TermCoord goes to Georgia

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Interview

Interview with Rodolfo Maslias (Head of Terminology Coordination of the European Parliament) by Professor Lia Karosanidze

In view of the visit to Georgia and participation in the Georgian Terminological Conference on October 30, 2022 an interview has been published on the Georgian section of Termbank.

Mr. Rodolfo, as I know you have never traveled to Georgia. Once in Greece, at a terminology conference, a Finnish terminologist told me jokingly that you were from the country of a very dangerous woman. Do you feel the same way about Medea’s country? What do you know about Georgia?

Georgia has been since a long time a country that I wanted to visit, because of its history and beauties that many Georgian friends of Greek origin have described to me. Some years ago, I was invited to give a lecture on Greek terminology by professors of a department of Greek language, which I could give only remotely, but I had the opportunity to interact with the professors and students and I was impressed by the high level of their interests, knowledge and academic skills. I was also impressed by the fact that in every city I had visited in the past in Russia or other countries of Eastern Europe, we were very often invited to restaurants with Georgian kitchen. I am excited to visit for the first time your country by the occasion of the Terminology Conference that I am much honored to address as a keynote speaker at the end of October. I am sure that Georgia is full of dangerous women but more in the sense of dynamic and high skilled ones. I don’t know if it is a coincidence that all professors and stakeholders of the excellent work done in terminology with whom we are working, are women.

I often observe and read the blogs of IATE (IATE Term of the Week) to get acquainted with interesting examples from other languages. It is very interesting to get familiar with a country through its lexis, its words. This excellent project enabled people of the world to know each other better.  What can you tell us about the construction and management of this base?

We are very proud of IATE, the database of all EU legislation. The legal acts issued by the EU Institutions, directives and regulations, after having been voted by the Parliaments of the 27 Member States in their respective language, become national law that covers up to 80% of their legislation. This means that every year some 2,5 millions of pages covering more than 110 fields of the daily life of the EU citizens have to be translated in the 24 official languages and have the same meaning. This can be made possible only with the use of a common terminology that ensures the conceptual equivalence and linguistic consistency. Therefore, as from the beginning, the EU created printed glossaries with all languages starting from 4 and becoming gradually 24, especially with the enlargement of the EU in 2004, when 10 new languages were added. At the end of the 80’s, we started creating digital databases in each Institution, like Eurodicautom by the Commission and Euterpe by the European Parliament. In the beginning of this century we merged them in the common database IATE standing for Interactive Terminology for Europe. Interactive because every one of the some 5000 translators of the 10 EU Institutions can insert terms in their language. This way, IATE has become the biggest most multilingual terminology database in the world with 8.5 million terms in 24 languages that are offered for free in a very modern responsive tool accessible from any device and receiving millions of queries by translators and interpreters all over the world. I am very happy to hear that you follow our weekly publications of the series “IATE Term of the Week” on our website https://termcoord.eu, the unique website of the EU Institutions dedicated to terminology.

History shows that statehood and terminological work are closely related, in a country with political or economic problems, the terminology is faulty. Do you think that all countries will be able to develop their language under equal conditions in the modern digital age? Isn’t this too late for Georgia, which started working on the Georgian Term bank only in 2014, while most of the terminological dictionaries are still undigitized and standardization issues are unresolved?

I very extensively focus in my lectures in universities on this topic. As linguist but being also active in cultural activities, I strongly believe that every language is a culture per se and that the culture of a people is reflected in the evolution of its language. Therefore, I very much admire the efforts in several countries to make their language survive during oppressive occupations that tried to deny to the people the right to communicate in their native language. In my country, in Greece, Greek was taught secretly in the basement of churches for more than 400 years of Ottoman occupation and this is how our very ancient and rich language could survive. The efforts of all your countries recently freed of the soviet occupation to promote and to protect your languages is very important and terminology plays in this effort a substantial role. I was frequently quoting in my lectures the example of Lithuania and its “Committee of the Lithuanian Language” checking the terminology and closely cooperating with the Lithuanian EU colleague’s translators and interpreters. As from now on, I will also quote the very impressive work you are doing on terminology in Georgia on an academic but also on State level. It is never too late to work and to cooperate for the quality of our language, our thinking and communication tool.

As we can see, today there are two ways to transfer one’s own language and terminology to international bases: one, through standardization, with one’s own national terminological base, you join the common European terminological bases with the Term Bank, and the second way depends more on enthusiasm and chance, because in a country where they do not have a new normative terminological base Dictionaries, of course, create English matches at will. About this, a young Georgian researcher Nino Skhirtladze  wrote an article (“Trados – the Electronic Terminological DatabaseTerminological Issues, 2018 http://termbank.ge/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/krebuli_III.pdf  ). Of course, we do not want and we are doing everything to ensure that those chaotic, parallel, faulty forms are transferred by anyone without question and our language is established in the world bases in such a faulty way. Is there any mechanism to protect this? Are the terminology bases of the different countries included in IATE just standardized, or do you have no control over that?

This is indeed a very interesting article about the ways entire glossaries can be imported in terminological databases. It is very logical that the new terminology produced for the Georgian language in the framework of the very intensive work you are doing in your universities and institutions for some years now, present some problems of quality control and consistency. To tackle this problem, that by the way is encountered in all languages were several entities work on terminology, you can now use the very advanced programs of automatic term extraction and quality control tools in combination with the consultation of experts in the different fields, which, I am sure, you already practice.  Concerning IATE, we avoid the import of big batches, exactly in order to avoid quality problems and anyhow the insertion of any term has as precondition the so-called validation by an EU terminologist in their native language. We indeed cooperate with the national entities opting for descriptive instead of prescriptive terminology, but the insertion of their terms is undergoing the same procedures of validation. This validation process is also necessary for the collections created by academic cooperation projects like the one your universities started this year with the European Parliament in the framework of “Terminology without Borders” (https://yourterm.eu)

Georgian terminology had its difficulties in every century. The 21st century digital world has presented us with different tasks. Hopefully, we will get over this difficulty too, even late, but at least we will create a proper Georgian term bank, through which the rest of the world will get to know one ancient and important language. Thank you for your support and cooperation. Hopefully, Georgia and the Georgian Terminological Conference will leave a good impression on you and we will be able to plan future cooperation.

Opening our project “Terminology without Borders” to all languages, some of them being also future official EU languages, like Georgian, gave to me the possibility to widen my knowledge about the terminology work in languages and nations like e.g. Mongolia, where I recently participated at a very important conference. It is fascinating to learn about the history of Georgian Terminology that starts already in the 10th century and to find out the direct connection to Greek in Eprem Mtsire’s statement saying that “he chose the Greeks own child”, creating the most significant Georgian grammatical terminology directly related to the Greek language, instead of Europe’s practice taking it only through the Latinised forms.  Then it is astonishing how the work could continue in the Soviet power period, produce the high quality trilingual glossaries of the Institute of Linguistics in the past century and end up with the creation of the Georgian Terminological Association in 2017, which became also member of the European Association for Terminology. I have been very impressed by the volume and quality of terminology work in the several meetings we had with all of you in launching our cooperation.  We were very happy to enrich with the Georgian glossaries the resources we make public to the users of our official EU websites. You should not think that only Georgia is still trying to create and impose the normative terminology needed especially for the new automation in translation and interpreting. It is a common effort of all of us working in terminology and our cooperation will be of mutual help to improve our practices and to prepare in the best way the accession of Georgian to the family of EU official languages when Georgia will become a member of the European Union.

Lia Karosanidze
Arnold Chikobava Institute of Linguistics at Tbilisi State University;
Head of Association for Terminology of Georgia