Achieving Consistency: Using Glossaries Effectively

Very few translation clients use glossaries effectively. Why? It’s hard work to create and maintain a glossary and the value is not always apparent to those who create and maintain it.

It may not easy to manage glossaries but the benefits certainly exceed the costs. One of the key benefits, especially when working with low literacy populations, is consistency. By using terms consistently, readers are less likely to be confused by unfamiliar words. Confused clients cost more to service as they are more likely to either call to ask questions or be non-compliant. Glossaries can reduce the time it takes to translate materials and reduce overall translation costs as well.

To effectively manage a glossary, there needs to be a glossary manager in charge; Someone who has the responsibility for and ultimate authority over the content of the glossary. This authority will probably be challenged on a regular basis so the glossary manager will need to be prepared. It’s best if this person is a linguist but having access to strong linguists can work as well.

The first step to create the glossary will be finding qualified linguistic resources for developing entries. Having well qualified internal resources or relying on your language company are both good solutions.

As translation projects are developed, identify terms to be included before the translation process begins. Terms which have more than one possible translation or which have a unique healthcare related meaning should be included. The best entries are developed through discussion and consensus.

In general, glossary entries should include:

  • the term in English,
  • the translation,
  • the definition in English
  • example(s) of usage
  • the date the term was included
  • a reference to the person who added the term.

Finally, the glossary manager will need to defend the glossary. It is not uncommon for new translators or reviewers to suggest that an existing entry is ‘incorrect’. Often, these corrections are nothing more than preferences. These suggestions should be taken seriously but changes should not be made lightly as there will be an existing translations using the established terms.

As you work to develop your glossary, give us a call if you have questions. We think you’ll realize that by working with MAGNUS, you can’t get closer to healthcare.