CAT) tools extract the most frequently occurring terms from existing content.

A glossary is a living document and should grow with each translation project you complete and as your company develops more products and services. Your glossary should be reviewed regularly and monitored, to ensure it is kept up-to-date, relevant and includes the latest terminology for your company.

At thebigword we have developed a Terminology Management System, a secure, user friendly system which integrates with the technologies that our linguists use. Your approved terminology can be uploaded to thebigword Translation Management System and from there it can be viewed, edited and updated by those who have access. Additional fields allow contextual information to aid linguists. The terminology is available to your linguists during the translation process and your reviewers during the validation stages. For more information, download our Terminology Management System guide here or contact our sales team.


Carolyn Storey

Client Program Director

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