Terminology in
South Africa

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The following are Excerpts from Terminology Projects which Resulted from Coordination on a National Level.

MULTILINGUAL AIDS TERMINOLOGY

The Terminology Subdirectorate of the National Language Service, in cooperation with the Department of Health and various other stakeholders, compiled this multilingual list of core terms used in HIV/AIDS education as a contribution to the campaign against HIV/AIDS. The final list is the culmination of a long process of consultation and collaboration and it will hopefully be published and distributed in the near future.

bullet download MSWord document (approximately 81 Kb)

 

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Political Science

In 1985 when the first ever SA bi-directional, bilingual dictionary on Political and Related Terminology was published, the authors and expert collaborators were already abundantly aware of the need that its contents had to be urgently revised in order to incorporate hundreds of new terms that were generated along with political change in SA at the time.

With the inception of the new political dispensation in 1994 the languages were increased from the original two languages to 11 official languages. To speed up the process of providing equivalents for the African languages the terminology committee decided to expand the relevant database by adding definitions that would facilitate the creation of equivalent terms for the English terms.

The following are examples of multilingual term records in this database.

bullet download MSWord document (approximately 58 Kb)

 

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COLLABORATION AND LIAISON

The main objective of the Terminology Coordination Section (TCS) is to coordinate internal and external terminological contributions, forge partnerships with collaborators and stakeholders and disseminate term lists to users, clients and collaborators. The Section thus fulfils a coordinating function regarding terminological activities of various role players.

Collective terminology development is of great importance in optimising service delivery. Terminology documentation and coordination is a long-term process, the results of which are achieved through sustainable team work only. Cooperation and liaison with language bodies in South Africa, including the PanSALB (Pan South African Language Board), tertiary institutions and provincial language services, is therefore a priority.

The documentation of terminology forms an integral part of language development. Not only does it facilitate knowledge acquisition and transfer, but also plays an important role in technical and scientific communication. The documentation and creation of terminology set standards in technical communication for various subject and linguistic communities. Professional terminologists at the National Language Service (NLS) document multilingual terminology on a central database in a variety of subject fields and domains in collaboration and consultation with various stakeholders. Projects are determined by needs assessments or requests from government institutions. These projects are managed with the assistance of and in cooperation with experts in various fields. The projects include terms in both formal and informal registers with the purpose of improving communication between lay people and specialists, as well as among specialists themselves.

During 2001 the Head of Terminology Coordination, Mr Xolile Mfaxa, together with Dr Mariëtta Alberts, Ms Judi de Beer and Ms Susan Roets, conducted terminology training sessions for potential collaborators in all the official languages (Xitsonga, isiZulu, siSwati, isiNdebele, Tshivenda, Sesotho, isiXhosa, Sesotho sa Leboa, Setswana) of SA. They trained the collaborators on different aspects concerning the manipulation of terminological data.

The Institutions that collaborate with the NLS inter alia do the following:

The terminologists have specific responsibilities regarding the coordination of terminology projects and the work done by the different collaborating groups in the provinces who are responsible for their particular target language contributions. They engage in active liaison with these collaborators and also train them on the methodologies of terminological data capturing and terminographic principles and practice. The TCS terminologists not only assist them with the basic planning of their projects but also assist them with the formulation of their business plans.

Furthermore they liaise with international bodies, e.g. for organising international events (conferences and training).

All new terminological projects, regardless of whether they are undertaken by the NLS, National Lexicography Units (NLUs) or National Language Boards NLBs), are registered with the TCS.

The TCS identifies different groups of people working in the same field or domain in order to bring them together so that information could be shared and the inputs of collaborators be well coordinated and integrated.

Part of the Terminology Coordination Section’s collaboration activities lead to its hosting of two terminology workshops:

 

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THE TERMINOLOGY COORDINATION SECTION PERFORMS VARIOUS TASKS WHICH INCLUDE:

 

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SCHOOL PROJECTS

The TCS’s primary focus with the school projects is the documentation of existing terminology, and facilitation of the development of terminology in the African languages for new concepts that appear in the teaching materials for Grades 1 to 6. Eight learning areas are incorporated in Curriculum 2005. These learning are Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Economic Sciences, Technology, Social Sciences, Arts and Culture, Life Orientation and Languages. The PanSALB and the Department of Education are the two most important business partners of the TCS as far as the Education Terminology Project is concerned.

Mathematics

Since it may be argued that mathematical terms lie on a continuum the terminological data was collected from relevant teaching materials used in Grade 1 up to Grade 6.

Mathematics is generally referred to as Numeracy Skills in Grades 1 to 3. In these grades a great many general terms such as match, choose, fill in, light, heavy etc are included. To teach the learners about space and position many prepositions such as like behind, on, under, etc are included. Learners have to learn about measurements, capacity, height, weight, length, shapes, and patterns. In the context of Mathematics terms such as long, tall, wide full, half-full and even cup (measurement: 250 ml) have a mathematical meaning, and are thus included in the list, although it might be argued that they are general words in other contexts.

In order to read the time on a clock the learners need to know that hand may be used to indicate the hand of a clock (long hand, short hand) and they learn that even a clock has a face. Learners also have to learn how to use a calculator. It is sometimes difficult to decide on the status (general words or subject specific terms) of lexical items in school texts, and that is why many terms used in teaching Mathematics at primary level are regarded to be ordinary words. These terms need not necessarily be defined, but were included in the list. Obvious technical terms are defined, e.g. terms such as triangle, calculate, capacity, circumference, equation.

As from Grade 4 upwards the subject is generally referred to as Mathematics.

Purely mathematical terms are limited. The bulk of the terms stay the same throughout the grades although the manner in which they are used becomes progressively more difficult for each consecutive learning phase. Terms such as triangle, circle, square and rectangle are already introduced on a very elementary level in the lower grades; the learners have only to recognise the shapes.

Equivalents of the terms are being added by the different collaborator groups, the team members of which are first language speakers of the particular target languages. These endeavours will give effect to mother-tongue education for all speech communities in SA.

Approximately 1 200 entries have been documented for this project.

Science and Technology

This project is focused on terms used in the intermediate learning phase. Approximately 4 800 terms have been identified, excerpted, defined and documented in a low register to encourage and promote mother tongue education for all South African learners.

Geography

For the intermediate education level of Grades 4 to 6 approximately 2 200 terms have been documented for this learning area. Core terms have been defined. This endeavour should benefit both learners and teachers.

 

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OTHER TERMINOLOGY PROJECTS INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:

Basic Health Project

The Terminology Coordination Section of the NLS is currently revising the corpus of the multilingual Basic Health Project (± 1 300 entries) in order to update its content and to meet the needs of the target users more effectively.

Legal terminology

In 1985 translators, interpreters and court officials indicated that they were having numerous problems when dealing with legal terminology in the African languages, because legal terminology either did not exist or was inadequate in these languages. A needs assessment revealed a dire need in the sub-domains of criminal law, criminal procedural law, and the law of evidence.

A working group formed in 1987 later developed into the Centre for Legal Terminology in African Languages. Voluntary collaborators such as members of the legal professions, interpreters, translators, academics, linguists, terminologists, terminographers, researchers, anthropologists, representatives of the PanSALB, etc. joined forces. The main objective of this Centre is to make legal terminology more accessible and comprehensible to the local indigenous population by compiling legal terminology lists, legal dictionaries and other related products in African languages, Afrikaans and English. The target group for which this terminology is intended includes legal practitioners, interpreters, translators, legislators, students of law and even the public at large.

Although this project was initially aimed at meeting the needs of the interpreters for Sesotho sa Leboa who, owing to a lack of legal terminology in this language, experienced serious difficulties in interpreting legal proceedings in court, it was soon realised that the other African language groups would also benefit if the project could be expanded to cover their languages as well. Delegates of the other African languages attend the regular meetings and have already started working on some of the other official languages (e.g. Sesotho, isiZulu, Setswana, Tshivenda, siSwati and isiXhosa).

Political and Related Sciences terms

In 1985 when the first ever SA bi-directional, bilingual dictionary on Political and Related Terminology was published, the authors and expert collaborators were already abundantly aware of the need that its contents had to be urgently revised in order to incorporate hundreds of new terms that were generated along with political change in SA at the time.

With the inception of the new political dispensation in 1994 the languages were increased from the original two languages to 11 official languages. To speed up the process of providing equivalents for the African languages the terminology committee decided to expand the relevant database by adding definitions that would facilitate the creation of equivalent terms for the English terms.

The project has recently been finalised. The database consists of more than 15 000 term records.

Building terminology

This is an ongoing project that comprises a large database intended to cover the technical language of the Building Industry as a whole. Some 13 000 terms have been documented to date, edited, defined, and with numerous equivalents in African languages added to the corpus.

Building involves some 65 interrelated disciplines that represent different levels of scientific content, and the terminology is presented accordingly. The subject fields covered are site preparation and management; project management; fire prevention; industrial safety; labour relations; building law; quantity surveying; masonry; stone masonry; plaster and tiling; painting and decoration; carpentry; cabinet-making; glazing; plumbing; roofing; flooring; detail on windows and doors; staircases; and drawing practice (plan interpretation), as well as a large number of architectural terms.

The target groups include the former Building Industries Training Board (BITB) of the Building Industries Federation of South Africa, currently known as the Construction Industry Training Authority (CITA); the University of Pretoria (Architecture and Building Science); other South African universities; technikons; technical colleges; The Building Technology Division of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR); the Skills Academy; all other interested individuals, and/or bodies belonging to the discourse community of the construction industry. The database constitutes an invaluable source of terminological information to lecturers, students and trainees in a large number of peripheral fields and sub-domains of the construction industry, thereby enhancing technical communication and knowledge transfer.

Terminology for Human Resource Management

Transformation in the Public Service in the field of human resource management is generating many new terms. This database contains more than 2 000 entry terms with enriched terminological information such as context, definitions, and example sentences. Equivalents in certain target languages have also been added for some of the term records.

Dietetics Dictionary

The bilingual terminological data has been finalised, and the additional introductory dictionary components forming the front matter of the dictionary were also completed. Means are currently being investigated to give users electronic access to the information in the database

Dictionary of Statistics

Having reached international status as a trilingual (English/Afrikaans/Dutch) dictionary, the terminology is still being developed and updated, in particular through the addition of African language equivalents and definitions.

Physics Dictionary

The dictionary has now been completed and the terminological content has been converted to MultiTerm (terminology software program). Appendices containing the correct usage and form of symbols used in Physics and Astronomy, as well as metric and standard international units are being finalised by collaborators of the Physics Department at the University of Pretoria.

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