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Technical writing and terminology

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Technical documentation is an important issue for terminologists and translators alike. For the latter it matters because if the source text they receive for translation is bad it makes their work problematic. In the best case it will mean that the translator has to get on the phone or e-mail to confirm with the writer.  For the customer or company this means both higher translation costs and risk! Especially when there are many translators working on the same project. This is one reason why the market for technical documentation and other language services, has been growing steeply in recent years:

−      20-30% growth each year

−      30 billion Euro turn around world wide

−      EU : 1,1 billion Euro/year on translation costs

−      Loss of markets because of monolingualism

Frieda Steurs of Lessius University College, Antwerp, is our expert on technical documentation and terminology. In her presentation this morning at TSS 2009 she gave much practical advise on content optimization measures such as:

  • Controlled language
  • Terminology standardization

Optimal procedures in technical document creation and translation include

  • Source text control
  • Terminology management (both source text and translation oriented)
  • Translation management
  • Content management
  • Critical analysis of the needs of the user
  • Workflow management

Access Presentation

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What to do when you have to create a glossary

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UPDATE!

The “glossaries” focus group reports what they did:

Essentially, we introduced ourselves to each other and as we did this, established the various frameworks in which different members of the group create different kinds of glossaries and other terminological resources.

Environments, glossary types, target groups

  • Resources designed to respond to distributed development in large enterprises; problem of communication among distributed sites;  getting clear definitions in English
  • Resources designed for the purpose of translating EU legislation based on multilingual glossaries with master en equivalents (languages: Croatian & Turkish)
  • Regulatory affairs in order to support translation activities by outsourced translators
  • Language planning in the context of the Welsh language boards; Welsh/English; issues of acceptance and term creation
  • Fachsprache= special language in business; (English and Slovenian) for use by freelance translators
  • Bilingual lexicology for special languages
  • WIPO terminology database
  • Transportation industry; dictionaries and glossaries for Latvian, Russian, English; how to make the terminologies parallel
  • Translation department glossaries for EU agencies in a wide range of domains; how to foresee problems and solutions for translators, auditors, interpreters, etc.
  • Freelance technical writer: glossaries; technical solutions
  • Technology companies where people are creating terms in industry and business
  • Technical terms, medical terms, processes to establish preferred terminological usage
  • South African experience: language planning and term introduction in languages for which many terms must be created
  • Translation unit of the eu: exercise in the combination of various different glossaries into Euroterm; problem of legacy data; problem of unification of entries
  • Communications support – total communications management for translation and document production
  • Technical translation and terminology management for enterprises, multiple languages
  • Modernization of legacy systems and importation of legacy data
  • Secretary to a commission in a minority language region; translation of legal terms & laws into a minority language that is a majority language in a neighboring country (i.e., German in Belgium, parallel)
  • WIPO – World Intellectual Property Organization; patent translation and terminology management

Problems

  • How does one transfer terminological and lexicographical information from tabular Excel glossaries into a structured terminology management system, such as MultiTerm? (Answer: xml output, manipulation and importation into the master system; more of a tools question, but nevertheless related to “glossaries”. Similar issues exist for glossaries found on the web, which may also need to edited for stylistic presentation.
  • How does one deal with copyright issues? (To be discussed on Thursday)
  • How do we come with new terms in different environments:
  • Terms used in well established languages (e.g., German terms for Italian or Belgian law)?
  • Terms or even general language words for use in languages where some areas of science, law, etc. have not been as rigorously developed in the past
  • How do we introduce and educate the general public so that terms created in such environments will be accepted for general usage?
  • Community action procedures and introduction in the school system in order to familiar children, families and interest groups in focused areas of terminology (e.g., family health, water management, childhood education, etc.), with the result that the introduction and acceptance of terminology can actually take a generation!
  • How do we deal with the fact that terms are coined in English and tend to be both very compact and short, in addition to being ambiguous with regard to noun/verb/adjective relationships, when some languages require more explicit, longer phrasal terms?
  • How do we keep people from just giving up and using the English terms?

No clear solutions here, but we commiserated with each other!

Critical insight: “Nothing is so easy as I thought it would be.”

To be continued tomorrow…