Industry Standards Demystified – Part 1

Published on 13.12.2019

ISO 13611:2014 Interpreting – Guidelines for community interpreting

By: Monika Popiolek, ATA TCD Newsletter and Blog contributor and ISO/CEN industry standards expert

Standard info:

Published: 2014 (Ed. 1)

Due for review: 2019

Number of pages: 15

Type of standard: guidance document

Technical Committee responsible: ISO/TC 37/SC 5 Translation, interpreting and related technology WG 2

ISO 13611 establishes criteria and sets recommendations for community interpreting during oral and signed communication that enables access to services for people who have limited proficiency in the language of such services. Community interpreting occurs in a wide variety of private and public settings and supports equal access to community and/or public services. The ISO 13611 guidance document addresses community interpreting as a profession, not as an informal practice (such as interpreting performed by friends, family members or other people who do not have the competences and qualifications or who do not follow a relevant code of ethics).

The standard also establishes basic principles and practices necessary to ensure quality community interpreting services for all language communities, for end users, as well as clients (requesters) and service providers. Furthermore, it provides general guidelines that are common to all forms of community interpreting and is applicable to settings where speakers of non-societal languages need to communicate to access certain services.

The settings requiring community interpreting may vary and can include, among others, the following:
– public institutions (schools, universities, community centres etc)
– human and social services (refugee boards, self-help centres etc)
– healthcare institutions (hospitals, nursing homes etc)
– business and industry (real estate, insurance etc)
– faith based organizations (rituals, ceremonies etc)
– emergency situations (natural disasters, epidemics etc)

The ISO 13611 international standard also provides general guidance for the provision of community interpreting services. As a result, the standard addresses and refers to all parties involved in facilitating any communicative event that enables access to community services, such as members of linguistic minorities, community interpreters, community interpreting service providers, public institutions and other stakeholders who provide services to diverse linguistic communities.

Interpreting that enables access to public services may also include services provided in legal settings (police stations, courts, prisons etc) that facilitate equal access to justice. However, it needs to be stressed here that in developed countries legal interpreting is a specialised professional field and is not considered part of community interpreting, and community interpreting is not the recommended form of providing any legal interpreting services. It is important to note that, the standard that actually covers specialist legal interpreting services (in terms of both requirements and recommendations) is ISO 20228:2019.

ISO 13611 does not supersede national standards or legislation which addresses any sector of interpreting, including court or legal interpreting.

As a guidance document ISO 13611 is non-certifiable and not really in Europe, where interpreting services are quite regulated, but it is quite popular in the USA and several other countries where there is less regulation and best practice in this area.


Author information: Monika Popiolek has an MA in English, an Executive MBA and is a graduate of a PhD Management Programme. She has been a specialist translator and interpreter for over thirty years and is also a authorised certified legal translator, CEO of MAart Agency Ltd. since 1991, President of the Polish Association of Translation Companies (PSBT) since 2009, Head of National Delegation and Chair of the ISO TC 37 Mirror Committee at PKN, OASIS, ISO and CEN expert (since 2007) as well as and the EUATC Liaison Rep. to ISO TC 37, member of ATA, TEPIS, SAAMBA, and many other organisations. She is the author of many publications, member of the editorial board of the JIAL journal (John Benjamins Publishing Company) and has presented at more than 25 leading international conferences. Her research specializations are: quality management, translation quality assurance, specialist translation and standards (e.g.  EN 15038, ISO 17100, ISO 9001, ISO 9004, ISO/IEC 82079-1, ISO 13485, ISO 27001, ISO 20771, ISO 21999, EFQM, TQM). She was one of the editors for the ISO 17100 (Translation services – Requirements), Project Leader for two ISO standards (ISO 20771 and ISO 21999), and is the manager of the ISO TC 37 LinkedIn Industry Standards Group.

You can find and contact her on LinkedIn: