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You are doing terminology management all wrong. Here is why

We all know the never-ending, love-hate relationship between translators and terminology… now, let’s explore some of the most common errors.

Generally speaking, when thinking of terminology, we imagine a glossary, made of two parallel columns full of terms, with the source language on one side and the target language on the other.


And what better than an Excel file for this type of structure? Seems easy and intuitive enough. Plus, you can also add an extra column to the right, to add comments or other notes.

Well, there’s something wrong here: Excel was never designed to store text, much less terminological data.

Yes, you guessed it… Excel was created to crunch numbers, not words!

Using Excel files is not an effective or efficient way to manage complex databases. If you use it to create glossaries as mentioned above, you will not be able to specify additional attributes for those terms. It is indeed possible to add extra columns but always limited to one field or category for each term. Last but not least, the glossary you create will feature very poor content – namely, only source language on one side and target language on the other.
Using Excel you won’t be able to search or locate all the terms created previously (i.e. in different files). To find a term, you will find yourself guessing n which file it is located. So picture this common situation: you’ve got an unorganized mass of files, divided by project or field, or again a single monolithic file, containing all the terms from your previous translations, but you can’t find anything specific… Nice, uh?

Although Excel is widely used in the translation industry, it is regrettably not the ideal way to manage your terminology accurately. If you choose Excel, it’s because it seems easy to use, fast and easily accessible, right from your Office suite of software. And you can easily exchange files with other colleagues. This method is commonly used, yet it is so because there is a significant lack of terminology management programs available on the market. When they do, they are intended mainly for LSPs, corporations and institutions, but never designed or conceived for freelance translators.

Apart from using the so-overrated Excel, another very frequent mistake that translators make is treating terminology only in the context of a specific text rather than as a single terminological DB that can be enriched with new terms over time.

Translators are by nature careful and scrupulous because their work requires it. But they often have a tendency to manage terminology by opting for quick and painless solutions that, nevertheless, last as long as the translation itself: they are short-term remedies to short-term problems. In my view, when it comes to terminology data management, translators should instead take another route and choose a long-term approach, considering the valuable reuse and exchange of data as a priority in their discipline.

I gave a webinar last June, in collaboration with MateCat, where I provided some key takeaways useful to the freelancer community to deliver quality-based translations, work better and faster.
Around 500 participants attended the webinar and actively interacted by posing tons of questions. It turned out to be such an enjoyable experience.

To know more about my webinar and the next ones by MateCat, pls check their Webinars page.

If you like my T-shirt, you can buy one from my Etsy store :)

Enjoy your holidays!

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