Interview with Terminologist Maribel Tercedor Sánchez



Maribel Tercedor Sánchez is a professor at the Department of Translation and Interpreting at the University of Granada, Spain, where she also obtained her BA and her PhD in Translation of Interpreting. Her main teaching interests are scientific and technical translation and audiovisual translation. The object of her PhD thesis was phraseology in the biomedical field, and as a researcher she has subsequently focused lexical and cognitive aspects of scientific and technical translation (especially medical translation), media accessibility via translation for the blind and the deaf and hard of hearing, and, of course, terminology. In terminology, she has worked on projects such as Oncoterm (on the terminology of Oncology), Puertoterm and MarcoCosta (on the terminology of Coastal Engineering) and ECOSISTEMA (on the terminology of Environmental Sciences). She was the principal investigator of two projects focused on terminology variation in Medicine, VARIMED and COMBIMED (together with Clara Inés López Rodríguez for the latter), both conceived with the intent to approach healthcare professionals and patients.

1. How did you become interested in terminology as a field of study?

I started my career working in the creation of dictionaries at Oxford University Press. I worked with neology and specialised usage labels and soon understood the importance of approaching specialised lexical units in a way that is accessible to all in general dictionaries.

2. You have been teaching scientific translation at the University of Granada for many years. How do you think that your students approach this subject first?

Students are aware of the importance of translating scientific and technical documents in the English-Spanish combination. However, how scientific and technical contents vary depending on the combination and permeate many different genres -from patents to informed consents- is not so clear to them at the beginning of their training.

3. Terminology is a crucial factor to consider in specialised translation. Which strategies have you developed over the years to make your students more aware of this?

I am particularly concerned about making specialised knowledge accessible to non-experts and so strategies range from checking corpora to see terminological variation to making sure definitions and explanations of concepts are carried out in a non-circular way, so that knowledge acquisition is facilitated. I also believe that images are a great support in specialised texts so, when translating, we try to reflect on their relation to text and the potential need to explain what’s in the image.

Maribel Tercador Sánchez

4. In several of your research projects, VariMed and CombiMed you focused on terminological variation, as well as on how it can influence communication between patients and health professionals. How do you think that professional awareness can be promoted? 

Professionals need to become aware of the patient’s need to be informed and the different tools they use to communicate their worries and concerns. In this regard, emotions are a key field of study and one that is being overlooked in patient-doctor communication. Within terminology and linguistics in general, I think there is a need for education about terminology not being a discipline about expert knowledge for experts but a field that deals with specialized knowledge in all levels of communication.

5. Another related field on which you have been working is metaphors. Could you summarise which information about the patients’ discourse these metaphors provide?

Metaphor is a very important device to understand one concept in terms of another more familiar one and thus it helps us to communicate specialised information. Patients regularly focus on resemblance metaphors – images that resemble the visual features of a particular concept.

6. Multimodality has been a key consideration for both VariMed and CombiMed projects, and that is why the database built for the VariMed project contains images. Could you explain how and why you started working on multimodality?

As a scientific translator and teacher, I soon realized that an image can help or hinder the understanding of a text and a concept, so we decided to study how images complement textual or conceptual information. Some concepts are indeed visual and difficult to understand without visualizing them.

7. You are also teaching audiovisual translation; a subject that is usually associated with entertainment. However, there are audiovisual works that can be approached as specialised translation from a thematic point of view. Do you think that students are aware of this?

The new social media has opened a new world to transmit scientific and technical information. I believe that these new media will soon transform the strategies and standards for audiovisual translation, as for instance there is a great load of information in both the visual and aural channels that has to be reflected in the subtitles. There is still a long way to go to develop awareness about the presence of scientific information in multimodal materials for both entertainment and learning.

8. You did your PhD thesis under the supervision of Pamela Faber, the proponent of the Frame-Based Terminology theory. Can you explain how this theory has influenced your terminological work afterwards?

Frame-Based Terminology focuses on suiting terminological databases to different users’ needs, extracting information from real corpora and stressing the importance of images. These aspects have been our concern in all our projects.

Interviewer: M. Isabel Bolívar

Isabel is from Spain.  She holds a Bachelor and a Master Degree in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Granada, and is specialized in scientific and medical translation, a field in which she has also worked in Terminology research. She speaks English and French and, of course, Spanish. Until recently, she was a Terminology trainee in TermCoord.