Multilingual Terminology Management Tools: A Quick Review

Our work as interpreters, especially those working in legal or court settings, may become a little difficult when we’re thrown right into the battlefield without any kind of preparation. In an ideal world, we should have access to materials, notes, presentations, glossaries, or any other kind of information that may be uttered by speakers, attorneys, or expert witnesses. However, in the real world, this may not be the case and we may have to resort to our endless vault of terminology stored in our brain…yeah, right! Joke aside, it is very important to always be prepared.

I work with an awesome team of court interpreters and our collaboration efforts are always geared towards supporting each other to make our lives easier. We usually compile glossaries that will help us to keep consistency of terminology and information about the case in general, but more often than not, those glossaries end up being not very useful as we can’t be interpreting, holding the mic, and looking up words in the glossary at the same time. Come on! We already juggle around seven cognitive activities when performing simultaneous interpretation! So, I looked for tools that may make our lives easier and really take advantage of all our prep time.

A few years back I found a couple of glossary management tools that all of us could make use of. Unfortunately the price was prohibitive and some colleagues were not very comfortable with the use of electronic glossaries, as opposed to paper terminology lists. As more of us, translators and interpreters, are becoming techier, we are finding ways to use technology to our advantage. In my long search for a tool that would help me and my friends, I have found the following mobile apps and computer software (appearing in order of personal preference).

Glossaries2go – An app for Android and iPhone is my favorite due to its portability, ease of access, user-friendly interface, and very intuitive (basic knowledge of app usage will suffice…no rocket science here!). I am using this terminology management app right now and shared the info with my colleagues. Hopefully some of us will adopt it. Here are a few highlights:

  • You can create glossaries in excel and upload them on your phone using a cloud-based storage account, such as iCloud, Google drive, Dropbox, or Microsoft OneDrive. 
  • You can set display languages, set the search language, and set filters.
  • It has a search field which can be used inside the list of glossaries and inside each glossary. It does not search amongst all the glossaries you have on your list.
  • The English or Spanish term is visible on the top and the translation is shown right below (a feature I love because of the limited time span we have to look up and read terminology).
  • The cost is $29.99 USD, and it includes updates and unlimited size and number of glossaries. With the free version you can only have two glossaries and see 20 entries per glossary.  

Interpretbank is a software that you have to download and install onto your computer (Mac or Windows). I used it a couple of years ago and intended to use it in my translation class at Santa Barbara City College, but proved to be cost-prohibitive. I shared some glossaries with my colleagues for a couple of high-profile cases.

  • Interpretbank creates a glossary database in the cloud and everyone with the weblink is able to view a specific glossary (on iPhone, iPad or computer) featuring a search field or print the glossary.
  • The free trial lasts 14 days, but you can convert to the full version anytime you like after paying for the license.
  • It features a fast, reliable search feature.
  • The cost for the freelance one-time license is $169 euros, and includes one year of glossary cloud storage and support. After year one, you would have to pay an additional fee for cloud and support.
  • With the freelance license, you may install Interpretbank on two computers.

Interplex – Software for Mac and Windows operating system computer and App for iPhone only. I recommend you watch this video made by the developer and two practicing conference interpreters on the use of this tool (it’s 1 hour long, so have some snacks ready):

  • It has a demo for the computer software. The free version for the iPhone is very limited and you may only see the sample glossaries (which are pretty good, btw). 
  • The cost for the computer software (windows or MAC) is $75 USD, and the iPhone app is $7.99 USD.
  • Uploading of glossaries to the App can only be done by storing your glossaries in a separate folder in Dropbox and choosing “synchronize” on the App.
  • It features a search field to look up glossaries, and to look up terms inside the glossary. The terms are in a list and you must click on the term to view the translation (as opposed to the term being stacked on top of its translation).
  • Since the glossaries are kept in a mega database on your account, you can look up terms across glossaries (only computer version).
  • The free/demo version of the app has several sample glossaries, which are pretty good and interesting.

Depending on the setting you mostly work at, whether legal, medical, community, education, or conference, you will find that portability and ease of access make a huge difference when looking up terms. Especially if you are crammed in a corner with no desk juggling a microphone, a portable transmitter, papers, pen, phone, etc. Hence my preference for Glossaries2go. In this technological era, we should become aware of the tools at our disposal to become more effective interpreters and make our lives less stressful. I hope you enjoy this post and perhaps share with me your thoughts and/or other tools you may have found. Cheers!

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