Advanced Terminology Workshop with Márta Fischer


Dr. Márta Fischer was invited by the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament to conduct a workshop on advanced terminology and on strategies to follow when facing terminology dilemmas. This advanced terminology workshop on Terms, Equivalents and More took place in Luxembourg on the 22nd and 23rd of March, 2017 at the Schuman Building of the European Parliament in Luxembourg. Terminologists, translators, lawyer-linguists and trainees were attracted by the workshop’s subject, which resulted in the gathering of an audience with a mixed background and with good dynamics.


fischerphdFirstly, we would like to briefly introduce to you the workshop’s speaker, professor Márta Fischer. Dr. Fischer is a senior lecturer, terminologist and associate professor at the Budapest University of Technology and EconomicsCentre of Modern Languages, as well as an ECQA Certified Terminology Trainer. She has a deep passion for terminology, and terminology questions related to the European Union’s linguistic reality is undoubtedly her preferred field of focus. Therefore, for her doctoral thesis, she worked on the subject of “The Translator as Terminologist, With Special Regard to the EU Context”. She also shared with her audience that during her research she had to revise her dissertation’s focus point due to the lack of a consistent theoretical framework on terminology, in general, and especially on the EU context. Thus, she ended up analysing the key concepts in terminology theory in EU contexts and observing the translator as terminologist in the translation process and as terminologist in EU contexts. This analysis was the core of her presentation and triggered a very fruitful dialogue during the two-day workshop.

Hence, according to the handout she distributed to her audience, the aim of  this workshop was to provide an overview and analysis of the theoretical and practical questions EU terminologists may be confronted with while carrying out systematic terminology work, uploading a terminology database or working on an ad hoc basis with specific terms.

fischer_presentationThe following list of key concepts and topics were presented and discussed during the workshop:

  • divergent interpretations of key concepts in terminology theory;
  • the notion of term: what may be considered as a term?;
  • the notion of conceptual system in an EU context;
  • the notion of equivalence: (functional translation equivalents / domesticating vs. foreignising strategy);
  • quality aspects: criteria and proportion of system-level and text-level information;
  • terminology and translation;
  • national vs EU terminology issue.

In brief, Dr. Fischer at first gave a historical overview of the notion of the term and of the criticism the traditional theory of terminology of Eugen Wüster, known as the father of terminology theory, has received. Briefly, the narrow terminology approach (one concept – one designation) requires that the concepts are clearly delimited by precise definitions but in practice this is not always possible, and there are cases in which we observe the experience before the concept, as it often happens in medical science. Regarding the “definition”, she stated that it is not always possible to provide a definition as this theory requires, as for example in several cases only an implicit definition can be found only at text level. On the contrary, with the broad approach any lexical unit may become a term in a specific context/text. However, in this case the approach shifts if the perspective is from a translator’s or a terminologist’s point of view. The criteria for the first are that the translation is bound by the concept and the speific context or text and for the second by what s/he has to include in a database.



Furthermore, she also presented the mapping out of conceptual systems and following this, she examined the notion of equivalence at conceptual level. Dr. Fischer pointed out that we could encounter three cases of equivalence:

  • Full equivalence
  • Similarity (partial equivalence)
  • Lack of equivalence

Concerning the last two cases, she presented two coping strategies: the use of functional equivalents and translation equivalents. We should underline here that the choice is based each time on what the user wants to focus on and on what will appear appropriate in the given context. After showing some examples of difficulties, she concluded that more than one strategy can be used to deal with translation gaps: loan/calque, new designation, paraphrasing or a combination of these, and more than one solution can be acceptable. She gave examples of the use of domesticating and foreignising terminology strategies depending on the field, the need and the audience that this terminology will be used for.


The part where she discussed the question of which level of a terminology database the definition should be placed on, also depending on whether it is an EU or a national concept, was also of great interest. To be more specific, the usual three levels of a terminology database are:

  • Index level (Language-independent level)
  • Language level
  • Term level


Fischer pointed out that the lack of explicit indication of each concept’s origins in public IATE is a weak point for external users. She furthermore added that the fact that IATE did not include a mention indicating if a term is referring to an EU or a national concept is also an important issue that may cause confusions in certain cases for translators.

Last but not least, the previous subject of discussion lead to the subject of EU and non-EU terms and of terminology work in the EU context. The notions of EU conceptual system and Member States’ conceptual systems were also raised, in parallel with the need to constantly check what is happening in the national system of each Member State regarding each term.

To sum up, Dr. Fischer with her presentation gave us a detailed insight into the principles of terminology theory. With her analysis of the narrow and broad approaches, she presented how terms should be in an ideal situation and how they are in reality. For the people who have worked for years in the field, this workshop was a great revision, while for the people who have joined the terminology family more recently it was an excellent opportunity to learn about the most important aspects of terminology theory and practice. For all participants, her detailed, enthusiastic and engaging presentation offered a lot of food for thought as well.

We thank her for the knowledge she shared with us and we hope we will enjoy more workshops like this in the future!

Written by  Katerina PalamiotiTranslator, Social Media and Content Manager, Communication Trainee and Foodie at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament.