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Terminology is a team sport!

Tuesday, June 8th, 2021

By Julie Sauvage, Senior Lecturer, Master’s in Translation at Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3 and Dr Paola Artero, Freelance translator.

Translated from French by Lily Robert-Foley, Senior Lecturer, Master’s in Translation at Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3.

Prominently featured in the EMT competency framework, terminology for translation has drawn much attention over the last few years and has been the topic of numerous scientific publications.

Needless to say, in this area too, jobs have been radically transformed: digital tools make it much easier to create and use corpora, databanks or translation memories.

More and more translators also seem to be sharing their resources. Terminology work has apparently prompted them to break their (in)famous isolation to build networks and support systems.[1]

When we took over the Master 2 course entitled “Terminology Research for Translators” at Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3 in 2017, we wanted better to prepare our students for this type of teamwork while providing them with the necessary theoretical basis to prevent new problems.

Our own observations (especially those concerning the glossaries included in the Masters theses over the previous years) matched those of the specialists: in practice, terminology work seemed to disappear into translation memories.[2] Terms, words and expressions from everyday language were often all recorded together in a jumble, simply to be readily available at the click of a button (sometimes only because they are difficult to type).

However, relying on software to recognise terms and provide an accurate translation in these conditions puts consistency at risk, which can cause serious consequences, for both clients and translators, who will be held legally responsible.

So we resolutely turned to collaborative project pedagogy, reflecting the growing practice of sharing, while maintaining the requirements of rigour and theoretical understanding we deemed essential for effective practice, both for translation and for other language industry professions, such as technical writing and, of course, terminology.

Support players in the team

The organisation of the course reflects this dual concern. Terminology is covered during the third and last semester of courses (the fourth one being reserved for internships), with 13 weekly sessions taught in turn by a freelance translator and a lecturer. Each session, of one and a half hours, in French, includes half an hour of theoretical teaching and one hour of work in small groups with individual follow-up by the teacher, devoted to the creation of a short essay (in French) and a bilingual English-French glossary.

But better to depict the environment in which we operate, we must mention the special status of terminology in France — which stems from a proactive and centralised linguistic policy. A specific department of the Ministry of Culture, the Délégation Générale à la Langue Française et aux Langues de France (DGLFLF), is responsible for defining the French official terminology in all areas of economic and cultural activity. On a national level, the DGLFLF’s role is similar to that of TermCoord, within the EU’s Directorate General for Translation. Their decisions are published in the Journal officiel as lists of terms that must be used by all government services and their contractors.

The DGLFLF is therefore responsible for completing multilingual glossaries of the new Olympic sports in the run-up to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. These glossaries will be published on the DGLFLF website and made available to the French and Olympic authorities, on the one hand, and to the public (especially reporters), on the other. We have been very fortunate to establish a partnership with the DGLFLF, which offers internships for several of our students each year — and the experience has proven essential in renewing our teaching approach.

First match: first try

This collaboration started in 2019, with the participation of a student, a native Italian speaker, in a project of the Panlatin Terminology Network REALITER, for the publication of glossaries in Romance languages.[3]

Then, in 2020, in anticipation of the Rugby XV World Cup in France and the 2024 Olympic Games, the DGLFLF and its partners set out to draw up a glossary of this sport and, as part of the partnership with our University, three students were given the task of preparing the glossary of terms to be integrated into the Lexicosports app.

The team included a native Italian speaker, a native Arabic speaker and a native French speaker, who had accepted this internship “for lack of a better opportunity” (his internship in a translation agency had been cancelled due to COVID), but who got caught up in the game, as did the other two, and whose connections in — or should we say on —the field proved invaluable.

The trainees organised their teamwork independently: determining the sub-domains; choosing the headings for the records (with the DGLFLF’s support and advice), creating a comparable corpus; drafting definitions, proofreading and revising. This involved contacts with professionals from the sports world: experts (athletes, sports journalists, coaches, club managers, and even a sports law specialist), rugby federations, in France and abroad — this professional communication being conducted in English and French.

This experience in intercultural project management was initially very experimental, but our students brilliantly managed to score the try, which convinced us we should redesign our course to facilitate the work of the next DGLFLF trainees and better to train the whole class in this type of collaboration.

New team, new rules

Initially, the course was designed around the classic terminology record and its fields (term, language, grammatical category, subject field and subfield, definition, context, technical and linguistic notes, with possibly some illustration and cross-references to other records in the glossary), and the students formed small working groups (of three to five people) to complete part of the final assignment. Then, it gradually evolved towards a collective work involving the whole class in a real project — drafting the glossary of Paralympic sports to be used by the next DGLFLF trainees.

We first asked our students to list the Paralympic sports, then to get organised and form small groups (eight in total), working independently on sub-fields. They were allowed and even encouraged to include various multimedia materials to create a comparable corpus, listing all of the sources in a shared online file. This corpus enabled them to identify and (manually, this year) extract just under 300 candidate terms, which were then brought together, along with their equivalent in English for each chosen subfield, in a folder containing the headings of a classic terminology record, for both languages, and completely managed by the students. All this information had to be accessible in real time and available to the entire class in a shared online file.

The students were able to practice project management in a semi-autonomous way, by defining common objectives, in order to provide a collective work file, in parallel with the other parts of their final assignment.

This new methodology aims at creating a semi-professional environment, encouraging the acquisition of integrated, transferable skills, including soft skills in professional situations (starting with the M2 internship). Above all, it makes the value, usefulness and purpose of the exercise clear to the students, which is essential to the learners’ investment,[4] and it leaves more space for practice.

Over the previous years, what the students had valued about this course had been the opportunity for them to gain further knowledge of a specific field, and initiate their own specialisation. We could clearly see how the choice of subject area was key to the students’ engagement, their personal investment and, ultimately, the success of the project. We were not sure they’d all react positively to the prospect of spending a semester working on parasports terminology. However, the prospect of learning more about the work terminologists actually do, in a semi-professional situation, and the experience of the previous trainees were powerful motivating factors for the group, despite the distance learning conditions due to the pandemic and lockdown last autumn.

Second match: converting the try

The introduction of distance learning following the emergence of COVID has certainly made our task more difficult, but the results of a survey submitted to the students confirm our initial project: out of 14 to 20 respondents, 50% found the topics discussed interesting and we were pleasantly surprised to see that team work was one of the strong points of the semester (25%), including as a source of motivation. Finally, 20% appreciated the availability of the teachers, who were very much in demand, perhaps because some students were reluctant to ask questions during videoconference sessions.

Warning

Among the negative features, some students expressed their difficulty in grasping the link between the two parts of the course, the theoretical part focused on broader terminological notions (corpora, definitions, ontologies and domain trees etc.) and the realization of the group glossary (7%). This difficulty could be seen in the short essays, which were part of the assignment, as most of them hardly exploited the methods learned in the practical part of the course (no creation of corpora or ontologies, unlike the previous years, for example).

Great collective try, though

The fact the students were enthusiastic about the group work, involving the whole class and aimed at a real medium-term project, showed how beneficial their integration into a semi-professional environment and the dynamics of sharing tasks and results had been. Of course, distance learning may be an important factor, or reason for caution at least, since the students’ relative isolation during the lockdown may explain why they were so eager to work together, when that was not the case in the previous years — quite the contrary, actually!

However, the class did have to develop essential soft and hard skills to complete this project: project management and teamwork, of course; time management, speed and deadline compliance, competitive spirit, yet with cooperation and mutual aid, stress management (particularly at the end of the semester), flexibility, negotiation, listening, emotional intelligence, etc. The list of skills and competences used during this team effort is hardly exhaustive. Featured in the EMT reference framework as personal and inter-personal skills, they might very well help young translators make a difference in a highly competitive professional environment, with the rise of new AI technologies.

Moving forward

In the future, these digital tools will have to be better integrated into the teamwork, especially the terminology extraction tools, which we had to give up using this year. For the time being, the data created by the students is used in the CAT tools course, to teach the use of terminology management software (Multiterm). The collaboration between the Terminology and CAT teachers involves coordination between those two steps — establishing the glossary and discovering the various software programs. The students have appreciated the initiative, which we hope to take further next year.

Terminology, when taught as a team project, turned out to be central to our training. It enables the development of numerous skills and bridges the gaps between different disciplines and professions, as well as between the university and its social and economic environment. In this respect, the partnerships offered by TermCoord around the IATE database sound extremely interesting, and we have to thank our colleagues from Toulouse for sharing their experience during the EMT general meeting of October 2019 — they have definitely inspired us to envisage terminology in a new light.

In the long term, our objective is to provide our students with the theoretical and practical tools to understand and master terminology work in real-life, intercultural and multilingual situations, from the point of view of translation professionals but also from that of technical writers and, of course, terminologists, since exchanges and links between these activities are constantly developing in the practice of the profession.

In the rapidly evolving world of translation, this terminological and pedagogical experiment shows the benefits that can be gained from partnerships outside the University, be they with companies, freelance translators, professional unions, and institutions. This type of training underlines the potential of teamwork and involves the learners in new professional contexts, preparing them to confidently face further changes, including those we cannot imagine yet.


[1] Julie Gariépy. (2013). La collaboration en terminographie étude de cas comparée de la terminographie collaborative et de la terminographie classique. Université d’Ottawa, [https://ruor.uottawa.ca/handle/10393/23977, accessed on 25/05/2021] and Gómez Palou Allard, Marta. (2012). Managing Terminology for Translation Using Translation Environment Tools: Towards a Definition of Best Practices. University of Ottawa, [http://www.ruor.uottawa.ca/fr/bitstream/handle/10393/22837/Gomez_Palou_Allard_Marta_2012_thesis.pdf, accessed on 25/05/2021].

[2] Lynne Bowker (2015) “Terminology and Translation“. The Handbook of Terminology. Hendrik Kokaert, Frieda Steurs (eds). Amsterdam: Benjamins. 307.

[3] http://www.realiter.net/fr/lessici-realiter.

[4] Silvia Montero Martinez and Pamela Faber Benítez, (2009) “Terminological competence in translation”. Teaching and Learning Terminology. New strategies and methods, Special Issue of Terminology, 15:1, John Benjamins Company. 88-104.

Tags: terminology, project management, pedagogical practices, competences, professionalisation

Translation and scale

Tuesday, April 6th, 2021

By Prof. Dr. Sonia Vandepitte, Ghent University

Globalization has been heralded and criticised simultaneously for some time now, but what the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us all is that we do need to think at a level that encompasses a larger geographical area than what many of us had been used to. If not all countries can participate in a vaccination programme, we will not be able to conquer the virus and its variants: nobody is safe when not everybody is safe.

For translators, though, thinking across national boundaries is an activity that they carry out on a daily basis. Their ‘scale’ of thought, as well as that of translation scholars, is clearly one that jumps across linguistic and cultural borders that communities have created. Could their social and cognitive activities be a pathway for the world to follow? Could the study of the translation event as a whole contribute to a world without a pandemic? What do we learn from translation studies regarding the notion of ‘scale’ in the first place today?

From one of its ancillary disciplines, i.e. terminology, we learn that a word need not be conceived in the same way by everyone. There is no reason, for instance, why the word scale in English would be conceived by all of us in exactly the same way. Many of the non-native speakers of English will probably relate this word to the mental representation they had built for the word in their first language, whether that was for example, escala, échelle, Skala, κλίμακα or 規模. A multilingual terminological analysis which investigates the term scale from a multi-perspective conceptual approach would actually allow us to arrive at a diversified notion of scale. Through crowdsourcing on a large scale for translations of the word scale and the units of measurement in many languages, we would probably discover a wide array of connotations linked to the term. Similarly, the occurrence of the terms in both translated and non-translated corpora (e.g. the Translational English Corpus and the British National Corpus) would reveal translators’ transfer of the notion of measurement from one culture to another. The following examples may illustrate how the notion of scale may differ between a source text and its translation:

source text:
soep van longvlees, zestig pfennig voor een pond (NL)
[soup of lung meat, sixty pfennig for a pound]

target text: lung soup, sixty pfennig a pint (EN)

While the Dutch source text reader in this example is led to connotations of scales to measure weight, the English reader will think of scales for liquids. But the notion of scale may also disappear in a translation, as the following example from the Dutch Parallel Corpus reveals:

source text:
Was this celebrity hubris on a massive scale? (EN)

target text: Dacht hij dat hij zich dat als beroemdheid zomaar kon veroorloven? (NL)
[Did he think he – being a celebrity – could afford this just like that?]

Here, the source text refers to a (massive) degree of celebrity hubris, whereas the target text identifies a problem with the consequences of his behaviour. A line of inquiry investigating the subtle meaning differences between source and target texts would certainly contribute to conceptual and corpus translation studies as described in e.g. De Sutter, et al. (2012) and combine both a qualitative and a quantitative method simultaneously.

Besides the field of terminology, there is another line of research in translation studies in which the notion of scale plays an important role and further scale-related research may be worthwhile. Translation process studies, with its eye tracking and keystroke logging studies (e.g. Vandepitte et al. 2015), may well want to further explore the relationship between the scales used in their experiments such as the number and duration of pauses, eye fixations and regressions, and the number and type of revisions. Questions that are not yet answered satisfactorily arise quickly: how do all these measurements and their units of scale directly relate to (1) the black box in the mind, (2) to the translation product itself and, for instance, the scaling issue of translation units (Jakobsen & Jensen 2009) and (3) to the impact the product has on the reader (e.g. Göpferich 2009, Chiaro 2012).

These relationships all entail bringing together scales of a different nature with each other. For instance, if at all possible, how can the data points from a process study on metaphors in sight-translation (Xiang & Zheng 2013) be compared to a process study of the translation of metonymic expressions? Or to what extent can the quantitative results from comprehensibility investigations of texts (e.g. the Hendi[1] project) be related to the scales that sociologists employ for their inquiry into sociological aspects of translation (Tyulenev 2013)?

A third line of translation studies research that relies on the notion of scale focuses on the issue of translation quality assessment. This is a matter that is widely debated both in the professional world with its metrics (e.g. Bleu scores), among literary translators and translation critics, in the academic world and in translation training. The debates usually centre around the juxtaposition of scales of different natures, each with their own purposes and users’ agendas. What exactly are the similarities and differences between the scales that have been adopted and which items are being put into the scales and which have been omitted – consciously or unconsciously?

We could look at an example within the area of translation training, for instance. In order to offer texts to students that are appropriate for their level of learning progress, trainers may want to assess the translatability of a source text. This characteristic of a text may often play a large role in the assessment process: the number of difficulties involved in the translation and the degree of their difficulty are not easily or uniformly determined. Is translatability a scalable notion in itself? Well-known translation studies scholar Toury would think so when he defines and characterises translatability as follows: ‘the initial potential of establishing optimal correspondence between a T[arget]L[anguage]-text […] and a corresponding S[ource]L[anguage]-text [..].. This correspondence may be anywhere between 0 and 1, non-existent and absolute, without ever reaching any of the two extremes (this depends of course on how the scale of translatability is calibrated)’ (Toury 2011). But is this valid in all circumstances and do the existing metrics used today bear any resemblance to what Toury was aiming for?

All in all, there does not seem to be a line of research yet that could directly be related to the question whether or not translators and translation scholars embody characteristics that may contribute directly (or most probably indirectly) to the solution of the present crisis. This is not a question that can be immediately answered. What is clear, however, is that while the pandemic obliges us to scale up our thoughts to include all of humanity for the solution of the present crisis, and while our awareness of the decrease in biodiversity and of the dangers forecast by climate change push our considerations in the same direction, this blog already presents a clear and beautiful example of a collaboration at a larger scale than translation trainers have worked at ever before.

References

Chiaro, Delia (ed.). 2012. Translation and Humour 2. London: Bloomsbury.

De Sutter, Gert, Patrick Goethals, Torsten Leuschner & Sonia Vandepitte. 2012. Towards methodologically more rigorous corpus-based translation studies. Across Languages and Cultures, 13:2, pp. 137-143.

Göpferich, Susanne. 2009. Comprehensibility assessment using the Karlsruhe Comprehensibility Concept. The Journal of Specialised Translation 11, pp. 31-53.

Jakobsen, Arnt Lykke & Kristian Jensen. 2009. Eye Movement Behaviour Across Four Different Types of Reading Task. In: Susanne Göpferich, Arnt L. Jakobsen & Inger Mees (eds.). Looking at Eyes – Eye Tracking Studies of Reading and Translation Processing. Copenhagen Studies in Language 36. Copenhagen: Samfundslitteratur. pp. 103-124.

Toury, Gideon. 2011. Handbook of Translation Studies 2 (pp. 169–174). [Online]. https://benjamins.com/online/hts/ [31.05.2015].

Tyulenev, Sergey. 2013. Social systems and translation. In: Yves Gambier, Luc van Doorslaer, Handbook of Translation Studies 4. pp. 160-166. [Online]. https://www.benjamins.com/online/hts/articles/soc4?q=Social%20systems%20and%20translation [31.05.2015].

Vandepitte, Sonia, Robert Hartsuiker & Eva van Assche. 2015. Process and text studies of a translation problem. John Schwieter and Aline Ferreira (eds.), Psycholinguistic and cognitive inquiries in translation and interpretation studies. John Benjamins Translation Library. Amsterdam: J. Benjamins. pp. 127-143.

Xiang, Xia & Binghan Zheng. 2013. Processing metaphorical expressions in sight translation: an empirical–experimental research. Babel 59:2, pp. 160-183.


[1] Hendi developed an automatic clarity tool for English and Dutch discourse in parallel and comparable texts.

Acquiring multiple competences through IATE Terminology Projects

Monday, November 2nd, 2020

By Elpida Loupaki, Assistant Professor of Descriptive Translation Studies and Terminology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (GR), teaching Terminology at the Joint Postgraduate Studies Program “Conference Interpreting and Translation”

From 2013 our Master Students are introduced to Terminology Management through a special course delivered during their third semester of studies.

After the completion of this course, combining both theoretical and practical aspects of Terminology Management in Translation, Master Students can opt for a terminology project as a Master thesis. During these years, the vast majority of our students had the opportunity to cooperate with the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (TermCoord), in order to contribute to the IATE term-base with well-documented and reliable terms in the Greek language[1]. These terminology projects include different domains such as:

Our goal today is to demonstrate the benefits of such EU projects to EMT Master Students in acquiring multiple competences – not only related to terminology – as it will be explained. For this purpose, we are going to briefly present the methodology of these projects and then discuss the competences involved in this learning process.

A terminology project starts with the proposal by TermCoord for a domain in which documented and reliable terminology is needed in the Greek IATE. Then, a number of authentic textual resources are selected and different corpora are created and processed by the use of Sketch Engine. After term extraction is completed, a solid definition and context in both English and Greek is provided for each term. Furthermore, the conceptual relations existing among the terms are also examined. Finally, results are discussed with experts in the field and verified by them.

A standard workflow of a terminology project is here depicted in Figure 1:

According to EMT Competence Framework, translator education and training at Master’s degree level should provide competences to students in five main areas, including: 1) language and culture; 2) translation; 3) technology; 4) personal and interpersonal; 5) service provision. As explained in the Framework (2017, p. 5), “within each of these areas, a number of skills are deemed to be essential or important within the context of a Master’s degree in translation. […] the five areas defined should be considered as complementary and equally important in providing the translation service, which is the ultimate goal of the translation process.”

If we compare the competences acquired by our Master Students throughout the IATE terminology project with the competences described in this reference document, we observe that the majority of areas are included. These projects boost especially the development of the following skills, as expressed in the Framework:

  • Evaluate the relevance and reliability of information sources with regard to translation [here terminology] needs.
  • Acquire, develop and use thematic and domain-specific knowledge relevant to translation [here terminology] needs (mastering systems of concepts, methods of reasoning, presentation standards, terminology and phraseology, specialised sources etc.).
  • Understand and implement quality control strategies, using appropriate tools and techniques.
  • Use the most relevant IT applications, including the full range of office software, and adapt rapidly to new tools and IT resources.
  • Make effective use of search engines, corpus-based tools, text analysis tools […].
  • Plan and manage time, stress and workload.
  • Comply with deadlines, instructions and specifications.
  • Work in a team, including, where appropriate, in virtual, multicultural and multilingual environments, using current communication technologies.

Furthermore, we consider especially useful the cooperation of our students with experts from different specialized domains, as they acquire networking techniques, interview skills, and learn inside information in the fields involved.

Finally, a very important asset in this educational process is the partnership with an EU institution, such as TermCoord, providing students a multilingual and multicultural environment of work, a high quality framework and a firm guidance from experienced terminologists.

As a conclusion, we could assert that this kind of activity is very challenging for both students and trainers involved. Moreover, benefits can outweigh the eventual drawbacks of organization and coordination of such projects. In our ever changing world, we believe that real life projects help students to better integrate into translation market, teaching them to work in teams and offering them the opportunity to gain hands-on experience.


[1] For further information, see: https://termcoord.eu/cooperation-with-universities-on-terminology-projects/

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