Glossaries: a Treasure Chest of Words

My favourite TenT tool is cross-platform, straightforward, light, customisable, and I use it every day.

Want to know what it is?

A glossary.

To be more precise, a series of glossaries, divided by field (legal, general, medical…). They open with Notepad on PC or TextEdit on Mac — in both cases, it is the free and basic word editor that is already included in your computer when you buy it. No need to buy a software suite like Microsoft Office or iWork.

I use this format because it is simple, and I believe in simplicity. No need to pull out all the bells and whistles if you can do the job strictly with the strict minimum. It saves time, stress, concentration. This is not to say one never needs to use sophisticated TenTs — especially for complex formatting — but in most cases, one can keep it short and simple.

« So, wouldn’t it just be great if we could spend a couple of hours before a large project either harvesting terminology from existing projects of the same subject matter or quickly creating lists of source terms that are relevant to our project and translating those ahead of time? » Joel Zetsche, The Translator’s Toolkit, 158th edition

This is exactly what I do. Before I start actually translating an assignment, I read it through and take note of every word or expression I will have to look up. Then I research those words and include them in the glossary. I sometimes include a brief comment: context in which the word should be used (for instance, ‘caucus’ may be a political meeting and thus translate as ‘réunion’, among other meanings, but in the field of improv theatre, it is the moment when players briefly talk about how they are going to deal with the improv theme, and it does not translate).

But it does not stop here.

I read a variety of material on my fields of interest and my working fields. Whenever I come across an unfamiliar or new word, I look it up, find its translation/s, then I include it in the glossary. The glossary becomes then both a working tool and a word treasure chest, containing delicious phrases, suggestions for future translations or newly-coined terms. Entries may range from official translations of UN bodies acronyms to everyday expressions like ‘I’m just saying’ (‘Je dis ça, je dis rien’).

I have divided my glossaries by theme and by language. The glossaries are not only for work; I have moved to Belgium (Flanders) at the end of last year and have now opened a little but steadily growing woordenschat — a treasure made of Dutch words.

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