management and quality

EN-15038 Standard

The EN-15038 European Quality Standard for Translation Services (the Spanish version of which is UNE-EN-15038) aims for quality in the translation process, from the moment the original text is received to the moment the translated text is submitted to the customer. The focus, then, is on the entire process (the different working procedures and instructions), and not on the product itself, namely the translation.

The characteristics of EN-15038 can be summarised as follows:

  • It establishes the recommended minimum practices that the industry has always applied.
  • Its ultimate goal is certification, and not self-declaration (see Certification).
  • The Standard does not evaluate the quality of the translation itself, but rather the procedures used to produce the translation. Nevertheless, the Standard makes it compulsory to have an internal procedure to ensure the quality of the translation through revision models or other assessment systems (SAE J2450, LISA QA Model, internal procedures, etc.).
  • It defines the process and the requirements that constitute the essential foundation for the provision of high-quality professional translation services.
  • Its key components include revision (compulsory) and review (optional) by somebody other than the translator.
  • It aims to offer translation service providers (TSPs), including translation companies and self-employed translators, with a series of standard procedures and requirements in order to meet market requirements and demonstrate the need for quality control in the service provided.
  • It establishes the profiles of translators, revisers and reviewers, and establishes the competences required by each profile.

The Standard includes the following sections:

  • a foreword and an introduction;
  • a chapter on the scope;
  • five chapters defining the normative components of the Standard: terms and definitions, basic requirements of the service, the customer-TSP relationship, procedures in translation services, and added-value services;
  • five informative annexes: project registration details, technical pre-translation processing, source-text analysis, style guide, and non-exhaustive list of added-value services;
  • a bibliography on standardisation.

As we have mentioned earlier, the primary focus is on third-party revision and review. The textual definitions of these procedures in the EN-15038 are as follows:

  • Revision: examine a translation for its suitability for the agreed purpose, compare the source and target texts, and recommend corrective measures.
  • Review: examine a target text for its suitability for the agreed purpose and respect for the conventions of the domain to which it belongs and recommend corrective measures.

The following explanations serve to clarify these concepts:

  • Revision: bilingual check of the translation to find translation mistakes (omissions, additions, overtranslations, undertranslations, incorrect meanings, mistranslations, meaningless phrases, etc.), grammar mistakes, typographical syntax, cohesion and consistency, style, etc. Revision is compulsory and must be done by a third party.
  • Review: monolingual check by a specialist in the field. Review is optional and must be done by a third party.

Finally, it is worth remembering that standardisation seems to be gathering strength in our industry. An international ISO standard is currently being worked on comprising the content and practices of the European EN-15038, American ASTM, Canadian CAN-CGSB-131-10 and Chinese GB/T 19363 standards, in the ISO TC37 committee. This committee covers not only translation but also interpreting and translation-applied terminology.

Purpose of the Standard. Ensure quality throughout the entire translation process, from the source document being received to the final translation being submitted to the customer.
The future. An international ISO standard is currently being worked on comprising the content and practices of the European EN-15038, American ASTM, Canadian CAN-CGSB-131-10 and Chinese GB/T 19363 standards in the ISO TC37 committee.