Interview with Ioannis Saridakis

The terminological resources and databases of the Greek language translation services of the EU institutions and public organisations in Greece and Cyprus should become common resources and be harmonised so that they initially become available to all players

Mr Ioannis Saridakis is a Greek chemical engineer and, at the same time, an administrative member of the Greek Organisation of Standardisation of Terminology (ELOT). He has been actively involved in the standardisation of terminology and is currently participating in the creation of the Greek Terminology Network.

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1. We are used to people who work with terminology being linguists. Yet, you studied Chemical Engineering and you have a passion for terminology. What is terminology for a non-linguist and how important is the role it can play in a scientific field, like chemistry?

Certainly we, as Greeks, have a passion for the Greek language as the vehicle of our history and culture. But the ‘passion’ you refer to is fanned mainly by challenges and the uncertainty inherent in terminological work. Challenges, uncertainty and the ensuing human errors have the following three (3) sources:

a) the description or definition of a concept to distinguish it from related or similar meanings;

b) creating terminology and selecting the word or term, since words can have multiple meanings; and

c) the equivalence or equality of a concept and term or the extent to which the word or term selected renders the specific meaning to indicate the concept.

Terminology therefore primarily concerns the object of knowledge itself and, secondarily, language. It deals with units of knowledge, concepts, how a new concept is created on the basis of observation and the study of the characteristics of the ‘objects’ of our inner and outer worlds, its relationship with other concepts, how it is defined, the various ways of classification according to use and the needs of various users and stakeholders. Terminology provides a ‘key’ for you to approach critically the knowledge of each field of knowledge so that you can understand, challenge and / or add to knowledge. Chemistry is a terminological ‘success story’ because the establishment of a chemical nomenclature ensured a one-to-one correspondence between its ‘subjects’ and ‘concepts’ and prevented failures in communication not only within one language but also between different languages.

2. What made you decide to focus on terminology on a professional level?

Professional reasons. I work for the Greek Standards Organisation. One key aspect of standardisation is the standardisation of terminology. Its aim is to achieve unambiguous communication between inputs and recipients / users and other stakeholders of the various ‘objects of standardisation’. A failure to communicate the quality of the products and services provided by businesses/organisations ‘has a cost’ and may also have important consequences e.g. for the safety of workers/consumers/citizens, but also for sales and the continued success of an organisation. Human error is the cause of most failures and is very often due to a failure of communication. Avoiding reasonably foreseeable failures in communication is the great challenge of terminology standardisation: each concept in a given field of knowledge must correspond to a term or symbol and each term / symbol to a single concept.

3. Do you think that terminology should be taught as a separate discipline at universities, or maybe integrated in other disciplines apart from linguistics and do you consider it as an asset for young people in the labour market?

Terminology concerns all disciplines and should be taught at every institute of higher education. It is an essential tool for understanding and familiarising ourselves with a subject that lies outside the curricula of the subjects we have studied; it also provides interdisciplinary skills and makes it easier to understand the communication needs of different stakeholders. In particular, for professionals/staff members, it helps to boost their capacity to use their expert knowledge in any working environment, their capacity for teamwork with staff with different specialisations or knowledge bases and their ability to understand others, to communicate with them and to engage in effective and efficient cooperation with them.

4. In the International Network of National Linguistic Authorities, EFNIL, several countries are represented by their Standardisation Agency, equivalent to ELOT. What is the role of ELOT in language and terminology matters in Greece and on the international level?

I believe the Greek Language Centre represents Greece, but unfortunately, I don’t really know. The production of Greek terminology, e.g. by ELETO, and the standardisation of terminology by the technical standardisation committees and ELOT contribute to the enrichment and development of the Greek language and improving communication in Greek. In cooperation with European and international language networks such as EFNIL, ELOT is able to supply data and assist in the dissemination of its terminological products.

5. You are now in the process of building a Greek Terminology Network. Can you tell us how this initiative started and what the aim of this network should be?

The Greek Language and Translation Terminology Network aims to achieve agreement on, introduce and establish the use of, among translators in the EU institutions and generally translators working in Greece and Cyprus, equivalent and commonly accepted terms in Greek to designate specific concepts. Terminological harmonisation in the community of Greek language translation professionals, i.e. translators, experts, terminologists, terminology and translation project managers and managers of translations agencies will contribute to the communication of information and knowledge and facilitate the participation of all Greek language users to economic, social and political developments at national, European and international level. It will also provide the international community with widely accepted Greek terms and contribute to mutual understanding, familiarisation and exchanges of cultural experiences and economic transactions with modern Greece and Cyprus.

6. Do you agree that the standardisation of terminology is a task that should be performed in cooperation between terminologists/linguists and national field experts?

Of course, since they have the main input in terminological and translation work and they form the majority of information and knowledge communication managers.

7. Which of the available EU terminology resources could contribute to the standardisation of Greek terminology and how can they be used? Do you think that a wide collaborative space regrouping all efforts on national and EU level would permit a better cooperation and sharing of terminology?

The terminological resources and databases of the Greek language translation services of the EU institutions and public organisations in Greece and Cyprus should become common resources and be harmonised so that they initially become available to all players with the aim of gradually attaining a greater degree of harmonisation and consistency. For the choice of the preferred term for the designation of novel concepts by a given body, there should be an obligation to inform and consult with others so that the most acceptable term is selected or at least the word matching a concept in a specific communication context should be released so as to supplement the appropriate terminology databases and especially IATE e.g. with the synonymous term for a given concept.

8. Could you give us some suggestions on how Greek terminology in IATE could be improved in order to better serve its users?

a) It should become more ‘concept-centric.’ Each entry should correspond to one concept per thematic area. Each term corresponding to a given concept must be properly labelled so that synonymous terms in the same language can be seen.

b) There should be an assessment of the degree of acceptability of terms per concept with a ranking of ‘preferred’, ‘acceptable’ or ‘inappropriate’ terms. For acceptable terms, information should be provided on a possible framework for use e.g. geographical (Cyprus or Greece) or a specific legislative framework and communication framework e.g. institutional documents or professional environment.

c) For Greek terminology in particular, the shortage of Greek-language equivalents for concepts should be tackled. There are some concepts in IATE that are designated by English or other terms, but no equivalent Greek terms are mentioned.

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Ioanna Kotsia

Born in 1987, Ioanna comes from Greece with a great interest in languages, translation and terminology. She has a bachelor´s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Athens. The MSc in Scientific, Technical and Medical Translation with Translation Technology at University College London (UCL) was a door to the world of Terminology, mainly with her thesis. She has lately worked as a Project Manager in Translation Company. She had a three month traineeship in the unit of Development of Applications and IT Systems (DAS) at the European Parliament, and now she is exploring even more the world of terminology at TermCoord.

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