How to Create a Useful Glossary for Translators


If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we should work more efficiently in order to maximize the time we have to take care of ourselves and others. We can only stare at a computer screen for so many hours and put out quality work, right?

If you're a localization manager about to kick off a translation project and you’re starting to build out your language assets, you know rock-solid Glossaries and Style Guides are crucial fundamentals on the path to a successful roll out. In an effort to minimize time spent, keep projects on schedule, and forge ahead with confidence, we have compiled a comprehensive must-read Glossary list just for you.

Glossaries are reference materials for our linguists. If translations are full color illustrations, Glossaries would be the outlines. Glossaries are key building blocks to quicker, better quality translations because they educate translators on approved references, proper terminology, nomenclature, and punctuation usage for your business. That’s why the more you update your linguistic assets, the better your content will be translated and the more time you will save time in the end.

How Often Should Your Glossary Be Updated?

The answer depends on how much content you have and how much your industry language updates and changes.

  • If you have a singular app or a static website, your terminology won’t require much upkeep. Set a reminder to assess your Glossary once or twice per year.
  • Do you have tons of content? If you fall into the “dynamic content” category, consider checking in on your Glossary monthly to make sure all your terms are being updated consistently.

Pro tip: Schedule your Glossary assessments once per quarter or twice per year and send the calendar invite out to your whole team. Not only will it pop up and serve as a reminder when the time comes, but it will serve as a background prompt to update your Glossary whenever anything major happens to your business terms.

How to Create Your Smartling Glossary

Glossaries should be built to contain commonly used words or terms, along with their definitions, specifically including the unique nomenclature for your brand.

How do your terms impact your business, your vertical, and could they possibly mean something very different in another setting? All these considerations should be kept in mind when creating your Glossary.

  • Always include terminology as it is specific to your business and industry.
  • Have the following for each term:
  • Definition (define the source term)
    • Part of speech (select from noun, verb, adjective, etc.)
    • Notes (any additional information that may be of use to translators)
    • Variations, Synonyms and Antonyms (related terms as an aid to translators,but NOT used for matching. For example, if "create" is a Glossary term,you may wish to declare "creates", "creator", or "creating" as variations;"write" or "build" as synonyms and "destroy" as an antonym).

Pro tip: Include DNT (Do Not Translate) in your Glossary terms to instruct translators not to translate the term in your content. This will help avoid any potential translation confusion by excluding email addresses, proper names, company names, addresses, trademarked terms, product names, etc. from being translated. Your translator will understand, without having to email and potentially waste time, that these words are not to be translated under any circumstances.

Features of your Smartling Glossary

What should you include to avoid your translations from potentially derailing? Your Glossary is a reference book, so including the features outlined below, will ensure you remove any potential speculation for your translators. Take the time to include these to ensure your translations are on target. And remember, remain consistent in your tone, voice, and vibe.

  • Source term
  • Case sensitive (only words or phrases with cases matched will be highlighted in the CAT Tool as Glossary terms. For example, if there is a term "Word", then "word" will not be treated as a term.
  • DNT flags (see above)
  • Exact match

Who has a say on the creation of a Glossary?

Now that we know what a Glossary entails and how it benefits both companies and translators, who do you think the best people are for the task at hand?

Brand managers, marketing teams, brand voice experts, product UX writers and product managers should all have a hand in creating a comprehensive Glossary. The person who decides on the businesses’ tone of voice and overall company ethos is the best bet for creating and updating a baseline Glossary. And of course, the localization manager has to be involved because this person has researched target markets and will understand the efficacy of certain messages in different regions (or will know how to figure this out). Let a translator review before you begin translating Pro tip: incorporate a check in with a translator as you finalize your work.

The benefits are twofold and also tie back to saving time and money on your translations:

  • A translator can help provide further information on the context in source language (what is inaccurate off the bat, what needs clarification, what doesn’t make initial sense)
  • They can translate those terms so you have a preferred translated term. This means you will start with an advantage right out of the gate.

Why SEO is essential

Your Glossary should absolutely include your company’s SEO terms.

SEO is used to mark a term that is important for Search Engine Optimization (the ability for people to search and actually find you amid the endless results you get when you look for something online). You want to cut out any terms that will slow down your search results.

Cooking up an SEO strategy begins with selecting keywords to tie to your company and then doing research on competitors’ SEO. This crucial step will at once distinguish what words can help lump your terms in with the larger industry as a whole while also flesh out SEO terms that help you stand out from the competition. From here your team aligns internally to approve the terms and provide the approved words to translators who will translate the terms into the languages for locales you are expanding into.

Pro tip: Pick synonyms that are as SEO-friendly as possible. Your translator can whittle down your options when they perform their first review.

Stay Up-to-Date

Keeping your Glossaries updated is the best way to make sure your entire team is aligned. When your team is aligned, you have an advantage over your competition and you save money, time, and sanity.

Work with Smartling to Build your Glossary

When you’ve put together your glossary, we’d love to see it. Smartling has different ways of keeping our users up to speed and happy with. Schedule a meeting and we can set up an efficient meeting to get you headed in the right direction with your localization, translation, and linguistic needs.

Now that you have your ducks in a row with your Glossary, download our free eBook: How to Maximize Your Translation Value to add yet another layer of effectiveness to your translation projects.