Step 5: Manage Your Terminology
Before localization can begin, it’s incredibly important for your company to develop terminology assets that will inform translation decisions moving forward. These assets consist of previous translations that your company has approved (called a translation memory or TM) and a glossary of key branded and industry terms (often referred to as a term base). TMs and TBs can save you immeasurable time and resources when properly maintained. Of course, each of these assets comes with its own set of challenges, so you need to assign collaborators to be responsible for that maintenance.
Translation Memories (TM)
TMs often need to change during personnel or branding shifts within a company. You might have past translations that you’d like to incorporate into an upcoming localization project, but they might have been approved by a marketing manager who is no longer with the company. The new manager is looking for a totally different tone. If your translation memories aren’t being properly maintained, this manager won’t be pleased to see translators continuing to produce work in the old style. If you have an existing TM, make sure to get signoff from current staff before incorporating it into your localization process.
Term Bases (TB)
Glossaries and term bases are absolutely crucial for successful software localization. These are made up of core terms that characterize your product and your brand that need to appear consistently throughout your content. In localized versions of your product, certain terms might ensure that the product actually works for those consumers. These terms need to be very specific, well chosen, flawlessly translated, and wholeheartedly approved. Take the time now to identify those key terms in all of your content, including within your product, marketing materials, SEO, and elsewhere. Set those phrases aside in a glossary, and get them translated and approved. This way, you’ll set your translators up for success when it comes time to translate your content.
If you don’t set up a glossary before localization begins, you’re in for a whole host of problems. Most of the key terms you identify could be translated in a handful of different ways, without a clear 1:1 equivalence in each of the languages you target. Your slogan and the command terms within your app could be translated differently by each translator who works on the app or software. Those phrases could get approved at each stage in the process until they reach the final build, when an in-market reviewer will (hopefully) notice that you’ve used three different terms for the same command and send everything back to be re-done.
Most companies do their glossary work in a spreadsheet, but you can imagine how easy it would be for a time-pressed reviewer to gloss over a set of 200 terms and say everything looks “great.” As a safeguard, some localization providers offer term base technology built into a comprehensive platform for streamlined approval and automated implementation. If you’re looking for the most efficient and foolproof method for terminology management, this is it. After all, not only do you need an accessible way for stakeholders to access these terms; you also need an extremely easy way for them to update these databases to keep them relevant as your product and your brand evolve.