Interview with Prof. Dr. Georgeta Ciobanu

Terminology is a tool of accessing knowledge – in a clever way – in any subject field

Georgeta Ciobanu

Georgeta Ciobanu is Full Professor of Terminology and Translations in the Department of Communication and Foreign Languages at the “Politehnica” University of Timisoara in Romania. She holds a Ph. D. in Linguistics from the University of Bucharest. She attended advanced trainings in terminology and terminography, in teaching language for special purposes and teachers’ training.

She is herself a terminology trainer of the ECQA Certified Terminology Manager training and has been a teacher trainer for the British Council.

In the international scene she has been collaborating with the Latin Union in Paris, the National Center for Terminology Chișinău, the Institute of Applied Linguistics at the University Pompeu Fabra Barcelona, TermNet Vienna and the Terminology Standardisation Directorate of the Public Works and Government Services Canada. She is a member of the Panlatin Terminology Network (Realiter) and of the European Association for Terminology (EAFT). She has published over 25 books, monographs and courses and over 140 scientific articles. She is the co-author of the Romanian-English-Romanian Dictionary on construction installations and coordinator of an electronic glossary on telecommunication.

She is also interested in the methodology of communicative teaching, communication and PR, quality assurance in higher education and auditor training for translation services.

1. Matilda Soare: You are also a certified translator and interpreter. How did terminology become the focus of your scientific and academic activity?

Georgeta Ciobanu: After years of teaching English for special purposes and lots of translations in various subject fields I was offered the chance to study terminology in Brussels. I didn’t know exactly what to expect – it seemed to be difficult and challenging. Discovering the secrets of terminology I realised that terminology know-how was a powerful tool, useful to open (in a smart way) “the doors” of any sophisticated subject field, to overcome the handicap of approaching and even understanding specialism knowledge without being the expert of a certain domain . Afterwards, the rest was a natural follow-up: teaching terminology, elaborating terminological products, research, publications, becoming a terminology trainer. First there was the need to clarify the terminology of terminology in Romanian, prepare the first terminology course taught in Romania, write the first terminology book, etc. Each step was pioneering work. I got the terminology virus – no wonder terminology gained priority in my academic activity. Everything has been more difficult and challenging than expected initially, but worth every effort.

2. Matilda Soare: You teach terminology in the Department of Communication and Foreign Languages of the Polytechnic University in Timisoara. Can you tell us a few things about the training given to your students?

Georgeta Ciobanu: First of all, I try to help my students understand why they need terminology, how to use it for their specific needs, and, later on, for the needs of their clients. Managing terminology projects represents the appropriate framework to master the process of achieving quality in terminology. You yourself have been involved in project management activities in Cologne, so you know quite well their advantage. Managing all the steps of a project in a team, at the end of the course my students are all able to produce a mini-glossary based on a conceptual system, with term entries including basic data categories. Focus on team work, use of extraction tools, documentation abilities, development of critical thinking and problem solving are part and parcel of my students’ work. Speaking of documentation, students confessed IATE saved them in many of their searches. Last term, when “pinterest”, was suggested on TermCoord´s website, students were delighted to discover there terminology blogs, new extraction tools, classifications, to realise that terminology also makes use of the new technologies, it is modern “stuff”.

3. Matilda Soare: What innovative methods do you use to teach terminology?

Georgeta Ciobanu: One of the successful methods used in teaching was ARGs – alternate reality games, namely, the game called “The Saviours” that I designed for solving terminology domain loss issues (presented in Dublin, TKE 2011). I’d like to emphasise the fact that ARGs are applicable for any training, for various purposes and users, it is not limited to classroom; they can be used in organisations, multinational corporations, etc. After all, adults still want to play games and difficult terminology problems can be solved, in a funny, pleasant way, by playing ARGs. ARGs have some strong points that terminology can benefit from, such as: collaboration, intense involvement, sharing, use of multimedia, social networking, mix of specialists, combination of skills, analysis and coordination of real-life and online activities, use of the services provided by Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 . One of the highly appreciated powers of ARGs is their quality of being intrinsically and extrinsically motivating, consequently, turning terminological activities into enjoyable ones, even funny. When players in ARGs achieve a meaningful and focused collaboration online to accomplish a common objective (e.g. find together an appropriate term equivalent), all participants benefit from this ‘collective intelligence’; they succeed to develop this new digital network literacy necessary to solve real-life terminology problems.

4. Matilda Soare: You are a trainer in the ECQA Certified Terminology Manager curriculum. Could you give us some insights about your experience as a trainer?

Georgeta Ciobanu: I consider myself privileged as I have had the chance to learn how to train from the best – G. Budin, C.Galinski, H.Picht, K.D.Schmitz, F.Steurs, my first mentors. The real challenge came when I was invited to join my mentors in order to train other people – an unforgettable experience. ECQA was the missing link – the framework provided at European level to certify the terminology management job role. The strong points of the ECQA training scheme are its pragmatic character, the focus on developing skills applicable to real world desiderata, i.e. to integrate terminology management as part of an organisation’s identity and reputation. Even with the most heterogeneous groups, at the end of the day the projects defended by the trainees prove they have learned the lesson of terminology management and are able to apply this knowledge in their own activity; I must say some of the projects they defend at the end of the training are quite amazing – most creative and innovative.

5. Matilda Soare: As we all know, terminology is quite a young science. How has terminology evolved in Romania?

Georgeta Ciobanu: The beginning of Romanian terminology was related to texts in various domains and their translation, attempts at standardising language, as well as numerous high quality terminographic products. After 1990, terminology was approached as a distinct science, taught as a specific subject and terminology theory and practice were updated according to the international trends. The academic staff members were trained abroad within various international programs (Brussels, Paris, Rennes, Germersheim, Aston) and the necessary infra-structure was provided – library resources, equipment, laboratories. The first textbooks, studies, articles were published and terminology scientific events started to be organised. Romanian terminologists created professional associations, joined international terminology entities and various international projects. The results of the terminology activity presented on various occasions – international conferences, symposia, etc. – were quite appreciated, Romanian terminologists were elected members of various terminology bodies and scientific committees, became terminology trainers, in other words, Romanian voices were heard on the terminology international stage. The present terminologists, developing abilities, skills, competences based on the Bologna scheme, are being trained to meet the labour market demands. Benefitting now from exchange programmes, attending short-term training sessions, joining internships, becoming internationally certified (ECQA), qualifying at MA and PhD level in terminology, they stand all chances to turn into highly qualified experts.

6. Matilda Soare: In your opinion what does it take to be a terminologist and what challenges are encountered in this job?

Georgeta Ciobanu: Much has been written about the traditional basic competences of terminologists, such as thorough knowledge in terminology theory and practice, linguistic competence, etc. Nowadays, terminologists face more challenges related to the impact of the new technologies/media (not tackled beforehand in the literature). From among the recent novelties bound to Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 we can mention the competences to: communicate with the “digital natives”, socialise by getting involved in social communities, collaborate virtually with people from various cultures, adapt to the intercultural / cross-cultural diversity of the partners, use the new technologies / media, evaluate and validate the quality of data produced by “collective intelligence”, select realistically Web 2.0 technologies and adapt them to the specific needs of terminology users, use semantic webs in representing ontologies. At least some of the challenges encountered in this job (less discussed in the literature) are tightly connected to and depend on the personality traits of a terminologist. But to become a good terminologist, one has to work very hard, have an organised mind, worship the power of words, never give up until one finds answers, be blessed with a mountain of patience and creative ideas, be an excellent communicator, have the wish and will to learn all one’s life.

7. Matilda Soare: How important is terminology work and management for translators?

Georgeta Ciobanu: A translator becomes aware of the importance of terminology work and management only by translating lots of challenging documents from various subject fields. Invariably, the first impression seems to be: “Why should I “waste” my time and complicate my life with all this terminology stuff?” Once you try to go through all the steps of managing your translation work as a project, including the terminology component becomes a natural must. Professional translators nowadays realise they can get jobs and stay on the market only if they deliver high quality services. At the same time, managing terminology in the translation project has become a standard requirement (standard 15038).

8. Matilda Soare: IATE is the EU’s interinstitutional terminology database with entries in the 24 official languages. What does such an important resource mean for the terminology world and do you see any cooperation possibilities with the scientific world to improve the database?

Georgeta Ciobanu: I don’t like to bet (as I hate being a loser), but, this time I am willing to bet and say IATE is being used by each and every professional dealing with languages in general, special languages in particular. Terminologists have discovered the power of IATE and they resort to it in their searches knowing they always get answers, the answers they expect. As to the cooperation possibilities with the scientific world, new avenues are opened by the development of the new technologies / media. Nowadays, the terminologist developing competences bound to these new technologies, as mentioned above, is able to become more of an equal partner to the scientist, and, together, they can get involved in ARGs used to develop terminology databases (as we suggested in a recent paper in 2011 called “Terminology Moves into the Alternate Reality”, published in Buletin Stiintific, Academia de Studii Economice din Bucuresti, Centrul de Cercetari literare si de Lingvistica aplicata la Limbaje de specialitate Teodora Cristea).


Interviewer: Matilda Soare

matilda-soareMatilda Soare graduated in Translation and Terminology (German/English) from the University of Bucharest and got a MA in Terminology and Language Technology from the Cologne University of Applied Sciences with a thesis on “Terminology of Terminology Science”. During her MA studies Matilda worked as a research assistant in projects dealing with implementing student-oriented and project-based learning methods in the university. Matilda is passionate about terminology, project management and language technologies.

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