Everything Translation
why your company needs a translation style guide and glossary
Everything Translation

Why Your Company Needs a Translation Style Guide & Glossary

If you’re new to or less familiar with the localization industry, it may come as a surprise to learn that a “correct” translation is far more subjective than you think. Five professional linguists can translate the exact same source sentence differently, and all five versions can technically be correct! 

The tone of voice, target audience, company-specific terminology, colloquialisms, slang, culture, publication type, target language, and personal preference can all dramatically impact the final translation. 

Think about it. How many ways are there to express the simple idea of being “out of energy” and which one is correct? Tired, sleepy, gassed, exhausted, pooped, beat, worn out, fatigued, weary; they all mean the same thing, yet these words have different, even critical implications and the “correct” term is determined by the context in which it is used. 

Casual conversation, website translation, brochure, internal email, legal document, research journal, etc. require different translations. This is complicated by the fact that some words, phrases, and ideas simply do not exist in some languages.  

Translation-savvy clients have learned that more context equals high-quality translation (i.e. a “correct” translation). A style guide and glossary are two important tools that address this all-important, yet oft-overlooked, aspect of translation. Yes, having a native, experienced, and certified translator is crucial, but these go without saying. Let’s dive into what exactly a style guide and glossary are, and why including them in your translation brief can help you get better results from your translators

What is a translation style guide? 

A translation style guide is a set of guidelines that helps translators choose the language elements that best represent your company in the target language.  

Depending on your role, a translation style guide can be either a simple two-line note or a  detailed multipage document used by content creators and translators alike. 

SIMPLE style guide (low translation volume) or “translator’s guide” should include: 

  • WHAT is being translated? (brochure? legal document? Facebook post?) 
  • WHO is the target audience? (formal or informal voice?) 
  • ANY specific instructions?  
  • ANY reference material? (URL, images, documentation) 

DETAILED style guide (high translation volume) may also include: 

  • Preferred format for time and units of measure  
  • Instructions regarding brand identity 
  • Pertinent industry background 

What is a translation glossary? 

A translation glossary is a list of defined key terms used by your company and their approved translations in all target languages.  

The translation glossary ensures key terms are translated consistently by all translators each time they appear in the source text, regardless of how often they are translated, or which translator does the work. A term glossary is designed specifically for industry, company and audience-specific terminology, slogans, and taglines. A glossary promotes translation consistency across markets, enabling you to maintain consistent brand messaging in all your target languages.   

Key Points: 

  • The glossary should be created before translation work begins. 
  • The LSP can assist, but the company must provide the terms and approve their translations. 
  • Include copyrighted or trademarked terms that should not be translated 

The bottom line 

Translation style guides and glossaries are valuable tools that reduce miscommunication with your translation service provider, increase translation quality, and lower overall localization costs while promoting consistent brand messaging across your target languages.  

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