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 isn’t always apparent to those who create and maintain it.

It may not be 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’re more likely to either call to ask questions or be noncompliant. 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 that have more than one possible translation or that have a unique healthcare related meaning should be included. The best entries are developed through discussion and consensus.

In general, glossary entries should include:

  • Term in English
  • Translation
  • Definition in English
  • Example(s) of usage
  • Date the term was included
  • Reference to the person who added the term

Finally, the glossary manager will need to defend the glossary. It’s 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 shouldn’t be made lightly as there will be 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.