Making terminology work

Speech by Kara Warburton, PhD, at a Localization World conference in Thailand.

Below is part of the Powerpoint Presentation.

What is “terminology management”?

  • Terminology management includes collecting terms, defining their meaning, indicating their correct usage, translating terms, and storing this work so that it can be useful to others
  • In commercial environments the notion of “term” is purely pragmatic
  • A “term” is ANY piece of text that might help a potential consumer of the termbase

We are an LSP, a translation company, not a terminology service. We are doing OK with TM.

According to ISO , an LSP is...

A person or organisation that, beside translation services, also offers value added services such as:

  • desktop publishing
  • setup and management of terminology databases
  • content management
  • consultancy
  • localization services, etc.

87% of translators say their productivity would improve with access to terminology (Hurst)

Terminology resources raise productivity 5 to 9% in translation

A language unit can reduce costs by 10%

Terminology research is required for 4% to 6% of all words in a text (Champagne, 2004)

The scope of potential needs...

Terminology work is necessary for between 4% and 6% of all words in a text
This means every year work is being done to figure out or fix...

  • 21 million words for IBM
  • 2.2 million words for the WTO
  • 1.2 million words for the World Bank
  • 400,000 words for the average mid-sized global company

TM versus Terminology

  • Matches at the segment level
  • Is bilingual
  • Requires a CAT tool
  • Low levels of metadata
  • Typically organized in separate

client- or project-based files

  • Matches at the sub-segment level
  • Is multilingual
  • Can be accessed outside of a CAT tool
  • High levels of metadata
  • One consolidated system

Pull vs Push


  • Translators look up a term ONLY when they feel the need to
  • When they look up a term, they don't know if they will find it
  • Result: only a subset of the available terms are actually used, and the translator wastes time looking up terms that are not there
  • Example: Web site, spreadsheets, glossaries


  • Whenever a term is in the termbase AND in the text to be translated, it is automatically shown to the translator
  • Result: all available terms are used with minimal effort of the translator
  • Example: auto-lookup (automatic term recognition) in CAT tools using CAT termbase

What an LSP needs in a termbase

ANY piece of text that might help translators. This can include more than just “terms” in the conventional sense. 

Basically, ANY piece of text that meets any of the following criteria:

  • occurs frequently
  • can embed in longer TM segments
  • should NOT be translated
  • has more than one possible translation
  • has more than one possible meaning
  • has a company-specific meaning, usage, importance, or desired translation
  • has a risk-associated significance (marketing, legal, safety)

Most terms comprise more than one word

  • noun
    • smartphone
    • spoiler
    • tablet
  • noun + noun + …
    • cloud computing
    •  surround sound system
  • adjective + noun
    • fraudulent message
    • smart phone
    • forward-thinking enterprise
    •  illegal combattant
  • adjective + noun + noun
    • hybrid cloud platform
  • adjective + adjective + noun
    • exotic financial instrument
  • past participle + noun
    • limited warranty
    • federated database
  • present participle + noun
    • operating system
    • phishing attack
    • developing country
  • adjective + present participle + noun
    • global positioning system
  • verbs
    • build, deploy, leverage, tweet, text, browse, pool, benchmark, virtualize

The World Bank offers support to developing countries through policy advice, research and analysis, and technical assistance.

Our analytical work often underpins World Bank financing and helps inform developing countries’ own investments. In addition, we support capacity development in the countries we serve. 

We also sponsor, host, or participate in many conferences and forums on issues of development, often in collaboration with partners.

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Terminology database (termbase)

  • A database containing “terms” and information about them
  • Recommended if you expect to collect more than a few hundred “terms”
  • You can create one with an off-the-shelf generic database product such as MS Access or a specially-designed Terminology Management System (TMS)
  • Some popular TMS:
    • SDL: MultiTerm
    • Interverbum: TermWeb
    • Across: crossTerm
    • Kilgray: qTerm
    • MultiCorpora: termBase
    • Star: WebTerm

To see the full version please download the attached file down below. 

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