When provided glossaries are wrong
Thread poster: Anne Seerup

Anne Seerup
Local time: 01:41
English to Danish
+ ...
Oct 5, 2003

I find often when doing where a job that the glossaries provided are to be strictly adhered to but the same terms seem to change from client to client. Often the glossaries do not even contain the heavy terms but are full of less important sentences. I know that this serves to ensure that all translations are consistent but quite often I find that the quality of these glossaries is so poor that I simply cannot use the terms provided because either the terminology is wrong, the grammar is wrong or it just sounds like ****. Still I have experience getting it back from the reviewer who has meticulously pointed out every single occasion where I had not followed the glossary (due to wrong terms, wrong spelling etc). So apparently the do not want the translator to apply quality to the work but to continue making the same mistakes as another translator has made previously. I mean you cannot look up every single word in the glossary to check how it has been spelled this time and when you are familiar with the subject you cannot "help" knowing terms by heart - I assume that is why translators are specialised?


Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:41
Flemish to English
+ ...
Specialize or get help Oct 5, 2003

No, but either you are specialized or you know specialists who can confirm that the terminology used is corred. In some non English-speaking countries if you want to become an MD, you need to pass an exam of medical English terminology for example.
The content of glossaries is not always correct.


Anne Seerup
Local time: 01:41
English to Danish
+ ...
I meant.. Oct 5, 2003

Sorry perhaps I was not clear - I am not asking for help on what to do if glossaries are wrong as regards the terminology. I am simply stating that to some (a lot of) clients it seems more important that the provided glossary is followed scrutinously than the quality of the translation. Thus the poor quality is carried on and if you try to correct these errors you only get remarks that the wrong glossary should have been followed. And that is ridiculous.

Williamson wrote:

No, but either you are specialized or you know specialists who can confirm that the terminology used is corred. In some non English-speaking countries if you want to become an MD, you need to pass an exam of medical English terminology for example.
The content of glossaries is not always correct.


Andy Lemminger  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:41
Member (2002)
English to German
Don't work on such jobs Oct 5, 2003

You are absolutely right. Such jobs with below-standard glossaries are a pain. If you adhere to the terms you know that you are doing a bad job and perhaps somebody will complain later on. If you point out errors and start discussions about terms you won't be able to keep deadlines. And finally if you use the correct terms everybody will be mad because you didn't adhere to the glossaries.

The only solution I foun so far: Give somebody else a chance to do such jobs and stay out of trouble.


Mary Worby  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:41
German to English
+ ...
Highlight the problem .. Oct 5, 2003

I know what you mean! I've often come across glossary translations which were dubious to say the leasticon_lol.gif

What I've done on these occasions is highlight the problem to the customer. I'll normally give a couple of examples of poor spelling, grammar, bad style, etc.

I'll then get one of two responses! Either the agency gets back to me and says no, the glossary is written in stone, like it or lump it. At which point, I'll carry on, but include a disclaimer when I submit the translation that I am not happy with some of the glossary material provided.

The second response is more favourable. The customer replies by thanking me for highlighting the problem and asking me to note any further problems I come across and make suggested improvements. I can then produce a translation I'm happy withicon_wink.gif


Lucinda Hollenberg  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:41
Dutch to English
+ ...
Point out a couple of the errors Oct 5, 2003

I would point out a couple of the wrong entries in the glossary to the client and explain to them what it should be and why that entry is incorrect. If they can live with your suggestions, by all means do the translation. If not, stay away from it. The money is usually not worth the hazzle.

I imagine that most companies would want the final product to be correct. If not, then you do not wish your name associated with it.

Good luck!


Local time: 02:41
French to English
Not just glossaries Oct 5, 2003

Clients also sometimes provide earlier translations and ask that they be used as models for jobs. This can be useful, but when the earlier material is below standard, it just makes no sense. I refuse to learn an entirely new language just for the sake of one translation. The confusion, at least as far as financial accounting and business terms are concerned, often comes from differences between US and UK practice and I believe that it's important to ask clients which of the two they want.


Gillian Scheibelein  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:41
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Encountered same problem Oct 5, 2003

I get the impression some agencies do not check the glossaries they get from their translators, everything is left as received and they end up with a hotch-potch. When I've pointed out errors in the glossaries to various agencies, I get the same sort of answers as Mary.
A good agency welcomes corrections and maintain their glossaries. IMO, good translators should point out problems by whatever means they prefer. These corrections are a bother, they take time to do, and are mostly unpaid to boot.
Other agencies just want the glossary left alone - they don't want to deal with the hassle of criticisms and don't have the proficiency/knowledge of the subject/language to recognise an incorrect term if it bit them - and bite it will if the customer spots the mistake. I had a translation returned for reworking: the agency wanted me to change the corrected terms for the incorrect ones in the glossary. Needless to say, I refused at first. I told them I stood by my work and did not want to hash up a good translation. The answer: then we will only pay 50%! OK, I gave in and changed everything back as they wanted it. And guess what, after 6 months or so the agency let slip that they never had another translation from that company again - what a surprise. Perhaps the agencies should start reading some of the quality management manuals they have translated.


sylver  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:41
English to French
Important issue Oct 5, 2003

Indeed that's an important issue your are bringing up in this thread. Quite commonly too, is that a word -which of course has several separate meanings- is given only one meaning in the glossary, with a translation, and then the term shows up with a different meaning. And I even had a PM once asking me to stick to the glossary term, although it wasn't even the right term!

Frankly, I never found it easy to deal with such a problem, but always managed.

Usually, the problem is that you are talking to a PM who was given iron-clad rules to stick by the glossary. To make matters worse, seldom the PM knows the language or subject matter too well, and is stuck between the opinions of the translator and the rule he was given by his boss, with no clue which is right. (After all, from his viewpoint, it's your word against the word of the client's terminologists).

In this case, what usually works for me is to give a couple detailled examples highlighting my understanding of the subject and showing why I would prefer another term to be used, and ask the PM to respectfully relay my query to the customer, out of concern for the final user's understanding.

While PMs seldom feel safe to go straight against their orders (which I fully understand), they usually have no problems to refer the matter up to the actual decision maker. From there, it's up to them.

However, until now, customers always gave me a "go ahead and please let us know when you change a glossary term". So for me, that procedure works, but that's quite time consuming too.


Roberta Anderson  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:41
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
correcting errors: it's often a matter of budget and scale... Oct 7, 2003

I agree that the best way to deal with this problem is to notify the client as early on in the process as possible, and that the usual 2 replies are:
- pls go ahead and edit as you think is appropriate;
- thank you for pointing this out but we do have to stick to what's in the glossary/TM.

The most common reason for sticking to existing translations is that the current translation will be integrated in exisiting translation, and no time nor money has been budgeted for a revision of exisiting material.

In these cases I usually (as also pointed by others above) give a few examples of what would need changing, an estimate of how long it would take to "clean up" the glossary/TM (not always easy when it involves software strings and documentation) and recommend that if it cannot be done at present it should be kept in mind and budgeted for at the earliest possible time. And I attach this note with my final delivery.

I find that priority is given to correcting those kind of errors that distort original meaning and will affect functionality of the product. Stylistic errors have lowest priority and generally are considered in the "we can live with that" category. So it is a good idea, when notifying clients of errors in reference material, to divide them into priority categories and flag those errors that will lead the user to misunderstand contents and therefore affect product functionality.

In most cases, a piece of translation is not a standalone item but needs to fit into a wide range of other translated documents (brochures, products, documentation, web pages, packaging, press releases...); for large companies these are often dealt with by different entities (vendors, departments, subsidiaries) and there is indeed a strong case in favour of treating existing glossaries/TM as carved in stone...

Once an error has entered the cycle, it is indeed very difficult to have a chance to remove it, and unfortunately the cycle is such that it will be very quickly replicated n times and then removal gets harder and harder...



To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

When provided glossaries are wrong

Advanced search

WordFinder Unlimited
For clarity and excellence

WordFinder is the leading dictionary service that gives you the words you want anywhere, anytime. Access 260+ dictionaries from the world's leading dictionary publishers in virtually any device. Find the right word anywhere, anytime - online or offline.

More info »
SDL Trados Studio 2019 Freelance
The leading translation software used by over 250,000 translators.

SDL Trados Studio 2019 has evolved to bring translators a brand new experience. Designed with user experience at its core, Studio 2019 transforms how new users get up and running, helps experienced users make the most of the powerful features, ensures new

More info »

  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search