What is a glossary, termbase or lexicon?

What is a glossary?

glossary is a collection of terms and their meanings. This definition can be further expanded to say that the collection of terms listed in a given glossary are found in or are related to a specific subject, text, or dialect. Another way to define glossary is in terms of a brief dictionary, alphabetized for quick reference.

For the purpose of translation, glossaries contain key terminology in the source language in addition to approved translations for each term in all target languages. A glossary can contain other metadata such as definitions, context, part of speech, and include an approval/review date.

There are several words, particularly in the English language, that can have multiple meanings. These words can make it extremely complex, time consuming and costly to translate from one language to the next. In the same manner, there can be several different words that could be used to describe the same thing; however, oftentimes one word is more appropriate than others. Choosing the right word becomes even more significant as a specific term for your business may mean something completely different for another business. As such, every company should develop their own business glossary for their specific functions, products, services and general business processes.

For example, let’s examine the word “site”: it can mean an area or location, such as a worksite for a construction company, a marketing firm might use the word to refer to a website, and in a military context, to “site” a cannon would mean to put it in position for operation.

When a glossary is developed, it can help ensure the right term is used for the same concept across your company. It becomes your company lingo.

How will a translator use my glossary?

A glossary of terms is your translator’s reference for proper terminology. Along with a style guide and translation memory, a translator uses a glossary as a key tool to improve the consistency of the translation and ensure that all translated materials meet your quality requirements. A defined glossary eliminates uncertainty, allowing the translator to work efficiently. Each time a defined key term appears, the translator can make sure that it is used consistently and correctly.

How will that benefit my company?

Enforces consistency: A glossary provides the basis for consistency and is especially beneficial if more than one translation resource is used on any given project, or across many projects.
Shortens time frame: This is particularly true during tight deadlines when many translators (and/or reviewers) may be working on various elements of a project simultaneously.

Reduces costs: In the end, it all comes down to savings. It is far more costly to rework materials after the fact than to establish approved translation of terms before a project begins. It also means savings in translation costs over the long term.

Your glossary should grow and evolve as your business/product/service does. A review of your established source glossary should be performed every 6-12 months, which would include translation of any new terms or re-translation of outdated terminology.

Glossary vs. Term base

You will often hear the words term base and glossary used when preparing your projects for translation, so what is the difference?

Term base is a contraction of “terminology database”; it could also be described as a database containing approved terminology (or terms). A glossary can be formatted and imported into a term base.

While both term bases and glossaries can be multilingual, a term base may be a collection of different equivalents used in translation rather than strictly an explanation of meanings as found in a glossary.

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