Almost everyone in the language services industry talks about quality in translation: that translations need it and too often lack it, that translators all claim to ensure it and too often don’t, and so on, and so forth.
In this short post, following Dariusz Kłosowski’s conference presentation on translation standards in general and PN-EN15038:2006 in particular, I shall summarise the most important points he made.
What must be remembered is that quality standards are not a proof of high quality. Quality standards ensure that a language service provider has quality procedures in place. In other words, if provider X follows a quality standard, then it means that in theory, before you receive your translation, X will have made sure that the text went through procedure 1, 2, 3… and so on.
I reproduced Dariusz’s diagram of the evolution of quality in English. Here it is:
In 2006 the European Union decided to suggest a quality standard to all translation service providers. And so standard EN15038:2006 was created. You will find that it is on the second arrow from the left, i.e., it is relatively low in the hierarchy of translation quality. It must be said, however, that for regular language service providers it is perfectly sufficient and indicates a very reasonable degree of quality in terms of processes used.
Dariusz spoke a lot about the pros of following EN15038, and I’m not going to go into them here; any certifying body will be more than happy to list them for you.
EN15038 is a standard for translation services specifically (so not for interpreting). To summarise Dariusz’s points: the standard regards translation processes as well as other related aspects, it also is voluntary rather than obligatory and it can be used by both agencies and freelancers (though it’s less common in the latter group). Moreover, the standard consists of requirements rather than directives. Despite this, if one of them is not mentioned in a written contract (or purchase order) between the client and the translation service provider (TSP), then it is no longer a requirement for that particular contract.
The most important requirements (from a freelancer’s point of view) are:
- The TSP is responsible for the order, regardless of who realises it (the TSP or an outsourcer),
- The TSP is responsible for ensuring the standard,
- The TSP should have a system of documenting how resources are assigned to tasks,
- Translators should be competent (in terms of translation, linguistics, research, culture and technology),
- Translators should also have professional competence (in terms of their linguistic education and/or relevant experience),
- The TSP should ensure confidentiality, data security and access to resources,
- The TSP should have a system of documenting procedures regarding all tasks related to a project from its start to finish (these are divided into step 1 – preparation and step 2 – realisation).
What I found by far the most interesting in Dariusz’s presentation was that certification, just like using the standard, is optional.
It is perfectly fine and legal to claim that your services have quality assurance so long as you follow EN15038’s requirements. You don’t need to get certified in order to make this promise binding.
Of course, getting certified has its own pros but, as I said, it is not obligatory.