DE |  EN  | FR | IT

05/11/2019 - Corporate communication

Terminology and corporate language:
How digitalisation can improve the quality of your translations

There are countless ways in which we can express a single idea. And while that may be a delight for poets, it can cause real difficulties for communication specialists. A stringent communication policy is necessary for companies to position themselves successfully on the market. Among other things, this includes adherence to the corresponding specialist terminology and a uniform writing style – and ensuring this is done in all corporate languages! Needless to say, this can pose a tremendous challenge. In order to ensure corporate language compliance and consistent terminology, translation agencies today rely on specialised computer programs.

The problem with inconsistent terminology

A power strip is a bar of electrical sockets that attaches to a flexible cable with a plug at the end and allows multiple electrical devices to be powered from a single socket. And it is a classic example of terminological trickiness. A power strip can also be called an extension block, power board, power bar, plug board, pivot plug, trailing gang, trailing socket, plug bar, trailer lead, multi-socket, multi-box, socket board, super plug, multiple socket, multiple outlet, or polysocket, not to mention other variations and nicknames. However, you have to be careful with the term ‘power bar’, which can also refer to a protein-packed energy bar usually consumed by athletes. It’s definitely complicated, and while most people use whatever term pops into their head, what about around the office? What word does an employee use to ask their manager for more power strips? And what does the manager order from headquarters? With a bit of bad luck, you might end up with a box of edible power bars instead. Such mistakes cost you time. And money.

The risk that inconsistent terminology could also result in serious problems is evident in sectors with high security requirements and tight deadlines. When a pilot communicates with an air traffic controller, for example, there is no extra time to sort out any misunderstandings that may occur. The pilot’s life (and many others’) depends on the air traffic controller understanding the situation immediately and avoiding any potential emergencies. This only works if they are all speaking about the same thing. And the principle applies both within your company as well as outside its walls.

To ensure that your company achieves this in the long term, terminology must be viewed not merely as an all-encompassing but also a dynamic system. When something new is invented, new terms are also created along with alternative meanings. In this way, language changes along with the world.

Corporate language

Nonetheless, companies also establish their own individual language variations, also known as corporate language. Corporate language refers to the individual linguistic style of a company and helps to not only avoid misunderstandings but also represents a significant factor for creating a consistent brand identity and successful reputation building.

Many larger companies rely on internal language guidelines. In addition to stylistic standards for tonality, the consistent handling of gender-specific or gender-neutral wording, specific formats for numbers and figures, etc., they may also include a terminology list containing prohibited and permitted terms. However, a time-consuming quality assurance process is required to ensure that the language guidelines are observed since corporate language only fulfils its role if it is utilised consistently along your company's entire communication spectrum.

Too many cooks spoil the broth – and the corporate language

Using language guidelines to successfully establish your corporate language within your own company is no easy task in itself but the job becomes even more difficult when a company works with external language services providers. Even though a company may supply its external partners with its language guidelines, these may quickly amount to 20 or more pages. It’s more or less inevitable that a copywriter or translator will unwittingly use a prohibited term or the wrong number format at some point. As a result, the exhaustively prepared language guidelines become undermined over time, leading to inconsistent content and a diluted version of what was originally a very clearly defined communication strategy.

ISO-certified translation companies are therefore required to possess a method of documenting the information relating to language standards in a suitable format and then passing it on to the translator. Specialised computer programs can help to accomplish this.

Consistent translations thanks to CAT tools

Over the past decade, the translation industry has embraced computer programs that are able to increase the quality and consistency of translations many times over. Although known as CAT tools (CAT stands for computer-aided translation), they are not to be confused with machine translation programs. Machine translation uses artificial intelligence and operates according to the Babelfish principle: A user enters a text to be translated and within seconds receives a – hopefully – correct translation.

By contrast, when you employ a CAT tool, you are given a program, but no predefined dictionary and no collection of phrases. The data basis for the translations is put together using translations that have already been completed for the client. The underlying principle is relatively simple: SwissGlobal or the translator loads the text to be translated into the CAT tool, which then divides it into segments (normally one segment per sentence). The translator works through the translation segment by segment. After completing the translation, the segments are saved in a translation memory. Translation memories are really nothing more than a collection of source and target language segments. For reasons of security and consistency, each one of SwissGlobal’s clients is always assigned a master translation memory that is administered centrally. If at a later date the translator receives another order from the same client that contains similar or identical content, the CAT tool recognises it and suggests the corresponding translation.

CAT tools can also be used to create glossaries, known as terminology databases. These can be compared with a client-specific dictionary and contribute another key element to quality assurance during the translation process. Unlike the translation memory, which automatically grows with each translation, terminology databases are created manually. They contain company-specific terms, their translation(s), prohibited synonyms, definitions, etc. When the translator opens a document to be translated, the CAT tool recognises the terms already saved in the terminology database and displays the corresponding translation. It also alerts the translator if a prohibited term is used.

Once a rough draft of a translation is completed, the quality assurance step integrated into the CAT tool can be used to search the translation for potential errors such as repetitions, missing numbers, inconsistent formatting, etc. This saves a great deal of time and tedious proofreading.

Pay for a translation once, but use it several times?

Translation memories and terminology databases not only make day-to-day tasks easier for translation providers, they also contribute significantly to quality assurance for multilingual websites and ensure that corporate language is adhered to. And the client benefits as well since CAT tools enable translations to be recycled very efficiently. Clients of SwissGlobal Language Services AG can also take advantage of these benefits.

If a client requests a quote for a translation, SwissGlobal analyses the document to be  translated with the help of its CAT tool. The CAT tool compares the text to the translation memory and then lists the number of matches, i.e. identical or similar segments that are already saved in the translation memory. The matches are divided into several categories according to the degree of similarity with the translation memory. In addition, the analysis displays the number of repeated words or segments within the document. This shows precisely how many words actually need to be translated from scratch, and the client receives a corresponding discount. We are very true to the motto “Pay for a translation once, but use it several times”.

A long-term partnership with a translation company is worth it

Apart from having their own rapidly growing translation memory, clients at SwissGlobal who regularly order language services benefit in many other ways. Upon request, professional terminology experts and a preferred group of linguists analyse the translated texts on an ongoing basis and ensure that the company-specific terminology database is always up-to-date. This both increases the consistency of the translations and enables faster processing times thanks to a reduced need for research. Regular clients can also take advantage of customised framework agreements. Any potential volume discounts and client-specific conditions as well as dedicated contact partners are agreed upon and set out in the agreement.

SwissGlobal is ISO 9001 and ISO 17100 certified and offers its clients the highest degree of quality, innovative services and personalised support. Thanks to many years of experience in the translation sector and industry-specific training, the staff at this Swiss translation company possess well-founded specialised expertise. SwissGlobal is able to guarantee sustainable services, long-term client benefits and consistent corporate language in all the languages you require.

SwissGlobal services

- Corporate Solutions
 
- Translation Services
 
- Terminology
 
- Digitalisation and Consulting

- Business Process Outsourcing