Q&A: What’s Included in a Glossary?

Category: Language, Translation Services

We’ve already written about the importance of a glossary and why it’s important to create one before starting any major translation effort — whether it be for technical documentation, marketing communications, web, software, eLearning, or multimedia projects. Now, let’s look at what should be included in a glossary.

What goes into a glossary?

  • Corporate/product nomenclature
  • Abbreviations and acronyms
  • Metaphors or compound noun phrases.
  • Terms that remain in English (i.e. perhaps anything with a copyright, or a product name, etc.)
  • Generally accepted “lingo”

What should a glossary look like?

A glossary can be a complex database or a simple spreadsheet. It depends on your global reach and the size of your overall globalization efforts. If you are just starting out, you may just want to use an Excel spreadsheet. Then you can work your way up to a more complex database.

The Source Term is the item in the source language, in this case, English

The Source Origin is where the terms was originally used within the project.

Source Context is exactly that — it tells the translator the context surrounding the terms. “Breakout” can mean escape, outbreak, itemization, or unexpected success. The translator will only know the intended meaning if they have the context. In this case, it’s a “breakout session.”

The Target Term gives the term in the target language.

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

Review Comment is usually provided by the in-country reviewer, who more than likely works for the business that is having the translation done by a localization agency. He/she will make sure the translator got it right; sometimes there is already an accepted term that the in-country team uses, so you need to make sure to have your in-country experts review all glossary terms. If you don’t have an in-country team, there are localization staffing services that can find the right people for you.

Yes, a glossary is a lot of up-front work. But it will make your translation project run much smoother 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!)

The end result will be more than likely be a quicker launch, less errors (meaning less last-minute changes and less unexpected costs), happy in-country teams and excellent translation quality.

Photo Credit: Glen Noble