Industry Standards Demystified – Part 4

ISO 17100:2015 Translation services – Requirements for translation services

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

ISO 17100:2015 Translation services – Requirements for translation services

Published: 2015 (Ed. 1)

Due for review: The standard was reviewed and confirmed in 2020, therefore the 2015 version remains valid.

Number of pages: 19

Type of standard: requirements standard

Technical Committee responsible: ISO/TC 37/SC 5 Translation, interpreting and related technology WG 1

ISO 17100:2015 defines a set of best practises for managing translation services and sets minimum requirements that have to be met in order to demonstrate translation service provider’s (TSP’s) conformity with the standard. Adhering to these best practises and requirements helps to design and manage a translation process that delivers a quality translation service and product.

ISO 17100:2015 provides requirements for the core processes, resources, and other aspects necessary for the delivery of a quality translation service that meets applicable specifications. Applicable specifications can include those of the client, of the TSP itself, and of any relevant industry codes, best-practice guides or legislation.

The use of raw output from machine translation, with or without post-editing, is outside the scope of ISO 17100:2015 and the standard does not apply to interpreting services.

ISO published this standard on 1 May 2015 as the first international standard for translation service requirements. While it is not the only set of best practise for translation out there it is definitely the most important one and adaptation of this standard by the industry has been phenomenal (at least 10 000 TSPs worldwide claim to have implemented this standard).

ISO 17100 was based on the previous European standard EN 15038:2006 which was developed within CEN and published in May 2006. In spite of the fact that ISO 17100 was based on EN 15038 it is a completely reworked and updated standard, and it went through the complete standardization process at ISO. The result is a really good standard which servers TSPs, buyers of translation and the community very well.

There are several requirements which the TSP must adhere to in order to meet the requirements of ISO 17100. The TSP needs to acquire qualified and competent human resources and proper technical resources, and design process workflows which meet the requirements of the standard. The standard also states that the TSP is fully responsible for the entire translation project.

Human resources are very important to the standard. There must be a documented HR process in place. The standard sets out specific qualifications and competences for the various people involved in a translation project such as translators, revisers and project managers. However, it is not enough for the translation company to check that people have these competences and qualifications but they must also be keep on record and updated regularly.

ISO 17100 states that there must be a written agreement between the client and the translation service provider. If the client and the TSP come to this agreement over the phone or email, the TSP is expected to write it up and send it to the client as confirmation of what has been agreed. The standard also requires that the client knows beforehand what the translation project will cost because they have to receive a quote from the TSP.

Communication is essential to meeting requirements of this standard. ISO 17100 states that queries in both directions must be dealt with effectively and the same applies to feedback which has to be relayed to all the individuals involved in the project. It also specifies that there must be a process for communicating any information relating to linguistic specifications.

In all cases the workflow for an ISO 17100 translation project shall involve translation as well as full revision of the translated target content by a reviser who has the same competences and high qualifications as the translator. This ensures that the two pairs of eyes principle is applied in the translation process and is very important for translation quality assessment. The project must also be managed by a competent project manager who can demonstrate their qualifications.

In marketing terms, implementation of ISO 17100 sends a message to the clients that the TSP has fulfilled all the standard requirements, is committed to quality and has invested in a process that greatly increases the probability that the translation service and product meets client expectations and specifications. The standard also ensures that customers can be reasonably confident that they are working with a professional translation service provider who is adhering to current industry best practises.

As a requirements standard, ISO 17100 is relatively easy to certify against. Apart from preparing for certification by mapping its processes and checking them against the standard requirements, the TSP has to make sure that certification is granted by a recognized, properly accredited and independent certification body. This is important because certification always requires a bit of effort and money, so it does not make much sense to display a certificate from an organisation that is not considered to be reliable or credible.

References: https://www.iso.org/standard/59149.html

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 an 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, the EUATC Liaison Rep. to ISO TC 37, member of ATA, 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 international conferences. Her research specializations are: quality management, translation quality assurance, specialist translation and standards (particularly  ISO 17100, ISO 9001, ISO/IEC 82079-1, ISO 27001, ISO 20771, 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: https://www.linkedin.com/in/monika-popiolek-a7a296/.