November 1, 2021

MS in Translation and Interpreting Faculty Spotlight: Barbara Inge Karsch

What is your history with and journey to terminology management?

My background is in translation and I had taken a terminology management course during my undergraduate studies. But when I worked at J.D. Edwards in a translation team of almost 80 translators, we decided we need to centralize terminology management. The German team picked me as the rep and my career in terminology management started.

After becoming a terminologist at JDE, I worked as a terminology researcher for Microsoft for six years, before I decided to start my own business. Since 2010, I have worked as a terminology consultant and trainer. I implement terminology management systems, I train people in terminology best practices, and I still do terminology work.

Can you speak a little bit about ISO 12616-1:2021, and how you got involved in developing this ISO?

I have served as an expert on the US delegation to ISO Technical Committee 37 since 2009. At the 2012 ISO Meeting in Madrid, I was asked to take on the revision of the existing, but outdated version of ISO 12616 from 2002. The old standard’s title was Translation-oriented terminography. Terminology work for translators -- that is what I do day in and day out.

The next year in Pretoria, I was formally appointed project lead and set out with a pretty big vision, after all I had worked for large environments, e.g. at Microsoft with over 120 languages managed in one centralized system. By 2015 in Japan, we realized that we had to break it into two parts. So, 12616-1 became focused on terminology work in less complex environments, e.g. the freelance translator. The work on part 2 for larger companies and organizations is just getting off the ground.

How is ISO 12616-1:2021 important for the field of terminology? For the language professions?

12616-1 bridges the gap between the more foundational standards in terminology science, e.g. ISO 704 and ISO 1087. These two lay out the best practices at the core of terminology work. Their origin is in the classification of concepts. While translators have to be familiar with the formation of concepts and their naming, they often have to work fast and always with a focus on getting one document translated. ISO 12616-1 zeroes in on foundational skills, basic processes, data structure and management in terminology management systems.

In summary, ISO 12616-1 provides all the information a translator or translation PM would need to get started with terminology management.

Why is it important for MSTI students to learn about terminology work before heading into the industry?

Any technical communicator does terminology work in some form. They may not call it that. But they identify concepts, research spelling, document preferred and deprecated terms, aim for consistent use, etc. It is one thing to do the work as a byproduct and quite another to research systematically and document the results for reuse by humans and machines (e.g. controlled language checking systems or computer-assisted translation tools). Because most technical translators work in a particular subject field, often for repeat clients, and in tools that have these databases available, it pays off to research a concept once, document it in the database and use it over and over again.

ISO 12616-1 is called Terminology work in support of multilingual communication – Part 1: Fundamentals of translation-oriented terminography. So, if you are a technical communicator working in one language only, your work is covered in this document, too. If a source document contains inconsistent or ill-chosen terminology, the translator and ultimately the reader will suffer. 

Will you include ISO 12616-1:2021 in your teaching?

The knowledge captured in this standard has been part of my teaching for years. Now, we have a document that allows us to get to the point a little more quickly. Nobody gets off the hook that easily, though, ISO 704 and the terminology of terminology science in ISO 1087 will continue to be mandatory in the course. But to have a focused document available is wonderful. 

What is your favorite thing about teaching?

Over the last 25 years as a translator and then terminologist, I have made a lot of mistakes. And I often thought, ah, someone could have told me that. Well, now I get to provide a safe environment for students to either apply what has been discovered in the field or make mistakes. Guiding them in this discovery process is utterly rewarding.

A translation and interpreting degree can help you to take charge of your career, whether you are new to the field or already working in the language professions. Apply for CALA’s newly renamed MS in Translation & Interpreting, a fully online, 36-credit graduate program.

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