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Translation Quality Standards – What Do They Mean?

August 6, 2020

According to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), quality can be defined as “the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bears its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs.” In the case of translation, quality can be defined as the success of the translation in accurately capturing and conveying the information and intent of the source document.

Translation quality becomes mission-critical in domains such as IP, medical, legal, accounting, and technical documentation, where poor-quality translations could cause loss of business value and, in some cases, even loss of life.

What is an ISO Standard?

ISO standards set out various business processes and best practices that are internationally agreed by experts. ISO standards for translation quality focus on establishing and maintaining a process of translation, review and approval that, when followed diligently by qualified professionals, will consistently result in translations that meet customer expectations.

Two Examples of ISO Quality Standards

ISO 9001:2015 is the world’s most widely recognized quality management standard. ISO 9001 outlines ways to achieve consistent performance and service at all levels. Achieving this certification means a company has created a quality system with a framework for better customer satisfaction, staff motivation and continuous improvement.

ISO 17100:2015 is an international quality standard set specifically for the translation industry. It defines the requirements for the core processes, resources and other aspects necessary for the delivery of a quality translation service. Certification to ISO 17100 showcases a translation company’s high level of commitment to meeting client and industry requirements.

Industry-Specific Translation Quality Standards: A Medical Example

Some industries have specific translation quality needs that cannot be met by more generalized quality standards. A good example is ISO 13485:2016, which specifies requirements for a quality management system where an organization needs to demonstrate its ability to provide medical devices and related services that consistently meet customer and applicable regulatory requirements. ISO 13485 can also be used by suppliers or external parties that provide products or services to such organizations.

Language service providers (LSPs) like Morningside that are certified to ISO 13485 collaborate with medical device companies to determine risk management for all of its medical device translations. With the LSP implementing processes that reduce the potential for product risks, the medical device company reduces its exposure to compliance and legal issues, not to mention risk to customers.

International Standard for Security Management

ISO 27001:2013 is an extensive framework of requirements for “establishing, implementing, maintaining and continually improving an information security management system.” It ensures that business information is handled in a confidential and secure manner, and that appropriate care is taken to mitigate risks that could potentially compromise the integrity of client data.

Morningside is the first major patent translation and filing company in the world to obtain this certification, and one of only a handful of language service providers (LSPs) to have achieved it. Achieving this prestigious certification is no small feat and demonstrates complete commitment to client data, systems, and processes.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the people and the process

Translation quality standards play an important role but they are no substitute for providing ongoing training and feedback to translators, as well as arming translators and editors with the necessary resources and information on the subject matter, context in which the translation will be used, etc. Translation teams who are equipped with glossaries, style guides, support materials, and contextual information can produce a translation of much higher quality than those who are just handed a text with no background.