An app termbase records key phrases with their meaning and translation, helping create accurate and consistent translations.

Incorrect, inconsistent or ambiguous translations create a confusing experience for your customers. Worse still, they can cause critical mistakes.

Creating a termbase ensures customers in different markets understand your product. And, as a bonus, it helps translators work quickly and accurately.

What is a termbase?

Glossaries define terminology. Termbases have a similar purpose but are multilingual.

Entries include brand names, industry-specific terms and other phrases that might cause confusion during translation.

Information such as a description and translations are recorded for each entry.

Advantages of using a termbase for translations

Termbases are an essential tool for effective translation. Having the reference point helps:

  • Improve accuracy. Translators use termbases as a reference point to check specific terms, rather than making value judgments.
  • Build consistency. The customer experience will be consistent across the whole project.
  • Save time. Having a reference point provides context for translators and makes it less likely they’ll need support.
  • Provide context. Defining words related to an industry niche or specialism will help translators understand the context.

Termbases are often created in formats that can be used by translators in their software, so they have easy access as they work.

Identifying phrases that should be included in a termbase

Brand and product names are included in termbases. These can either remain in English or have local translations. Weigh up how local customers will view the English names and the value of consistency.

Apple’s brand name and products are consistent in every language (“Apple”, “iPhone”, “iPad” etc.). Whereas Coca Cola uses its English brand name in a number of foreign markets but varies it in countries like China (“可口可乐”) and Russia (“Кока-Кола”).

Include any technical terms related to how your product works. These are crucial to your customers’ experiences.

Are there any phrases you don’t want people to use? It’s helpful to rule out terms that translators may use in the place of key technical phrases or that don’t fit your brand.

What does a termbase entry look like?

Microsoft has a public terminology database to help developers build localized versions of applications for its ecosystem. It includes hundreds of languages.

A typical entry includes:

  • Term entry ID: 240_79535
  • Language: en-US
  • Term: Memory
  • Definition: Any temporary storage space used within or in conjunction with a computer, such as RAM or a USB flash drive.

When creating a termbase, remember that each term needs to be distinct.

Termbase files – the technical stuff

Basic termbases can be built in Microsoft Excel or even Word, but the file types that integrate with translation software include .XDT, .XML and .TMX.

Keeping your termbase up-to-date

Termbases evolve as applications grow and enter new markets – Microsoft’s termbase includes over 8,000 entries. But it starts by defining the terms that are important to your business.

Keeping a termbase up to date can be a nightmare if not done well; make sure your translators are responsible for adding and updating entries.

Termbases provide a foundation for international growth. Locale can help you understand how to build a termbase that means you can scale rapidly.