Quality assurance in translation

When it comes to translation, accuracy is the name of the game.

For instance, one wrong word in a set of operating instructions could cause machinery to malfunction, while one wrong image in an advertisement could cause the product to become a market flop abroad.

For nearly 60 years, BDÜ has espoused quality in the training of translators and interpreters, and has ensured that its members constantly hone their professional skills. It has also imposed high standards for admitting applicants as members.

A standard for translation services

The standard DIN EN 15038 Translation Services – Service Requirements came into effect August 1, 2006, providing clients (i.e., users of translation services) and all other participants in the translation process with guidelines for quality management. This standard defines minimum requirements that apply to translation service providers and – unlike the preceding standard DIN 2345, which was rescinded by the Deutsches Institut für Normung (German Institute for Standardization) with effect from December 31, 2006 – it is valid throughout Europe.

The standard makes it absolutely clear that high-quality monitoring processes are essential for the provision of high-quality translation services:

  • personal aptitude and qualification of translator and revisers and others involved in the translation process (such as a university degree in translation studies or proof of five years of professional experience in translation work)
  • a documented system of quality-control measures (documentation of training, regular professional development and client feedback)
  • adequate technical equipment on the part of translation service providers
  • documentation and compliance with the defined translation process
  • adherence to clients’ requirements with regard to language, style and terminology
  • cross-check principle ("four-eyes principle"): checking of the translated texts by a person other than the translator with the same competence as the translator and with translation experience in the relevant subject areas

High level of qualifications on the part of the interpreters and translators belonging to BDÜ

The qualifications that BDÜ mandates for its members and verifies exceed the minimum requirements defined in the standard.

Clients and translation service providers who wish to work in compliance with the standard can be confident that translators they work with will be highly qualified if they use BDÜ’s Membership Database to select the translator.

There are various ways to assure clients that quality management rules are adhered to:

  • a sworn statement by the translator himself/herself
  • a review of the translator's quality-assurance process by the client, or
  • a third party declaration from an independent agency

Translators who undertake to work in accordance with this standard can register in Germany with the certification organization DIN CERTCO and can make use of the DIN certification mark. This displays to others that they are complying with all the requirements specified by the standard. If any failure to comply is proven, the translator’s permission to use the certification mark will be withdrawn.

If a translation service provider arranges to be certified by a certification agency, a third party will verify that provider’s compliance with the standard. Independent auditors will go to the service provider’s head office to check whether he/she uses the relevant processes in accordance with the standard and meets the requirements. This option is offered by the Language Industry Certification System (LICS) . The certification is valid for six years. After this, the service provider has to undergo another audit.
Just as other industrial companies, translation service providers can be certified according to DIN 9001. This is a particularly interesting option for larger offices providing services to industrial enterprises that have DIN 9001 certification. In this event, the service provider defines the translation and revision processes concerned and arranges for them to be verified by an independent agency.

After all, a standard’s impact on the market always depends on the extent to which that standard is accepted by the market itself. The fact that the current standards are being conducted at the global (ISO) level underscores that this market is not only restricted to Europe. The successor standard of DIN EN 15038, DIN ISO 17100, may still be put in place this year. It would be a positive development, both for qualified translation-service providers and their clients, if DIN ISO 17100 were to become established as an international “standard” in the truest sense of the word. Currently, standards for interpreting are being developed at the national and international level.

Assessment of conformity: Desirable in any form

BDÜ takes the view that every form of conformity assessment conducted in accordance with DIN EN 15038 is essentially of equal value, and that such assessment is certainly desirable in a heterogeneous translation market.

At the same time, if necessary, BDÜ will take action against translation service providers who have clearly issued untruthful declarations of conformity or whose practices do not comply with the requirements of the standard after they have achieved certification. After all, a standard's impact on the market always depends on the extent to which that standard is accepted by the market itself. It is to be hoped that the qualified providers of translation services and their clients will adopt DIN EN 15038 as their "standard" in the truest sense of the word.

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