Translation, Translation Culture

Translation Services and the Translation of New Terminology

Translating New Terminology

Technology continues to grow and develop at exponential rates, new discoveries are being made in the sciences, entrepreneurs birth new inventions and ways of doing business, artists create new techniques…. While each of these situations is exciting and brings wonderful advances to our world, they also create challenges in language and language translation. Namely, there are often no words in our present lexicon to describe the new discoveries, inventions, and advances.

Even though there are no current words for these advances and discoveries, the new knowledge must be transmitted to the world. To accomplish this, clear terminology must be created so new concepts may be labeled and identified and advances can be distinguished from former or similar discoveries.

Enter Terminologization and Transdisciplinary Borrowing

In the linguistic world, a new word is known as a neoterm. There are several ways of birthing a neoterm. One way involves combining existing terms such as fire and man to make fireman. While this makes sense in English, remember that the simple combination of words does not always translate and may necessitate the creation of an entirely new term in target languages. A fireman in Spanish is not a fuegohombre, fuego de hombre, or hombre de fuego but, rather, a bombero.

Sometimes, a neoterm will not be translated at all, but just used in the target language with or without a slight cultural adjustment. This is known as translingual borrowing and is why you may hear a foreign speaker suddenly say the word “television” or “serendipity”, or why English speakers can use the word “scree”.

Most often, new terminology will come from one of two sources: terminologization or transdisciplinary borrowing. Transdisciplinary borrowing, as the name implies, involves taking a term from one discipline, such as mathematics, and applying it to another field, such as science, while giving it a different meaning. An example would be the mathematical term vector most often used to refer to magnitude and direction. In biological science, the term was applied to an organism that transmits a pathogen from a source to a host. In both fields, vector created the foundation for many compound terms.

Terminologization refers to the process of taking a common word and giving it a new, technical meaning. The most common example is the word “cloud”. Up until 1996, everybody knew what a cloud was and how to use the word linguistically. Between 1996 and 2006, however, this word was “terminologized” and took on a new meaning within the tech world. Other similar ideas  terminologized by the tech work include virus, infection, worm, and the phrases “off the grid” and “Trojan Horse”.

It should be noted that while terms can be terminologized they can also be determinologized. This occurs when a technical term becomes part of everyday language, often taking on other meanings. Consider the words “home run” which are specialized sports terms from the game of baseball. The words have now been applied to all sections of life. A banker may claim to have hit a home run when closing a big deal, a housewife may have hit a home run when she pulls off a successful dinner party, and a car salesman may have hit a home run when exceeding the sales quota.

Internationalization and Localization of Neoterms

When new words are formed in a source language, they need to be shared with the world if they are to be understood and the knowledge or information being referenced by the new term is to be beneficial. Internationalization is the process of presenting the term in a way that makes it usable in major world markets and cultures. When a term is internationalized it does not need to be reworked every time it is translated. Localization is the process of taking the neoterm and making it understandable and usable to a customer, consumer, or reader in their own local language.

When working with your translators, it is imperative that neoterms, transdisciplinary words, and translingual words are understood in the target language. This not only entails a precision of knowledge in the document’s specific field but a current native-level fluency in both the source and target languages. The opportunity to birth new words and concepts is exciting and a great honor, but if they are not understood by your global recipients, then your best work may be lost.

Share your thoughts