Multilingual Glossaries

By Linda Manashe

The compilation of multilingual glossaries started in 2012. The project was started by the Educational Technology Unit, which was the first iteration of what we know as Fundani today. The project started off by collecting existing glossaries that subject specialists had been compiling over the years. Some were in MS Excel and MS Word documents, and most were not translated into isiXhosa. They were just English and Afrikaans versions of the most prevalent technical terms per subject.

We launched our multilingual glossaries with a bang. It was our first verification and we checked the terms of three subjects in three languages. These glossaries were for the following subjects: Architectural Technology, Public Relations and Dental Technology. We were never able to finish the Dental Technology glossary, but the other two have been available online ever since. 

The initial glossaries saw us working with the language coordinators from each of the university’s faculties. They helped source and distribute glossaries to and from their different departments. Nowadays, lecturers reach out to us with a list of about 100 terms at a time. The language unit provides translations after which I arrange a verification.

The verification process has been the most dynamic in the journey of producing multilingual glossaries. It is ever changing and has been refined since the first trial-and-error experience. A number of challenges crept up, but with time these have been overcome with positive energy. The most challenging part of creating a multilingual glossary is still trying to find a date for verification that suits not only the lecturers and students from the relevant department but also the experts from and sourced by the language unit.

Once a glossary has been verified, it gets added to the CPUT database. The CPUT multilingual glossaries platform was developed in WordPress version 4.5.2, an online and open-source tool for creating websites. The WordPress platform uses PHP and MySQL programming languages, as well as a Webserver that is used to store and retrieve information from a database. Before it is then made available online, voiceovers for each term in all three languages are produced and added as a soundcloud file.

A number of glossaries are produced every year (I’m trying to find those elusive dates for verifications as we speak!). In the meantime, please check out the glossaries for these subjects: Biotechnology, Horticulture, Microbiology, Nutrition, Ecology, Sociology, Law of Contracts, Family Law, Maritime Studies, Mental Health, Primary Care Psychiatry, Foundation of Nursing Practice, Architectural Technology, and Public Relations.

If you or any of your colleagues of fellow students would like to initiate a multilingual glossary, please contact me.

Happy translating!