How to keep your glossaries as tidy as your kitchen drawer

Once again, the new semester is approaching, and another knowledge management course is about to start at TH Köln’s Master of Conference Interpreting. Now after 15 years of teaching, I find myself wondering what it is that I really really want my students to remember for the rest of their professional lives. Things have changed so much since I wrote my first seminar paper on terminology management back in 1995. But there certainly are some basic principles that apply no matter which tools and devices we use?

Interestingly, I happened to come across the answer this morning when I opened my kitchen drawer (or rather, I knew the answer all along, but I found it confirmed there): It is all about sorting and filtering. No matter if it’s about kitchen stuff or glossaries, what I really want my students to remember is how convenient (and sometimes life-saving, so to say) it is to have your stuff in the right place. The rules are simple:

  • Group by function: All the baking/salad etc. ingredients in one place, all the sweets together, all the loose stuff in a box
  • Group by type: All the Prinzenrollen next to each other (so you don’t buy the fifth one just because your kids keep telling you they are out of stock)
  • Sort by date: First in First out, for obvious reasons
  • Keep a shopping list and note down that you need to buy oil before you run out.
  • Keep the things you use every day on the counter, so you always have them ready. Put them back into the drawer if you don’t really use them regularly.

Terminology-wise, things may not be one hundred percent identical, but the underlying principles are fairly similar:

  • Categorise by customer and subject so that you get the right terms for your dermatology congress or the circulation pump manufacturer with just a few clicks.
  • Sort your terminology alphabetically from time to time to find similar or double entries. This can also be a very enlightening exercise as you sometimes find you translate the same term completely differently in different settings.
  • Sorting by date puts the relevance of your terminology into perspective and helps to avoid using obsolete expressions (especially when you are of a certain age).
  • Make sure you highlight missing terms and discuss them with your colleague or client before you switch on the microphone.
  • Assign priorities to the most crucial expressions and display them prominently so that you don’t have to look for them (rummage in the drawer) when in need.

I suppose there are even more similarities that I am not aware of. Suggestions – especially in terms of kitchen organisation – are more than welcome 🙂

About the author

Anja Rütten is a freelance conference interpreter for German (A), Spanish (B), English (C), and French (C) based in Düsseldorf, Germany. She has specialised in knowledge management since the mid-1990s.

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