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If you are in charge of getting your business documents and website translated, you may not realize the importance of having a good glossary. Glossaries should be built over time in each language that you translate your business requirements into. They are particularly important if you have a large in-house translation section or outsource your translation requirements to a large translation agency that may use several different professional translators at various times while working on your needs.
Glossaries for Their Translation Tasks
Glossaries are intended to make translation consistent. They can make a huge difference if you are doing a lot of marketing in more than one language. The basic principle of a glossary is that it is a compilation of language terms that are actually correct and are understood widely by the people who are going to read your translated material. Without a glossary, there is a tendency for more than one term to be used when a single term should be used for consistency. 

Importance of a Glossary Depends on who does your Translating

If all your translation is handled by a single translator, there is less need to develop a glossary. Assuming the translator is a fluent translator with a good working knowledge of the population for which the translated material is intended, then s/he should know which terms in the target language are the most appropriate. Cultural relevance is an important reason for having a glossary as it is easy to translate a term in English into the target language without fully understanding the locally appropriate equivalent. This is especially so for marketing and literary material that may have a lot of colloquialisms.
While you can get away without a glossary if using the same translator all the tie (the chances are that if the translator is a good one, then he/she will probably develop their own glossary anyway), it becomes imperative if you are likely to use more than one translator. Consistency, then, is the name of the game.

The Glossary Building Process

Building a worthwhile glossary takes time. The better it is, the less work that is needed to maintain it and the benefits will begin to flow in terms of better understanding at the other end of the translation process.

Here are some basic Guidelines for Developing your own Business Glossary

  1. Develop a glossary in your own business’s working language first. The glossary should establish which of several possible alternatives should be used for commonly used words and terms. This is likely to happen in English, in particular, because of the way the language has absorbed words from many different source languages. This has meant that there are often synonyms for specific words available. For consistency, your business needs to select the most appropriate synonym to be used in internal communication.
  1. Devise a style guide to go with the glossary. It is likely that your business already has a style guide for internal documentation and communication with the outside world, but if it doesn’t, this is time to devise one. The style guide basically provides rules about the choice of font, italicization, capitals, use of abbreviations and acronyms, punctuation etc. Both the style guide and the glossary are part of the attempt to provide consistent communication. This eliminates errors in comprehension and makes it easier for translators who have to work with your material.
  1. Work with your translator, in-house translation team or chosen translation agency to develop a glossary (and style guide) for each language you will be translating into. Obviously, you will be depending on the knowledge and experience of the individual translator to develop the glossary. The important thing is to make sure it is recorded and used whenever similar material needs to be translated in the future.
  1. Use translation software to store your approved glossary and style guide. Good glossaries can easily build up in size. They can then become cumbersome and unwieldy unless you can store the glossary and style guide in an easy to use a form, i.e. online. Translation software is available so that business glossaries can be accessed by translators whenever they are assigned translation tasks and help to speed up the translation process and at the same time maintain the consistency and relevancy that is the whole point of the exercise.