Terminology Network: proposal for a way forward

by Lily M. Saona

The  founding of  the Terminology Network by the ITI in the U.K. has been a good step and hopefully the beginning of a way forward in this important aspect of translation work. However this network should not only concentrate in the discussion of  particular terms, but  it should consider, as well, how the contents of such a base is to be diseminated by means of tools and resources available to handle terminology queries. Adequate computer software is the only feasible way to create and use terminology resources.

The creation of software and the entering of data are very expensive and will not be attempted by any entity unless this one is of sufficient size and has a guaranteed market. The membership of the ITI is such a group with 'critical mass'. Software to enter, share and use terminology entries could be commissioned and distributed for about £20K (US$32,000), which would be only £10 per member. Compare this with £300 (US$450) per copy for existing commercial products. A commercial license for a terminology database is no less than £100K (US$160,000) and many of them may not be very suitable for the individual translator anyway. Eurodicautom has good content but users cannot add to the content. (see http://www.cycom.co.uk/ltool.htm).

If each translator entered just 100 terms used in his/her current translation work, a 200,000 term resource would be obtained within a month; within a year, this would be 2 million terms. Furthermore, a user-owned terminology base is controlled, improved and designed for the users by the users without conflicting with another company's interests. All entries would be tagged with the author's identity to prevent or recover from unsuitable entries.

An on-line resource promotes collaboration. One user can contribute a new term and create an identity for the concept. Next, a subject expert can define the term. Next, target language users can add the translations for the term. The on-line terminology base acts as a "common blackboard" for exchange of ideas and is also sufficiently structured to give the information a lasting value. Users can score each term at any time so that a general selection process can keep the information of high quality.

"Bigger is better" as far as terminology resources are concerned provided content quality is maintained and the ITI membership is a larger entity (in terms of translator numbers) than any language company, European Community Department, or university research lab. However, given the critical economic issues raised by this proposal, the obvious questions seem to be: how would the translators who participate in building a terminology base benefit from the venture? In addition, what would the incentives be for them to get involved in the first place? And lastly, what would the advantages be for ITI as a professional association?

(Your comments and feedback are most welcomed).