Why is MultiTerm a separate program, I can do exactly the same thing with another CAT tool? This is a fairly common question, and it has a very good answer too. It’s because MultiTerm is multitudinous! That is, it can be extended by you to provide a variety of termbases, so many in fact that you could probably create a structure to match anything you liked and you won’t be shoe horned into a fixed structure. As I thought about this the Penrose steps came into my mind. They don’t necessarily have anything to do with terminology solutions for translators, but these steps don’t behave in a known manner either and my mind enjoyed the nonsensical link! I also liked this word multitudinous; partly because of the obvious use of the prefix multi- but also because the use of a word like this suggests complexity to me, and in many ways this is what users think when the subject of MultiTerm comes up.
One of the perceived difficulties in using a multitudinous terminology solution like MultiTerm is the capability that comes with it, and the fact it is a standalone tool (although it’s not needed when using your termbase in Studio to assist in translation) when some translation environments have a simple solution built in. Why is it a standalone tool anyway? The answer to this is quite simple and is best explained with reference to the screenshots below. They are a little hard to read I know, but they are two examples of termbases that contain quite a lot of information and have been created to suit the needs of their users, and this may not be limited to only the translator.
This in itself is quite impressive, but is still scratching at the surface. MultiTerm is what terminologists refer to as concept oriented, and this is a standard method for structuring terminology efficiently. The idea being that the termbase is organised around the concept rather than the words. There are many texts to be found on this subject, all written by far more qualified people than me… but I think it’s important to understand this because it makes clear why MultiTerm exists as a separate product and it’s not just a flat, lexical based, pre-defined set of fields that are part of your CAT tool.
If I take the word “Bow” for example. This could have many meanings in English:
- To bend forward at the waist in respect (e.g. “bow down”)
- the front of the ship (e.g. “bow and stern”)
- the weapon which shoots arrows (e.g. “bow and arrow”)
- a kind of tied ribbon (e.g. bow on a present, a bow tie)
- to bend outward at the sides (e.g. a “bow-legged” cowboy)
If I then look at this in other languages, the different grammatical forms and start to add synonyms then then even at a word level it’s clear how complicated it could get to manage. Taking the same word “Bow” into German with no concept might present at least these terms (and these would all carry synonyms of their own as well):
- die Schleife
- der Bogen
- der Bügel
- der Diener
- die Verbeugung
- die Verneigung
- die Wölbung
- der Flitzbogen
- der Bogenverzug
- der Bügelstromabnehmer
The effort required in managing something like this in a flat facility, or one based on a lexical approach, becomes clear as we can map multilingual terms onto a single concept instead of attempting to map disparate multilingual terms onto each other. So one entry might be the “Bow” in “Bow and arrow”, another the “Bow” at the front of a ship.
MultiTerm provides for all of this, catering for the concept orientation in addition to a structure limited only by your imagination. But to do this effectively and to enable others to use the structure and data you have created you need to have a map! Fortunately MultiTerm will produce and maintain this for you as well in the shape of a termbase definition. This definition can be used to help with the creation of new termbases in MultiTerm and even from spreadsheets as you can build the definition in MultiTerm Convert based on what you find in the spreadsheet. Take this predefined template that comes with MultiTerm in case you need a few ideas as an example:
This is a map, or a termbase definition, for a termbase containing terms in three languages and fields provided to help manage a little workflow around Term Lifecycle Management. So you have different approval statuses for each term in addition to various fields for information relating to the origin and definition of the term itself.
In contrast the map below represents nothing more than source and target terms for a bilingual glossary… and it only took a couple of clicks to create it:
For some users, particularly those who just want a simple glossary of terms, the multitudinousness of MultiTerm may well be unnecessary and overly complex. But for others it’s an essential capability to help ensure the correct use of terminology when authoring documentation, managing catalogs of products and their associated branding as well as being able to provide a multilingual experience for users and translators. But most importantly, when used efficiently MultiTerm can provide the user experience that is demanded. So irrespective of the complexity of the termbase each usecase can be catered for using a variety of layouts that suit the needs of each user.
Now… I really wrote this article as an introduction to MultiTerm and to elicit some ideas on what might make a useful article in the future for anyone looking to make more from this very handy tool in their armoury. I could explain how to create a simple termbase or look at handling data between termbases with different definitions… or I could look at something else altogether. I’m really interested in what topics around Multiterm might be of interest and then I can look at creating some hopefully useful articles around these topics. For example, maybe these sort of things would be interesting?
- Creating a custom termbase
- Importing terms from a spreadsheet to an existing termbase
- Merging termbases
- Using termbases in Studio
I know these sort of things have been covered by people in the past, and there are lots of good resources around as I mentioned in a previous article “Is MultiTerm really that hard to learn?“. But if there are still things that it would be useful to address then let me know. MultiTerm is something I haven’t written much about in the past and I’m up for the challenge!