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A: Conceive your terminologyA1: Define your domainsA2: Identify your users' expectationsA3: Define your connection with the datamodelA4: Choose your termsA5: Organize your terms into a thesaurus structureA6: Find equivalent terms in other languagesA7: Implement your thesaurusB8: Validate your SKOSification


According to your institutional situation, your terminology must be multilingual or not. Whatever you have to do regarding multilingualism, we advice you to try to make your thesaurus at least bilingual. So after having chosen your terms in your native language and structured your thesaurus, do the same in at least one other language. To do so, we recommend you:

  • 1. To identify the language(s)in which you want or have to propose your descriptions.
  • 2. Not to proceed to a literal translation of your terms in the identified languages previously.
  • 3. But to find, for your collection domain(s), existing vocabularies in the language you are interested in and point outthe ones you can consider as equivalent to yours.
  • 4. To ask experts of the domain and speakers of the foreign language to help you find the missing equivalent terms and to validatethe whole choice of equivalent terms.
  • 5. To considerthese equivalent terms as associated terms until you precise their multilingual relationships at step B3: Define with precision the labels expressing concepts.


We strongly recommend you to foresee multilingualism right now even if in your institution this is not internally mandatory. Some institutions are legally mandated to propose multilingual descriptions (e.g. in Belgium in two languages), others technically have to (e.g. in the case of non latin alphabets such as Cyrillic or Greek alphabets). But for the others, even if they donot have this political or technical need, we can say they have in fact a need for visibility. Thus we consider that today every museum has to propose multilingual descriptions (at least in two languages).

The objective of this step is to find the best set of terms for the semantic description of your digital resources in at least one other language, but without any literal translation. Indeed in this case direct non expert translation produces mistakes or meaning-slidings. Sometimes this is due to false friends, other times to the fact that the term in your native language is generally used abroad. The more you find equivalent terms by expert in the foreign language you are interested in, the more exact your equivalence will be.

Here the difficulties are to use a peer-wise approach instead of translation one; to manage very specific terms without any direct equivalent term; to reach 100% multlilingualism; to prevent yourself to use English as a pivot-language.

You can consider that this task is over when you have for each major descriptor of your terminology at least one equivalent term in another language.

For example

Image: A6_table.jpg

The example above comes from a thesaurus (thematic keywords of RMCA, Belgium) that was used for the Athena Thesaurus.

In the example, the term "transport over land" is used for the English term and the Dutch one as well. It is possible that there is no appropriate term for this concept in Dutch or it is possible that this English term is acknowledged in Dutch rather than its Dutch literal equivalent.

Like in the example, in some cases, the use of terms in a language that is not the original one may be necessary either because the common use acknowledges the use of this term or because there is no proper equivalent in the expected language. These terms are known as "coin" terms. In this case, beware of providing context or use information on the term (please refer to A7: Implement your thesaurus and B7: Ensure the documentation of the concepts).

Methods and tools:

You can consult a repository of free-to-use terminologies on the Athena Wiki where the resources are classified by domains and languages.

You can also consult the norm ISO 5964: 1985 since it notably deals with the transposition of a monolingual thesaurus to a multilingual one. However, this norm does not take into account the technological reality. It helps you to make it on the paper without considering a technical implementation thanks to a tool. That particularity can lead to contradictions later when you implement the mapping of equivalent terms. So we advice you just to refer to it for the core design of your terminology and keeping in mind that technologies may have solved some of the issues pointed out in this norm. The upcoming norm ISO 25964-1 that we already mentioned will address better the design of a monolingual or multilingual with consideration to the technological reality.


We invite you to pursue the step by step process by going to the next step: A7: Implement your thesaurus.

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The different tasks we detail are:

  • A1: Define your collection domain(s)
  • A2: Identify your users' expectations about your semantic descriptions
  • A3: Define your connection with the datamodel
  • A4: Choose the terms for the semantic description of your digital resources
  • A5: Organise your terms into a thesaurus structure
  • A6: Find equivalent terms in other languages
  • A7: Implement your thesaurus

You can also navigate through the recommendations by using the synoptic map below. This map will be available on each page of the recommendations process. In order to know the name of a step in particular, just rollover and stay a bit on the very box so that the name appears.

A: Conceive your terminologyB: Make your terminology interoperableC: Link your terminology to a networkA1: Define your domainsB1: Evaluate how far SKOS is compliant with your main featuresC1: Definition of metadata on your terminologyA2: Identify your users' expectationsB2: Roughly SKOSify your thesaurusC2: Identification of resources for mappingA3: Define your connection with the datamodelB3: Define with precision the labels expressing conceptsC3: Mapping with other resourcesA4: Choose your termsB4: Identify your conceptsC4: Validation of the interoperabilityA5: Organize your terms into a thesaurus structureB5: Map your conceptsA6: Find equivalent terms in other languagesB6: Map your termsA7: Implement your thesaurusB7: Ensure the documentation of conceptsB8: Validate your SKOSification
This page was last modified on 3 June 2011, at 10:08.This page has been accessed 2,411 times.