A Comparison of US and European Standards for Translation Services

by Gérard de Angéli

How many TSPs are EN 15038 registered?

This is a hard one to answer because there is no central register of certifications/declarations, due to the fact that there are so many certification bodies worldwide. A quick search on Google (as of 05.09.07) returned the following results:

Google France: search for ‘Norme NF EN 15038’: 161 pages

Google UK: search for BS EN 15038: 100 pages

Google Deutschland: search for DIN EN 15038: 10,800 pages

The large number of links found on the German pages is partly due to DIN-CERTCO (the German standardization national body) policy regarding what they call the ‘special registration’ service. As the DIN-CERTCO website explains (9):

“Translation service providers may register their services with DIN CERTCO and avail themselves of the possibility to use the DIN EN Collective Mark in their contract documents. The registration comprises the submission of a declaration of conformity under the translator’s own responsibility.”

You will find the whole registration process explained on the relevant web page, along with the list of DIN-EN Registration Mark holders (about 250, mostly German, TSPs). If you think your services comply with EN 15038 requirements, you may consider registering with DIN-CERCO.

It will cost you €57, which is a cheap price to pay to have a nice flag on the home page of your website! Of course, this does not attest to your compliance with EN 15038 requirements. At most, it attests to your … €57 payment to DIN-CERTCO and … to the great marketing skills of Germans! To the best of my knowledge, none of the other large standardization bodies in Europe (BSI and AFNOR) offer this service.
US Standard Guide for Quality Assurance in Translation F 2575-06

Standard scope

“This guide identifies factors relevant to the quality of language translation services for each phase of a translation project …and … is intended for use by all stakeholders, with varying levels of knowledge in the field of translation… This guide is designed to provide a framework for agreement on specifications for translation projects. Within this framework, the participants in a service agreement can define the processes necessary to arrive at a product of desired quality to serve the needs and expectations of the end user.

“(The) guide does not provide specific metrics.

“(It)..also includes a list of specification parameters that shall be considered before work begins.” (10)

Note: The analysis I provide below was carried out on the basis of documentary review alone and not by any attempt to conduct an assessment of Guide’s requirements.
Content summary

  1. Scope
  2. Referenced documents
  3. Terminology
  4. Significance and use
  5. Introduction to Translation
  6. Selecting a Translation Service Provider
  7. Description of Project Phases
  8. Specifications Phase
  9. Production Phase
  10. Post-Project Review
  11. Keywords

Read Also: Do We Really Need Translation Standards After All? 4

General appreciation and review

My opinion is that the US Guide is more of a set of guidelines to follow for both the end-user (client) and the TSP, than stricto sensu a standard stating the requirements for the TSP to comply with in order to obtain external certification. I doubt that a certification body could devise a certification scheme for say third-party certification based on this Guide. The document details factors, rather than requirements, which have to be taken into account to get optimum results in translation tasks, again from both end-user and TSP points of view. It applies as much to in-house translations as to translations performed by external TSPs.

I find this joint approach (end-user) quite refreshing and very promising indeed, as it aims to provide the client with guidelines and involve it in the specification process. Which is, in my experience, very often a weak step in the translation process supply chain (see also below comments about Section 8). In contrast, EN 15038 provides very few useful guidelines for the end-user; in fact it is not intended for end-users (EN 15038 Introduction says: “This document sets out the requirements relating to translation providers”). This is probably a weakness of the European Standard.

As regards definition of terms, Translation Service Provider has been retained in both standards. The US Guide uses the term Editor while the European Standard uses the term Reviser, and introduces the notion of third-party reviewer (a “person assigned by the requester or supplier to evaluate a completed translation for quality or end-user suitability”), which is a useful addition.
What I liked

Overall, I very much appreciated the practical tips and tools provided in the following sections:

    • Section 6 (Selecting a TSP): this section addresses issues in the selection of a translator, and applies equally well to the selection process from the end-user (client) perspective to the decision process of a TSP when selecting freelance sub-contractors. I found the specific system and tools provided in this Section and Appendix more operational than the requirements set out in EN 15038, and I intend to use them in my own practice.
    • Section 8 (Specifications Phase): again this section provides many useful leads and guidelines to designing translation specifications, which is often a very weak link in the translation process chain, as stated above. Poor quality in translation is often due to a lack of specifications stipulated by the end-user.