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    Barbara Inge Karsch - Terminology Consulting and Training

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Quantity matters

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on August 19, 2010

Losing a terminologist position because the terminologist couldn’t show any quantitative progress is shocking. But it happened, according to a participant of the TKE conference that just concluded in Dublin. While managing terminology is a quality measure, quantity must not be disregarded. After all, a company or organization isn’t in it for the fun of it. Here are numbers that three teams established in different types of databases.

At J.D. Edwards, quality was a big driving factor. Each conceptual entry passed through a three-step workflow before it was approved. The need for change management was extremely low, but the upfront investment was high. Seven full-time terminologists who worked 1/3 of their time on English entries, 1/3 of their time on entries in their native language and 1/3 of the time on other projects, produced just below 6000 conceptual entries between 1999 and 2003.

In comparison, the Microsoft terminology database contained 9000 concepts in January of 2005, most of them (64%) not yet released (for more details see this article in the German publication eDITion). The team of five full-time English terminologists, who spent roughly 50% of their time on terminology work, increased the volume to about 30,000 in the five following years, 95% of which were released entries. The quality of the entries was not as high at JDE, and there was less complex metadata available (e.g. no concept relations).

Rikstermbanken According to Henrik Nilsson, at Swedish Centre for Terminology, TNC, three fulltime resources built up a terminology database, the Risktermbanken,  with 67.000 conceptual entries in three years. That seems like a large number. But one has to take into consideration that the team consolidated data from many different sources in a more or less automated fashion. The entries have not been harmonized, as one of the goals was to show the redundancy of work between participating institutions. The structure of the entries is deliberately simple.

The needs that these databases serve is different: In a corporation, solid entries that serve as prescriptive reference for the product releases are vital. Entries in a collection from various sources, such as in national terminology banks, serve to support the public and public institutions. They may not be harmonized yet, but contain a lot of different terminology for different users. And they may not be prescriptive.

As terminologists, we are sometimes very focused on quality. But let’s not forget that eventually someone will want to hear what has been accomplished by a project. The number of entries is one of the easiest way to communicate that to a business person.


6 Responses to “Quantity matters”

  1. Maria Hopfgarten said

    Hi Barbara,
    This article caught my eye, since I think we all think quality when we think terminology, but it’s true that no organization can survive without production measures and results as well. I liked the comparisons from JDE and MicroSoft as well!
    See you in less than a month! – Maria.

  2. Ingrid Haussteiner said

    Barbara, thanks for this interesting article!
    Our organization, the Austrian central bank, includes the number of entries in the terminology database (which is maintained by the in-house Language Services team of 6 translators) as an indicator of knowledge-based processes in its annual Intellectual Capital Report.
    See Table 4 on page 61 of the 2009 Annual Report of the Oesterreichische Nationalbank at

    • Thank you for sharing details on the database of the Austrian Central Bank, Ingrid. There are many more terminology portals and prescriptive termbanks “out there”. It would be great, if others could add to this thread and share about your terminology project.

  3. Lisa Del Papa said

    You make a very good point in this interesting article. Size does matter when proving one’s worth to a company’s decision-makers. I’d like to add that another good quantitative measure of the need for a good termbase is the number of users who view or use the termbase. For example, if you can show that not only your translation providers use it but also the hundreds or thousands of employees from different departments then you’ve proved quite a lot!

  4. […] Karsch (som arbetat många år inom Microsoft) deltog även och kommenterade frågan i sin blogg ( så här: ” As terminologists, we are sometimes very focused on quality. But let’s not […]

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