How to put the Tower of Babel in order—terminology management in a company

How to put the Tower of Babel in order—terminology management in a company

Every sectoral specialisation is a separate, often hermetic language. Moreover, each company uses internal jargon, and in large organisations with a diversified structure, differences can even be found between individual departments. When we add the necessity of working simultaneously in several languages, we get a true terminological Tower of Babel. So, how can we maintain consistent, professional and safe corporate communication?

Varying interpretations of the same terms or ambiguity of words and concepts often pose a communication challenge even in our mother tongue. If we add the necessity to translate texts into one or several foreign languages, the risk of distorting or even changing a message increases considerably.

This may not be a huge problem in fiction or working communication between employees. However, an overlooked terminological error in technical or medical documentation or in contracts may result in severe financial consequences and, in the case of medical or pharmaceutical companies, may even affect human lives. Terminological consistency is important also from a company’s image perspective—it demonstrates the professionalism of a team and good organisation.

How can we minimise the risk of terminological errors in a world of global organisations where thousands of employees use several languages? How can we avoid constant revision of content and correction of errors?

The response to this challenge is the creation and regular update of terminological dictionaries (or ‘glossaries of terms’), which can be used by both employees of individual company departments located in different countries, as well as translation agencies. Although everyone intuitively knows the benefits of such a dictionary, its creation is usually quite a challenge for an organisation. It requires the involvement of a large number of employees, adequate knowledge and proper IT tools in the creation and update processes.

Therefore, it is worth considering outsourcing this task.

The work of translation agencies is usually associated with translators arduously translating sentence by sentence. In actuality, this is one of the most technologically advanced sectors of the economy, with software that facilitates the efficient creation and systematic update of glossaries of terms and—what is equally important—makes them available for use.

What terms can be included in a term base?

  • industry vocabulary: specialist words and expressions used in a given branch of knowledge which is not part of everyday language;
  • internal terminology developed by a customer (internal jargon which does not always need to be consistent with terms that are generally accepted in an industry);
  • terminology which is specifically defined for a particular type of document (terms found in agreements or documents);
  • proper names (including  brands, products, patents, units in an organisational structure such as (departments, branches or divisions), work positions, procedures, document titles, chapter titles, interface elements, system commands and names, institutions, organisations, universities);
  • acronyms and abbreviations with their full meanings.

How does the creation process of a term base (glossary of terms) work?

Using reference materials provided by the customer, the company prepares specialist terminology. Then, translators—the best specialists in a given sector—translate it into one or several languages.

The next stage is crucial in terms of the quality of the term base: consultations with the customer. Acceptance and revision of vocabulary is a process which needs to be conducted in unison and requires the customer’s involvement. It is important to note that a properly conducted terminology management process eliminates the need to revise each subsequent translation and document containing the prepared terms. That is where terminology management shows its value and provides return on investment.

Once a base has been agreed upon with the customer and linguistically elaborated (which includes the description of terms, their synonyms or origin, sometimes also definitions of terms and specification of erroneous or non-preferred terms), it is made available to employees and translators.

Why is it worth creating a term base in a company?

The benefits of creating a term base become quickly noticeable in any company which struggles with terminological chaos in documentation or communication on a daily basis:

  • managing the risk of a terminological error in key documentation; enhancement of legal security;
  • increasing the quality of documentation prepared by the company;
  • saving employee time—no need to verify internal and external translations;
  • possibility for other subcontractors of the company to use the term base;
  • consistency of documents prepared by employees;
  • easier introduction of new employees into the company (onboarding support);
  • increased consistency of corporate communication—image-related advantage.

GET IT provides customers with terminological solutions tailored to their needs:

  • term base creation and management (update, editing, revision, upgrade, proofreading, assessment of the existing term bases, base content management);
  • terminology extraction (on the basis of bilingual materials, translations, system resources);
  • preparation of terminology for a given project.

At GET IT, we manage terminology in compliance with ISO 12616:2005 standard, and we have a full-time terminology specialist on our team.