What goes into a translation glossary

By Acclaro
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What Goes Into a Translation Glossary

We’ve already written about the importance of a glossary and why you should create one before starting any major translation effort — from technical documentation, marketing communications and websites to software, eLearning and multimedia initiatives. Now, let’s look at what should be included in a glossary.

What to include in a glossary?

A glossary includes details that are critical for completing consistent translations across languages, including:

  • Corporate and product nomenclature
  • Abbreviations and acronyms
  • Metaphors or compound noun phrases
  • Terms that should not be translated, like product names or anything with a copyright
  • Generally accepted “lingo”

What should a glossary look like? 

A glossary can be a complex database or a simple spreadsheet depending on your global reach and overall globalization efforts. If you are just starting out, a spreadsheet often does the job just fine. Then, as you expand your localization efforts, you can work your way up to a more complex database.

No matter what form your translation glossary takes, all glossaries need to have the same basic information. Let’s take a look at some key items to include in a translation glossary.

The Source term is a word in the source language. It can be any word or part of speech that needs to be translated from one language into another.

The Source origin is where the term was originally used within your content. This could be information supplied by the client or other experts to clarify the origin of the source.

Source context tells the translator the context surrounding a term. For example, the word “breakout” can mean escape, outbreak, unexpected success or smaller groups breaking away from a larger one. A “breakout movie” is very different from a “breakout session,” and the translator will only know the intended meaning if they have the context.

The Target term gives the term in the target language. A glossary may include the word “add” as the source term. In a translation from English to Spanish, the glossary would have “agregar” as the target term.

Notes for both the source and target languages are also handy for translators. The source language notes could point out specific words or terms that should not be translated (like the company name), while the target language notes might offer alternate meanings or different translations.

The Validator is usually the translator and/or editor. This person makes sure the target term is correct in the context provided.

Review comment is usually provided by the in-country reviewer, who likely works for the business that is having the translation done by a localization agency. It’s important to have your in-country experts review all glossary terms, because there may be accepted terms the in-country team uses. The reviewer will know these and will make sure the translator got it right. If you don’t have an in-country team, localization staffing services can find the right people for you.

Do I really need a glossary and a style guide?

It may seem like a lot of work to create both a glossary and a style guide, but they act as important complements to one another. While a glossary provides translation terms, a style guide gives valuable direction on how to use them appropriately to maintain your brand’s standards. Together, they provide consistency, which is a critical component to successful, high-quality translations.

Is a glossary really worth it?

Yes, a glossary is a lot of upfront work, but it will make your translation effort run much more smoothly in the long run. Remember, you need a glossary for the following reasons:

  • As a guide for the translation team
  • To receive buy-in from in-country reviewers
  • To ensure consistency of terms
  • To reduce errors
  • As a knowledge asset (use it again and again!)

In the end, you’ll set yourself up for a quicker launch, fewer errors (reducing last-minute changes and unexpected costs), happy in-country teams and excellent translation quality.

Ready to create your glossary? Have questions about how to maintain it? Contact us today to work with our experienced team and set up your translations for success.

Photo Credit: Glen Noble

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