Why different terminology doesn’t mean incorrect terminology

We recently handled a translation project for a client involving some rules and regulations for an international event. The client reviewed the document and the feedback was generally positive but the client pointed out some mistakes in terminology that needed to be corrected.

I know it is a matter of semantics but I think in the interest of forming a strong relationship with your language service provider it is important to determine what is a mistake and what is a difference in opinion in terminology. In this case, the client preferred three different terms that occurred frequently in the document. The terms we chose were completely fine, in fact during our research we found our terms to be more widely used. In this case, the client chose legacy terminology that was in use for years internally and with customers. That makes sense…..we have no problem with that logic. Previous usage and consistency with legacy documents are important factors in determining the appropriate terminology for a client.

I thought it might make sense to point out three strategies you can use to improve terminology handling between a language service provider and a client.

1. Establish a glossary on any large project or new important initiative

We use a tool that grabs the repetitive terms in a document. We look for that repetition to determine the important terms in the project. We also ask the client if they have an already established glossary of terms. It is ok if the list is only in English at this point. We then take that list, translate it and receive approval from the client’s subject matter expert on the translated terms. If you can agree on a set of key terminology that should reduce markups in the review phase.

If you do not have access to a subject matter expert who can review the translations, that is OK, this effort will still help keep the translations consistent and the list will still be a valuable resource going forward.

2. Use tools like Google search to determine how common a term is in usage

A little known tool during translation is the ability to determine common usage of a term by using Google Search. As you know, Google is the leading librarian of the internet! Whenever you do a search using Google, you immediately see how many instances of the term occur. Feel free to use the tool to compare terms and determine which one is more widely used. The client might pick the less popular term but at least you will have some data on common usage. That will prove helpful.

3. Commit whatever comes out of the first two steps to a termbase

After you work your way through a terminology review make sure and commit the terminology to the termbase tool you use for translation management. This will allow consistent usage of the terminology whenever the terms come up in subsequent translation projects.