A glossary can be defined as a compilation of specialised terms and, at least, their translations in a target language. It can also include definitions and images, depending on the needs of a project and client. Actually, a glossary can be as complete as we want, even though adding just two or three fields is often enough. According to Bowker and Pearson, “a glossary is essentially a list of terms in one or more languages”. A glossary usually comprehends only one subject, one specialisation. However, in translation we often find ourselves creating glossaries per client, per series, per saga, per product, and so on.

Hard work pays off

Based on the kind of project, the ideal scenario would be to create the glossary before starting, even before writing the source materials, to ensure homogeneity from the beginning. Unfortunately, many clients and content creators are unaware of the huge benefits of this step, so it’s often the translator who, on their own initiative, decides to create the glossary. Moreover, due to deadlines, most professionals are forced to do so during or even after translating the texts, even though this course of action may not be the most recommended. Creating a glossary means effort, thus some people do not think about it as an essential step in their translation process. However, once you know the importance of this resource, you know that it actually saves you time and work.

Gloss it before

If we elaborate the glossary as the first step of the project, not only do we ensure the homogeneity of the texts, but we also achieve increased efficiency and speed in the translation process – subsequently, we need to invest less time in terminology investigation and research. In addition, we will have a constant reference to make sure that we respect the adequacy of the translation to the context, tone of voice, and nature of the project from the beginning. We will also easily add precision and avoid ambiguities. These are just some of the benefits we will continue showing you in upcoming articles.

Which terms should I include?

If you don’t work with highly-specialised texts, or if you graduated recently, you may be wondering if you really need to use a glossary. And if you do, what kind of words should you include? Let’s take a look at some inclusion criteria you could bear in mind:

  • Frequency of occurrence: simple but recurring terms are good candidates. Sooner or later we will have to check how we translated that word that is repeated in every episode of the series we’re subtitling.

  • Terms whose usage is not their most common one: those acquiring a special meaning in our texts, interpretations, or audio-visual products.

  • Terms preferred against their synonyms: client’s preferences, words that differentiate us from competitors.

  • Complex terms that may lead to doubts: technical terms. Surely the translators of series such as How to Get Away with Murder into foreign languages appreciate having high-quality glossaries in hand.

  • Intertextual elements: if we are translating a series, movie, or videogame inspired by a book, for instance, we must certainly respect their intertextuality.

And what about fields?

Now that you know which terms you want to include in your glossary, you may be wondering which fields you should add. As we mentioned above, our resource can be as complete as we wish, but you surely can’t omit some fields such as the following:

  • Source term: this is obvious, but we had to include it in the list.

  • Translation: equivalence in target language (or languages, depending on the case).

  • Description: any key information to the concept. For instance, in the event of characters, their pronouns and address (formal or informal) between them – oh, the hassles we could’ve avoided if only we always had this information, right?

  • Image: although this field is not a must, it is definitely useful for the translation of certain games, for instance, when talking about specific tools or creatures. This is of course very convenient in highly-specialised translations, such as texts about plane motor pieces, to name one example.

  • Forbidden terms: quite helpful to collect and avoid using words that the client explicitly instructs us not to use – they may be used by competitors, or merely preferential.

We’d love to know your opinion and how you use your glossaries: Do you use them in your projects? If so, do you create them before, during, or after translating? Why? Which fields are a must for you? Tell us about which kind of translations you usually perform and your experience with this resource. Each translation entitles an entire different world, and this tool is exactly what you need thanks to its versatility and multiplicity of usage. Share your comments with us!

And don’t forget to follow us on our social media! You can find us as @GlossItOnline on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.