FH-Prof. Mag. Dr. Georg Löckinger keeps what’s good and fixes what’s bad

Kati Helenius

Professor Georg Löckinger holds a Master’s degree and a PhD in Translation studies. He is a professor of Technical communication at the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, has worked as terminologist in various settings, and is currently the chair of two standardization committees in Austria. The interview was done in written form.

Löckinger grew up in Upper Austria near the German border, in the beautiful countryside with a lot of meadows and forests. After years of living in different places – in Austria and abroad – he has returned to his roots and lives currently close to Wels, the city where he is working. Löckinger has two lovely kids “with lots of questions about language und terminology”, and says they definitely keep him up-to-date about current language use amongst young people.

From Latin texts to the Ministry of Defence

Löckinger studied Translation Studies (Diplom) at the University of Vienna. He developed a profound interest in the concept and practice of translation while writing a little thesis for his school-leaving exam. It involved translating and commenting on Latin texts by the ancient Roman writers Cicero und Sallust. For his diploma studies, Löckinger chose his native language German as the main language, English as the first foreign language und Russian as the second foreign language.

Terminology has also had its place in Löckinger’s career from the beginning of his studies, even though he doesn’t remember “any specific eye-opening event” of coming in touch with terminology. For example, he remembers creating a comprehensive bilingual glossary on nuclear energy for translating a set of publications in this domain.

Löckinger has been doing terminology work in various organizational settings: as a self-employed language service provider for various companies, in the Austrian Federal Ministry of Defence and in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation. He also notes that terminology work is often an important element of standardization work and university-industry projects.

From March 2007 to March 2010, Löckinger worked at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation in a very multilingual environment in Luxembourg. During this time, he had the opportunity to expand his knowledge and skills as a translator and terminologist. Also, he was able to re-activate another language that he had learned at grammar school but not chosen for his diploma studies: French.

After his stay in Luxembourg, he became active again as a self-employed language service provider, with German, English, French and Russian being his working languages. He also worked as a researcher at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and then at the University of Vienna. In parallel, he completed his doctoral thesis in 2014.

The field of research in his doctoral studies was Technical Translation and Terminology. Löckinger describes his motivation as academic and at the same time very personal. As a translator, Löckinger was often quite dissatisfied with the kind of dictionaries and other resources that he had at his disposal. The situation inspired him to write his doctoral thesis on translation-oriented special language dictionaries. Its main conclusion is that translators need what he calls “dynamic translation-oriented terminology and full-text database[s]” [1, p. 316].

His original research domain was on the exciting interface between translation studies, terminology studies and metalexicography. Recently, his interests have shifted a bit to the information behaviour and information needs of technical communicators. He is also very much interested in various aspects of academic writing.

When asked about the biggest successes in his career, Löckinger mentions two awards he received for his doctoral thesis: the Terminology Award of the German Association for Terminology and an honourable mention in the context of the International Award for Applied Terminology Research and Development of the European Association for Terminology.

He also considers it very rewarding to see that students and graduates-to-be can benefit from his know-how.

Terminology at the core of technical communication

Since September 2013, he has held a professorship for technical communication at the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria.

Terminology, according to Löckinger, is at the core of technical communication, which is why terminology (work) is almost always included in topics of technical communication. For example, terminology plays a central role in assessing the quality of instruction manuals or in developing a consistent corporate language.

Most of Löckinger’s work is giving courses about technical communication topics. He has been teaching students of various domains such as automation engineering, plant construction, agricultural technology, energy engineering and technical communication. His courses are at three academic levels: mostly for Bachelor and Master students, but also for doctoral students. In the fourth semester of the Bachelor degree programme, he gives a specific course on terminology work and translation management.

While teaching activities are the main part of his job as a professor, he feels that it is always good to connect them to his research and development work as well as to administrative duties such as developing curricula. Seen from the other side, he thinks it’s equally important to transfer learnings from research and development, for example, to his teaching, for the benefit of the students.

Löckinger would like to dedicate more time to detailed reading of good publications. However, since technical communication is such a broad and lively field, he feels that there is always a shortage of time.

A good balance between standardization and academic work

Löckinger is active in ISO/TC 37. He calls ISO 704 with the title “Terminology work – Principles and methods” [2] the cornerstone international document on terminology work.

From 2019 to 2022, Löckinger acted as the project leader for the revision of this international standard. For the challenging job, he adopted the slogan “Keep what’s good, fix what’s bad, and unlock great performance” [3, slightly adapted from the title]. And it seems to have worked: notable features of the document are the systematic integration of UML‑based concept models, a more extensive treatise of associative concept relations and numerous new or updated examples, including appellations and proper names.

He concludes that whether one is active in standardization or not, the 2022 edition of ISO 704 is certainly a very good starting point when wanting to learn something about terminology work.

Löckinger is also the chair of two Austrian standardization committees: 033 “Terminology, Information, and Documentation”, which mirrors ISO/TC 46 and most subcommittees of ISO/TC 37, and 239 “Language Services”, which mirrors ISO/TC 37/SC 5. The parallel Finnish standardization committee is SFS/SR 240 Kieli ja sanastotyö (“Language and terminology work”).

He does not find it difficult to combine his work at the university and the standardization work. He calls research and development part and parcel of a professor’s job. Standardization work belongs to the development aspect and creates a lot of added value: he can contribute to those standards that students and graduates-to-be are supposed to implement during their studies and in their daily work. Vice versa, he enjoys integrating his research and development know-how into his courses.

Löckinger says that, in the bigger picture, his standardization work is part of the university’s “third mission”, i.e. making academic contributions for the economy and society at large. For instance, when he comments on the topic of text comprehensibility in an international standard on technical documentation, it will benefit virtually everybody since all of us consult instruction manuals now and then.

He understands well the need and importance of international standardization work. In general, he sees international standardization as an essential building block of good and peaceful international cooperation. At the technical level, it provides a wonderful opportunity to learn from other experts in the same or neighbouring fields, all of them having differe,nt cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

The role of terminology in today’s world

According to Löckinger, terminology has always been crucial for communication between humans. Now, it is becoming even more important as the basis for communication between humans and machines or between machines only. As an example, he gives machine translation engines or Internet of Things applications that need to reason over concepts of a specific ontology.

Löckinger feels that terminology science is currently broadening its view: expert communities that used to be quite separate historically, such as linked open data, translation, microcontent management or onomastics, are seen as valuable fields with joint interests. He wishes that interdisciplinary cooperation will become even more common in the future when it comes to terminology matters of all sorts.


[1] Löckinger, Georg (2014). Übersetzungsorientierte Fachwörterbücher: Entwicklung und Erprobung eines innovativen Modells. Frank & Timme. Verlag für wissenschaftliche Literatur. Full text available online.

[2] ISO 704:2022. Terminology work – Principles and methods. Preview available online [accessed on 23.03.2023].

[3] Neilson, Gary L.; Pasternack, Bruce A. (2005). Results: Keep What’s Good, Fix What’s Wrong, and Unlock Great Performance. Booz & Company Inc. Excerpt available online [accessed on 23.03.2023].


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