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Oktober 15, 2020 |

How to Create a Translation Glossary in 7 Steps

So, you’ve decided to start your translation and localization project. Congratulations! It’s a crucial milestone in your global expansion strategy. Most probably, at this point in your journey, you’ll need to put together a translation glossary to help language experts and localization engineers perform a better job. 

Here’s how you can create one that will help you complete your first translation project successfully and support your future expansion to new markets. 

Step 1. Make a List of Technical Terms

The glossary of terms brings all those not-so-common words and phrases with a specific meaning to your organization or industry together in one place. At this stage, you only need content in the original language. Usually, a translation glossary includes:

  • Technical terms that define procedures and operations 
  • Words that describe characteristics of a product
  • Names of the materials and substances used in an industry
  • Abbreviations often found in the technical documentation
  • Acronyms 
  • Words that describe specific services 

Depending on what you do and how narrow your niche, the translation glossary can include a dozen terms or several pages of words and phrases. There’s no ideal size or number of entries. 

For best results, don’t keep this activity in-house. It’s best if your language service provider steps in to help you put together the list of technical terms. Depending on the work scope, a linguist or a team can pull out those terms that you usually use in your business with a critical eye. 

They’ll go through your documentation, user manuals, and marketing materials faster and with better results than someone familiar with your jargon would do. 

Step 2. Review the List

Once the language service provider has made a list of potential terms to add to your translation glossary, you go through it and decide what stays and what isn’t relevant enough to your business.

Toss out all terms that are common words in your industry and can easily be understood by people who aren’t your employees. For instance, if you sell software, terms like dashboard or user interface don’t need to be in your translation glossary. You can add it only when your dashboard has a specific name or you came up with a new term to define it.  

Alternatively, you can add terms that linguists may have missed. It happens mostly when commonly used names have a specific meaning in your industry. Think of words like script, treatment, or device–they’re frequent words in everyday life, but they can have strict definitions in the life science industry, for example. This prevents translators from misusing terms when rewriting your content in other languages.  

As a best practice, try to keep the translation glossary brief. This way, it doesn’t overwhelm translators, and you speed up the localization process. 

When you review the list, take the time to check details like spelling or double entries. You don’t want to have the same concept described with two different words, as it will create confusion as you move forward with the translation.

Step 3. Define Terminology

Now it’s time to define every entry in your translation glossary–except for the self-explanatory terms. 

Your in-house staff should help linguists define all technical terms and explain all abbreviations and acronyms. It’s good practice to mention for each word or phrase whether it’s a noun, verb, or adjective. It’s best if you can also provide examples of how terms are used in your content.   

The context will facilitate translation and reduce the risk of errors. 

Step 4. List the Not-to-Be-Translated Words

Some companies prefer to keep specific terms in the original language across multiple markets. Usually, you do it for product names, technology names, and trademark terms to maintain a unique global brand identity. 

Ensure that words on this list have definitions and style guidelines that help translators understand how the names should be used in various communication contexts. 

Step 5. Translate Terminology

For this step, you must work with a team of professional translators who: 

  • Understand the importance of having an accurate translation glossary. 
  • Are Subject Matter Experts, meaning they have a professional background related to your industry or experience with translations in your specific niche. 
  • Know the target market, are proficient in the target language, and are preferably native speakers who also live in the same geographical area as your target audience. 

Any error or ambiguity in your glossary will be carried through to the final translation and localization project. So make sure all terms are translated correctly and accurately to avoid further misunderstandings and translation errors. That’s why working with a team of professional translators is vital for securing a successful outcome of your localization strategy. 

Step 6. Make the Glossary Accessible

After linguists proofread the glossary, you can finally share it with everyone working on your localization project. Content creators, translators, editors, they should all get access to the information in this database. 

Encourage all content creators and language experts to use the translation glossary to achieve accuracy and consistency in translation.  

Step 7. Set Rules for Any Modifications

While everyone in your organization can access the translation glossary, not all people should have the power to make changes inside it. Ensure you establish strict rules for updating and reviewing the content in your glossary to preserve its value. 

In your rules, include: 

  • Who can make changes, and who can approve them before they become permanent. 
  • The events that generate changes, such as using new tools or materials in your business processes, introducing new features, or launching new products. 
  • How modifications are communicated to users.  

That’s it. Once you’ve mapped the workflow for keeping your translation glossary updated, you’ll have a functional tool to help your translators and content creators craft better content in multiple languages.