According to the Oxford Dictionary, “terminology” refers to the body of terms used with a particular technical application in a subject of study, profession, etc. It refers to the words used in a specific field (legal, medical, technical, etc.). These terms can be collected in glossaries and termbases, for example. Entries can contain additional information such as definitions, notes, usage examples, images, grammatical information (part of speech, gender, number), usage information such as preferred, forbidden and deprecated terms, synonyms, geographical preference, etc.
Why is terminology important?
Today, a large proportion of documents is written in specialised language, a big part of which involves terminology. Undoubtedly, terminology helps us to fully understand specific topics. Well-defined terminology can help people across various industries communicate more efficiently. Good terminology work reduces ambiguity and increases clarity, which makes it an important factor in quality.
The communication of specialised knowledge and information, whether monolingual or multilingual, is linked to the development and dissemination of terminological resources and to terminology management. Terminology management is obviously an essential part of the translation and localisation process. Translators, for example, use terminology to make their translations more precise and consistent.
But terminology is also relevant for the different departments within a company, for example marketing, finance, production, legal, etc. It is crucial that the people working in the different departments can communicate with each other easily and without misunderstandings so that the company can operate successfully. Consistent and up-to-date terminology enhances communication and, therefore, improves efficiency and helps avoid cultural and/or linguistic misunderstandings. For example, it does not make sense if each department refers to the same object or concept by a different name. This efficiency goal can only be achieved if the terminology used within a company is consistent and understandable for everyone, both for the company’s employees and for customers. This is why companies should be encouraged to invest in terminology.
Translating is never simply converting a text from one language to another. Rather, it involves a deeper level of understanding of how people from various cultures interpret the words differently, how technological advances result in new terminology, and specialised terms that may be specific to certain fields.
When you need high-quality translation services, it is best to find a linguist with experience in your industry, as every industry uses specialised terminology. Translators need to have a profound understanding of the specific field of the text and know where to find and how to use specific terminological resources.
Terminology work primarily seeks to achieve consistency, clarity, understandable and user-friendly content, and includes issues like British or US English usage, forbidden terms, official terms, etc. Consistent use of organisation-specific terms means that people cannot make up their own terms; otherwise, users can be confused.
Unmanaged terminology can have serious consequences, including delays, inconsistent language/documentation, misunderstandings, high risk of translation errors, poor usability, bad image, customer dissatisfaction, more customer support calls, content multiplication, and even legal issues. Lack of terminological consistency means that translations cannot be reused, and they will require more time and resources, leading to higher costs.
Benefits of terminology management
- Ensure accuracy and consistency – When your terminology is clearly defined, you create approved terms that should be used universally across your organisation. With defined terminology, you mitigate the risk that the terms used for a product or service have different translations or that the wrong terms are used. Using the approved terminology will ensure that the content is standardised and consistently written, the terms are correctly used and accurately translated, and the documentation is consistent in all languages. All of this will increase the quality of your texts.
- Reduce costs and save time – A terminology guide makes clear which terms to use and which to avoid. As a consequence, the editing and reviewing process is faster, as there will be fewer corrections and clarifications, and the quality assessments will be shorter, saving time and money. The same holds true for the translation and localisation process. A translation team should only use the approved translations for the corresponding source terms, which increases efficiency as it reduces the time needed to research technical terms and results in lower costs if the terms are already stored in a termbase or a translation memory and can be leveraged. Additionally, it will decrease the time and effort for editing and proofreading the translations as the terms should remain the same throughout the documents. Terminology management also helps to avoid external costs as it contributes to ensuring the compliance of your products, having clear technical documentation conforming to the regulations, improving legal certainty (e.g. relating to product liability), avoiding costs associated with regulatory and trademark issues, as well as reducing internal costs as there will be fewer misunderstandings, help desk costs, etc.
- Create a clear brand voice – Clearly defined terminology can also help to promote brand and corporate identity, and it can help your team members and customers understand the brand’s voice. It is crucial that an organisation has a clear voice for its brand. Well-defined terminology offers potential for competitive advantages thanks to specific company language, in contrast to that of the competition, which can result in more revenue due to information quality, image, branding, SEO, findability, global recognition, etc.
- Promote knowledge transfer and improve customer satisfaction – Clear terminology promotes effective knowledge transfer and sharing within the company, facilitates the creation of user-friendly documentation for customers, optimises the usability of your products, and increases customer satisfaction because the information is clear, which in turn reduces the number of support calls and customer complaints.
The results of terminology work
According to the 2017 TermNet survey on terminology, the biggest challenges in terminology management in organisations are lack of resources and lack of awareness of its importance. However, if you invest in terminology management, you will have clearly defined concepts with prescribed terms in all languages, you will improve compliance with standards and legal requirements, and your terminology will be centrally-managed, up-to-date, comprehensive, used across departments and products, and available throughout and beyond the organisation as necessary.
Terminology is a basic building block for quality. It plays a crucial role in the translation and localisation process. Once you have your terminology defined, it will help you create a more accurate and consistent localised version of your product or documentation. Well-designed terminology can reduce costs and shorten the time spent not only on communication within the different departments, but also the time spent on translation and quality assurance, because the translator does not have to spend a long time researching technical terms. The translation costs will also be reduced, since the existing terminology can be used for subsequent jobs as well. Terminology management can also promote a more unified company brand, improve customer satisfaction and attract more customers. Do you already invest in terminology management? Do you have a strategy for terminology management in place?
Image source: Pisit Heng | Unsplash