BIK Terminology—

Solving the terminology puzzle, one posting at a time

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    Barbara Inge Karsch - Terminology Consulting and Training

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Archive for the ‘Theory’ Category

Jump List? Or what should we call it?

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on October 14, 2010

Giving a new concept a name in a source language often leads directly to the question of what to do with it in another language. This seems like a problem for target terminologists and translators, right? It isn’t. Marketing, branding and content publishing folks listen up!

We have just created a new term or appellation according to best practices from ISO 704. Now, what do we call it in the target language? What do we do with new designations, such as Azure or jump list? Well, the same best practices apply for target language terms as well. But there is a difference for terms and appellations.image

Terms represent generic concepts. They are the parent concept or superordinate to other concepts. The concept called “operating system” in English has many different subordinate concepts, e.g. Windows, Linux, or Mac OS. Many times generic concepts have native-language equivalents in other languages. Of course, a particular language may borrow a term from another language, a direct loan. But that should be a deliberate term formation method and it is just one of them, as discussed in What I like about ISO 704.

An appellation represents an individual concept, one that is unique. Like you and me. And just as our parents gave us names that should represent us to the world—some very common and transparent, others peculiar or extraordinary—products get names that represent them to buyers. The criteria for good formation are weighted slightly differently than they are when used during new term formation: An appellation might be deliberately not transparent or consistent with the rest of the subject field. After all, it is a new product that is supposed to stand out. And it might be deliberately in another language.

Windows Azure™ is the appellation for “a cloud services operating system that serves as the development, service hosting and service management environment for the Windows Azure platform,” according to the official website. If we leave aside the trademark for a moment, nobody in their right mind would use the literal translations “Fenster ‘Azurblau’”, “Fenêtre bleu” or “Finestra azzurra”.  image

Once again, I find ISO 704 very helpful: “Technically, appellations are not translated but remain in their original language. However, an individual concept may have an appellation in different languages.” Good examples are international organizations which tend to have appellations in all languages of the member states, such as the European Union, die Europäische Union, or l’Union européenne.

ISO 704 goes on to say that “whether an individual concept has an appellation in more than one language depends on the following:

  • The language policy of a country;
  • How internationally well known the concept is;
  • The multilingual nature of the entity in question;
  • The need for international cooperation and relations.”

Based on this, it is pretty clear that an international organization would have an appellation in each of the languages of the member states. What about product names, such as Windows Azure? As terminologists for the target market, we should make recommendations in line with the above.

That is exactly what happened with a new feature for Windows 7, called Jump List in English. The message from the marketing department was that it was to remain in English even in the localized versions of Windows. But the problem wasn’t that simple.Example of a jump list

There are actually two concepts hidden behind this name:

  • Jump List: The Windows feature that allows users to display jump lists.
    • A unique feature and therefore an individual concept.
    • An appellation.
  • jump list: A list associated with programs pinned to the taskbar or Start menu.
    • A generic concept that can happen multiple times even within one session.
    • A technical term.
    • Erroneously capitalized in English.

Generally, when a new feature is introduced the feature gets a name and many times, the individual instances of the feature take on a term derived from the feature name. In this case, the feature was named Jump List and the instances were called Jump Lists. The later should not be uppercase and is in many instances not uppercase. But the two concepts were not differentiated, let alone defined up front.

So, when the German localizers got the instruction to keep the English term for all instances of the concept, they had a problem. They would have gotten away with leaving the appellation in English (e.g. Jump List-Funktion), but it would have been nearly impossible to get the meaning of the generic concept across or even just read the German text, had the term for the generic concept been the direct loan from the English. We could argue whether the literal translation Sprungliste represents the concept well to German users.

Naming is tricky, and those who name things must be very clear on what it is they are naming. Spelling is part of naming, and casing is part of spelling. Defining something upfront and then using it consistently supports clear communication and prevents errors in source and target texts.

Posted in Advanced terminology topics, Branding, Coining terms, Content publisher, Interesting terms, Terminologist, Terminology principles, Theory, Translator | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

You say Aaaazure, I say Azuuuure…

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on October 7, 2010

Two years after the then new cloud-computing technology by Microsoft was named Windows Azure, Microsoft employees and partners are still wondering how to pronounce the name. Is that a good thing for product branding? Probably not.Products from Geberit

Naming is a big part of terminology management. In her presentation for the last DTT symposium, Beate Früh, language service manager at Geberit International AG, a European producer of sanitary technology, described very well how she and her team support engineers in finding the right names, terms or labels for new products or parts (for examples see the adjacent image or the slide deck in German). One of the keys: The team comes in early in the process to help engineers find the best possible terms.

What are best possible terms or appellations? Obviously, each language has its own rules on term formation, as discussed in What I like about ISO 704. But here are the main criteria as well as a checklist that good terminology should meet, again courtesy of ISO 704:

  • Transparency: Can the reader understand what the concept is about by looking at the term?
  • Consistency: Is the new term or appellation consistent with the naming in the subject field? Or does it introduce new aspects at least very deliberately or only when necessary?
  • Appropriateness: Are the connotations evoked by the designation intentional? And do they follow “established patterns of meaning within the language community?”
  • Linguistic economy: Is the term or appellation as short as possible, so as to avoid arbitrary abbreviations by users?
  • Derivability and compoundability: Is it easy to form other terms, e.g. compounds, with the new term?
  • Linguistic correctness: Does the new designation conform to morphological, morphosyntactic, and phonological norms of the language?
  • Preference for native language: Is the new term or appellation borrowed from another language? Or could it be replaced by a native-language designation?

Why would it take a terminologist to name things correctly? In the software industry, we used to say that programmers became programmers because they wanted to deal with 0s and 1s, not with words and terms. Similarly, product engineers are probably better with designing, developing, or testing devices rather than naming them. What’s more, they don’t necessarily think about what happens downstream, let alone set up entries in a terminology database.

Participants of the Life Science Roundtable at LocWorld yesterday in Seattle illustrated the necessity to deliberately choose terms and appellations early in the process, document them as well as their target-language equivalents and then use them consistently: After a device has gone through the regulatory process, even linguistic changes are extremely difficult, if not impossible to make. Tough luck then if a name doesn’t work very well in one or more of the other 25 target markets.

At Microsoft, most product names are run through a process called a globalization review. Marketing experts work with native-language terminologists on evaluating whether the above criteria are met. Some names obviously don’t get submitted. So, Aaaazure, Azzzzure…let’s call the whole thing off? No. But since I am now married to an “Azure evangelist”, I hope that the concept behind the appellation is really solid and makes up for the trouble we have with its pronunciation.

Posted in Advanced terminology topics, Branding, Coining terms, Events, Interesting terms, Terminology methods, Terminology principles, Theory | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Terms—A translator’s perspective vs. a terminologist’s perspective

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on September 30, 2010

Any translator can do a terminologist’s work. The best translators compile lists of terms, equivalents, maybe a piece of context or even a definition before or at least while they are translating. So, theoretically the above statement is correct. But let’s take another look at the focus of a translator and the focus of a terminologist with regard to terms.

Although a term can be at the same time a unit of translation and a term described and defined in a terminology database, translators and terminologists treat that unit differently. A translator works in context and arrives at a target solution that is correct for that particular text. Based on Saussure, Juan Sager calls terms in a translation text “instances of parole” or “language in use” (Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies).

In Quasi dasselbe mit anderen Worten, Umberto Eco says “in light of [all the] meanings made available by a dictionary entry and its applicable encyclopedic information, the translator must choose the most probable, reasonable and relevant sense for the context in question and this possible world” (translation by BIK). That means that the translator cannot simply copy what he finds in a dictionary or terminology database; he actually has to be, as Robin Bonthrone put it years ago, “switched on.” If that wasn’t a condition, machine translation would have long since taken over.

That context then becomes part of the translated text, which in our scenario of technical translation, usually becomes part of a translation memory (TM). And it also becomes part of a product. As part of the product, the term is now part of history, as it were. As part of the TM, the term may be reused for the next version of the product, and it may also serve as reference material to others. But a translation memory does not equate to managed terminology. Strings in TMs contain terminology, but TMs are generally static and hardly ever managed.

In applied terminology, the starting point might be the term in the translation environment above. But a terminologist must research and understand the term not only in one particular context, but in as many as it takes to uniquely identify its meaning. Once that meaning has been identified, the terminologist creates a terminological entry. According to Sager, terminologists use the term, the “instance of parole”, to get to langue, i.e. the abstract system behind the linguistic sign. The entry is part of the terminological system in the database and can now be applied back in parole, in more than one situation or context, to more than one product or company. Therefore, it must be comprehensible to people other than the terminologist, and it must reflect the understanding and knowledge of the subject matter expert (see also Terminology by Maria Theresa Cabré).

While both translators and terminologists research terms, the product of their work is different. The translator is responsible for the delivery of a correct target language text with correct technical terms (parole or language in use). The terminologist is responsible for the creation of a JIALcorrect and complete terminological entry in a database (langue or the abstract system underlying speech acts). That entry may over time be used for many different products and versions inside or outside the company; the entry may become obsolete or even incorrect and the terminologist may need to modify it or add a new entry to the database accordingly. Monetary compensation, as described in What do we do with terms? method and goal of translators and terminologists are different. Therefore, translators translate, terminologists research and document.

[This posting is based on an article published in the Journal of Internationalisation and Localisation, which can be downloaded for free.]

Posted in Advanced terminology topics, Researching terms, Terminologist, Theory, Translator | 2 Comments »

 
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