Translation standards and quality assurance
A brief overview of what standards provide, and the European Translation Standard EN15038
One of the aims of SATC is to promote adherence to internationally defined standards.
- Why have standards?
- Do I need a translation that conforms to EN15038?
- Do I need a translation company that is EN15038 certified?
- Requirements under the EN15038 standard
- A definition of terms
Translation is an art, not a science. Any text can be translated into another language in many ways, all of which can be equally valid. Given any page of text, no two translators will ever come up with the same result. So how can you judge the quality of a translation if you are not yourself an expert in the language in question?
You can’t. You can always engage another translator to provide an opinion, but how do you know that this one is any better than the first? You risk a lengthy discussion of the relative merits of one or another set of expressions. Quality is very difficult to measure.
So what can you do? The word ‘translation’ applies to two things, a translated text and the process of translation that has led to it. The translation process is more easily measurable. The aim of the EN15038 standard is to define the processes needed to provide reliable quality translation services.
It covers all related issues, including quality assurance and traceability. It specifies requirements for the translation service provider (TSP) with regard to human and technical resources, quality and project management, the contractual framework and service procedures. (See Requirements under EN15038 below.)
Since the standard applies to the process of translation, not to the result, it does not directly guarantee the quality of any given translation task. It does however guarantee that a well considered and standardised set of procedures are established and operated by the TSP.
Operating such a set of procedures greatly reduces the risk of a poor outcome, by ensuring that quality checks are performed. Humans constantly make mistakes, but the right combination of humans working to a well-designed procedure can usually catch those mistakes and correct them before anyone else knows they occurred. What’s more, since the procedure includes recording what happens and evaluating it, it means that if there is occasionally a poor outcome, then lessons will be drawn from it and the procedures changed to make sure the same thing does not repeat itself.
All this creates much greater reliability.
There are all kinds of procedures of course, and most companies operate some kind of standardised process. EN15038 concerns just one process, but it is one that has been agreed upon Europe-wide, and is therefore worth discussing as a basis for quality considerations in translation. Below you will find a summary of the requirements under the standard.