Creating a translation glossary – why it is useful, what to include and how to get started

Why do I need a translation glossary?

Assumption: I am using a professional translator so they will automatically know the terminology our company uses, right? No, not necessarily.

The translator will have an in-depth knowledge of your industry sector and its terminology. However they will not, at least initially, have the knowledge of your company’s specific terminology and general style of writing. Creating a glossary before you start any major translation project is therefore always a worthwhile exercise, and will pay dividends in the long run.

Preparing a translation glossary – getting started

The glossary can be compiled using the text for translation, and also any pre-existing reference material. If the initial project is small, a glossary can be started and expanded over time as more material is translated in future.

Before sending out your files for translation, you might find it useful to run a “health check” on your original copy, ironing out any inconsistencies that might have crept in over the years due to rebranding or different authors. Consistent terminology will not only make things less confusing for your readership (including translators), it will also serve to add extra credibility and professionalism to your brand.

While carrying out this health check, you might be surprised at the amount of company jargon used in your sales material. Spare a thought then as to how you would like your brand to be perceived in the country you are expanding into – is there specific jargon your non-English speaking markets currently use? Are there certain terms you would like remain in English? Are there terms that need to be expanded upon and explained for a transparent translation? If so, your translation partner needs to know!

Get your markets involved

Your in-country contacts will provide invaluable feedback when creating and approving the glossaries. After all, they know their market best! Therefore, secure each country’s backing from the start (a single reviewer per language is usually best) to ensure their preferences are taken into account from the outset. This will significantly reduce the risk of any nasty surprises once the translations are complete.

To sum up, what terms should be included in a translation glossary?

Each glossary will be different, but as a rule of thumb, you can expect the following to feature:

  • Acronyms
  • Abbreviations
  • Industry-specific terminology
  • Company-specific jargon, phrases and slogans
  • Company terminology preferences
  • Any terms to be kept in English

Get these right, and you will be well on your way to a smooth translation collaboration for years to come. Happy translating!

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