Welocalize and Global Manufacturing: The Importance of Effective Terminology Management

Sarah Evans is Language Team Lead at Welocalize in the UK. She has worked at Welocalize for six years and is responsible for maintaining and creating our key clients’ termbases. A true linguist, Sarah also works as one of Welocalize’s in-house technical translators. She studied German at University and has an MA in Translation Studies. In this blog, Sarah shares her knowledge on terminology management and how important it is for global manufacturing clients.

sarahevansAccording to an in-house survey conducted by Welocalize to some of Europe’s leading manufacturers, 75% of manufacturing companies who were asked “What causes you the biggest headache when creating and translating content?” responded with “inconsistent terminology”. There is no simple way to manage terminology. As a technical translator and linguist, terminology plays a decisive role in each and every document that I translate.

Managing terminology proves a common, continual challenge to many clients, especially in the manufacturing industry where there are high volumes of technical translation. Accurate industry-specific terms are of paramount importance to both manufacturers and their customers. As Hannah Brady discussed in her blog, “Welocalize’s Guide to Localization in the Global Manufacturing Sector”, manufacturing content must comply with the standards, directives and regulations imposed by the authorities of the target local market. If you can crack terminology management, you can deliver accurate, high quality content at an accelerated rate without incurring huge costs.

A good starting point is to define terminology: a collection of words that have special meaning in a given subject field. Language Service Providers (LSP’s) should strive to maintain a term database (termbase) and glossary for each client, exclusively compiled with terminology related to their systems, products and services. Highly specific technical terminology can differ not just across companies, but for large global manufacturers this may even vary across individual business units of the same company.

Technical translations can often be out of context and with minimal reference materials. For example, the English term “valve” can be translated into French as either Valve, Vanne, Clapet, Soupape, Robinet and maybe others, depending on the context. Creation and maintenance of a clearly structured glossary increases consistency of the terminology used across various industrial sectors and business units.

Consistent terminology pays off in many ways:

  • Accelerated Translation Processes: Translators spend less time researching terminology.
  • Smoother Review Process: Client reviewers do not need to spend as much time at the review stage because key terminology is incorporated into their glossary.
  • Increased Brand Value: The greatest benefit is that consistent terminology increases the overall quality of your content and ultimately your brand image.

Managing terminology is not a simple dictionary filling exercise. It demands client input and LSP guidance, especially in relation to approving terms. There are various methods which can be used to produce a termbase for a specific client. One common problem technical translators face is being overwhelmed by a termbase packed full of non-technical terms: colors, languages, surnames and even days of the week. Such non-technical items should naturally be avoided in the termbase: they are not necessary for either translators or clients. Instead, value should be placed on ensuring that key technical terms are integrated into the client-specific glossary.

My preferred method for terminology management is to extract key technical terms from source documentation either manually or through using a specialist tool, such as MultiTerm Extract. The translator is then provided with an Excel table of terms which he/she will be translating in the project in question – and simply populates the list. New terms are then added to the client’s glossary with the approval status of “pending approval”.

Client approval of the translated terms is essential. For example, a leading weighing solutions manufacturer translates the German term “Waage” as “scales” for translations used its industrial business units; however, as “balance” for its pharmaceutical units. Such critical differences in terminology would be challenging to relay to the translation teams, if they were not added to a client-specific termbase. The termbase actively suggests translations to key technical terms along with critical information regarding the source term. In the above instance, translators are provided with the business unit details as well as the fact that the term is marked as either approved/pending approval/rejected by the client, enabling translators to make well informed decisions.

Undoubtedly the most important role is played by the client’s in-country reviewers who are in a position to actively approve the translations provided or even offer alternative suggestions for different business units or industrial sectors.

Welocalize has its own dedicated in-house teams to create and then continually maintain client-specific glossaries for all key language pairs. As a company with many global clients in the manufacturing sector, we recognize the importance of effective terminology management.