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What is a Translation Glossary

What is a Translation Glossary?

Posted by Anne Quach on Nov 2020.

A translation glossary is a key element that helps you boost the translation process by reducing turn-around time while improving the quality of your translation projects. With undeniable benefits, creating a glossary before a translation project starts is of great importance.

As the creation process might take quite some time and effort, some companies decide to skip this crucial step. In today’s post, we will discuss the concept of a translation glossary and how to create one for your company. What’s more, at the end of the post, we give you a free sample of a translation glossary.

What is a Translation Glossary?

A translation glossary is a list of standardized key terminology that appeared in documents that need translating. It may also contain your company approved translations for those terms or their definitions.

In general, the format of a translation glossary includes 3 elements:

(1) Terms in the source language (Required)

(2) Terms’ definition (Required)

(3) Approved translations of the terms (Optional)

Sometimes, people use the term Translation Glossary and Translation Termbase interchangeably. However, there is a key difference between them. In a termbase file, the most crucial element is the approved translations of the terms. In contrast, in a glossary, this element might or might not be present while the terms’ definition is indispensable.

A Translation Glossary:

Term  Definition (Required) Translation (Optional)
24 hours a day Every hour of the day; All-day 24 horas al día


A Termbase:

Term Translation (Required)
24 hours a day 24 horas al día


4 benefits of having a translation glossary

Translation glossaries have become a crucial element in the translation process, especially when you need to translate complex technical documents. Below are some of the most notable benefits of having a glossary:

      • Keep translations consistent – A term can have numerous different translations in a target language. With the approved translations in the glossary, you can rest assured that the term will be translated accurately and consistently throughout the whole documents. It is even more helpful if the project is handled by more than one translator, making sure that all translators are on the same page regarding the preferred translations of terms.
      • Reduce translation time – A good glossary allows translators to avoid ambiguity. Instead of spending hours sending back and forth emails to ask clients for an explanation for a specific term, translators can read the definition given in the glossary and speed up the translation process significantly.
      • Reduce translation costs – Some terms appear frequently in your documents. Translating them manually every time they appear will increase your translation cost considerably as the cost depends on the number of words translated. Luckily, if your glossary integrates well with the translation memory of CAT Tools, you do not have to pay full price for duplicate terms. Needless to say, your translation will be much cheaper.
      • Harmonize your brand identity – A translation glossary can be considered as a bespoke dictionary for the translators to make sure translators follow your company’s guidelines and tone of voice. Consistent voice means that your target audiences can identify your messages and brand images in different languages.


What to include in your translation glossary?

(1) Your key terms

As mentioned above, a translation glossary is a list of keywords and phrases that are important in your documents. Thus, listing all key terms is at the heart of your glossary creation. Before diving into what types of words and phrases should be added to the glossary, it is worth noting that the terms listed should be written in the same language as your documents’ source language. For example, if you want to translate a Spanish document into Chinese, the terms and definitions should be in Spanish.

Your glossary should include the following types of words and phrases:

      • Brand-specific terms – People names, products and services’ names, corporate slogans, company-specific jargon, etc.
      • Industry-specific terms – Terms that you want to have distinctive translations for instead of the widely-used translations by other companies or the public.
      • Audience-specific terms – Terms that your audiences are likely to use and understand. Using these terms will help your company’s documents be more relevant to your target audiences or markets.
      • KeywordsKeywords that your target customers use to search for information on search engines are a key part to guarantee your online presence in a foreign market.
      • Not-translated terms – There are certain words and phrases that you want to leave untouched during the translation process. You should include such information in the glossary, especially when your products/services contains highly technical terms in fields like IT, software, and medical.

(2) Definition & Explanation

Once you have collected all key terms, you will need to explain them carefully and thoroughly to translators. To help the translator understand the terms and use them correctly, your explanations should be able to answer some of the following questions:

      • Which part of speech is the term? Is it a noun, adjective, or verb?
      • What does the word mean in the source language?
      • How is the word used in the specific context of your documents?

(3) Preferred translations of terms

This element is optional for a translation glossary. If you decide to have it, then it is worth investing time and effort in choosing the most suitable and accurate translation for each term. Because these translations will be used by translators throughout the whole project, and maybe some projects in the future. Undoubtedly, your preparation will have a direct effect on the consistency of the materials.

Your company can prepare the preferred translations yourself or you can ask your translation partners to do the task. The translations will be used once your company check and approve with them.


Who should involve in creating the translation glossary?

The creation of a glossary should have the involvement of both your company’s internal employees and external human resources. We recommend you have a team consisting of employees of 3 positions below:

      • Internal linguists who have insights and experience in the linguistic elements of your company’s documents. They will provide help in explaining the terms accurately and give preferred translations that match your brand voice.
      • Internal specialists who understand the terms used by your company or use them on a regular basis. For example, if you create a glossary for a medical device, it is highly recommended that you ask the medical engineers who are in charge of the device to contribute to the creation of the glossary. This guarantee the best accuracy for term uses in the documents.
      • Linguists from your translation partners – After creating the glossary, you should share it with the translators you are collaborating with. With long experience in the localization industry, they can give you some valuable input that will improve the quality of the glossary.

Download a translation glossary sample


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With years of experience in the localization industry, GTE Localize understands the importance of a translation glossary. Our linguists always read the glossary carefully before working on a translation project to guarantee the best quality for your documents. Contact us for a free consultancy for your upcoming translation projects.