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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Posts Tagged ‘localization’

Brands, names and problems

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on March 20, 2011

The concept denoted by the term “brand” includes many different aspects of a product. Considering that it evolved from the common practice of burning a mark into cattle for identification, it certainly contains the aspect of marks or symbols.

In his book, brand failures, Matt Haig[1] says that ‘[b]rands need to acknowledge cultural differences. Very few brands have been able to be transferred into different cultures without changes to their formula.’ He then lists many of the well-known cases where translation errors or naming misfortunes did lasting damage to a brand:

Beavers in Redmond by BIK

  • Clairol’s Mist Stick curling iron launched in Germany: Mist is the German word for manure.
  • The Silver Mist car by Rolls Royce was not a good choice for the German language market for the same reason.
  • Rover connotes a dog; apparently, Land Rover had a problem selling cars; I am not sure that is still true. That connotation would obviously not bug me very much.

These are funny, if you are not the branding manager of the respective product. At Microsoft, product names, but also many feature names went through a process called a globalization review. A target language terminologist, who is a native speaker of the target-market language, reviews the suggested name for undesirable connotations in the target culture.

If the English name of a new feature is not to be retained in the target-language software, a so-called localizability review is performed. During this evaluation, the terminologist checks whether the connotations that the appellation has in English can be retained easily in the target language. They often try to find a designation that is very close to the original. If that is not possible, they will let the requesting product group know.

Here is a nice list of brand naming considerations offered by brand naming company, Brand Periscope, on their website:

  • easy to say and spell
  • memorable
  • extendable, has room for growth
  • positive feeling
  • international; doesn’t have bad meanings in other languages
  • available; from trademark and domain perspective
  • meaning, has relevance to your business

Sounds simple, but this terminology task is something that is forgotten very often. Product developers might have very little exposure to other cultures and/or languages and don’t think to include terminology or linguistic tasks or checks in their development process. When translators, localizers and terminologists point out a faux-pas, it often is either not taken seriously or it comes too late.

1. Haig, M., brand Failures: The Truth About the 100 Biggest Branding Mistakes of All Times. 2003, London: Kogan Page Limited. 309.


Posted in Branding, Coining terms | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Terminology forever linked to software localization in the US?

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on January 13, 2011

As stated in the call for participation, the TermNet Terminology Survey was developed for communication professionals who were either located in the United States or in Canada or worked for clients in these markets and who were somewhat familiar with terminology issues. The assumption was that language professionals would participate and share what is happening with regard to terminology issues. 145 people participated, and 81% went through all mandatory questions.

Three quarters were doers, e.g. translators, project managers, content publishers or an individual contributor in another communication profession; the remainder was decision makers who managed teams and/or budget. 58% lived in the United States, 29% in Europe. The remaining 13% came from Canada, Asia or Latin America. Below is the statistics of countries where their customers are located.


Not unexpectedly, the majority of participants work for the information and communication technology (ICT) sector. On the one hand, this data is slanted towards the ICT sector, because we invited many from our existing network, which is heavily biased towards software companies. On the other hand, the term “terminology” seems to be intricately linked to “localization” in the United States: When we announced the survey to people from other industries as “a survey on communication and terminology issues,” some responded that they were not in “localization,” others, e.g. in the high-tech sector, stated that it had nothing to do with their field.

When asked “what kind of issues are consuming your time?” Inconsistent terminology turned out the biggest issue.clip_image004

Here are a few causes mentioned under Other:

  • Too many acronyms without explanation
  • Getting team on the same page for content
  • Not enough formal term management for every product
  • Trying to clarify terminology before sending to translators who then often ignore prescribed terminology and argue

An open-ended question on causes for documentation problems brought out the fact that time-to-market is so short in the software industry: People felt that they work under high “time pressure” with “unrealistic turnaround times.” There are “large volumes of source content […] that [clients] have a hard time managing.” And at the same time, there is “[c]onstant evolution of the product.” While people did not see terminology management as a way to speed things up, they clearly saw terminology management as a solution whether they were already engaged in it or not.

So, localizers and content publishers in the ICT sector are ‘believers?’ First of all, do you agree? And secondly, why do you think it is harder to talk about terminology issues to people who are not in localization or who work for other industries?

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

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