6 Ways Translation Glossaries Help Agencies Succeed In Sharing Information

Jul 27, 2021

A translation glossary is an alphabetical list of terms and their approved translations that targets a specific audience. Such resources are among the many tools used to improve the way we communicate with the public in languages other than English.

By creating and using a glossary, agencies can eliminate uncertainty in the translation process and establish consistency in their translated materials. Many agencies across the federal government, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Social Security Administration (SSA), have seen the value of having their own glossaries to use as their reference tool during the translation process.

A stock photo image of a hand holds up a laptop. On the screen, 10 languages surround a language translation icon.

Jirsak, iStock, Getty Images Plus

Choosing the right term is a deliberate decision. If a word has multiple meanings, translation can be extremely complex, time-consuming, and frustrating. This might result in rework, which delays the delivery of information and materials to your target audience. A glossary becomes even more important when translating many languages or when using different translation sources.

Having a glossary sets your translations up for success, making sure that everyone is using the same term for the same concept. It ensures that a specific term will be used correctly and consistently each time—which lightens the workload for future translations.

There are many benefits of having a translation glossary, here are six  to consider:

  1. Consistency: A translation glossary keeps your message consistent across all translations and your branding. It also reduces the cognitive burden on your audience when it recognizes the word and doesn’t have to think about it twice. It sets the standard for all users; internal and external.
  2. Time-saving: Yes, creating a translation glossary takes time in the beginning of the process. It frequently gets pushed down the priority list by tight deadlines and other projects. However, this is a one-time investment which will save so much time in the long run. With a glossary as a reference tool, translators don’t waste time researching the correct word to use and employees can fully dedicate themselves to producing quality multilingual content.
  3. Improved quality of your materials: Having a translation glossary improves the quality of your translations. It will help to avoid common errors in the content creation process. Furthermore, the audience will receive the message in a manner that they will understand.
  4. Better audience engagement: When your audience can better relate to and understand your content, it automatically increases their ability to engage with your agency and improves customer experience (CX).
  5. Cost-effectiveness: Having a translation glossary is a lot more efficient than researching the same terms over and over. It simplifies the translation process, and saves resources and time.
  6. Branding: Consistent translation of your services and keywords means your audience can always identify your message.

To sum up, a glossary sets up a “common language” that, when used across an agency, ensures consistency and uniformity on written communications, which makes the content  easier for our audience to understand.

For examples, check out our Bilingual Glossaries, Dictionaries, and Style Guides page, which is maintained by the Multilingual Community of Practice.