23 March 2009

Low-cost terminology management

Every translator, technical writer, international organization or global company sooner or later has a need for efficient terminology management. The use of the wrong term in the wrong place may cause anything from a small nuisance or misunderstanding to multi-million dollar lawsuits, diplomatic incidents, or serious - if not fatal - accidents.

Professional terminology management systems are expensive, but the first step towards an efficient solution is collecting the content. This doesn't necessarily require high tech applications. Common office tools like Microsoft Excel or its free open source equivalent Calc, part of the OpenOffice.org suite, are perfect for the job.

I've recently created a sample spreadsheet termbase in Google Docs. It's free and it's web-based, so it allows me to easily share my dictionary. Moreover, this is a perfect input file for a conversion to SDL MultiTerm.

Although spreadsheets are primarily intended for numbers, formulas, charts and financial data, they include a few features that can be very convenient for glossaries: you can easily move columns around, insert new columns or hide existing ones, sort your data alphabetically, export the content into tab-delimited exchange files etc.

In spreadsheet format, you just need to respect the basic principles of database design. One such principle is that each column represents a field (English, French, Definition, Gender, ...), and each row represents a concept.

Furthermore, it is not a good idea to mix different types of information within the same field. If you do enter for instance both a term and its gender in the same field, it will be impossible to easily retrieve the term without the extra information. This is a critical issue once you want to migrate your data to a more sophisticated termbase solution.

As your termbase grows, you will at some point have a need for more power and flexibility. Once you require advanced search and filtering functions, integration in translation memory tools, collaborative workflows and dynamic publishing solutions, professional terminology management systems like MultiTerm are the next step forward.

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Len said...

This was a very useful post - I'm so glad I found this blog.

Here's more info on terminology management to add to this:


In short, the author makes the case for TM by saying:

"As multiple authors typically contribute to...communications, terminology management is the most efficient solution for ensuring that the organization speaks with one voice."

Gerrit said...

Thanks for that link, Len. It's a great article for people who want to go more in-depth.