New terminology coordination team deciphers the jargon


EP, NewsHound, Edition 223, 23 June 2009

  New terminology coordination team deciphers the jargon
What’s in a word? Let this dynamic group of colleagues fill you in

A terminology service has existed in the EP since a long time. When the EP signed the inter-institutional agreement on IATE in 2002, the need of a new terminology coordination team became every day more obvious. IATE (standing for Inter active Terminology for Europe) is an ambitious project promoting the EU translation know-how all across the world, since it is a huge database containing the terminology of the EU-legislation.

“Exactly one year ago, the Director General, Juana Lahousse decided to create the new service and Helmut Spindler, my Director, came to me and asked me if I would like to take care of it. As I have dealt before with terminology in the Greek unit, I was appointed head of the newly created terminology coordination service,” recalls Rodolfo Maslias, who heads up the team.

“We developed a strategy consisting in three main objectives:

  • help translators with terminology we find for them,
  • organise the best use of terminology produced while translating in the 23 languages
  • administrate together with the other EU-institutions the inter-institutional database IATE.

“We started with very few resources. Currently we only have four administrators and two assistants posts relegated to us. Some of our colleagues bring us the experience we need, like Katja Pfusch, our linguistic coordinator. But we rely as well on trainees. At the outset, we were given three trainee posts. We worked very well with them. These young people have a very recent knowledge from the universities, they want to learn, work, to know more. They have good ideas.

“Since then, we have been delegated more trainees positions – currently we have six working for us. We also work with the trainees in the translation units; we involve them in the terminology projects.

“The only problem working with trainees is that there is a high turnover. We created the post of rotating terminologist to ensure a know-how transfer. Maria Calinescu is our first rotating coordinator. She was seconded to us by the Romanian translation unit for a period of 3 months. Her main tasks include the coordination of terminology work within the translation units and linking it with us,” Rodolfo Maslias explains.

The round table working method

“Every week we have a meeting and there the best ideas are born. Everybody’s opinion is taken into consideration, no matter what rank in the hierarchy this person holds. Like this everybody is interested in the work and we work as a group of friends”, says Rodolfo. The same friendly approach has been adopted when working with the translation units.

“With them we organise termino-cafés. We meet the terminologists working within the translation units to have a coffee and talk about work but also meet each other. Then these coffees are followed by more formal administrative meetings to exchange best practices.

“We work with a ‘working group’ of the ten most devoted and volunteering terminologists from all the translation units and we meet once a month to decide which projects to work on with the units.

“We also have a ‘terminology network’ composed of 60 translators, at least two per unit. We meet twice a year and we discuss the whole terminology work of the EP”.


“We have a task list accessible for all our collaborators and hierarchy. If you are wondering where we are and what we are doing, just have a look! We also have a calendar on our website, everything we do is written down there” says Gabriel Alvarez, a young team member in charge of IT.

What is IATE?

IATE is an inter-institutional database for EU terminology, administrated by a technical team in the translation centre. The terminology coordination services of all EU institutions have access to IATE for the input, improvement, merging and deleting of terminology terms. Two versions exist – one public, available to everyone – and one internal.

  • There are between 8-9 million EU legislation terms in the IATE database
  • It received 4,000 hits per hour from all over the world
  • It is a very important tool for the promotion of the translation work of the EU institutions.

Anybody in the EP who wants an access to IATE is most welcome to contact the terminology coordination unit. They will be happy to give you a password.

The internal IATE is accessible to translators with a password. Depending on the level of linguistic expertise, you can have different roles in IATE. For common mortals in the EP it would be a ‘guest’ access. But don’t think that as a ‘guest’ your access is limited. You still have 9 million terms and translations at your fingertips.

“Until we came to this result, we have to do a very precise and time consuming work of managing IATE” says the boss of the terminology coordination team.

On top of managing IATE, the terminology coordination unit works on two main projects:

Real-time terminology. Its aim is to help translators as they work. “At the moment we are working on some IT tools that will permit more interactivity”, explains Rodolfo Maslias. “One example is the forum that will be accessible via the terminology coordination website in the fall. We will create a forum of and for translators who all work on one common text. They will be able to share experiences. You automatically enter when you receive a text to translate and the responsible/author of the text will be included in the forum. So if there is a question raised by participants about the meaning or content of the translated text, they will be able to ask directly the author of the text.”

Pro-active terminology. The aim is to provide the translation units with the necessary terminology before they get the texts for translation. “To do that, we created an early warning system with legislative services of the EP and the other co-deciding Institutions. They tell us before hand which type of texts will be sent to translation. Like this, we have time to do research in glossaries or dictionaries and send them to the units” explains Rodolfo Maslias.

The team relies on the Internet to find it. The specialised EU agencies are a valuable source for specialised terminology, as they are international organisations. An example of the pro-active terminology in action was the financial crisis last December. All the translation services of the EP needed specialised terminology urgently. The team contacted the European Central Bank and were given glossaries created by the central banks of all the EU member states.

Bringing people together

“On our website we launched a photographic competition entitled Lost in Translation! Everyone can send us their pictures related to translation. Our jury will select the best ones and we will make an exhibition in our premises” says Rodolfo.

The website is becoming increasingly popular with more than 4,500 hits per month. It is a useful tool for both professional translators, who have been in the house for years, and beginners. Click here… to take a look yourself.

The small team has a very ambitious program and many terminology projects to look forward to. We were curious to know how much work they have on a daily basis. “Well, we are not bored”, said some of the team members sitting around their round table with a laugh. “We are experiencing the thrill of the pioneers’ period, lots of ideas, projects, activities, meetings, contacts… and therefore a lot of work. But we do not complain, the enthusiasm of this new job makes us forget of the hours we spend for it and we even cannot restrain from looking at our mailboxes and answering important mails during holidays and weekends”.

“It is quite a nice feeling to work with such a dynamic team. The other nice thing is that for this reason and thanks to the results we already have produced in such a short period we have an unfailing support form our hierarchy” is Rodolfo Maslias’ very satisfied conclusion.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s