in Language Technology, Localization Tips

Zachary OverlineTerminology management is something we live and breathe at CSOFT. Last Wednesday, we held a webinar entitled “Control Your Terminology—Control Your Costs,” in which CSOFT’s Chief Terminologist (who is the former Corporate Terminologist at Medtronic and a current member of the technical committee for terminology at ISO), Uwe Muegge, discussed ten basic reasons why terminology management is not only a necessary source-level quality assurance precaution, but also how, as a best practice, managing your terms at the source will save you a considerable amount of money on localization.

In any case, at the end of the webinar, Uwe fielded some difficult questions from the audience. I thought they were interesting, so I went ahead and typed up a transcript of the questions and Uwe’s answers. Feel free to check them out below.

Question One: How much does terminology work cost?

Uwe: That’s a very good question. If you go to any forum devoted to terminology management, that’s the most common question. And it’s a question that’s difficult to answer, because it depends very much on the circumstances—on how complex your organization is and how much information you need to capture. There is not a lot of data available.

I was the terminologist at Medtronic, and we had a very complex terminology management process that involved definition writing and a whole terminology management circle. So a lot of people—a lot of highly qualified engineers—were involved in the creation of that glossary, and that made it expensive.

But there are other models where, basically, terminology work is outsourced to a vendor—a vendor like CSOFT. Models where you don’t create definitions. You know, definition writing is typically one of the hardest and most cost-intensive parts of terminology work, so if you decide to just capture source terms, target terms, the context, some linguistic information, like part of speech, and then administrative information, like product, or release—that can be done for mere dollars.

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Whereas, in the Medtronic model, you’re looking at more than $100 dollars per term, because the terminology database at Medtronic was not just a termbase—it was a knowledge base. It was used for training purposes. It had graphics, and it was a very rich and powerful tool. The company was fine with that expense.

But if you’re just starting, and you need to sell the idea of a terminology management program to your top management—well, there are studies where the development of an entry is in the range of five to fifteen dollars, so there is a wide range of possibilities and cost models.

Question Two: So how do I convince my CEO to start a terminology program?

Uwe: Well, as I mentioned in the presentation, a lot of people think, “Okay—yes, I understand terminology management is about quality assurance.” And it is. The reason why it was so easy to sell a terminology program to top management at Medtronic, a Life Sciences company, was because they understood that, for a pacemaker, for example, you can’t have any ambiguities. Especially for user interface and instructions, like patient information, in-client information, information for doctors, and so on—from a quality perspective, it was a no-brainer.

But for other companies that are not working in a regulated industry, it may be a tougher sell, because all that matters is that a terminology management program is cost-effective. Because even if you’re not so much concerned about quality (which I think you should be), it is a major productivity factor.

If you have a glossary in place, your authoring, your translations, all of these steps will be more efficient because there will be less opportunity for introducing errors. It’s much easier to create high-quality and consistent documents without having editors correct quality into those documents. Authors will do it right the first time because they have access to this resource. That means they won’t have to do research; they won’t have to ask around; there won’t be endless negotiations between multiple players because everybody has access to the same resource.

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And they use it! They use glossaries because they make their lives easier. Their productivity will go up, which means that the company will be able to release products sooner. And that’s worth something. So, even though it may be difficult to express this in absolute numbers, I think that it makes sense. Terminology work will improve productivity.

Question Three: How much time does it take to ramp-up with a terminology management program?

Uwe: Again, that is a difficult question, because it depends on what the program involves. Does it involve setting up a terminology circle? Does it involve purchasing an industry-strength, corporate terminology management system?

It can be done fairly quickly if, say, you have a terminologist—a person who is trained in terminology management. And if you’ve decided on using a system like TermWiki, for instance, that’s easy to implement, and to roll out, and the use of which does not require a lot of training.

I really like TermWiki because it has the potential (I’m sorry, I’m going to have to apologize for the sales pitch, here)—but I’m very trilled about TermWiki because it’s a major departure from older terminology management systems where you have to buy a server and install all this software, and then everybody needs to get trained, etc.

With TermWiki, the system is so intuitive, all it needs is maybe half an hour of training, and everybody—even people who don’t even have linguistic training—can use the system productively.

So it depends. If you’re using a system like that, and everybody is on board, it can be done fairly quickly. I think the hardest part of deploying a terminology management program is getting buy-in from all the stakeholders. Authors, reviewers, the marketing team—they’re typically what takes the longest in my experience.

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