Translation Tip of the Week: Create a Glossary

Translation Tip of the Week: Create a Glossary


In this new series, ALTA Language Services will be sharing tips, tricks, and translation best practices. These industry insights are especially helpful for companies and individuals who work with translation agencies on a regular basis, or are in the market for complex translation services.

In today’s post, we look at translation glossaries and why every global business can benefit from creating their own. A translation glossary or term base is not radically different from a bilingual dictionary: it’s a collection of frequently-used and/or industry-specific terms in the source language along with their approved translations in the target language(s). It can also include long-form definitions and any other relevant notes about usage.

It may sound like a lot of work to compile a translator term base, so why is having one worth your time? Every business has its own unique lexicon, complete with words and phrases that can have different meanings in the context of different industries. For example, even everyday words like “program” or “script” do not mean the same thing to a TV executive as they do to a software developer. The more complex the industry, the more specialized the language. The more specialized the language, the greater the likelihood that translation errors and inconsistencies will crop up over time.

How does a translation glossary help organizations mitigate these issues? Here are three key benefits:

An Effective Glossary Improves Consistency and Accuracy

Every translator brings his or her own background experience and linguistic knowledge to a project. Instead of hoping for industry-specific terms to be translated accurately and consistently by each provider, supply them with the proper language. As your business grows and evolves, keep the translation glossary up-to-date by reviewing every 6-12 months to ensure that content remains valid.

An Effective Glossary Provides Cost Savings

One of the leading causes of stalled or over-budget translation projects is the need to rework “finished” texts. Moreover, the culprit is usually faulty terminology. By providing your translation agency with the proper terms and their translations, you can help cut down on follow-up edits and their detrimental effect on your budgetary bottom line.

An Effective Glossary Saves Time in the Long-Run

This is a simple case of not reinventing the wheel. Instead of budgeting time for from-scratch translations, companies that take advantage of proprietary glossaries are able to remove some of the uncertainty around industry-specific terms. This means that each subsequent translation job can be done more efficiently.

It’s important to note, however, that the term base is a concise reference text – not an exhaustive dictionary. It does not need to include general terminology or phrases that exist in the same capacity across industries.

Stay tuned for our next translation tip!

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ALTA has been leading the language services’ industry in professional translation services for more than 30 years. We have proven experience providing language and cultural solutions to businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations worlwide. Contact us today!

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