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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Is “cloud” a technical term (yet)?

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on October 11, 2011

We have jargon, we have words, we have phrases…we have terms. Can words become terms? How would that happen? And has “the cloud” arrived as a technical concept yet?

clip_image003Cloud, as a word, is part of our everyday vocabulary. With the summer over, it’ll again be part of our daily lives in the Pacific Northwest for the next eight months. On the right is a good definition from the Merriam Webster Learner’s Dictionary. The Learner’s Dictionary is not concerned with technical language, as it is compiled for non-native speakers. So, the definition doesn’t allude to the fact that clouds, in a related sense, are also part of the field of meteorology and therefore part of a language for special purposes (LSP).

When common everyday words are used in technical communication and with specialized meaning, they have become terms through a process called terminologization. Is cloud, as in cloud computing, there yet? Or is it still in this murky area where marketing babel meets technical communication? It certainly was initially.

Here is a great blog on when cloud was used for the first time. Author John M. Willis asked his Twitter followers Who Coined The Phrase Cloud Computing? and could then trace back the first occurrences to May of 1997 and a patent application for “cloud computing” by NetCentric; then to a 1999 NYT article that referred to a Microsoft “cloud of computers”, and finally to a speech by Google’s Eric Schmidt who Willis says he would pick as the moment when the cloud metaphor became mainstream.

Cloud Managed, really? Picture by BIK

That was 2006, and “the cloud” may have become part of the tech world’s hype, but it wasn’t a technical term with a solid and clearly delineated definition. As Willis points out “cloud computing was a collection of related concepts that people recognized, but didn’t really have a good descriptor for, a definition in search of a term, you could say.”

Yes, we had the designator, but did we really have a clear definition? In my mind, everyone defined it differently. For a while, the idea of “the cloud” was batted around mostly by marketing and advertising folks whose job it is to use hip language and create positive connotations. When “the cloud” and other marketing jargon sound like dreams coming true to disposed audiences, they usually spell nightmare to terminologists. The path of a “cloud dream” into technical language is a difficult one. In 2008, I was part of a terminology taskforce within the Windows Server team who tried to nail down what cloud computing was. I believe the final definition wasn’t set when I left in May 2010.

On a recent walk, though, I took my resident Azure architect evangelist (See You say Aaaazure, I say Azuuuure…) through a good analysis of the conceptual area. Although Greg kept saying that some of the many companies in cloud computing these days “would also include x, y, or z,” x, y and z all turned out to not be “essential characteristics.” And we ended up with the following definition. It is based largely on the one published by Netlingo, but modified to meet more of the criteria of a terminological definition:


“A type of computing in which dynamic, scalable and virtual resources are provided over the Internet and which includes services that provide common business applications online and accessible from a Web browser, while the software and data are stored on servers.”

Wouldn’t it be great, if a terminologist could stand by to assist any time a new concept is being created somewhere? Then, we’d have nice definitions and well-formed terms and appellations right away. Since that is utopia, at least it helps to be aware that language is in flux, that marketing language might be deliberately nebulous, and that it might take time before a majority of experts have agreed on what something is and how it is different from other things around it. I think “the cloud” and “cloud computing” have been terminologized and arrived in technical language.



Posted in Branding, Coining terms, Content publisher, Interesting terms, Terminologist | Tagged: , , , | 10 Comments »

Next ECQA CTM at Lessius in Antwerp

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on October 4, 2011

I am getting ready for my next trip to the Lessius University College of KULeuven in Belgium where I have been a guest lecturer for the last year. Shortly thereafter, Lessius will offer another round of ECQA Certified Terminology Manager – Basic. It won’t work out for me to teach with my colleagues, Hendrik Kokaert and Silvia Cerrela Bauer, but below is the information of the course which you can also find here on the TermNet website. 

ECQA Certified Terminology Manager – Basic

28 November – 2 December 2011 ECQA
Lessius University College
Antwerp, Belgium

In the globalized knowledge and information societies, specialized language has become a pre-requisite of any kind of efficient and effective communication, management and interoperability of technical systems and methodologies. Terminology and terminology management build an integral, high quality and quality assuring part of the end products, services and tools in the fields of:

  • Information & communication
  • Classification & categorization
  • Translation & localization


Monday, 28 November 2011

Tuesday, 29 November 2011
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Thursday, 1 December 2011

Friday, 2 December 2011

Please send an e-mail to Dr Hendrik J. Kockaert: [].
Registration deadline is 7 November 2011.

Training: € 800
Test and certificate: € 150
Lessius University College/ KULeuven
Department of Applied Language Studies
Sint-Andriesstraat 2
B-2000 Antwerp

Posted in Events, TermNet | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

A few Anglicisms

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on September 29, 2011

Source: Cambridge Dictionaries Online

It may be a bit of a challenge to write about Anglicisms or Americanisms in the English language, although Ivan Kanič did so successfully in a previous guest post. I have gathered a few over the years that deserve to be shared, though. From a terminology perspective, Anglicisms fall into the category of term formation, often poor term formation. But what I will share below is mostly sloppy, if funny language use.

At the Microsoft subsidiary in Munich, products were “launched” even in German, which resulted in spoken statements to the extent of “Wir haben das Produkt gelaunscht.” Note that “to launch” was Germanized so that it was more easily pronounceable. One could get the impression that there are not enough ways to say “to start something” in German, as processes and such were usually “getriggert.”

Microsoft Clip ArtI had worked in the US for many years prior to joining the team in Munich and more than once smiled inwardly, when people essentially butchered both languages. I think it a bit more disturbing, when journalists litter their reports with Anglicisms, even if some of the words may eventually become part of the German language. On May 25, the announcer on Bayern 5, a news station that I listen to over the internet, said that due to the eruption of the Grimsvötn volcano not all flights had left airports as planned. She said something to the extent of “Airlines haben Flüge gecancelt…und Maschinen konnten den Airport nicht verlassen.“ Needless to say, there are perfectly good German words for airlines, cancel and airport.

A relative of mine who moved to the US many decades ago and kept her German up to the best of her abilities still takes the cake, and I mean this in a loving way. Her little garden house had shifted during storm, she told me in a mix of German and English, but most notable with a wonderful Franconian accent: “Do hat da Wind mei Sched gemuvt.” Fortunately, she is not in a language profession where linguistic interferences could be the end of one’s career.

Posted in Terminologist | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

A terminologist in bear country

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on September 27, 2011

For the last several weeks, I have been working on terminology for the nicely regulated aviation industry where well-defined terminology is prevalent. It was perfect timing to learn about training, maintenance, and safety concepts in this industry, since in the midst of the assignment, I climbed into a floatplane (The Otter) and flew to Katmai National Park for four fascinating days.

Valley of Ten Thousand SmokesThis park, located in the southwestern corner of Alaska, was founded following a volcanic eruption in 1912. The explosion of Novarupta was the largest volcanic event of the 20 century, and ashes could be found as far away as Africa. When researchers around Robert Griggs ventured back into the area, they found what they thought were small sources of fire still smoldering and dubbed the place ‘Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.’ Years later upon closer investigation, the “smoke” turned out to come from the Ukak River that had gotten buried underneath the lava. Instead of particles produced by combustion, water vapor was rising from the lava fields. The misnomer of the valley stuck, though, but outside of the proper noun, “smoke” has since been put in quotes on most boards and documents.

Inaccurate terminology in historic names is common. In fact, misleading terms could be considered an indication of progress in a subject field and incorrect names of landmarks even add to the places. I am glad, though, that terminology at the other attraction of the Park is being handled extremely carefully these days. I am referring to the Brooks River and its resident bear population.

From a safe platform, these large mammals can be observed catching fish in four distinct ways: Snorkeling which is the most effective and most popular technique; younger bears often engage in what is called the “dash-and-grab” technique of running in shallower water and snatching fish with the paw. If they are not successful and hunger really strikes, specialists switch to technique number three, stealing. The least popular, but most interesting to watch, is diving: After the bear head disappears in the green water of Naknek Lake, a pair of leathery feet emerges. Seconds later, the lucky diver pops back up with a red sockeye salmon in his jaw.

Map of Brooks CampWhere bears and people live close together, rangers don’t have an easy task. People are to stay at least 50 yards from the bears, and even if you have the best intentions, you constantly need to be on your toes, in more than one sense of the word.

From 8 AM to 8 PM, rangers are stationed at three strategic places, roughly where you see the blue crosses on the adjacent map. It was highly interesting to listen to them inform each other about bear movement via two-way radio. One ranger was more precise and efficient in his or her communication than the next. And they all referred to places the same way: For example, the lowest cross is close to “the platform;” the next cross up was a place called “corner.” The corner and the platform were connected via a small floating bridge (“the bridge”). And to the East of the corner was a little promontory referred to as “the point.” Rangers described pathways of bears very clearly, so that each ranger always knew when to move people away from a spot or when the bridge could be approached, even though the terrain was covered by forest.Bear on the “corner”

While names of most landmarks had emerged over the years, returning rangers drew up a map to define important places for newcomers. Naming was logical and communication was adjusted seamlessly to recipient (fellow ranger or guest) and method (radio or face-to-face). While this might seem an obvious behavior, it is one that clearly contributes to the safety of the environment. Besides these professional observations, my father and I had an incredible time at Katmai National Park.

Posted in Events, Interesting terms | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

UI is communication

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on August 19, 2011

And communication contains technical terminology. Here is a simple way of showing this.clip_image002

A UX designer who gets not only the user focus, but who also knows the critical role of language is my former colleague, Windows UX designer and now principal of UX Design Edge, Everett McKay. I borrowed the title of this posting from his presentation: UI is communication.

Obviously not everything on the user interface is language or terminology-related. And with the increased use of touch, voice or motion interaction, we might see an even clearer focus of certain types of software on these other ways of communication.

But a simple screen shot without words can demonstrate that certain types of user interfaces rely heavily, if not exclusively, on language as the means of communication between the developer of the product and the user. If the developer does not communicate the intent of the form, screen, etc. well, the user will struggle.

Here is a form without words. Get it? No? No problem: I designed it in Visual Studio myself, and I am a level 0 designer on Everett’s scale. So, there is nothing to get other than terminology on the form matters.


Posted in Terminologist, Usability | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Terminology extraction with memoQ 5.0 RC

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on August 15, 2011

In the framework of a TermNet study, I have been researching and gathering data about terminology management systems (TMS). We will not focus on term extraction tools (TE), but since one of our tools candidates recently released a new term extraction module, I wanted to check it out. Here is what I learned from giving the TE functionality of memoQ 5.0 release candidate a good run.

Let me start by saying that this test made me realize again how much I enjoy working with terminological data; I love analyzing terms and concept, researching meaning and compiling data in entries; to me it is a very creative process. Note furthermore that I am not an expert in term extraction tools: I was a serious power-user of several proprietary term extraction tools at JDE and Microsoft; I haven’t worked with the Trados solution since 2003; and I have only played with a few other methods (e.g. Word/Excel and SynchroTerm). So, my view of the market at the moment is by no means a comprehensive one. It is, however, one of a user who has done some serious term mining work. One of the biggest projects I ever did was Axapta 4.0 specs. It took us several days to even just load all documents on a server directory; it took the engine at least a night to “spit out” 14,000 term candidates; and it took me an exhausting week to nail down 500 designators worth working with.

As a mere user, as opposed to a computational linguist, I am not primarily interested in the performance of the extraction engine (I actually think the topic is a bit overrated); I like that in memoQ I can set the minimum/maximum word lengths, the minimum frequency, and the inclusion/exclusion of words with numbers (the home-grown solutions had predefined settings for all of this). But beyond the rough selection, I can deal with either too many or too few suggestions, if the tool allows me to quickly add or delete what I deem the appropriate form. There will always be noise and lots of it. I would rather have the developer focus on the usability of the interface than “waste” time on tweaking algorithms a tiny bit more.Microsoft PowerPoint Clip Art

So, along the lines of the previous posting on UX design, my requirements on a TE tool are that it allows me to

  • Process term candidates (go/no-go decision) extremely fast and
  • Move data into the TMS smoothly and flawlessly.

memoQ by Kilgray Translation Technologies* meets the first requirement very nicely. My (monolingual) test project was the PowerPoint presentations of the ECQA Certified Terminology Manager, which I had gone through in detail the previous week and which contained 28,979 English words. Because the subject matter is utterly familiar to me, there was no question as to what should make the cut and what shouldn’t. I loved that I could “race” through the list and go yay or nay; that I could merge obvious synonyms; and that I could modify term candidates to reflect their canonical form. Because the contexts for each candidate are all visible, I could have even checked the meaning in context quickly if I had needed to.

I also appreciated that there is already a stop word list in place. It was very easy to add to it, although here comes one suggestion: It would be great to have the term candidate automatically inserted in the stop-word dialog. Right now, I still have to type it in. It would safe time if it was prefilled. Since the stop word list is not very extensive (e.g. even words like “doesn’t” are missing in the English list), it’ll take everyone considerable time to build up a list, which in its core will not vary substantially from user to user. But that may be too much to ask for a first release.

As for my second requirement, memoQ term extraction doesn’t meet that (yet) (note that I only tested the transfer of data to memoQ, but not to qTerm). I know it is asking for a lot to have a workflow from cleaned-up term candidate list to terminological entry in a TMS. Here are two suggestions that would make a difference to users:

  • Provide a way to move context from the source document, incl. context source, into the new terminological entry.
  • Merging terms into one entry because they are synonyms is great. But they need to show up as synonyms when imported into the term base; none of my short forms (e.g. POS, TMS) showed up in the entry for the long forms (e.g. part of speech, terminology management systems) when I moved them into the memoQ term base.

imageMy main overall wish is that we integrate TE with authoring and translation in a way that allows companies and LSPs, writers and translators to have an efficient workflow. It is imperative in technical communication/translation to document terms and concepts. When this task is put on the translators, it is already quite late, but it is better than if it doesn’t happen. Only fast and flawless processing will allow one-person or multi-person enterprises, for that matter, to carry out terminology work as part of the content supply chain. When the “fast and flawless” prerequisite is met, even those of my translator-friends who detest the term “content supply chain” will have enough time to enjoy themselves with the more creative aspects of their profession. Then, economic requirements essential on the macro level are met, and the need of the individual to get satisfaction out of the task is fulfilled on the micro level. The TE functionality of memoQ 5.0 RC excels in design and, in my opinion, is ready for translators’ use. If you have any comments, if you agree or disagree with me, I’d love to hear it.

*Kilgray is a client of BIK Terminology.

Posted in Designing a terminology database, memoQ, Producing quantity, Selecting terms, Term extraction tool, Usability | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

HCI International 2011

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on August 11, 2011

In July, I spent two days at Human Computer Interaction International 2011 in Orlando, Florida, with hundreds of UX designers, usability analysts, engineers and researchers from around the world. It surprised me that language as part of usability was mentioned just a few times. Furthermore, I didn’t expect to hear so much about the struggle of usability professionals within company hierarchies and cultures. It also occurred to me that many terminology management systems (TMS) may not have taken usability all that seriously so far.

Thunderstorm over Disney WorldChallenged by a missed flight and an extra night in DC, I managed to attend about 40 presentations. None of them even mentioned language, let alone terminology as a focus point or issue. Although Helmut Windl from Continental Automotive GmbH had a wonderful series of translation errors as an intro to his paper on Empathy as a Key Factor for Successful Intercultural HCI Design. Linguistic faux pas are always good for a laugh. As you might expect, my own paper, Terminology Precision—A Key Factor in Product Usability and Safety, was focused on avoiding such faux pas, particularly in the life sciences where blunders could be less than funny.

What came across in more than one presentation is that UX professionals, like language professionals, struggle with their status in an enterprise. Clemens Lutsch from Microsoft Deutschland GmbH gave a good presentation on making the case for usability standards to management that had useful ideas for us terminologists as well, e.g., what he called “the trap of the cost is already there”. What he means with this is that existing roles already take care of the task, say, user-centered design or, for us, something like term formation, so why bother changing anything. The awareness that these employees may not have the right skill set does not (always) exist. Usability folks and terminologists can form alliances on more than one front.

Usability Standards across the Development Lifecycle by Theofanos and StantonLutsch’s was part of a whole session on ISO usability standards and enterprise software. The award winning paper of this track (Design, User Experience, and Usability) by Theofanos and Stanton of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (US) introduced a comprehensive overview of all the standards provided or proposed by the respective ISO technical committee(s) and IEC. The graphic on the left which stems from the paper has lots of detail. But the main point of showing it here is that it has the user at the center and that any and all design tasks revolve around user needs.

I have participated in software development for terminology management systems (as well as in others) and this view was never the prevailing one. The result was often that TMS users struggled with the software: They would rather work in Excel and then import the data than work in the interface that was to support and facilitate their work.

So, here is a challenge to the designers and developers of TMS: Don’t provide systems that do a wonderful job hosting data; provide systems that allow us to do terminology work efficiently and reliably. In Quantity AND Quality, I discussed a few of the easy things that can be done on the interface level. I would love to see tools being developed following not only the soon to be released ISO 26162, but also the usability standards put forth by ISO TC 159, (Ergonomics). By the same token, let the usability and ergonomics people in the committee inspire the rest of their industry. After all their scope includes “standardization in the field of ergonomics, including terminology, methodology, and human factors data.”

Posted in Designing a terminology database, Events, Usability | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ATA Preconference Seminar

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on August 7, 2011

The program for the 52nd ATA conference in Boston was just published. This year, Sue Ellen Wright and I will offer a preconference seminar.

Terminology Management for Translators
Barbara Inge Karsch and Sue Ellen Wright
(Wednesday, 9:00am-12:00pm; All Levels; Presented in: English)

This seminar will discuss best practices for translation-oriented terminology management, emphasizing pragmatic solutions for working translators designed to ensure long-term viability of terminological data. Topics will include fundamental principles, basic data fields for term entries, strategies for establishing target equivalents, and the avoidance of future problems and data loss. The benefits of following best practices include increased translation efficiency and accuracy, better source-language documents, reduced quality assurance costs, and an overall improvement in translation workflow and quality.

To register, click on the image below.

American Translators Associatin (

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New office mate at BIK’s

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on July 27, 2011

Luke Karsch-Oliver

One of the disadvantages of having your own consultancy is that you either travel or you are in your office by yourself. At BIK, we just changed that. Meet our new office mate, Luke.

Ok, BIK has never been completely alone. There are the lunches with clients, partners, former colleagues and friends. And, of course, there was Anton. Yes, I use the past tense because our dear friend passed away rather quickly a little over four weeks ago. I am grateful for all the many years we spent together. He left a big hole, though.

Since there is no travel scheduled for a while and it got too quiet in the office very quickly, we adopted a 5-months-old Dalmatian-Lab mix. I don’t expect that you will be hearing from him all that often (although he is a great opera singer!). But I thought you should know what I have been busy with. Meet Luke and stay tuned for a trip report on HCI International 2011.

Posted in Terminologist | 10 Comments »

Survey by University of Ottawa

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on July 8, 2011

If you are interested in optimizing your use of termbases, participate in this survey. The survey is being conducted by Lynne Bowker, Elizabeth Marshman and Marta Gómez Palou, as part of Marta’s doctoral thesis research. Having done similar research at Microsoft with our database users, I find it very worthwhile. And by participating, you might just learn something about your own behavior.

In her invitation, Marta writes “[f]rom this research we wish to assess the user acceptance of a series of strategies that will help translators to optimize termbases integrated to translation environment systems (integrated termbases). The end result will be a series of best practices to guide translators on how to best design and build their integrated termbases.”

The survey does require your brain power—rather than the quick gut reaction that I recently asked you for). I hope you will still consider taking 20 minutes to work your way through it and share your preferences. Click on the link below to get started:


University of Ottawa

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