Let’s do it together: Instances of cooperation in terminology work: Roles, tools, needs and difficulties


Abstract on Elena Chiocchetti’s and Natascia Ralli’s article

manosThe era of cooperation in terminology has begun. However, there are still challenges and difficulties to be faced in the field of Terminology. This is the reality addressed by the paper Let’s do it together: Instances of cooperation in terminology work: Roles, tools, needs and difficulties presented at the 19th European Symposium on Languages for Special Purposes, that took place the 8-10 July 2013 in Vienna. This article summarizes the results of a study consisting of a series of interviews which illustrate the opinions and proceedings of experts and the complex legal framework that regulates their terminological activity.

The authors of this study, Elena Chiocchetti and Natascia Ralli, state within their conclusions several key aspects that show how terminology has evolved in many ways; not only as a discipline or as the result of an activity, but also as a part of the communication strategy.

Terminology as a discipline

Nowadays terminology work is based on cooperation among different teams. Therefore, in order to ensure a smooth progress of work and full adherence to the needs voiced by the different participating bodies, features beyond linguistic nature need to be established. Aspects like group definition, where key roles responsibilities and type of contribution need to be clearly set, and project preparation, to maximise the number of automatized operations and minimise manual checks. Moreover, coordinating information exchange and terminology teams working in cooperation require specific tools and legal frameworks. In this regard, cooperation agreements might be signed taking into consideration copyright issues and data ownership, which in Europe are also covered by EU law.

Furthermore, terminology is no longer kept only for internal purposes; it has become a broader activity that has an influence outside and inside companies. However, specific needs have been detected concerning cooperation among specialists. On one hand, there is a limited availability of trained translators or terminologists for all languages, which affects the scope or the timeline of many terminology projects. On the other hand, domain experts are very often involved with an informal procedure based on goodwill and personal acquaintance, whereas the desirable situation would be to formally include them in the workflow.

The feedback collected in the interviews shows that terminologists lack IT assistance, which can be outsourced to external providers, and they are not satisfied with the tools they work with. Although they find tools do not fulfil their specific needs, the need of dedicated training to grasp the full potential of the available resources has also been noticed.

Terminology as a result of an activity

Data and database owners should be aware of the different levels of protection, a fact the importance of which has been specially highlighted in this study, in order to take into consideration the content and structure of the database when publishing and exchanging data. As a matter of fact, data and copyright protection, at different levels and affecting both the structure of the database and the data itself, are protected by the EU-Directive 96/9/EC. This piece of legislation pursues a double objective: protect the investments of all kind dedicated to create the structure of the database and protect via copyright the result of the selection and arrangement of materials and other contents.

Terminology as part of a communication strategy

Chiocchetti and Ralli state that cooperation in terminology goes together with the need for efficient communication, both at internal and external level. The study points that internally, terminology is often seen as a by-product of translation, i.e. as something additional, and not as an essential part of the translation drafting process, which involves drafter, translators and domain experts. The authors claim that terminology should not be seen as an additional but as a complimentary activity, which aims at making work easier and more coherent. Next to successful internal awareness-raising initiatives, terminology work should be promoted externally, i.e. to the public.

The interviews conducted have shown some interesting initiatives in communicating terminology, first at internal level and then at external level. For instance, promoting terminology work in internal meetings or common electronic portals by gathering links and resources internally, or making databases available to everyone, as well as sending updates via newsletters or mailing lists.

Some aspects presented in this paper are further treated in the Guidelines for collaborative legal/ administrative terminology work that were produced as an output of the LISE project.

To wrap-up, the study launched by Chiocchetti and Ralli concludes that even though terminology work has become a cooperative activity, it still requires notable efforts and a lot of time. However, the benefits of defining a clear workflow for each project, having access to the right resources and pre-process all documentation needed can be seen as a mid-term investment. Creating dedicated spaces to discuss terminology allowing people to work in an efficient and collaborative way and make the decisions public according to the current legislation can only lead to fruitful collaboration.

This paper was presented at the 19th European Symposium on Languages for Special Purposes, that took place the 8-10 July 2013 in Vienna. One of the most important international conferences for this week is a new edition of this event, 20th European Symposium on Languages for Special Purposes (LSP): “Multilingualism in Specialized Communication: Challenges and Opportunities in the Digital Age”, also in Vienna the 8-10 July 2015, where Rodolfo Maslias, Head of the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament in Luxembourg, will make a presentation including some interesring topics such as Terminology projects of EP-TermCoord and universities, proactive terminology work at the EP and terminology workflow with the help of CAT tools.

By Sara Méndez Salvador, terminology trainee at TermCoord.

Click the link to download the original paper Let’s do it together: Instances of cooperation in terminology work: Roles, tools, needs and difficulties by Elena Chiocchetti and Natascia Ralli.