What is a Translation Term Base and Do You Need One?

If you’re looking for ways to improve your translation team’s workflow, to have more consistent results, and to boost the overall quality of a translation project, you may find that a translation term base is a valuable tool to add to your toolkit.

Keep reading to learn about what a term base is and what the benefits of using one are. 

What is a translation term base?

A translation term base is a tool used to house industry, company, and product related terms that a translation team needs to be aware of. A term base acts as a central hub for this detailed information and it can evolve over time as you add new terms. You may choose to start with a monolingual term base and evolve it to a multilingual term base over time. 

A translation term base may include:

  • Source terms or phrases
  • Approved translations
  • Contextual information
  • Definitions of terms
  • Usage notes
  • Parts of speech
  • Grammar
  • Terms that should remain in the source language (such as a brand name)

The key benefits of a translation term base

There are many benefits associated with having a well maintained translation term base, such as:

  • Saving time and confusion. Because a translation term base serves as a terminology guide for a translation team, when there is ambiguity surrounding what term to use, they can quickly reference the term base to save time and to make sure they use the correct term. This is especially helpful when working across multiple departments or with freelance translators. A solid term base helps cut down on research time, which improves workflow. 
  • Improving accuracy, quality, and consistency. Language can be subjective. The use of a term base can nail down the correct words or phrases to use so that the current spelling and terminology is used across all translated materials, which improves the quality of the text.

How it differs from a translation glossary

It’s easy to confuse a translation term base with a translation glossary, but these are two different resources. A translation term base integrates with CAT tools, whereas a translation glossary is usually just a spreadsheet. A translation glossary is a great place to start, but a translation term base is a much more effective tool to use during translation projects. 

Managing and maintaining a translation term base

A translation term base is only a helpful tool if it’s maintained properly. Working with an outdated translation term base can cause easily avoidable mistakes. Term base management involves combining terminology work and database administrative tasks to support the collection, description, processing, presentation, and distribution of information about the terms and any linguistic units used in an organization. 

To properly manage and maintain a good translation term base, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Avoid repetition. You will only want each term to appear in the termbase once, unless a term has more than one meaning. In which case the secondary meaning and approved translation appears in the same entry. You want your term base to be easy to navigate and to cut down on confusion.
  • Keep it tight. You should only include terms in your term base that require definition, you don’t want to include unnecessary terms that aren’t used or that don’t require explanation. Large term bases can be difficult to use and maintain.
  • Review the terms. It’s important to confirm that changes or additions to a termbase are checked and reviewed by a native-speaking subject-matter expert.
  • Update it regularly. Your translation term base should grow and change over time as the company releases products, new technologies emerge, and languages change. You’ll want to add new terms to the translation term base and remove any unnecessary ones from time to time. 
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