Interview with Prof. Dr. Hendrik J. Kockaert

A cat painted like a Koi fish, is not a catfish but a cat. If you understand this, you also know why it is important to apply the ISO terminological principles.

– Hendrik Kockaert

Hendrik Kockaert

Prof. Dr Hendrik J. Kockaert lectures French Linguistics, Terminology, Legal Translation, and Translation Technology at KU Leuven, Faculty of Arts, in Antwerp. Since August 2015, he is Dean of the Faculty of Arts on Campus Sint-Andries in Antwerp and he is a Research Associate at the University of The Free State, Republic of South-Africa.

He is also a certified LICS Auditor for granting ISO 17100 certification to translation services, and he is the Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Internationalisation and Localisation [JIAL]. He is also the Chairperson of ISO TC 37 SC 1 and a member of NBN, the Belgian Standardization Institute; an expert in the development of ISO terminology standards; and a certified ECQA (European Certification and Qualification Association) Terminology Manager Trainer and Job Role Committee Provider.

Moreover, Prof. Dr Hendrik J. Kockaert is the coordinator of the following projects financed by the European Commission: QUALETRA (JUST/2011/JPEN/AG/2975), and LIT Search (JUST/2013/JPEN/AG/4556). And he publishes in the areas of terminology, translation quality assurance, and translation technology.

1. When and how did it all start: Was terminology a deliberate choice or did you get involved with it “on the road”? Do you still play an active role in the world of terminology?

I started practicing terminology during my internship at the European Commission in Luxembourg in the Jean Monnet building in 1985, under the supervision of Hubert Wellenstein and Irmgard Fiamozzi. We published the Multilingual Dictionary of Fishing Gear (1992) and the Multilingual Dictionary of Fishing Vessels and Safety on Board (1992). It was in that glorious period without Internet that I rolled into terminological practices and that I learnt the essentials in terminology. Not always “on the road” but also “on the sea”, because we enjoyed visiting trawlers in Italy, France and The Netherlands, in order to understand which term refers to which bizarre part of fishing gear or trawlers. I learnt how important the dialogues between engineers, fishermen and translators-terminologists were. Today, I am the Head of ISO/TC 37/SC 1 – Principles and methods, the ISO subcommittee which develops and updates the essential principles and guidelines in terminology (management).

2. Could you tell us something about your membership and participation in Standardisation (ISO/TC 37 SC 1)?

Being the Head of ISO/TC 37/SC 1 since 2013, I coordinate the activities undertaken in its different Working Groups (WGs): Practical guidelines for socioterminology, Typology of language registers, Graphic notations for concept modelling in terminology work and its relationship with UML, Terminology policies — Development and implementation, Terminology work — Principles and methods are some of the projects in which SC 1 is involved now. I enjoy the annual work meetings because it is always a pleasure to meet the experts in terminology in a different city, ranging from Beijing, Matsue, Copenhagen and Pretoria.

3. What do you think is the most challenging part of terminology management and what are, in your opinion, the most important (dis)advantages of terminology management and why?

Translators and multilingual communicators sometimes face terminology as a luxurious asset, which is not a priority in their daily professions. It is sometimes hard to convince professionals that terminology is indeed the backbone of efficient multilingual communication and consistent translation in corporate businesses and large institutions. But, if a terminologist highlights that consistent terminology boosts the rankings in search engines, generating Search Engine Optimization, terminology creates the necessary impact.

Terminology management has the advantage to create sustainable efficiency in multilingual (and monolingual) communication. The disadvantage seems to be that the positive effects of terminology management is tangible only on a long term, instead of a quick win.

4. You were coordinator of several European projects related to legal translation, terminology and training of legal interpreters and translators. Would there be any possibility to link (one of) these projects to IATE, the multilingual term base of the European Union?

I was the coordinator of Qualetra, a DG Justice project which advocates efficient access to the translations of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) and its connected essential documents. A multilingual term base of the EAW is available on line ( and would be beneficial when incorporated in IATE.

5. For many years, you have been professor of French linguistics, Terminology, Legal Translation and Translation Technology at the KU Leuven in the Faculty of Arts (Campus Sint-Andries, Antwerp, Belgium); how did you integrate the use of IATE and the websites of the European institutions in your classes and is there any cooperation between the University and the European Parliament (DG Translation, the Language Units and the Terminology Coordination Unit), for instance, projects, traineeships, Master’s theses etc.?

My translation workshops with students are organised in such a way that opening and consulting IATE has become a natural reflex. I always refer to IATE so that they are able to consolidate their translation choice. Students are always invited to apply for an internship at the European Parliament in Luxembourg, and recently in Brussels too, where they do a tremendous job: enriching IATE. Our faculty being a member of the EMT Network, which is supported by DG Translation, works closely together with all 64 member universities in the area of terminology development and management.

6. Do you have any suggestions or good advice for (young) people who are interested in terminology?

It is always beneficial to practice terminology on the field. Referring to my first experience in Luxembourg, I realise how important practical hands-on experience is. Such a practical experience should of course be based on a sound basis, such as terminology courses offered by universities, the ECQA-CTM (Certified Terminology Members) courses, and good handbooks, such as the new Handbook of Terminology (2015), and edited by myself and Frieda Steurs.

7. Are there any anecdotes or remarkable misunderstandings related to the use of (the wrong) terminology you would like to share with us?

A cat painted like a Koi fish, is not a catfish but a cat. If you understand this, you also know why it is important to apply the ISO terminological principles.

About the interviewer

Leen BoelBorn in Antwerp (Belgium) in 1985, she graduated in 2009 as Master in Translation (NL/FR/AR) with a terminological research of the Moroccan Commercial Law as the topic of her thesis. After her studies, she enrolled in some supplementary communication modules at the KU Leuven (Belgium) and spent a semester at the Dutch-Flemish Institute in Cairo (Egypt) to improve her Arabic and Egyptian. Since 2010, she has worked for several companies in various sectors, as well as Project Assistant for European projects on legal translation and terminology (KU Leuven, Belgium) and combined her full time job first with evening classes in Marketing and later on with a Postgraduate Programme in Specialised Translation, during which she did a work placement in ontology management at the DANTERMcentret in Copenhagen (Denmark). In order to practice her translation skills, she works as a voluntary translator for different kinds of organisations. Leen is ambitious and tries to bring her eagerness to learn and her endless wanderlust together as much as possible, not only by attending conferences, seminars, workshops and summer schools related to Terminology Management, but also language summer courses in Tunisia and Morocco. Soon, she will obtain both the ECQA certificate for Terminology Manager and European Project Manager.