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News article30 November 20214 min read

Students and Their Role in a Terminology Database Project

By Markéta Grohová, MA student at the Institute of Translation Studies, Charles University, Prague

Digital drawing of 2 people putting 2 pieces of a puzzle together

The more I am studying interpretation, the more I am aware of its complexity. Not only that you need to be fluent in a foreign language, but also be quick on your feet and have the capabilities of a professional orator. Even though interpretation students already often struggle with these requirements, they should not neglect good preparation, something that does not require any special skills and may become a decisive factor in many situations. And that is when a glossary comes into play – a tool heavily used both by interpreters and translators.

My glossaries are mostly related to interpretation. Hoping to avoid any misinformation or insecurity in my performance, I have always searched in advance for any unknown word related to the given topic. However, my lists of words with their equivalents in another language can be hardly considered a proper glossary – later in my studies, when we were assigned to create one, I learnt how thorough you have to be when compiling it. After finishing the assignment, we were, as students of the Institute of Translation Studies at Charles University, offered to share our glossaries with the Czech Union of Translators and Interpreters (Jednota tlumočníků a překladatelů, JTP). In return, we gained access to JTP’s repository of numerous glossaries, the latter ranging in different topics and created not only by the students of our institute, but also by professional interpreters. I believed it to be an excellent idea and offered my project without hesitation. I felt that, although we were students, our work was being recognised and appreciated. What I did not know was, on the one hand, that JTP launched a project to create a big and centralised term base using the existing pool of glossaries and, on the other, how much the institute’s students were actually involved in this initiative.

It was not until October 2021 that I became one of the students working on the Term Database project. It had been launched in 2019, but the amount of work already done was admirable. The project originally contained more than a thousand glossaries, which needed to be sorted out depending on whether they could be edited or not and, subsequently, converted to a unified format to facilitate their import in a centralised database. Despite many corrupted and to-be-converted files, the students before me were able to extract around 500 usable, i.e., Word or Excel glossaries. They also drew up a document with instructions on how to proceed in editing a glossary, especially what information should be included – apart from the source and target language, a glossary should list the name of the author, its focus and specific topics, definitions, grammatical information etc. The instructions were also shared on the JTP’s web page so that the process of editing a glossary would be standardised. It was decided that all glossaries must be converted to an Excel file with a specific format – for that, an example document was created as well.

The first goal was clear – edit all the Word or Excel glossaries. It has been a long journey and the baton have been passed by many students, but now, thanks to their hard work, there are only 45 glossaries left to be converted. Therefore, my job now focuses on finishing the rest and after that, converting and editing roughly 437 PDF files. As you can see, we are far from having completed the task, but thanks to students like Tereza Hamáková, Anastasia Choporová, or Ondřej Drobil, who worked on the project before me, we are one step closer to introducing a useful tool that will assist all interpreters. But not only them. With a feature that will allow for exporting terminology into a CAT-tool readable format, translators will be able to benefit from the database as well.

While interpreters need a glossary to prepare, translators would probably appreciate the provided equivalents even more. Their goal is quite different from the interpreters’: they have all the time in the world to find the perfect word for the one in the source text. They – and I can attest to it – spend hours and hours searching for the correct term which can soon, with the aid of the new database, take only a few seconds and it could be particularly effective in the translation of legal, economic, or medical texts. The Term Database is yet another project which highlights the close relationship between translation and interpretation, both developing thanks to mutual continuous collaboration. After all, every glossary is based on translation.

Collaboration and teamwork were characteristic for this project too, from the students editing and compiling glossaries to professional interpreters of the Union of Translators and Interpreters many of whom show strong and ceaseless support to the institute, even volunteering to assist the students. I can only hope that both institutions will keep on cultivating this relationship. And as a future interpreter and translator, I hope that there will always be new glossaries to prepare and draw inspiration from.


Publication date
30 November 2021
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  • Translation issues