Terminologists collect and document technical terms; they do research on and provide equivalents or create new terms for concepts, which have as yet have not been named, for the benefit of the users of terminology.

Terminologists may be involved in collecting, systematising and documenting terms belonging to a particular technical field or fields. They need to verify terms to establish their linguistic and technical accuracy, in collaboration with experts and other authorities. They provide equivalents in addition to creating terms in the target language. They may be required to edit and accurately proofread documents, as well as revise and update terminology used in them.

They are involved in the facilitation and standardisation of terminology, in collaboration with subject specialists, as well as promoting the use of standardised terms. They may also be involved in the compilation of glossaries or dictionaries, usually as part of a team, in order to make terminological data available to prospective users; and providing an information service, thereby rendering terminological and linguistic assistance and advice to the public.


  • the National Terminology Services of the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and and Technology, which is responsible for the publishing of term lists and dictionaries and which also manages the National Termbank, is one of the largest organisations that employs and trains terminologists

  • other employers are the language services of some municipalities, banks, insurance companies, as well as the South African National Defence Force, the State Language Services, Mittal Steel, Telkom and the SABS

  • self-employment, can do private work for publishers and act as a consultant for writers; can also write a subject or a synonym dictionary

The 11 official languages in South Africa created a great need, especially in the African languages for technical terminology. This need should widen the terminologist’s scope for self-employment considerably.

Getting Started

  • read widely about the history and use of languages

  • hone your language skills by listening to radio programmes in other languages

  • arrange to speak to terminologists about this type of career and ask about holiday or part-time work


Lesotho College of Education, Namibia University of Science and Technology, National University of Lesotho, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, University of Botswana, University of Johannesburg, University of Mauritius, University of Namibia, University of Stellenbosch, University of Swaziland

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