Glossary Basics for Translation Buyers

Photo Credit: Beatriz Perez Moya via Unsplash

In a previous post on the importance of good instructions, I talked about the likelihood that your company or industry has specific jargon that may seem strange to outsiders. More often than not, those working at your company have internalized the terminology that is unique to your business. How can you ensure that your translators understand these terms and are using the proper equivalents in their target language so that your internal and client-facing messages are properly conveyed? The answer is a glossary.

Glossaries are essential tools that help translators, reviewers, in-country experts, and clients themselves ensure quality throughout the translation process. When used properly, they help reduce the time needed for translation, ensure consistency across files, across vendors, and across time, and can make your translations more cost effective.

Glossaries help ensure consistency, saving time and money

Glossaries contain key terminology or unique jargon and can be translated into as many languages and shared among as many translators as you wish. The reality is that time is money, and terminology errors can take a significant amount of time to correct, if they are ever caught at all. An investment on the front end will save time, money, and headaches on the back end.

Glossaries can be created in several ways

  • Buyers themselves can create lists of terms that they want translated and entered into a glossary. This can be effective when buyers are familiar with how glossaries work and know what types of terms should be added to one. For example, Nike’s term Presto Extreme, which is a shoe model, would definitely go in a glossary, whereas the term shoe could probably be left out. However, in manufacturing, shoe can mean a device for loading material into a die and should be included in a glossary to avoid any confusion. Buyers’ term lists are often longer than they need to be and are whittled down to the essential terms when they are reviewed and translated.
  • Translators can create glossaries from scratch based on a combination of a client’s source documentation and terms that are common in an industry. For example, a financial translator can compile a list of terms from a client’s annual report and add in common financial terms that might not have been included. This is preferable if a client has never translated its collateral before.
  • Translators can create glossaries from previously translated content by extracting terms from both source documents and translated documents, reconciling any inconsistent terms, and supplementing with additional industry terms. This is the preferable method when clients have previously translated content available.

The best glossaries are collaborative

The best glossary will be the fruit of a collaboration between a buyer, a translator, and at least one in-country language expert. The buyer will validate the source terms, the translator will create the glossary, and the in-country reviewer will validate the target terms, ensuring that what the translator has chosen is what is actually being used in-country. As an example of such collaboration, at the 57th ATA conference in San Francisco, Chris Durban talked about the collaborative process of creating a glossary for one of her clients. In the end, the discussions that ensued prompted the client to change some of its original, official job titles to better reflect the realities of the industry and its employees’ roles. Talk about a team effort.

The best glossaries evolve

As your company grows, as you reach new markets, and as industry terminology evolves, so too will your glossary. Ten years ago, you might not have needed to have terms for content curation, SEO, or devops, but chances are these are realities for your business today, no matter what industry you are in. Consider working glossary management into your translation budget so that your translator can suggest and validate new terms whenever it is necessary to do so.


Terminology management is an essential service for many businesses. A qualified translator can work with you and your team to ensure that it is done properly. For tips on finding the right freelance translator for you, check out this post and please subscribe for more content like this.





4 thoughts on “Glossary Basics for Translation Buyers

  1. Pingback: Glossaries for Translators: Why You Need Them | Ben Translates

    • The majority of language professionals charge per hour for glossary creation. Contact a professional with the desired language pair and experience in your desired field for a quote.


  2. Pingback: Glossaries for Translators: Why You Need Them | The Savvy Newcomer

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