March 23 2020

Making a personal glossary worth your while

Author: Nadia Hlebowitsh (Spanish & English Literary Translator)


One of the most valuable features of a CAT tool is the glossary. You may think keeping up a glossary is too much trouble. But in fact maintaining your personal glossary using a CAT tool is easy - and can be a lifesaver when translating, too.

Making a personal glossary is one of those time investments that really pays off. With it, a CAT tool can suggest future translations for saved terms and keep them consistent throughout a longer document. You’ll also build your vocabulary, so you provide richer translations over time. Creating a lifelong glossary is a good idea, plain and simple.

Termsoup also streamlines the process, so formatting and uploading your glossary is quick and painless.


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Tips on selecting terms for your glossary

1. Your glossary isn’t the same as an all-purpose dictionary.

You should be adding specialized words that are hard to remember, or have unobvious translations that you want to save for the future.

Think of where you get tripped up in a translation. Remember those moments when you research a term and end up in the depths of the internet? That’s when a glossary is most useful. This includes specialized industry terms, country-specific acronyms or even just an obscure reference.

In times like these, your glossary can come to the rescue. By adding tricky translations, you’ll have a hand next time the term pops up.

2. Don’t add long strings of text to your glossary.

You’ll get the most out of your glossary if you add single words or short phrases. Why’s that? The glossary is used to keep translations consistent across a text, or suggest the same translation in future texts. When you add a long string, you limit your options. It’s unlikely that this exact string will appear again.

However, if you add the most specialized words and short phrases, you’ll have a greater chance of seeing your glossary translations suggested - whether in the same text or future texts. So, keep your glossary terms short and sweet.

If you’re interested in long strings of text, remember that Termsoup boasts of translation memory. The glossary saves specific translations, while translation memory is designed to suggest longer strings based on your glossary and past work.

Saving single words or short phrases to your glossary will make your translation memory more useful in the long run.


3. Avoid adding too many translations of the same term.

You also shouldn’t add too many translations of the same term. Of course, there are times when you’ll want to add several options. But in most cases, one or maybe two options will work well.

As we mentioned, your glossary isn’t an all-purpose dictionary. The idea is that the most specialized words are covered by your glossary. If you’re adding 3+ translations for every term, you’re probably trying to be the next Merriam-Webster. No need!

If you do add multiple translations for a term, be sure to add comments about the multiple uses in the “notes” section of your glossary card or Excel file. (We’ll explain how to do this below.)


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Tips for setting up your glossary on Termsoup

When adding terms to your glossary, you have choices. As you’re translating, you can add a term to your glossary by highlighting it and clicking the “A” icon. Here you can fill in the fields before clicking save.
Another more streamlined way of updating your glossary is to upload an Excel file of your terms. You may already have an Excel that you’ve kept over the years. All you have to do is format the Excel so Termsoup can easily add the terms to your database. Need a step-by-step guide on how to format and upload? See our post here for the nitty-gritty.
When you upload your Excel file, you should keep in mind the following guidelines for smooth sailing:

1. Add at least two languages - or more - to your Excel.

As you check the formatting of your Excel file, make sure you have at least two languages for every term. This is common sense, but sometimes you can forget to fill in the translations you intend to.
In addition, Termsoup lets you upload terms for more than two languages. If you’re a translator working in multiple language pairings, this is a big plus. For example, you can add a column for each language code and then the subsequent translations:

With this formatting, Termsoup will accept your glossary terms and you’ll be well on your way to translating as efficiently as possible.


2. Use two other columns, note & tag, to keep your terms organized.

This is one of Termsoup’s coolest features. You can add note and tag columns so that your terms are organized on Termsoup. We can’t stress enough the importance of notes and tags!

For example, you can use notes to explain anything about the term or translation. As we mentioned, if you have multiple translations for the same term, this is a good place to explain the options. Don’t have anything special to say? You can always leave the note column blank.

The tag column is almost always useful. You can add a tag that specifies the industry (medical, technical, etc.) or perhaps a related keyword (such as the client’s name). Here you can definitely add more than one tag - we encourage it! Just use a semicolon to separate tags. Once you add tags to your terms, you can filter them with tags when uploading a source file.

Once you add tags to your terms, you can use them to filter out irrelevant terms when uploading a new source file. For example, if you’re uploading a medical document to translate, you might filter out glossary tags that have nothing to do with this industry, such as “auto repair” or “astronomy.”


3. Debug any formatting issues by checking inline breaks.

Sometimes you may get a formatting error from Termsoup when uploading your Excel. This notification may look something like this:


If this happens to you, don’t fret! In most cases, this is due to inline breaks within the cells. You can fix this easily by making sure that there are no breaks within the cells of your Excel.

inline break:


Want a quick way to clean up inline breaks in your Excel? You can easily do this by using the Ctrl+J command. Open the Find & Replace box, or you can press "Ctrl+h" to open it. In the Find What cell, press Ctrl+J (a dot will appear). In the Replace With box, type a space. When you click Replace All, the inline breaks will be replaced with a single space. No sweat!


Final takeaway

Having a personal glossary is a must-have when it comes to a CAT tool. It will help you translate more efficiently and enrich your translations over the years. A comprehensive glossary also goes hand-in-hand with great translation memory, which can boost your workflow as well.

Setting up a glossary can be daunting at first, but just follow our tips and you’ll have the perfect glossary on Termsoup in no time!

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