IATE Terminology Database Talk 18-01-13 Part 2

words-cant-describeLast week I gave Timothy Cooper’s wonderful insight into the field of terminology. This week, with the theory about terminology mainly out of the way, I will share with you what Timothy said about IATE itself. The database is a share database for all the European Institutions, bodies and agencies, for all activity fields for LSP. It includes terms, definitions, references and snippets of context.

The aim of the second half of the talk was to equip translators with the information to use IATE effectively in our work. Whilst IATE boasts a huge amount of information, there are drawbacks, which are outlined below, along with useful tips about how to overcome these pitfalls to get the most out of IATE.


The issue with domains stems from the fact that IATE was not created from scratch, it was based on EuroVoc. Automatic mapping was necessary, and this often does not result in very accurate allocation of domains. Therefore it is not advisable to search by domain, as it may exclude entries that could be useful, and include entries that are not.

Reliability scores

These are also not reliable as different individuals and different language departments have different systems for allocating reliability scores. Timothy, for example, would only allocate four stars to unequivocal terms, such as the terms for different organisations, created by a legal instrument. However, for example the Greeks allocate this to any term that has gone through the terminology committee and has been validated. Timothy would allocate three stars for a validated term. Therefore looking at the context, the references in which these terms can be found is much more important. Reliability scores are generally more accurate for more recently added terms.

Language pairs

It is not recommended that you search solely in your language pairs as this is too restrictive and will often exclude useful information. The more languages you include then the better the chance of finding what you require. You can select personal preferences to be remembered on your computer, but if you select “to any” language this will give you the widest search results. If the search throws up a very high number of hits, you can then restrict language pairs. Even when searching to all languages, if you click full entry, you can then select the language you are interested in and it moves to the top of the screen, to look at the appropriate language pair together.

Irregularity in the entries

Different people enter different things into the IATE database. Whilst the description is supposed to be a delimiting definition of the concept behind the term, often this is not what is included, merely a description of the use of the term in a particular context. Some entries will include an encyclopaedic entry, others dictionary entries and others do actually give the concept definition. For this reason it is always important to look at the references to find the terms in the different contexts in which they are used.


There are some bugs in IATE such as the fact that the hits that show up in the internal database sometimes come up in a different order to the public database.


Interesting things to know
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–          Icons on the right of the screen with search results, from left to right – References for term, Context, Note term.

–          Misspelled items or items spelled with different style practices (i.e. American spelling) will sometimes show up if the terminologist provided these alternatives in a look up form when creating the entry.

–          If you cannot find a term, make sure you are not putting it in the plural if it is usually used in the singular.

–          Search to all languages, and then select the language that you are interested in. Why would you be interested in other languages? Because there is often interesting or useful information in the full entry of other languages. You may be able to follow a link to texts which include the term, and you may be able to find the text in your language there.

–          Follow links in texts to find the terminology in context. For example if there is a link to a document in the EuroLex database – this has documents in all the current EU languages. You need to copy the document number and search by Celex number. This will give you a hit list, and include the original document and also any corrigendum linked to this document. This is essential to check the validity of the term, as IATE may be out of date. Also in EuroLex the bilingual display of documents is possible.

–          The note section in an entry can be particularly useful as it serves as encyclopaedic information. It does not form part of the definition (if information in the note changes it does not stop the term from representing the same concept).

–          Feedback button – make comments about specific entries to the EU Commission.

To finish, IATE is a facilitator of information, and a good starting point in a search as it may lead you to the references you require to confirm a term. If it is employed in this way it is a very useful tool.





IATE Terminology Database Talk 18-01-13 Part 1

words4Timothy Cooper from the English terminology department at the European Commission braved snow to come to speak to us about how to make the most of the IATE (Inter-Active Terminology for Europe) Database on Friday 18th January 2013.

The beginning of the talk focused mainly on the importance of being clear in our minds about what terminology is. Terminology is not about terms, but about concepts, and therefore about the relationship between concepts and the terms allocated to them.

IATE is a database concentrates solely on Language for Special Purposes (LSP), so if you want to know more about collocations, for example, the British National Corpus will be much more useful.

To make this point, Timothy gave the example of if one of his underlings came to ask him about “How do you translate the word “coeur” to English?” As a terminologist he would have to say that he was sorry but that he could not possibly answer that question.

How about, “What is the equivalent term?” This would be met with a similar response, but it can be either “heart”, or “core”.

However, the question that needs to be asked is, “What does “coeur” mean in the context of the document that I am translating? What is the English term for this concept?”

The importance of this is that before we can look for the term in the target language, we need to go through a process in which we find the underlying principle of the source language term, to be able to find to correct term to use in the target language. In this case, as regards anatomy, coeur refers to a muscular organ that beats pushing blood around the body of a living thing, and therefore would refer to the English term “heart”. However, in the domain of nuclear power, it refers to the innermost part of a nuclear reactor, the English equivalent of which is the “core”.

Whereas lexicography is about words, and dictionaries are usually ordered from A-Z, with homonyms together and synonyms apart, terminology deals with terms and concepts and terminology databases follow a concept structure in which synonyms are kept together but homonyms are apart.
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In an ideal world then it would be possible to have one concept linking to one term, but in the real world this is not possible, and so this must be borne in mind when considering the set up of IATE.

So, in the mind of a terminologist you have four elements:

Object – concrete or abstract “thing”

Concept – the mental abstraction of the object

Definition – the representation of said concept by a description statement (this should always be delimiting and differentiate the object from all other objects)

Term – the verbal designation of the concept in a specific subject field

To be able to successfully work as a terminologist, or to use tools such as IATE to their full potential, you must always bear these elements in mind. Next week I will post about Timothy’s advice on how to make the most out of IATE.

Improved Energy – Neologisms

One of the volunteer projects I have been working on these past couple of months has been translating magazine articles for HEDON – Boiling Point magazine. The articles are to be translated into Spanish from English, something which I would never accept as paid work, but given the extra time I have whilst volunteering, and the amazing proof reading kindly offered by my friend and mentor Alex Sanchez, it is something that I find to be a valuable and interesting learning experience.

This is not least because I have a particular interest in renewable and improved energies. The course which I am slowly drawing to a close is very technical and based on the “traditional” renewable energies – wind farms, solar energy, the use of biomass and so on. The Boiling Point magazine focuses more on improved renewable energies for rural households, and so are more focused on improved stoves/heating appliances to reduce smoke exposure and subsequent illnesses. This therefore gives me insight into a distinct aspect of renewable energies.

One of the difficulties I have found translating such material are the number of neologisms, or maybe more precisely, the number of new terminology for products. One such example is the “Off fire reboiling pot”. This has been interesting, as sometimes you can find “translations” on the internet that you disagree with, sometimes not at all. For this article I was translating the Helpline, which referred to another article which appears in the same edition. I was therefore stuck with a dilemma. Firstly I spoke with my contact at the magazine, and asked her to inform me when the other article had been returned translated. Unfortunately this has still not come to pass, and so for now, the translation stands as Olla Re-Ebullición sin Fuego. I decided on this as it seemed to be the most reasonable translation, as the pot refers to a cooking pot that you can take off the heat once the water boils yet the food keeps cooking, therefore reducing the time that it is necessary to be burning fuels, and therefore costing money and contaminating the air.

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And so the task of translating becomes an ever increasingly tangled web. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how best approach such difficulties? Whatever comment or suggestion is always welcome.

CAT Tools and Machine Translation

Being new to translation, one thing that I am really trying to get my head around is the subject of CAT tools and MT. Some of the most heated discussions to be found on translating websites and blogs it seems to me centre around CAT tools. Being very inexperienced in the field, I have decided to download Wordfast and see if I can get to grips with that and see how it works.

The difficult thing about the subject is that I can see the merits of both sides of the argument. I can see that they should increase productivity if used correctly, but can also see that using them to go over fuzzy matches can take just as long if not longer, as you have to check so carefully what has been done correctly.

The worst effort of machine translation I can recall was the information booklet for a four star hotel in a town in Spain where I was living this year. My boss showed it to me for a giggle one day. The grammar did not agree, the hotel team was translated as “human equipment”, machines were personified. It certainly brightened up our day, but you have to ask the question of why a four star hotel could not spend a small sum just getting it right. Any human being with a decent sprinkling of English knowledge could have improved such a translation 100%.
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However, I do not believe that CAT tools, if used properly, should produce such poor quality work. I will try Wordfast and see how I get on in understanding it.

I would love people’s educated opinions. I am trying to get some experience with them before starting my MA in Translating and Interpreting in September because, although it is one of the subjects offered on the course, there are other topics that I feel may be more useful if I can “self-train” in this department. Advice on this level is also very welcomed.