Translation Glossaries and Style Guides: How and Why We Use Them
Glossaries and style guides are tools of the translator’s trade
We sometimes read poor quality translations provided by our clients that have completely different tones, voices, perspectives or turns of phrase. This indicates to us that previous translators have not had the benefit of tools that help ensure consistency – glossaries and style guides. In order to provide high-quality, accurate translations, translators and interpreters will often ask their clients questions like: which version did the client prefer? Which one did the audience prefer? What is your term of choice?
This is why style guides and multilingual glossaries are integral to the long-term success of your translated texts. They ensure your clients or prospects are reading the text as you meant it to be read, consistent with your other documents, and not as a poor, awkward or inconsistent version of the original text.
These resources are usually created in one of two ways; ideally, a multinational company has already created references for the numerous translators that have been working for them, in various languages, as a means of unifying the content to consistently represent their brand, in a unified voice that appeals to their target audience.
In other cases, when smaller companies hire translators or interpreters for the first time, the linguists create these resources on their own, to serve as a reference for the next time they provide translations and also for colleagues who work for the company down the road.
Sometimes, our team is not the first arrival to the translation scene. This is the result of poor-quality translations that forced managers to seek language solutions elsewhere. Other times, former translators aren’t available anymore and we are taking over where they left off. Either way, linguists want to review as many documents and materials as they possibly can to get a feel for the tone, voice, and energy of the message, in order to translate it accordingly into the target language.
If you haven’t yet created these documents, your professional translation team can help you along the way. Your marketing materials will provide a wealth of terminology to work with and are a good place to start as you plan a particular translation project.
Translation glossaries unify the language
We suggest reviewing our blog post, “Translating Translation: A Helpful Guide to Translation Terminology,” which serves as a mini-glossary to help orient yourself to the types of terminology we use in our industry. The same type of glossary should exist for your industry, identifying and defining standardized terms in the source language. This helps translators to understand unfamiliar terms, as well as to land on similar descriptors and ideas for consistency’s sake.
A professional glossary will include:
- Key terms. This includes words, products, services, phrases, expressions, abbreviations and acronyms that are common to your company and/or industry, as well as terms or concepts that are relevant to your company culture.
- Definitions. The definitions contained there should be as detailed and complete as possible so translators understand each of them completely.
- Preferred translations. There is rarely a single translation of any term, which is why our linguists are interested in knowing your preferred translations. These would be the translations that resonate best with your audience members. Including them in your glossary allows current and future translators to remain on the same page.
- This is crucial for translators and interpreters to understand how to use the term appropriately.
- Do-not-translates. You may not want to translate certain proprietary words, trademarks, phrases, or concept, preferring them to remain in the source language. We need to know about these too.
A translation glossary is a living document, and should go through periodic reviews to ensure it is current, updated and that the language still “works” for your brand and/or your clients and prospective new niches.
Translation style guides unify the look and feel
A style guide serves as a short set of standards that detail your desires and preferences. If you don’t have a working, relevant or quality style guide at the ready, it’s a good idea to draft one while forging your new relationship with your translator.
Let’s be clear that a style guide does not have to be a long, complicated publication. In fact, the more concise and focused it is, the better, because this makes it easier for translators to access it efficiently and use what they’ve learned as they tackle your next project.
The style guide should include:
A very brief description of your company
This is the same type of information you would provide to your marketing team. What is your company? What do you stand for? Who is your target market? Who are your competitors? What makes you different? What are your goals?
This is your preferred content. Is it casual or formal? Do you prefer short sentences or more artistically phrased versions? Do you want the translation to be literal or are you interested in creative translations that may be more suited to the target language’s culture?
What do you not want?
Just as the glossary should include words that shouldn’t be translated, your style guide should reiterate the words, phrases, products, services, concepts, etc. that should remain in the source language.
Similarly, let us know if there are expressions, slogans, or problem words (perhaps competitor’s jargon) that shouldn’t be used in your translations. Your translator may have suggestions here since English phrases may not always have respectful or culturally accepted translations (often the case with metaphors and idioms), in which case we can add these as “do not use” translations and provide more desirable options for you to review.
Visual and formatting guidelines
Consistency in formatting and visuals is as important to your company’s brand reputation and impression as the consistency in verbiage. We’ll also want to know about your typographic preferences, formatting, capitalization, and punctuation rules, and even your preferred fonts, colors, images, graphics, and so on.
Once again, our translation team will be happy to work with you to create a branded glossary and style guide if you haven’t already done so. These important, foundational resources will significantly enhance the quality – and the impact – of your future translations.
Ready to embark on your next translation project?
Contact the translation team at Chang-Castillo and Associates. We’ll be happy to update your current glossary and style guide or to begin drafting your first version, so your translations do the work they were set out in the world to do.