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Optimizing Project Glossaries

Creating and maintaining a glossary for a specific client is a best practice in the translation industry. A glossary contains a client’s terminology, making it easier to access reviewed or approved translations for specific terms and ensure consistency across this client’s projects. There are, however, a few common pitfalls that can make glossaries difficult to use or even misleading. This post provides a few suggestions about how you can avoid such pitfalls to get the most out of your glossaries.

Challenge 1: Many glossaries are created before the actual translation starts, by extracting and translating a list of frequent terms. This supposedly helps translators to access translations of those terms easily and avoid discrepancy in the project. While the idea of creating a glossary upfront is undoubtedly reasonable, its actual implementation can be far from perfect. The terms in such list are translated out of context, which inevitably results in a significant percentage of too general translations or even mistranslations. The resulting glossary becomes misleading and can either cause errors in future translations or, in case of a client-approved glossary, create delays in a project schedule because translators will need to compile a list of suggested corrections and wait for a client to approve them.

Solution: I recommend creating a glossary in the course of the project, so that it contains correct translations based on understanding of the context rather than upfront guessing.

Challenge 2: Glossaries tend to contain words that are completely irrelevant to their purpose. These can be verbs, country names, general nouns, etc. Instead of helping translators, they’re downright confusing. Each time a general verb or noun requires a translation different from the one in a glossary (and this happens extremely often!), a translator becomes confused, wondering whether it’s okay to use a better translation instead of the one in a glossary that makes little sense in the current context. The more irrelevant words a glossary contains, the less helpful it is.

Solution: It’s best to have a glossary that is focused on actual terms specific to this end client and avoid general words.

Challenge 3: It’s not uncommon for translators to think of a glossary as an “ultimate authoritative source” and comply with it blindly, irregardless of what common sense might be telling them. For instance, a translator may intentionally use a glossary translation, even if it doesn’t fit the current context or is obviously incorrect. Or an editor who spots a different translation may rush to overwrite it without realizing that the translator chose to use a different translation for a reason. Also, the same way of thinking may prevent an end client from allowing changes to the glossary.

Solution: It pays to be flexible about a glossary. A glossary isn’t always an “ultimate authoritative source.” We’ve been maintaining and meticulously improving some of our English to Russian translation glossaries for years, and we still don’t expect them to fit all contexts! All texts are unique and create so many different contexts that having all imaginable translations in a single glossary is really impossible and impractical.

To benefit from the quality boost that results from using glossaries, engage us for your English to Russian translation needs.

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About the Author

Roman Mironov
Roman Mironov
CEO & Founder

As the founder of Velior, Roman has had the privilege of being able to turn his passion for languages into a business. He has over 15 years of experience in the translation industry. Roman has helped dozens of clients increase sales by making their products appealing for speakers of other languages.