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News article31 May 202110 min read

Terminology is a team sport!

By Julie Sauvage, Senior Lecturer, Master's in Translation at Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3 and Dr Paola Artero, Freelance translator Translated from French by Lily Robert-Foley, Senior Lecturer, Master's in Translation at Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3

Rugby player in the sunset

Prominently featured in the EMT competency framework, terminology for translation has drawn much attention over the last few years and has been the topic of numerous scientific publications.

Needless to say, in this area too, jobs have been radically transformed: digital tools make it much easier to create and use corpora, databanks or translation memories.

More and more translators also seem to be sharing their resources. Terminology work has apparently prompted them to break their (in)famous isolation to build networks and support systems.[1]

When we took over the Master 2 course entitled "Terminology Research for Translators" at Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3 in 2017, we wanted better to prepare our students for this type of teamwork while providing them with the necessary theoretical basis to prevent new problems.

Our own observations (especially those concerning the glossaries included in the Masters theses over the previous years) matched those of the specialists: in practice, terminology work seemed to disappear into translation memories.[2]Terms, words and expressions from everyday language were often all recorded together in a jumble, simply to be readily available at the click of a button (sometimes only because they are difficult to type).

However, relying on software to recognise terms and provide an accurate translation in these conditions puts consistency at risk, which can cause serious consequences, for both clients and translators, who will be held legally responsible.

So we resolutely turned to collaborative project pedagogy, reflecting the growing practice of sharing, while maintaining the requirements of rigour and theoretical understanding we deemed essential for effective practice, both for translation and for other language industry professions, such as technical writing and, of course, terminology.

Support players in the team

The organisation of the course reflects this dual concern. Terminology is covered during the third and last semester of courses (the fourth one being reserved for internships), with 13 weekly sessions taught in turn by a freelance translator and a lecturer. Each session, of one and a half hours, in French, includes half an hour of theoretical teaching and one hour of work in small groups with individual follow-up by the teacher, devoted to the creation of a short essay (in French) and a bilingual English-French glossary.

But better to depict the environment in which we operate, we must mention the special status of terminology in France — which stems from a proactive and centralised linguistic policy. A specific department of the Ministry of Culture, the Délégation Générale à la Langue Française et aux Langues de France (DGLFLF), is responsible for defining the French official terminology in all areas of economic and cultural activity. On a national level, the DGLFLF’s role is similar to that of TermCoord, within the EU's Directorate General for Translation. Their decisions are published in the Journal officiel as lists of terms that must be used by all government services and their contractors.

The DGLFLF is therefore responsible for completing multilingual glossaries of the new Olympic sports in the run-up to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. These glossaries will be published on the DGLFLF website and made available to the French and Olympic authorities, on the one hand, and to the public (especially reporters), on the other. We have been very fortunate to establish a partnership with the DGLFLF, which offers internships for several of our students each year — and the experience has proven essential in renewing our teaching approach.

First match: first try

This collaboration started in 2019, with the participation of a student, a native Italian speaker, in a project of the Panlatin Terminology Network REALITER, for the publication of glossaries in Romance languages.[3]

Then, in 2020, in anticipation of the Rugby XV World Cup in France and the 2024 Olympic Games, the DGLFLF and its partners set out to draw up a glossary of this sport and, as part of the partnership with our University, three students were given the task of preparing the glossary of terms to be integrated into the Lexicosports app.

The team included a native Italian speaker, a native Arabic speaker and a native French speaker, who had accepted this internship "for lack of a better opportunity" (his internship in a translation agency had been cancelled due to COVID), but who got caught up in the game, as did the other two, and whose connections in — or should we say on —the field proved invaluable.

The trainees organised their teamwork independently: determining the sub-domains; choosing the headings for the records (with the DGLFLF’s support and advice), creating a comparable corpus; drafting definitions, proofreading and revising. This involved contacts with professionals from the sports world: experts (athletes, sports journalists, coaches, club managers, and even a sports law specialist), rugby federations, in France and abroad — this professional communication being conducted in English and French.

This experience in intercultural project management was initially very experimental, but our students brilliantly managed to score the try, which convinced us we should redesign our course to facilitate the work of the next DGLFLF trainees and better to train the whole class in this type of collaboration.

New team, new rules

Initially, the course was designed around the classic terminology record and its fields (term, language, grammatical category, subject field and subfield, definition, context, technical and linguistic notes, with possibly some illustration and cross-references to other records in the glossary), and the students formed small working groups (of three to five people) to complete part of the final assignment. Then, it gradually evolved towards a collective work involving the whole class in a real project — drafting the glossary of Paralympic sports to be used by the next DGLFLF trainees.

We first asked our students to list the Paralympic sports, then to get organised and form small groups (eight in total), working independently on sub-fields. They were allowed and even encouraged to include various multimedia materials to create a comparable corpus, listing all of the sources in a shared online file. This corpus enabled them to identify and (manually, this year) extract just under 300 candidate terms, which were then brought together, along with their equivalent in English for each chosen subfield, in a folder containing the headings of a classic terminology record, for both languages, and completely managed by the students. All this information had to be accessible in real time and available to the entire class in a shared online file.

The students were able to practice project management in a semi-autonomous way, by defining common objectives, in order to provide a collective work file, in parallel with the other parts of their final assignment.

This new methodology aims at creating a semi-professional environment, encouraging the acquisition of integrated, transferable skills, including soft skills in professional situations (starting with the M2 internship). Above all, it makes the value, usefulness and purpose of the exercise clear to the students, which is essential to the learners' investment,[4] and it leaves more space for practice.

Over the previous years, what the students had valued about this course had been the opportunity for them to gain further knowledge of a specific field, and initiate their own specialisation. We could clearly see how the choice of subject area was key to the students’ engagement, their personal investment and, ultimately, the success of the project. We were not sure they’d all react positively to the prospect of spending a semester working on parasports terminology. However, the prospect of learning more about the work terminologists actually do, in a semi-professional situation, and the experience of the previous trainees were powerful motivating factors for the group, despite the distance learning conditions due to the pandemic and lockdown last autumn.

Second match: converting the try

The introduction of distance learning following the emergence of COVID has certainly made our task more difficult, but the results of a survey submitted to the students confirm our initial project: out of 14 to 20 respondents, 50% found the topics discussed interesting and we were pleasantly surprised to see that team work was one of the strong points of the semester (25%), including as a source of motivation. Finally, 20% appreciated the availability of the teachers, who were very much in demand, perhaps because some students were reluctant to ask questions during videoconference sessions.


Among the negative features, some students expressed their difficulty in grasping the link between the two parts of the course, the theoretical part focused on broader terminological notions (corpora, definitions, ontologies and domain trees etc.) and the realization of the group glossary (7%). This difficulty could be seen in the short essays, which were part of the assignment, as most of them hardly exploited the methods learned in the practical part of the course (no creation of corpora or ontologies, unlike the previous years, for example).

Great collective try, though

The fact the students were enthusiastic about the group work, involving the whole class and aimed at a real medium-term project, showed how beneficial their integration into a semi-professional environment and the dynamics of sharing tasks and results had been. Of course, distance learning may be an important factor, or reason for caution at least, since the students’ relative isolation during the lockdown may explain why they were so eager to work together, when that was not the case in the previous years — quite the contrary, actually!

However, the class did have to develop essential soft and hard skills to complete this project: project management and teamwork, of course; time management, speed and deadline compliance, competitive spirit, yet with cooperation and mutual aid, stress management (particularly at the end of the semester), flexibility, negotiation, listening, emotional intelligence, etc. The list of skills and competences used during this team effort is hardly exhaustive. Featured in the EMT reference framework as personal and inter-personal skills, they might very well help young translators make a difference in a highly competitive professional environment, with the rise of new AI technologies.

Moving forward

In the future, these digital tools will have to be better integrated into the teamwork, especially the terminology extraction tools, which we had to give up using this year. For the time being, the data created by the students is used in the CAT tools course, to teach the use of terminology management software (Multiterm). The collaboration between the Terminology and CAT teachers involves coordination between those two steps — establishing the glossary and discovering the various software programs. The students have appreciated the initiative, which we hope to take further next year.

Terminology, when taught as a team project, turned out to be central to our training. It enables the development of numerous skills and bridges the gaps between different disciplines and professions, as well as between the university and its social and economic environment. In this respect, the partnerships offered by TermCoord around the IATE database sound extremely interesting, and we have to thank our colleagues from Toulouse for sharing their experience during the EMT general meeting of October 2019 — they have definitely inspired us to envisage terminology in a new light.

In the long term, our objective is to provide our students with the theoretical and practical tools to understand and master terminology work in real-life, intercultural and multilingual situations, from the point of view of translation professionals but also from that of technical writers and, of course, terminologists, since exchanges and links between these activities are constantly developing in the practice of the profession.

In the rapidly evolving world of translation, this terminological and pedagogical experiment shows the benefits that can be gained from partnerships outside the University, be they with companies, freelance translators, professional unions, and institutions. This type of training underlines the potential of teamwork and involves the learners in new professional contexts, preparing them to confidently face further changes, including those we cannot imagine yet.

Picture of a team of five people with hands joining taken from the ground

[1] Julie Gariépy. (2013). La collaboration en terminographie étude de cas comparée de la terminographie collaborative et de la terminographie classique. Université d’Ottawa, [, accessed on 25/05/2021] and Gómez Palou Allard, Marta. (2012). Managing Terminology for Translation Using Translation Environment Tools: Towards a Definition of Best Practices. University of Ottawa, [, accessed on 25/05/2021].

[2] Lynne Bowker (2015) "Terminology and Translation". The Handbook of Terminology. Hendrik Kokaert, Frieda Steurs (eds). Amsterdam: Benjamins. 307.


[4] Silvia Montero Martinez and Pamela Faber Benítez, (2009) "Terminological competence in translation". Teaching and Learning Terminology. New strategies and methods, Special Issue of Terminology, 15:1, John Benjamins Company. 88-104.


Publication date
31 May 2021
  • English
  • French
  • Dutch
EMT Category
  • Pedagogical initiatives