Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on July 3, 2011
Terminology is for translators! Why should I, as a fill-in-the-blank expert, worry about terminology? Oh, but we are in marketing, not in translation! Excuses, excuses. When you wait until your terminology hits the translator, it is too late. Besides the fact, it is not true that folks in the content supply chain don’t deal with terminology management. Most of them just don’t deal with it consciously. Some do it very effectively.
But there are links in that chain who very, very actively deal with terminology. Only three out of 23 car sales people I interviewed at the Canadian International AutoShow in February, for instance, were stumped by the question “what is terminology”. All others had very good definitions, explanations and synonyms handy. What’s more, almost all of them pointed out the effect of terminology choices on their customers. They knew muuuch more about terminology issues than most people in the content supply chain are willing to admit. Some of them were just not that happy with the terminology that came down the pipeline to them!
Terminology is very deliberately used by marketing and branding departments to achieve brand recognition and ultimately to sell. Here is a commercial that uses presumed synonymy to introduce essential concepts of a product and reach potential buyers on different levels:
- It brings in terms from other subject areas to introduce what could be an unknown technical term: “clipper shavers” vs. “twin blades.”
- It introduces what must be an impressive technical concept represented by a registered trademark in a non-threatening way: “veggie mow” vs. “Versamow©.”
- And finally, it uses a designator, which the target audience is emotionally attached to, although it represents a completely unrelated concept: “Kryptonite*” vs. “NeXite©.”
Using presumed synonymy as a technique allows the marketing experts to have a likeable bungler explain what is implied to be a technically excellent product, all with the tag line “Hard to describe, easy to use.”
It is not as over-the-top as the Turbo Encabulator that has my students rolling on the floor even at 9 PM. But it shows how clued into terminology methods some branding folks really are. So, if you are part of the content supply chain and think you have nothing to do with terminology principles and methods, think again. Your competition is using them while you are still denying they exist.
Terminology in a commercial
*For more on Kryptonite see the Wikipedia entry. What I find interesting is that the commercial refers to it, even though it stands for a weakness. The makers of the commercial rely on the association to Superman being so strong, powerful and positive that the target audience completely forgets what Kryptonite stands for.
BIK: Thanks to Ben W. for pointing out a much more logical explanation, which eluded me in the final minutes of writing the above: The direct association with Kryptonite is that with a powerful material. And who wouldn’t want something that is stronger even than Superman.
Posted in Branding, Events, Subject matter expert, Terminology methods | Tagged: Canadian International AutoShow, commercial, synonymy, video | 2 Comments »
Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on June 23, 2011
One of the main reasons we have doublettes in our databases is that we often don’t get around to doing proper terminological analysis. I was just witness to and assistant in a prime example of a team doing this analysis at the meetings of ISO TC37.
ISO TC 37 is the technical committee for “Terminology and other language and content resources.” It is the standards body responsible for standards such as ISO 12620 (now retired, as discussed in an earlier posting), 704 (as discussed here) or soon 26162 (already quoted here). This year, the four subcommittees (SCs) and their respective working groups (WGs) met in Seoul, South Korea, from June 12 through 17.
One of these working groups had considerable trouble coming to an agreement on various aspects of a standard. Most of us know how hard it is to get subject matter experts (or language people!) to agree on something. Imagine a multi-cultural group of experts who are tasked with producing an international standard and who have native languages other than English, the language of discussion! The convener, my colleague and a seasoned terminologist, Nelida Chan, recognized that the predicament could be alleviated by some terminology work, more precisely by thorough terminological analysis.
First, she gave a short overview of the basics of terminology work, as outlined in ISO 704 Terminology work – Principles and methods. Then the group agreed on the subject field and listed it on a white board. Any of the concepts up for discussion had to be in reference to this subject field; if the discussion drifted off into general language, the reminder to focus on the subject field was right on the board.
The group knew that they had to define and name three different concepts that they had been struggling with, although lots of research had been done; so we put three boxes on the board as well. We then discussed, agreed on and added the superordinate to each box, which was the same in each case. We also discussed what distinguished each box from the other two. Furthermore, we found examples of the concepts and added what turned out to be subordinates right into the appropriate box. Not until then did we give the concepts names. And now, naming was easy.
||Distinguishing characteristic 1
Distinguishing characteristic 2
|Distinguishing characteristic 1
Distinguishing characteristic 2
|Distinguishing characteristic 1
Distinguishing characteristic 2
After this exercise, we had a definition, composed of the superordinate and its distinguishing characteristics as well as terms for the concepts. Not only did the group agree on the terms and their meanings, the data can now also be stored in the ISO terminology database. Without doublettes.
Granted, as terminologists we don’t often have the luxury of having 15 experts in one room for a discussion. But sometimes we do: I remember discussing terms and appellations for new gaming concepts in Windows Vista with marketing folks in a conference room at the Microsoft subsidiary in Munich. Even if we don’t have all experts in shouting distance, we can proceed in a similar fashion and collect the information from virtual teams and other resources in our daily work. It may take a little bit to become fluent in the process, but terminological analysis helps us avoid doublettes and pays off in the long run.
Posted in Events, Researching terms, Standardizing entries, Subject matter expert, Terminologist, Terminology 101, Terminology methods, Terminology principles | Tagged: ISO 12620, ISO 26162, ISO 704, ISO meeting, Seoul, terminological analysis | 3 Comments »
Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on January 21, 2011
Enterprise terminologists generally don’t have the easiest job—nobody understands what they are doing, most people don’t know that they exist, and some even refuse to cooperate. A widget may be just what they need.
A widget, really? While we can argue about the (code) name of the new SDL MultiTerm Widget, the concept behind it is a good one: It is a small application that anyone in a company can use to look up the meaning of a term. They just need to highlight the term, and the application displays a hit list, either from the company terminology database (MultiTerm, of course), a search engine or any website a user indicated in the app beforehand. A few different user scenarios for the Widget come to mind.
If I were still a corporate terminologist, I would put on a major campaign to introduce the Widget to any communication professional through a video, a brown bag meeting, or simply an e-mail. The main focus would be on how easy it is for lawyers, trainers, marketing and branding experts, etc. to use corporate terminology consistently. As non-terminology experts, these professionals cannot bother using a terminology-expert tool. They need information, and they need it fast.
Much to my chagrin, a link to LEO, a German-English online dictionary, was embedded in the German Microsoft intranet site. Now, there is nothing wrong with an online dictionary, but it was hard to turn people’s attention to the corporate database from this simple link. Since most terminology teams don’t have huge funds for tools development, the Widget could be that simple solution to steer employees away from unmanaged and to managed corporate terminology. If you put correct and standardized terms at their fingertips, they’ll use it.
Another scenario that came to mind when I saw the Widget the other day is visitors from subsidiaries. At J.D. Edwards, German consultants would come to the Denver headquarters fairly often to attend training session on the newer technologies. Their English was quite good, but they were not always familiar with every new term. They would ask us for glossaries to assist them during the training. If they had such a tool while they were working on a project in class, they could look up critical terms in the database.
Eventually, you would want the app to allow users to share terms that are not yet part of the database. We had an integrated terminology workflow with suggestion functionality at J.D. Edwards (see Perspectives on Localization) and later at Microsoft. Small terminologist teams at large companies need to stem a flood of unmanaged terms, and the closer they are to expert information, the better.
If the Widget doesn’t take off, it’s time for Michael W. to go join Kilgray and work on qTerm. But if SDL is smart, they price it for the masses and give enterprise terminology management a major boost.
Posted in Branding, Content publisher, Subject matter expert, Tool | Tagged: LEO, SDL, SDL MultiTerm, widget | Leave a Comment »