12 May 2021

I. What is Terminology?

The word terminology refers to three concepts: terminology as the study of terms, terminology as the practical aspect of doing terminological work, and terminology as a set of specialized terms.

i. ISO 1087-1:2000 defines terminology as the “science that studies the structure, formation, development, usage and management of terminologies in various subject fields.

ii. Terminology as a terminological work entails harvesting terms in a specialized field in one or more languages, selecting a term or coining a new one, and compiling them in a terminological collec­tion that can be recorded in databases for future use. This is based on terminology rules and procedures.

iii. As a set of terms, it is a technical vocabulary, i.e., a collection of terms and phrases used in a specific industry or organisation. They have coherence; that of belonging to a single subject area.”

II. What is terminology management?

Terminology management is used to maintain and control “corporate terminology”. It is the process of structuring and collecting specific terms in glossaries or terminology databases so that every employee can access the correct terminology. Terminology bases normally contain company-specific terms and fixed expressions, but they may also include industry-specific terms and concepts.

III. Role of a Terminologist

A terminologist gathers the terms specific to a specialized field in one or more languages, selects a term or coins a new one, and compiles them in a terminological collection that can be recorded in terminological databases for future use. The terminology work that s/he performs is based on terminology rules and procedures.

IV. Is Terminology important today?

Terminology is important, given that large portions of documents are written in specialised languages. Creating a glossary is probably one of the last things a company thinks about. However, it is an essential step if you want to be sure that your company’s communication remains professional, qualitative and consistent. Terminology ensures that corporate communication is harmonised, seamless, professional, qualitative and non-disruptive.

V. Why Terminology is Important for your Company

There are clear benefits to using consistent terminology in your company’s communications. The most important of these are:

i. Higher text quality. Implementing a defined corporate terminology enables internal and external employees to use the same terms when creating and translating texts – not only in one document, but also in all documents of a project, in the entire department, branch and company! The systematic use of terminology therefore consistently guarantees high text quality.

ii. Improved quality of services. Clear and successful communication helps create a positive customer experience that strengthens your brand and builds customer loyalty. When quality improves, it triggers a domino effect of other benefits.

iii. Saves time and increases efficiency. When terminology is contained in a structured system, it becomes much faster for writers to write their texts, but also for translators to translate them and for proof-readers to do a final proofreading. It also speeds up the whole process, allowing you to reduce delivery and time-to-market.

iv. Saves money. When you save time, you also save money all along the content production chain, especially when the language work is done in-house. Higher ‘match rate’ in the translation tool translates into lower price. Figures in the Tekom study show an overall saving of 30% as a direct result of terminology work.

v. Effective communication. A uniform terminology ensures that there are no ambiguities or misunderstandings within your company. Not only do employees in one department communicate more accurately, but colleagues also understand each other across.

vi. Ensures legal security A defined internal terminology also reduces the risk of legal problems. For example, protected terms and trademarks cannot be changed. Technical documentation is produced in a more consistent and explicit manner, so that text creation and translation are generally less prone to errors.

Terminology management within a company therefore has clear advantages that improve the company’s image while saving time and resources. But why is it still so difficult to get companies to devote the necessary time and resources to terminology project? One reason could be that many do not even know where to start.

VI. Setting-up a Corporate Terminological Database requires:

  • building a corpus;
  • extraction of terms;
  • preparation of terminology records;
  • involvement of all experts.

The next step is to ensure that the terminology database is continuously maintained and expanded. For a terminology base to remain viable, errors must be corrected, obsolete terms removed and new terms added. This is best done through collaboration between the company and translation agency.

Compiled by:

Ashu Synthia

Sarah Tchoutezo

Lisa Tjonog


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