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TermNet - International network for terminology

Design and implementation of practice oriented terminology trainings (TermTrain)

UNESCO Information for All Programme (IFAP)

TermTrain – Design and implementation of practice oriented terminology trainings for two groups of information professionals:

  • ICT trainers 
  • Language trainers in language communities of Africa

"South Africa has eleven official languages. The challenge is to translate this constitutional provision into living reality.” (Dr Pallo Jordan, South Africa´s Minister of Arts and Culture).

TermTrain WorkshopThis is what terminology training in (Southern) African countries is all about: to empower language practitioners and information professionals to translate human rights into reality, such as the access to legal and other public information in people´s mother tongues.

The language we use and need to understand in public and business life is less “general language” than “specialized language” characterized by the terms of the respective subject fields (e.g. legal texts, parliament speeches, court terminology, science and technology, etc.).

The most important part of the translation of a “constitutional provision into living reality” is to develop terminology in the indigenous languages of African languages communities. An impressing example of applied terminology is the TISSA-Project: TISSA stands for "Telephone Interpreting Service for South Africa" being an initiative of the National Language Service (NLS) within the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) and jointly funded by the Pan South African Language Board (PANSALB).

TISSA intends to make it possible for each individual to communicate with the authorities in his or her own language, for example in places such as hospitals, police stations and government offices. TISSA enables citizens of South Africa, especially African language speakers, to overcome language – and terminology – barriers and to have equal access to government services.

How does TISSA work? If you and a doctor or a lawyer, for example, cannot understand each other’s languages, you can phone a single toll-free number that will link you to a call centre where an operator will connect you to an interpreter who can speak your language and the language of the doctor / the lawyer. He/she needs to have a telephone with a speaker, or two telephones plugged into the same socket, so that you can both listen to the interpreter.

Needless to say that terminology and terminology development plays a crucial role in services such as TISSA. Without terminology training and terminological methods and tools, the interpreter would not be able to do his or her challenging and most important job.

The “Guidelines for Terminology Policies”, prepared by Infoterm for UNESCO in 2005, underline the connection between equal rights, the use of mother tongue and terminology development: “People whose mother-tongue is not (or not sufficiently) developed from the point of view of terminology and special purpose languages (SPL) or who are denied the use of their mother-tongue in education and training, for accessing information, or interacting in their work places, tend to be disadvantaged.”(…)  “The digital divide almost invariably co-occurs with inequality of access to information and knowledge, which is in turn associated with inequality in linguistic access. Inadequate terminology is one key factor in the inequality of linguistic access, and it results in “functional illiteracy” in the contexts of accessing information and using computers.” (“Guidelines for Terminology Policies”, Preface, V).

The ability to understand and create specialized language and specialized knowledge – i.e. terminology – is a key qualification of information professionals and language practitioners. There is no information literacy without terminology literacy. This applies to all levels of information and knowledge creation, storing and processing – ranging from basic terminology teaching and training in primary and secondary schools to applied terminology in multilingual data modelling and content management for sophisticated Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industries and Human Language Technologies (HLT).

An ambitious project of terminology development is performed by the Unit for isiXhosa in Stellenbosch University's Language Centre: “The idea of the project is to develop isiXhosa as an academic language, but in an integrated way - the terminologies are developed in close collaboration with the different academic departments and faculties to ensure that the terminology of the day in each of these institutions are accommodated. These lists, for students who have isiXhosa as their mother tongue, provide an academic "scaffolding" that helps with the acquisition of important academic concepts.” (kampusnuus 10 Februarie 2005: 5).

An electronic database has been created for managing the developed terminologies and the first two terminology lists, Generic Academic Terminology and Generic Administrative Terminology – both  trilingual (Afrikaans, English and isiXhosa) - have been launched . A third list, Faculties, Departments and Academic Divisions, has been published electronically (available on Language Centre's web site at www.sun.ac.za/taalsentrum). Other terminology lists are following, such as for psychology, law, social work and sociology.

Examples of encouraging results and developments can be found also in the field of ICT and HLT: The Centre for Text Technology at the North West University in South Africa has released four new spellcheckers in indigenous languages – Setswana, isiZulu, isiXhosa and Sesotho sa Leboa. An Afrikaans spellchecker was released last year. The Centre says the software development is "not only sustaining human language technology (HLT) in South Africa, but also fighting the battle to ensure that every citizen’s language rights are upheld." (www.puk.ac.za/...)

The overall goal of the IFAP project TermTrain (Design and implementation of practice oriented terminology trainings for two groups of information professionals: 1) ICT trainers and 2) language trainers in language communities of Africa) is to foster all these promising projects and initiatives and to assist and empower the people involved by performing a generic train-the-trainer pilot project for capacity-building in the field of specialized language and specialized knowledge for language communities in the Southern African Development Community (SADC member states).

To guarantee sustainable impact of the project activities, TermTrain´s main target group in terms of trainees for the terminology trainings are those most relevant and professional trainers of languages and ICT, who act as subject advisors and curriculum facilitators on behalf of Governmental departments. TermTrain envisages the maximum number of trainees per target group, i.e. 25 facilitators for language and 25 for ICT.

After the analysis of the terminology training available in language teaching and ICT teaching in comparison with good practice in EU, USA and worldwide, practice oriented and tailored terminology training courses will be developed and adapted based on the findings of the analysis. The trainings will be performed in February 2006 within the framework of the International day of mother-tongue (21 February). The trainings will be evaluated and their content will be fine-tuned. To reach multiplying effects and sustainability an expert and trainer pool will be established and the project results will be disseminated and promoted via the worldwide networks and multipliers within the project consortium and UNESCO.

Considering the fact that the majority of ICT trainers usually are men, while the majority of language trainers are women, aspects of gender equality and empowerment of women will be included in the design of the training courses.

A pilot training with encouraging feedback of participants was performed end of September 2005 in Johannesburg within the framework of the successful awareness raising event “Advancing multilingualism through terminology development” sponsored by the Department of Arts and Culture of South Africa, including a four-days Training course on the basic principles of terminology and terminography. Further information

Quotes of people involved in the project

“Thank you for your wonderful presentations in Johannesburg, South Africa. I have always made sure that I don't miss them, because as I told you when I asked for your e-mail, I am leading the Unit for isiXhosa and mainly responsible for promoting isiXhosa as an academic language. I have a huge task of developing terminology ...” (Pumlani Merrington Sibula)

“Thank you so much for the training session that was eye opening for us. I hope we will use the knowledge we gained at the workshop to conduct more terminology projects in a cost effective manner.” (Gugu Mkhize).

Further information

Download of TermTrain Documents

TermNet, Dr. Gabriele Sauberer, E-mail: gsauberer@termnet.org

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