What is a translation glossary / termbase / terminology database?

Words can be translated in many different ways depending on the context in which they appear. One way to help increase accuracy of translation and consistency of terminology is to develop a translation glossary. It is common to refer to this translation glossary as a term base or a terminology database in the language services industry.

A translation glossary is a list of the terms and phrases that are specific to your industry or a company and their respective translations. A typical glossary file would contain the source text (English for example), an explanation of the term and an approved translation.

Translation Glossary

Why does one need a translation glossary?

The basic point is that the glossary helps translators to translate terms correctly, and it helps to protect your brand. Inconsistent and inaccurate translations not only harm your product, but can delay time to market it if the translated text needs re-working.

What should be included in a translation glossary?

  • Product/service names
  • Brand terminology
  • Acronyms
  • Standard abbreviations
  • Corporate slogans
  • Text that is included on graphics (i.e user interface buttons)
  • Terms that you prefer to leave in English
  • Terms that are commonly used in your content
  • Industry specific terminology
  • Company specific jargon

How is the accuracy of a translation glossary or terminology database ensured?

In case of client/translation vendor relation, after the translation vendor identifies and translates the terms, it is crucial that the translations are reviewed by a company resource in the target region. This is the only way to ensure that the brands and established translations are applied over the board. If you are developing the glossary internally for your own company, it is always a good idea to run it by at least a couple resources to avoid possible typos or other common translation errors.

Things to keep in mind

  • Make sure that every new addition to the terminology glossary is approved by an in-country reviewer.
  • Create your glossary in an Excel spreadsheet. It will be easier to filter the data and import it to CAT (translation) tools.
  • Try not to send a glossary to your linguists file via email, but instead have it stored in a central system where it can be easily accessible by the members of your team (i.e a searchable web form). Having it centralized makes the updates and maintenance of the glossary easier.
  • Take the language variance under consideration. For example, Spanish entries from Spain will most likely be different than Spanish entries from Argentina.


You may also be interested in How to create a termbase in GlobalSight?