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Terms you need to manage

The types of terms that you may need to manage when developing global products include homonyms, synonyms, new terms or 'neologisms,' and non-translated terms. Homonyms are words that have more than one meaning. For example, the term 'frame' has multiple meanings even within the field of computing: a portion of a browser window, a block of information transferred within a network, a section of a video, a segment of time, and a graphical border. Homonyms in themselves are not a problem, and are even necessary for efficient communication; without homonyms we would have to increase our vocabulary probably beyond human capabilities. However, when there are too many different meanings for the same word within the same field, it can be difficult to mentally sort them out. The simple word 'object,' for example, has assumed so many specific, technical meanings, that it can be difficult to figure out which one is meant in a given context. When users have to decipher the intended meaning, the information is unclear, and the term may even be incorrectly translated.

Synonyms are words that have the same meaning as another word. For example, in computing, 'stop,' 'cancel,' 'abandon,' 'back out,' 'abort,' and 'kill' all mean the same thing. Synonyms can be accidental or intended, and it is the accidental ones that should be eliminated. Synonyms are sometimes intentionally used to highlight distinctions between brands, products, or operating systems. For example, a 'bookmark' in Mozilla Firefox is a 'favorite' in Microsoft Internet Explorer, and the different terms make each product unique. Sometimes a terminology race results in a clear brand winner.

On the other hand, accidental synonyms are potentially harmful inconsistencies in usage that affect product quality, usability, and translatability. For example, the simultaneous use of 'store manager' and 'store administrator' in a product can confuse both customers and the translators. Synonyms also occur when terms fall out of use and more popular ones take their place. For example, 'distributed learning' became known as 'distance learning' and, more recently, as 'e-learning.' A 'fax' was once called a 'telecopy.' And did you even know that it is an abbreviation of 'facsimile?' What should be a concern to developers of global products is that the number of inconsistencies in the source version of a product is often compounded in the translated version, making the situation even worse. It is important to ensure that all product developers, writers, and translators are using the same terms consistently.

Newly coined terms should be appropriate for the source market and localization-friendly for target markets. Avoid the temptation to create new, trendy words when suitable well-established ones already exist. Choose terms that are transparent, translatable, appropriate for the target audience, and lack connotations. Transparency refers to the ease by which the meaning is inferred from the term itself; for example, 'concurrent use license' is more transparent than 'floating license,' and 'transparency' is more transparent than 'foil.' Among the previously mentioned synonyms for 'stop,' the terms 'abort,' 'kill,' and even 'abandon' have negative connotations, and 'back out' is colloquial which might be difficult for translators.

Finally, some words should not be translated. Strings of product code, for example, that look like English words might get translated by mistake. Most product names are not supposed to be translated either. You need to tell translators not to translate these terms. Translation tools should include functions that help to filter out these strings. In order for these tools to work, you need to use specific markup to identify nontranslatable strings. The XML Localisation Interchange File Format (XLIFF) includes a standard way for marking up nontranslatable strings. Some modern authoring formats, such as the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA), also provide a comprehensive set of markup elements and attributes that can be used to prevent nontranslatable strings from being translated by mistake.