Summaries 4/2006

Public term bank has social importance

Terms are the property of all language users. The more frequently they are used, the better they fulfil their task. In order to be used, they must also be easily available. A free-of-charge term bank on the Internet is available for the masses all around the world. A multilingual term bank has many uses. Foreign terms are needed for internationalization, and native-language terms are needed for communication in our national languages.

A national term bank called Rikstermbanken will be built in Sweden. In Finland, we have our TEPA term bank which has been available to the public since 1987 over a modem connection, and since 1997 on the Net. Now we are carrying out a term bank development project which will change both the platform and content of the TEPA.

Christer Laurén brought language immersion to Finland

Christer Laurén is a professor of Swedish in the University of Vaasa. Besides his job he has also worked i.e. as a language consultant in the International Organization for Standardization ISO, and the chairman of international special language research organizations.

Laurén started to study languages in Åbo Akademi in 1961, and became a Doctor of Philosophy in 1972. His mother tongue is Swedish. He grew up in a bilingual town playing with Finnish speaking children. Now he is able to read scientific texts in a dozen different languages, understands almost as many spoken languages and has lectured in half-a-dozen of them. "In different languages one thinks differently. When given the possibility to think in many ways, one becomes more creative" Laurén says.

In Finland language immersion has meant mainly the teaching of Swedish for children who come from totally Finnish speaking homes and do not speak Swedish before teaching begins. The first, Swedish language immersion group started in Finland in 1987. Laurén got the idea to apply language immersion in Finnish schools from Quebec, Canada.

In the addition to language immersion Laurén has also studied terminology. He has taught terminology and written books on terminology with colleagues. He was a member of the TSK’s board of directors in 1980-83. During that time he got to know ISO and terminological work in other Nordic countries. In the 1970s the terminological work usually meant compiling glossaries. "Now there is also research, and there is give and take between theory and practice" Laurén thinks.

National term bank for Swedish terms

In the spring 2006 the Swedish government decided to give the Swedish Centre for Terminology TNC a special grant for building a national term bank called Rikstermbanken. The idea is that Rikstermbanken will contain high-quality terminology from as many participants as possible, and also the TNC's own material. The term bank will mainly handle Swedish concepts, and therefore the Swedish language will form the centre. However, it will also contain term equivalents in other languages, including Finnish.

The decision to build a national term bank was preceded by various investigations and suggestions. In 2002-2004 the TNC had an assignment from the the Ministry of Industry, Employment and Communications to suggest an extended terminological infrastructure for Sweden. That work resulted in a suggestion that such infrastructure required the following important parts: a terminology coordination function at all authorities and companies in Sweden, a terminology portal with information on terminology, and a publicly available national term bank.

A report made by the Swedish Agency for Public Management in 2004 on the ongoing development towards coherent electronic administration emphasizes that the whole public sector must cooperate more than before and to increase the exchange of information. One suggestion for more effective communication made in this report was that the terminology should be unambiguous and collectively agreed on.

Now the question is which terminologies to include and how to evaluate them. The idea is that Rikstermbanken should give a good general view of the terminology that is available in Sweden, especially at the authorities, and that the material should be classified and validated by using different criteria.

In Sweden many authorities have realized that their own terminology is not clear. The TNC has wanted to inspire authorities to establish a terminology coordination function, i.e. to hire terminologists to coordinate their terminology. Some authorities have already started or planned to start to do systematic terminology work. In the long run Rikstermbanken could become a common tool for terminology work and a place where the results of this work could be stored and consulted.

EC regulations as translator's challenge

After Finland joined the European Communities, there has been a lot of discussion on the quality of the legislative material in the EC. People have talked about the EU Finnish emerging in Finland via translations. The extensive translation work in the accession phase was done with little resources, in a hurry and by complying with the requirement of uniformity of EC texts. In ten years the translator’s work has certainly changed and tools improved, but the regulations have become part of our legislation and renewed the language of our statutes. I try to study these new terminological dimensions and conventions in my doctoral thesis. The material contains the regulations of 1998 and the comparable corpus contains the corresponding Finnish legislation of the same year. In this article I examine how much the language elements of the EC regulations differ from the Finnish legislation.

The 1.3 million word corpus of the EC regulations contains about 25.000 linguistic elements and the compared 3.5 million word corpus almost 44.000. There are about 11.000 common elements found in both corpora, so the EU material contains about 14.000 unique elements.

New ways of cooperation and international activity create terms for new concepts. Very often the translator of EC regulations has ended up in using a term of foreign origin when a corresponding concept has not been found in the native special language and there has not been time to create a native equivalent. Sometimes it happens that there is a native expression, but the translator must think whether the concepts correspond to each other enough so that the native equivalent can be used.

Difficulties for the translator are caused by such elements for which there are two different versions in use. In this case the translator has to think whether there are two different concepts or possibly synonyms. There could unnecessarily be two legal terms with the same meaning.

An easy solution for the translator is to create new terms from existing elements by forming compounds. Compounds make up the overwhelming majority of new elements, more than one third of the research material. Sometimes a term has an established equivalent which the EC translation unit has decided to use. These terms are often compounds the parts of which are native, but the combinations have not been used in the Finnish legislation. These terms are non-transparent and their interpretation is difficult without knowledge of their relation to the EC and its work as an organization.

The EC enacts many regulations on issues connected to the economies of the member states. The economic terminology covers almost a quarter of the material. The analysis of the regulation terms gives reason to think that the Finnish legal language will change both in content and linguistically.

Keeping one's head in Africa

Preconceptions don't always prove right. I would not have thought that I would want to buy a warm cap in South Africa, but four chilly hours in an open jeep in the Kruger National Park sent me and my wife to hurried shopping for caps.

A more academic event during our journey was the 50th anniversary conference of the South African Translators' Institute. The timing of the celebration was good since the African Union has proclaimed 2006 as the Year of African Languages. The Republic of South Africa is an excellent example of the diversity of the continent because the country has had 11 official languages since 1994.

Translation is one way to strengthen the status of African languages. The translation of world literature will transfer the ideas and information contained in this literature into a new environment. This doesn't apply to fiction only; it is equally important to create African language concepts in various disciplines of science. It is a regrettable fact that very often African students have to conduct their higher education studies in some other language than their mother tongue.

Owing to the number of official languages, multilingual terminology work is important and challenging in South Africa. Before 1994 the terminology work was usually bilingual, between English and Afrikaans. Now the field is much larger, and often the work has to be started from the basic concepts of disciplines.

The commonest source language in South African terminology work is English. However, it is not the most frequently spoken home language. According to the 2001 census, Zulu was the commonest home language spoken as mother tongue by 23.8% of the population, followed by Xhosa and Afrikaans. English shared the fifth place at 8.2%.

It remains to be seen whether the ideas of the rise of African languages are realistic. However, the translations of biblical texts into numerous indigenous languages show that when there is a will and dedicated people, even demanding translation projects succeed. One must be ready to scrutinize one's preconceptions. A woollen cap bought in Africa keeps the head warm even in Finland's freezing weather.

ISO terminology committee in China

The meetings of the ISO/TC 37 Terminology and other language and content resources were held in Beijing in August. The committee has functioned for more than 50 years, but for one exception the meetings have previously been organized in Europe or North America. The choice of this year’s meeting place reflects the increased participation of the Asian countries.

Work is done in the working groups of four ISO/TC 37 subcommittees. The results of all meetings are summarized in the technical committee and its subcommittee meetings in the end of the meeting week. This way all the participants can have information also on such meetings that they are unable to attend.

The TSK has focused its resources so that it participates in the preparation of the basic standards. The ISO 860 Harmonization of concepts and terms standard will move to the FDIS (final draft international standard) phase in its renewal cycle, and ISO 704 Terminology work – Principles and methods will soon be in the home stretch, too. The next task will be to renew the ISO 1087-1 Terminology work – Vocabulary – Part 1: Theory and application standard and to widen to cover all essential concepts of the TC 37 subcommittees.

Although the TSK's work has so far focused on basic terminology standards, new subject fields have not been forgotten. One example of the expanded field of the TC 37 is the Guidelines for applying concept modelling project that will introduce the use of UML (Unified Modeling Language) in the modelling of concept systems. Modelling and ontologies are also handled in the subcommittee 4 Language resource management, founded in 2001. Another example of the wide spectrum of this committee's work is the standardization of language codes. The currently two-part standard ISO 639 Codes for the representation of names of languages is gradually being enlarged to six parts and the aim is to cover all the languages of the world with their variants. This year a new group called Translation and interpretation processes started its work.

Guide to Terminology in Finnish at last!

Terminology guides are asked from the TSK every now and then, and for some time there has been a need to publish an up-to-date guide in Finnish. Sanastotyön opas is a translation of Heidi Suonuuti's Guide to Terminology published in 1997. Suonuuti wrote her guide in English as it was meant for those working in international standardization, but it has proved quite useful for a larger audience, too. It has already been translated e.g. into Swedish and Icelandic.

Guide to Terminology is a guide to practical terminology work. It can be used by all who compile terminologies or are interested in terminology work, or as teaching material for terminology courses. The guide tells how to make a concept analysis, what are characteristics and what kind of concept systems exist. It gives instructions to write definitions, and describes the phases of a terminology project. It contains plenty of examples on concept relations, definitions and concept diagrams.

The guide also contains a small terminology with 32 concepts, a list of the most important international terminology standards, contact information of Nordterm organizations and compact guidelines for compiling a terminology.

New Terminology of terminology in Nordic

Terminologins terminologi published in 1989 was the second publication of Nordterm, the Nordic cooperation organization in the field of terminology. Defining the terminology in the own field was seen as the second most important job after writing down the statutes – after all, a terminology helps to form the basis for fluent communication.

The renewal and revision of the old terminology was coordinated by the Swedish Centre for Terminology TNC, and members from all Nordterm countries and language areas participated in the project. In addition to the old terminology, the ISO 1087-1 Terminology work – Vocabulary – Part 1: Theory and application standard was used as the source material in the project. In Finland the TSK coordinated the project.

The new terminology, Terminologins terminologi på nordiska, contains 76 concepts related to terminology and terminology work. Concepts are defined in Bokmål, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic and Swedish. In addition to these languages, term equivalents have been gathered in English, Faroese, French, Greenlandic, Northern Sami and Nynorsk.

Nordterm will publish the terminology as a whole, but the TSK has already composed a Finnish version of the material called Terminologian sanasto. It will be published in PDF format on the TSK's web site so that everyone could use it. The Finnish version includes the definitions in Finnish and Swedish and terms also in English and French.


Russian-Finnish business dictionary
Venäläis-suomalainen talouden ja kaupan sanakirja (Russian-Finnish dictionary on economy and business) by Igor Fagradyants contains more than 52.000 Russian terms, and more than 130.000 Finnish equivalents or explanations. Contexts and additional explanations are given to terms so that the reader would more easily understand the use of words and their meaning. According to the author, current Russian business terms contain many Anglicisms, and therefore the terms are often given English equivalents as well.