Glossaries for Translators: Why You Need Them

Photo Credit: Alex Read via Unsplash

If you are a translator and you haven’t made your own translation glossaries yet, you need to create one right now. You are not just missing out; you are doing yourself a disservice. The benefits of creating and maintaining your own glossary(ies) cannot be understated, from increased productivity to better translation quality. They are essential tools for all translators that should be put to use on every single project. Need a little convincing? Below are five reasons you shouldn’t spend another minute without creating your own glossary (or glossaries!).

Glossaries are worth their weight in gold

Conservatively, let’s say your first glossary has about 100 terms in it and that you spent an average of five minutes researching each term. If your hourly rate is $50, that glossary is “worth” just over $400. Now, picture this: my personal Chinese to English glossary, which I use for every project that crosses my desk, currently has 1,258 terms. One SAP glossary that I accessed had 16,383 terms in five languages. Imagine how much a glossary like that is worth! By maintaining a glossary, you are capturing value, like a bank account whose balance never decreases.

Glossaries help you work better and faster

Now imagine how much more quickly and accurately you could work with the help of an impeccably-researched 16,000-term glossary. As we all know, time is money. If you never have to research the same term twice, you will be able to work faster, more consistently, and ensure higher quality. Translators who want to stand a chance of competing effectively in our ever more discerning market must compete on quality, not price, and glossaries are an effective way to work both better and faster.

Glossaries are not difficult to create

Actually creating the glossary is the easy part. If you use a CAT tool, it will have an integrated feature for adding terms and their equivalents. Some products, like SDL MultiTerm Extract, will identify and extract terms from a corpus of texts for you (at a cost) while tools like memoQ QTerm, as one reader pointed out, have a free integrated term extraction feature. Don’t use a CAT tool? That’s OK! A glossary can easily be made in Excel or in a free version of an Excel-type software, such as those published by OpenOffice or Google. A glossary can be made with just three columns: source language, target language, and notes, in which you can include an explanation of one or both terms, definitions, etc. If you like, you can add any number of additional columns for context, definition, where you found the term, and the date that you added the term. You can then alphabetize the column by either the source or target language column and search for specific terms as needed.

Glossary creation can be monetized

In addition to being a great resource for yourself, glossaries are a great product that you can sell to new or existing clients. Glossaries provide you with a host of benefits, and you should be able to sell your clients on those same benefits: increased accuracy, better consistency, and the creation of a valuable asset that they own and can control (with your help, of course). Want more help convincing a client to purchase terminology management services from you? Have them read my post on glossaries for translation buyers.

Glossaries evolve

Glossaries, like languages, are living things. You will never be able to take your glossary, put a bow on it, and call it done. As you, your clients, your areas of expertise, and your knowledge evolve, your glossary will undoubtedly grow, change, and improve, too. New realities will become new glossary terms. You very well may find a better term for that entry you added last week or even last year, and that’s OK (in fact, it’s great!). As time passes, it will become an increasingly valuable asset for you and for your clients.

 

Have I convinced you yet? The bottom line is that glossaries are invaluable resources for all language professionals. If you don’t have one yet, make creating one the first thing you do after you are done reading this. The effort you put in will pay you back ten times over, guaranteed.

Please consider subscribing to this blog for more content like this. If you absolutely love your glossary(ies), please like this post and tell me about it by tweeting me at @Bentranslates.

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4 thoughts on “Glossaries for Translators: Why You Need Them

  1. “If you are a translator and you haven’t made your own translation glossaries yet, you need to create one right now.” Actually, if that is the case, I would say the person is not yet a translator. Excessive reliance on the resources of others is the mark of a slavelancer or house servant, not of an independent professional.

    You are mistaken about MultiTerm. It does not include a term extraction module. SDL MultiTerm Extract is a separate tool which costs €500 more or less and has some serious issues with its rule-based root identification routines. It makes up some amazing garbage from irregular nouns and verbs in German. A better alternative would be Prof. laurence Anthony’s AntConc, which is free. Or for something more sophisticated, get a memoQ license and use the integrated term extraction module in it. Even if you prefer to translate in other tools, it’s cheaper to use memoQ for term extraction and export the results to SDL Trados Studio or something else than it is to get SDL MultiTerm Extract.

    There is no question that glossaries are an essential part of professional language work. But it is important to consider long-term maintenance strategies and to ensure that your data can be used to your best advantage in quite a number of situations. A few are hinted at here, but there is still a lot of gold to be found in that mine.

    Like

    • Kevin, thank you for your comment. Apologies for the delay replying, the comment was sent to spam and I only saw it today.
      You are right, my post was incorrect regarding MultiTerm, so I have corrected it and added what you wrote about memoQ. Thank you for that.
      In your opinion, what are some other ways language professionals can use their data to their advantage? I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

      Like

  2. Pingback: Weekly translation favorites (June 2-8)

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