Terminology Surveys

Regarding requirements analysis, major surveys have been carried out for terminology on a project-by-project basis or carried out by interested academics. The Translator's Workbench Project is a good example in that it is part of the project's brief to study the requirements of terminologists in a broader remit of terminology in translation and translators' requirements. The Translator's Workbench Project initiated two requirements studies. The first one, TWB I ESPRIT 2315, was carried out at the University of Surrey working together with Mercedes Benz.

The following, italicised text is taken from Kugler, Ahmad and Thurmair (Eds.), 1995: Research Reports ESPRIT, Project 2315 TWB Volume 1: Translatorís Workbench - Tools and Terminology for Translation and Text Processing, Brussels-Luxembourg

Requirements Study: Method

The user requirements study comprised three phases: a European-wide questionnaire survey to which over 200 professional translators responded: an observation of six translators at work in the Mercedes-Benz AG translation department in Stuttgart; and in-depth interviews with 10 translators at Mercedes-Benz AG and freelance translators in Britain.

Questionnaire Survey

The questionnaire survey was based on a "task" model of translation, i.e. the translation of documents was viewed as a combination of tasks namely: the task of receiving the documents to be translated (input); the task of translating the document (processing) and the task of delivering the document (output). The task model provided clues to what it is the translator generally does and what particular needs the individual translator has, permitting the formation of a user profile. The task model and the user profile formed the basis of our study and enabled us to establish a clear picture of the translator and his or her working environment.

Observation Study

The observation study was conducted by the University of Surrey in the Mercedes-Benz AG translation department. Six translators were observed at work (without disrupting their normal work routine, although some did stop work to discuss various aspects of translation practice). Our primary aim was to gain an overall impression of the translation process and, in so doing, to identify some of the problems translators encounter in their daily work.

An additional aim of the observation study was to watch translators in various phases of their work, i.e. the pre-translation edit, translation phase and post-translation edit phase, to gain insight into the procedure adopted by translators in their work and the phases in which various tools, such as terminology aids, are used.

In-depth interviews

In-depth interviews were conducted with some translators in the UK and in the translation department at Mercedes-Benz. The objective of this part of our study was to gain more detailed information about translation practice and translators' requirements by allowing translators to discuss their work and the needs they have. This phase of our study was particularly useful for discussing issues which were not really suitable for presentation in the questionnaire, such as the layout of the user interface.

Some of the techniques of knowledge engineering were employed for the interviews with translators. Two forms of interviews were conducted: focussed and structured interviews. Focussed interviews provided the translators with the opportunity to discuss their work and their requirements freely; structured interviews enabled the interviewer to pose specific questions to the translators about current working practice and requirements. The principal topics covered in interviews included translators' working methods, terminology requirements, the use of computer checking tools, and the layout of the user interface. In the discussions on the layout of the user interface, a series of storyboards was used to enable translators to visualise screen layout options, and so on.

The results of the study were as follows:

User Requirements Study: Prlncipal Findings

Each part of the study is described below.

Questionnaire Survey

People: (...) the typical translator in our survey is young, female, has a university qualification, and translates technical texts.

"Inputs" and "Outputs": the major input media are non-digital, whereas the principal output media are digital. This indicates that translators make use of digital technology (i.e. computers), but may be constrained by their client's use of non-digital input media.

Processing Requirements: We investigated processing requirements for (i) terminology, (ii) word processing, (iii) spelling checking, (iv) grammar checking, and (v) style checking. The spectrum of user needs for processing tools ranged from simple look-up lexical items to more complex semantic processing. Our respondents were only aware of computer-based facilities for items (i), (ii) and (iii) above. For text processing, word processors are used by a substantial proportion of translators. The use of dictating machines was found to be rare in our sample. Most translators in our sample (over 40%) checked spelling off-line, approximately 30% manually on screen, and just over 25% using spell check programs. Less than 1% of the translators in our sample had any direct experience with term banks or with machine translation or machine-aided translation.

The terminology aids most commonly used by the translators in the survey sample were paper-based dictionaries, glossaries and word lists, although doubts were expressed about their accuracy and currency. Translators in our sample organised their terminology bilingually and alphabetically in a card index, including less information than they expect from other sources. Only very few translators organised their terminology systematically (e.g. according to a library classification), but many stated that this could be useful. Grouped in order of priority, requirements for terminological information were found to be:

Our survey indicated that terminological information is required throughout the translation process: during pre-translation editing to clarify the source language terms; in the translation process itself to identify and use target language terms; and during the post-translation edit phase for checking the accuracy of target language terms.

Observation Study

The chronology of translation tasks was shown to be: read source language text; mark unfamiliar terminology; consult reference works; translate text; edit translation. In addition, reference works continued to be consulted throughout the translation process to clarify further terminological problems. Hence, our study indicates that the translation process cannot be discretely divided into the three phrases (pre-translation edit, translation phase and post-translation edit) commonly assumed in translation theory and in the teaching of translation.

The principal difficulty identified by translators throughout their work was the inadequacy of currently available reference material in terms of currency, degree of domain specialisation, range of linguistic detail.

Interview Study

The major points arising from the interviews are as follows:

Working methods:

Terminology clarification often takes place throughout the translation process; Translations are mostly checked on a print out rather than on a screen; Word processors are the preferred tools for translation work, rather than typewriters or dictating machines.


More information is required than just the foreign language equivalent of a term (e.g. grammatical information); Contextual examples are often more useful than definitions as they provide both decoding and encoding information.

Checking Tools:

Positive attitude shown to computer spell checkers; if translators had spell checkers, they would use them. Translators have no experience of using grammar and style checkers and therefore found it hard to visualise how these tools will work.

User Interfaces:

A WIMP environment is favoured by translators; the interface should be as simple as possible.

4.1.4 Summary of Principal Findings and their Impact on Software Development

It was established that in view of recent advances in information technology, computational aids would be welcome in the translation environment. These aids should support the translator throughout the translation process, and include tools to assist in terminology elicitation, term bank development, terminology retrieval, multilingual text processing, the provision of machine-produced raw translations, the identification of previous translations, and spelling checking.

Based on the results of the user requirements study, the Translator's Workbench is providing the following:

The results of the study were presented to the software developers in the project consortium, and in general, the reaction was positive, results being taken up and integrated into the tools being developed for TWB.

The second report, TWB II ESPRIT 6005, was a market survey of available tools for translators with specific reference to linguistic resources. This survey was carried out by Ovum Limited for/on behalf of the Translator's Workbench Project. The study was carried out in 1992/93.

The specific purpose of this study was to use the requirements for steering the development of software systems in the Translator's Workbench.

Throughout the duration of the Translator's Workbench, a user group within the Project consortium regularly and systematically evaluated the software. The evaluation was metricated against a number of criteria.

Table to compare surveys already carried out or being carried out on terminology and its related disciplines

Despite an extensive search, the results indicate that few terminology surveys seem to have been carried out in the UK. Besides those organisations listed above, enquiries were also made of the Institute of Translation & Interpreting, London; the Institute of Linguists, London; and the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages, Dublin.

Of the five surveys presented here, all are available apart from the Ovum Survey, the marketing study for the Translator's Workbench Project