Quality Standards for Translation


Eight years after the introduction of the European standard on the provision of translation services, EN 15038, work continues on the new, revised version of this standard, known as ISO 17100. In 2011 the ISO committee decided to use EN 15038 as the basis for the new ISO standard, rather than producing a completely new version.

The differences between the two standards are expected to be relatively minor. In particular, the new ISO standard requires a second person to revise the translated text by comparing the target text against the source text. This point was hotly debated, just as it had been in the drafting of the original standard. Representatives of translation agencies called for the dropping of the requirement for a second check (the Vier-Augen-Prinzip = second pair of eyes principle), and representatives of some countries claimed that it was not realistic, as they did not have the resources in their countries to comply with this requirement.  However, European countries and Canada in particular insisted on the principle being retained.

ISO 17100 and EN 15038 have largely similar qualifications for translators, who will now be required to hold documented evidence that they have at least one of the following:

-a recognised tertiary qualification in translation
-a recognised tertiary qualification in another field, plus two years’ full-time working experience in translating
-five years’ full-time professional experience in translating

Like EN 15038, the new standard ISO 17100 is process-focussed, dealing primarily with the translation process and ancillary services. It does not attempt to define quality or establish quality metrics, but provides a description of the conditions that should be fulfilled in order to produce a translation of acceptable standard.

ISO 17100 does not cover machine translation or post-editing. These points are expected to be covered in standard ISO 18587 currently under development.