For many companies, language service providers and translators, terminology work is something that people know needs to be done and that is somehow always on people’s minds. However, dealing with the issue is often postponed or only taken on in a halfhearted manner. This is because it ends up being a job that is both tedious and time-consuming if it is approached without the right technology.
Does your company also use XLS lists to ensure uniform terms for certain concepts? Who keeps these lists up-to-date? Are the documents centrally accessible to everyone? Who has the latest version of each spreadsheet right now? Do you maintain each language separately? For me, that raises the question of how many languages you translate into and how many XLS lists you maintain manually.
In this article, we provide you with six tips for using your corporate terminology to save costs while improving the quality of your translations at the same time – in a manner that is easy and that does not depend on a confused jumble of XLS lists.
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When you establish uniform terminology, you are adding value to your entire enterprise.
Terminology in business today
Many companies put resources into terminology work. A representative survey by tekom showed that 74.2% of the participants deal with terminology or terminology management in some way. However, only 25.2% of companies that deal with terminology also make use of a translation management system (TMS).
These sobering figures help explain why companies continue to use a variety of different terms for the same product in different departments of the same organization in 85% of all cases examined.
It’s high time to face the issue head-on (once again) and find an optimal solution for the terminology of your business. The requirements are perfectly clear:
There is much to be said in favor of uniform terminology in a company. The related requirements to be met are as varied as the terminology itself.
As you can see, the motives for maintaining terminology in the company are quite diverse and also span departments. The issue is of concern not only to the production area but also to the marketing and legal departments, for example.
The fact that you are here and reading this article indicates that you are already dealing with the topic of terminology – and that’s a good thing! If you have come this far, then you are probably also aware of the importance of uniform terminology within the organization for meeting the goals of instilling corporate identity, for compliance with guidelines, and for translation work.
You are surely also aware that uniform terminology cannot be established quickly and at the push of a button. And while it is true that technologies that make this work easier for you cost money, on closer inspection you can see that it is possible to save a great deal of money if you utilize the full potential of uniform terminology.
How to make your corporate terminology efficient
1. Tip: Excel lists are obsolete
Leave your XLS lists behind and start using the right technology for the job instead, a technology that serves as the ultimate basis for efficient terminology work. At first glance, Excel lists are useful because everyone is familiar with the software and can quickly learn to use it. However, such lists are often not properly maintained, not centrally accessible to all, or not up to date – and they also make life more difficult for translators.
Translators are forced to awkwardly switch between Excel and the CAT tool in order to search for specific terms. You need to keep in mind that a workflow like this may cause the translator to search for and use a word in a certain place – but neglect to do so in another. If you do not provide a proper tool, your translations may be inconsistent, and your translator will translate the same concept in different ways again and again.
Another way of looking at the problem: If you use several terms throughout the company when referring to an identical concept, all these different terms will also need to be translated. However, if the term to be used is defined by terminology software, it only needs to be translated once. Everyone in the translation supply chain uses the existing designation in the target language in all documents.
Enormous manual effort is often used to maintain XLS lists that are not centrally accessible. Using terminology software instead allows you to create consistency and save time – and to save money as well.
You should therefore use terminology software to reduce the manual effort required. In this way you accelerate processes and save time, which then quickly pays off in reduced costs. By the way, terminology solutions are automatically included in common translation management systems.
2. Tip: Don’t expose yourself to liability and lawsuits!
Liability and ensuing lawsuits can quickly cost the company a great deal of money. You may already be aware of cases in which an incorrectly translated concept in an instruction manual led to an accident in which the company was forced to accept liability. There can also be problems and delays in delivery if customs offices find that the description of a machine does not match the export documents, for example. In addition, it is necessary to take subtleties in the target language into account. Terms and designations can have several different meanings.
For example, there have been cases in which customs could not avoid stopping the goods because the description of a component in the target language could also have been the part of a weapon. You should therefore know that when rolling out terminology software, you need to first add concepts and terms that could be relevant to liability. This is a good basis for setting priorities in your terminology project.
Setting priorities is important: When rolling out terminology software, you need to first add terms and concepts that may be relevant to liability.
3. Tip: Don’t forget your supply chain
You should also be sure to integrate your terminology software into your translation supply chain. Very few companies today have an in-house translation team. The translation work is outsourced to translation agencies or freelance translators instead. The benefit of a well-maintained terminology database is quite small if the people who ultimately need to work with it do not have access to it.
Fortunately, it is easy to integrate the terminology database into the translation management system and make it available throughout the supply chain on this basis. State-of-the-art translation management systems have an integrated terminology function, allowing you to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.
You can also restrict who can edit the terminology in the company. On this basis you can either leave the terminology work to the language service provider (after coming to an appropriate agreement) or prevent the existing terminology from being changed.
4. Tip: Transparent terminology for the whole company
Regardless of whether you still work with XLS lists or already have a terminology database in use: Who in the organization has access to it? In practice, often only the people or departments that work directly with the database have access, with sales, purchasing, HR, production and the like being left out in the cold. This then leads to frequent coordination and correction cycles since the corporate identity needs to be adhered to in publications.
One of the most frequently cited reasons for not making the terminology database available to everyone is the fear that entries will be incorrectly modified or accidentally deleted. This is especially the case in large enterprises and organizations, where it quickly becomes impossible to keep track of all the possible users.
But what many people are not aware of is that terminology software often enables users to search for words quickly – just like with a search engine. Using the search function is easy, fast and requires no training, with the entries clearly displayed and user rights eliminating the chance of anything being edited or deleted.
5. Tip: Use swarm intelligence
On the one hand, it is important that you keep terminology from being randomly changed and made worse; on the other hand, in every organization there is a great deal of “hidden” knowledge and expertise that often goes unused. For example, a specialist in terminology may rack their brain for days over the translation of a concept, but the engineer sitting three departments over would not have to think for five seconds to come up with precisely the right word.
Terminology yields the greatest benefits when it is complete and “alive,” so it is a good idea to maintain it using the knowledge of the entire enterprise.
You may now be asking yourself whether the point just made does not directly contradict the previous one – and the answer to that question would be both yes and no.
We certainly do not intend to say that everyone should be able to edit the terminology with wild abandon. However, terminology systems include suggestion features that allow all (or certain) users to propose new terms and changes. Such suggestions then trigger predefined approval processes, which may look like the following, for example:
Caption: Simplified illustration of an exemplary terminology workflow
6. Tip: Use terminology to improve machine translation
Last but not least, it is important to include machine translation (MT) in the discussion. Each company needs to decide for itself whether machine translation is to be used. However, MT is on the rise and its high quality is becoming increasingly important, with terminology playing a large and crucial role in this quality.
It is only possible to properly train a customized translation engine with a terminology database that is complete. As you would expect, the machine produces results that are only as good as what it has been taught – and this requires terminology that is as clean as possible. The quality of the output is improved in this way, which in turn leads to cost savings in the post-editing process.
Post-editors can work faster and better if both the machine translation and the correct terminology are integrated into the translation management system.
The bottom line – Terminology pays off
As you can see, terminology management is not a task that you take care of once and then never have to attend to it again. Your company’s terminology is a living entity that evolves over time and grows larger with every product you add. It is an ongoing project that your entire company can participate in, including the translation supply chain and all its constituent parts.
If you are looking for solutions to efficiently ensure the uniformity of your corporate communication, we would be happy to advise you.