Terminology and multilingualism


30 September 2017: Multilingualism Open Days

Terminology and multilingualism

In spite of the fact that we are all professionals working in one of the translation business’ most prestigious organisations, terminology is still somehow not always considered as an important part of the translation process, even in-house which I think is due to a number of things. First of all, the academic world and our education; on one hand, we are not necessarily made aware of the role of terminology during our education as translators and/or interpreters. Depending on where we studied, terminology is not necessarily an independent class. What we do understand, however, is specialisation and specialised language, hence that you do not have to be a translator to work with us and IATE is divided as such and comes with guidance for language use. We also work with thematic groups across our language units. We understand the need for knowledge goes beyond pure linguistic knowledge and we experience the cultural meanings behind language every day with the Englishes that we are presented with in our source texts; we have the possibility of taking classes, not only for language but also knowledge needed for our job such as EU law for example. And we certainly understand the variation of languages and details within them; this is our job, this is what we work with every day and we do it in our own language. We know that The EU communicates in a specific way which is based on common language but is slightly different from it – I think people working with freelancers can definitely attest to that – but do we know that we are in fact talking about terminology? It becomes more clearly exemplified within fields such as law and legal terminology or medicine and medical terminology for example. When it comes to economics and pedagogics, the difference starts to become a bit more of a blur and this is when terminology is not necessarily identified as such. The language users, say, the producers of such a source text, are not necessarily aware of using terminology either as they use terms from common language but which might have a slightly different meaning than in common language.


On the other hand, education possibilities within the field of terminology are rare and difficult to find, and much less if you wish to take them in your working languages. Many times terminology is seen as part of translation studies, as part of the translation process and as the result of the (terminological) choices that the translator or the interpreter makes during the translation process. Now, this is not completely wrong and in a general translation context it makes sense; if one translator translates one text to one client about one topic. Although, the translator will still have to respect global terminology to some extent as well as the rules of the common language and meaning behind the words used. However, the choice of terminology and style, etc. is still up to the translator or the interpreter. From this point of view, it makes sense that terminology is not always considered as a separate skill in a separate role. However in our European (Union) context, it does make sense! Our existence within the setting of The European Union is justified because we need, in the poetic sense of the word, to speak with one voice, and in the less poetic sense, we need to get our terminology together! Our reality is different, we don’t translate one text to one client from one source text producer and, more importantly, our translations are not considered translations. Instead we produce 24 different versions which are all declared originals. In other words, we are working towards s t a n d a r d i z a t i o n  and this makes terminology a crucial part of the European translation process. With so many different people working on the texts, both in the production and in the translation of them, there is a need for consistency; we need to speak with one voice. Within that terminology lies our own European one which comes very close to common language as well as the specialised, country-specific and often global terminology.


So what do we do as terminologists within the European Union? We do exactly as the one translator or interpreter translating one text for one client does: we research; we find the words, the terms; we scour the internet and the available sources for information; we work in close cooperation with our central terminology unit on a non-language specific level, TermCoord, which tries to keep consistency across The Language Units; we make connections to the markets and to institutions and businesses in our country to keep up with linguistic development, and we make the result of our research available to our users in IATE both to our external and internal user in interpretation and translation, but also to the people using our texts including the people implementing European law. And this is my second point – we are even further behind the scenes than the translators are. Third of all, we have a very important concept that makes us different from other institutions at our level; like The UN, we produce originals.


So yes, terminology definitely needs more attention both in-house and out-of-house, and that was my main purpose at The Multilingualism Open Days. I was one of the speakers from DGTRAD in a mini conference which was just one of the things the visitors could enjoy during the event. My topic was Language matters, terminology, the importance of getting the words right. I wanted to convey why, how and when we do terminology inside the institutions and this was basically what I said but targeted towards the external audience, the non-professionals. The other things at The Multilingualism Open Days event were a cinema, info desks and a photo stand where the visitors could take their own Multilingualism Day Photo in polaroid form to be posted on The Parliament’s website if they clicked yes! Did you see them? We had language games, a translation workshop where the participants were introduced to our work and given an idea of what it’s like to be an EU translator on the TRAD side. The same idea was behind INTE’s interpretation booths and simulation of an interpretation situation with a supporting interpreter and headphones for the audience to listen to the result and there was the opportunity to be shown around The Hemicycle by DGCOMM. The doors were open to the public but local universities had also been invited and I think it changed and targeted the audience that appeared at our talks, workshop, booths and games. There was a general feeling among the facilitators that the visitors were more specialised this time (or at least more interested) and that they knew what we were talking about. However, having said that, the open doors of course made the audience mixed and we did also have visitors that thought of translation as interpretation and knew nothing about our profession, and as speakers that was an extra challenge. But spreading the word of terminology is a pleasure and a challenge that I am happy to take. So I did it in a way that used obvious examples in the specialised languages and worlds and from there I explained what we did both on a language level in The Units and on a non-language level in TermCoord. The audience was very interested, unaware and surprised. After both the morning and the afternoon talk, I had the chance to speak to a couple of the visitors, some of whom were students, who were now more motivated to opt for the terminology field. My mission was complete! (for that day at least)

Article written by Stine Jensen, DA terminologists in EP