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European quality standard for certified translation services

1. The world of certified translation has undergone an unquestionable revolution in recent years, fostered to a great extent by the application of information technology to the daily uses of translators. In fact, in a relatively short period of time, the certified translator has gone from working with a pen and typewriter to handling the most complex word processors on the market. So much so that even the dictaphone, until recently one of the translator’s favourite devices, has been relegated by software that allows the translator to dictate the translation in plain view to the computer so that it can transcribe the text on the screen with an astonishing success rate. There is no doubt that information technology has taken the translator out of his legendary isolation and has opened before him a long series of resources of all kinds that facilitate his task to an extent unthinkable until recently and that help to overcome the old barriers of time and distance. On the other hand, the Internet, computer-assisted translation programs, word processors, terminology tools and other programs shared with other work sectors have boosted the productivity of the current translator. Likewise, and in parallel with the change suffered, the translatable material has experienced a growth in geometric proportion, not only in quantity but also in complexity. In order to face the new situation, the figure of the translator closed in on himself and his work has undergone a metamorphosis that makes him, very often, a member of a larger and multidisciplinary team that aims to cover the entire certified translation process, from the arrival of the original text to the delivery of its translation. As more and more translations require this approach, and as the market demands ever tighter deadlines, the management of these projects is essential to reach a good port. Translation project management encompasses a large number of tasks of greater or lesser scope that can decisively mark the success of a given project. It should not be forgotten that the freelance translator actually functions as a one-person company, so that he himself brings together in his person all the functions that can be performed in a company by different individuals with different responsibilities. The future European standard for certified translation services will define the process and requirements that constitute the essential basis for the provision of high-quality professional certified translation services, and will cover not only the translation process itself, but also all other existing steps in the provision of the service in question. In this respect, one of the key aspects lies in quality assurance and its monitoring capacity. All these perspectives have forced translation service providers to redefine their internal procedures to compensate for changing circumstances. The aim of this standard is to provide translators, whether corporate or freelance, and clients with a transparent description of the entire process, from the client's initial request to the provision of the final service; at the same time, translators are provided with a set of standardised procedures and requirements that enable them to meet the needs of the modern market and demonstrate the need for quality control in the service provided. In fact, the ultimate purpose of this standard is to raise the standard of the certified translation service, through fairer competition, better relations with freelance translators and greater transparency, consistency and quality for the end user. The purpose of this article is to give an overview of what this European standard will consist of, its history, scope, content and expected timetable. 2. Quality control. Quality is a key word in project management. Since the late 1980s this word has spread to all kinds of industries and sectors, especially with the proliferation of different standards in various activities, which seek objective measurement criteria to ensure the quality of the final product. The internationalization of trade and the free movement of goods and services have increased the demands of companies in terms of the quality of their products and services. For this reason, business strategies aim at the implementation of quality systems as a critical management element. It is true that the culture of quality has not always permeated service SMEs and, above all, its application is associated with large companies or business groups with a wide range of resources of all kinds. According to the DRAE, one of the meanings of quality is "the property or set of properties inherent in something, which make it possible to judge its value". According to Webster, quality, among its many meanings, is defined as "the degree of conformance to a standard" and also as "inherent or intrinsic excellence of character or type". AENOR (2001, 3) in its Guide to the implementation of quality systems in SMEs, states the following: "As indicated in Standard UNE-EN ISO 8402:1994, quality is defined as the set of characteristics of an entity that confers its aptitude to satisfy established and implicit needs. These three definitions present as a common denominator the existence of a common pattern, implicit or explicit, to which reference is made. As for the definition of standardisation, there is no room for doubt when the DRAE defines it as "regularising or putting in order what was not" and "making something stabilise in normality" and, in its third sense, "typifying: adjusting to a common type or standard". The combination of the two definitions of quality and standardisation provides a very clear basis: the reference to a common standard in order to achieve a coherent process in which everyone paddles in the same direction. 3. The quality standardisation bodies: AENOR. In Spain AENOR, the Spanish Association for Standardisation, is the quality certifying body for various sectors. It is a private non-profit association, constituted on October 9, 1984. Its activity is centred on the Spanish territory and on all industrial and economic sectors, although one of its main characteristics is its independence from all these sectors. In fact, when a new standard is implemented, AENOR requests the creation of a special committee to take charge of its elaboration, in which the main agents of that activity and the economic and commercial circles that may be affected by it participate. The main purposes of AENOR are the following: - to develop Spanish standardisation; - to encourage and develop the various forms of certification of products, services, people and systems; - to collaborate with the Administration for greater implementation of standardisation and quality activities; - to promote Spanish participation in international and regional standardisation and quality organisations; - activities related to standardisation and quality that contribute to their knowledge, use and development in Spanish society. Among its activities as a service company, it develops the following: - promotion and sale of standards; - specialized technical publications (books and manuals); - information and documentation centre; - the words of the translator 93 - training centre. AENOR establishes, and like it, the other international standardization organizations, how the standards should be: - voluntary, - by consensus, - as a result of experience, - approved by a recognised body, - public. 3.1. AENOR and its international relations. Over and above AENOR and the other European standardisation bodies is the CEN (European Committee for Standardisation), which is also a non-profit-making association, legally established in 1961, whose members are the national standardisation bodies of 28 European countries (as of 30 April 2004), with its headquarters, CEN Management Centre, in Brussels. CEN is the European counterpart of the ISO (International Standards Association) in the field of standardisation. The main objective of CEN is the implementation of standardisation in Europe to facilitate the exchange of goods and services through the elimination of technical barriers. 4. Translation quality control and process control. The translation industry does not escape this trend towards standardisation and quality: far from it, so the interpretation of quality can differ enormously, as we are entering the realm of subjectivity. For this reason, it is very important to point out that it is possible to guarantee quality in terms of compliance with a series of procedures, but without forgetting that other factors come into play in the quality of the translation itself. In fact, the various certifications achieved by translation companies are aimed at establishing measurable criteria referring only to their procedures. However, the world of translation can be - and in fact is - subjective, so that the faithful observance of all these procedures may not ensure per se the quality of the final translation product, since the criteria used to revise or evaluate a translation vary from one proofreader or translator to another. Even a translation can have several possibilities and they can all be correct from a purely linguistic point of view. It is therefore very important that the concept of quality is interpreted in this context as a process, not as a result or final product. To this end, it is important to emphasize the use of the words process and product in the field of translation, as do HATIM and MASON (1995: 13): Readers have before them a finished product, the result of a decision-making process; they do not have access to the paths that led to those decisions, to the dilemmas that the translator had to solve. What is subject to scrutiny is the finished product, the result of a translational practice, rather than the practice itself. In other words, what is considered is translation as a product and not translation as a process. The routes mentioned in the previous quotation are those intended to cover the future standard in a purely practical, less theoretical sense: the supports required for the translation to take place under ideal circumstances: from the reception of the potential client's request to the final delivery of the translated document or product, including linguistic, administrative and technical processes. Thus, adherence to these standardized processes can greatly help the final quality of the delivered product, in this case the translation. However, one can also speak of quality in reference to the product, and not to the process: to the translation itself, since the procedures that comply with the standard must include, in turn, a process of revision of the translations by a person other than the translator - perhaps the most crucial aspect of the standard or, at least, the one that has provoked the most debate within the International Committee - which will result in the final quality of the translation. It should not be forgotten that the profession of translator was included in the category Translators and secretaries in an old ISO classification. With this background it can be assumed how easily the controversy arises due to the vagueness of the profile. So much so that the first efforts to find a standard applicable to translation have collided head-on with some translators' associations, which considered this possible standard as an attempt to monopolize the market on the part of the large translation companies. In the future standard the various functions and categories within the whole process are contemplated. Until now, there has been no quality standard to address all these issues. It is true that there are already quality standards applicable to translation, but they mainly refer to the relationships established between the client and the translator in terms of orders and contracts. There are currently the following rules applicable to translation: - Italian Standard UNI 10574: defines the service requirements and activities of translation and interpreting companies. - Austrian standard Önorm D 1200: covers translation and interpreting services and the requirements for the service itself and its provision. - Austrian standard Önorm D 1201: covers translation and interpreting services as regards the establishment of the contract covering the service. - German standard DIN 2345: covers translation services, contracts concluded for the provision of services and working procedures. It is probably the most complete of all the existing ones. - Dutch standard Taalmerk: covers translation services in general. - International standard ISO 12616: translationoriented terminography. Its purpose is the recording and retrieval of terminological information to facilitate translation work. Regardless of these specific standards, companies can be certified in their own country under ISO 9001 or their service equivalents. All these standards covering translation will disappear once the European quality standard for translation services, which is in the process of being drawn up, is approved. 6. The future European quality standard for translation companies. The information concerning the future European quality standard for translation services is summarised below. 6.1. Current status. The European Committee for Standardisation put in place the necessary mechanisms to establish a European standard applicable to translation services, encompassing all those involved in the provision of these services: translators, translation companies, large private and public clients, universities and any other bodies or circles related to the translation activity. The aim of this initiative is to establish as complete a standard as possible covering all methodological aspects of the translation process from the receipt of the work to its delivery, in addition to other subordinate procedures, such as order management, resource allocation, training, internal audit methodologies, customer complaints, communications, etc. Although this process may take three or four years, it is a milestone in our sector, so orphaned by regulations and official attention. A good number of meetings have already been held and the different works have been assigned to the committees of each country, among which Spanish has a very important specific weight, given that AENOR was the body selected as the secretariat of the project after the vote of the CEN members. After the first meetings, a work plan was established in which the different chapters of the standard were assigned to different national committees, so that the European standard will have the following parts: - Introduction: Reasons for the creation of the standard. - Terminology: definition of the terms used in the standard (possible creation of an annex with terms used in the translation in general). - Basic requirements: infrastructure (human and technical resources), quality management (of the service, not of the translation itself) and project management. - Relationship between client and translation service provider: quotes, contracts, rights and duties, feasibility analysis, etc. - Procedures in translation services: administrative, technical and linguistic work; the translation process itself; revision, validation, etc. - Value-added services: localization, layout, translation memory management, glossary creation, etc. In general, any service that may be offered in addition to the translation itself. - Annexes: These documents are for information purposes, not normative, and contain recommendations on various checklists, tasks or procedures that are recommended to be put into practice to complete the standard. 6.2. Participants in the initiative. The project for the new European standard, under the auspices of CEN, was initiated by the EUATC (European Union of Associations of Translation Companies), with the intention of achieving a more specific quality control system for translation services developed in its member companies. The initial draft was the result of intensive work carried out by several members of this association, combining aspects of ISO 9001 and the other existing standards mentioned above, as well as its own code of ethics. Although the initial proposal referred to services developed within translation companies, given the variety of value-added services they were able to offer in parallel to the translation itself, it was decided at the initial meeting, after intense discussion, to also include freelance translators, so that the standard would cover a wider scope of activity. The national members of the CEN voted by majority in favour of the granting of the European secretariat to the Spanish candidature, which was supported by the EUATC, which is chaired in turn by the Spanish ACT (Agrupación de Centros especializados en Traducción). The Spanish Technical Committee initially invited representatives from all areas related to translation: translation companies, freelance translators, translators' associations, universities, public institutions, companies of computer products applied to translation (translation memories) and consumer associations. Likewise, the newly created ASETRAD (Spanish Association of Translators, Proofreaders and Interpreters) was included in the Spanish Committee. LA ACT, founded in Spain in 1990 and founding member of the EUATC, is a corporate member of AENOR and holds the presidency of the EUATC for the period 2002-2004. The ACT works closely with AENOR, of which it is a corporate member, in the development of this standard and is responsible for leading the Spanish working group and moderating the meetings of the European committee. The EUATC, founded in 1994 in Italy, is currently composed of 13 members. Collaboration in the development of this standard is one of the main objectives. The Spanish Committee, together with the other national committees, is integrated into the CEN International Committee, which meets periodically to discuss each chapter and to include the appropriate modifications in the initial draft of the corresponding chapter proposed by the committee in question. In particular, the Spanish Committee drafted the most dense and important chapter of the standard: translation procedures. The central axis of this chapter revolved around the need for proofreading by a person other than the translator. Decisions on changes are voted on within the International Committee after hearing proposals and amendments from the National Committees. In June, what is expected to be the last meeting of the International Committee will be held in Milan, which will lead to the final document, which will have to go through the process of public enquiry among the different national standardisation bodies of CEN before its publication. 6.3. Calendar of the European standard. As a reference, the various phases through which the standard has passed and will pass from the first information meeting to its final publication are listed below: The words of the translator.

Reference of the CEN/BT TF 138 working group "Translation Services" Date Milestone January 2002 First information meeting in Brussels at which it is decided to set up a technical committee. December 2002 First meeting of the International Committee in Madrid. Elaboration of the business plan. March 2003-June 2004 Various meetings of the International Committee to discuss and approve the various chapters. June 2004 Approval of the final document for the CEN public survey. September 2004 Beginning of public survey. February 2005 End of public survey. April 2005 Study of comments arising from the public survey. July 2005 Start of weighted formal voting by CEN members. September 2005 End of formal vote. November 2005 Publication of the European standard. May 2006 End of translation of the EN into all languages of CEN members (maximum six months). It is now possible to be certified with the new European standard. 7. Conclusion. It is well known that there are still many misgivings between translation companies and freelance translators, so it is hoped that the publication of the standard can build a bridge to more professional collaboration between companies that might become certified in the future. The establishment of working procedures aimed at the satisfaction of the standard can help to distinguish the professional character of a translation company that adds value to the translations it can receive before delivery to the final client and that establishes a serious commercial relationship with its collaborators, from the typical intermediary that merely changes from the certified translation received. For this reason, the ACT - like the ATA or the EUATC - seeks to distinguish between the translation company, which provides added value, and the translation agency, which is merely an intermediary. Everyone is aware of the proliferation of masked translation companies that appear and disappear; that use back and forth practitioners as exclusive personnel; that have certified translation as a secondary or tertiary activity; that exploit their collaborators with abusive prices, etc. The existence of this standard can help to distinguish between companies and others, which will result in a more appropriate and satisfactory commercial collaboration for both parties, given that it is a standard that has been drawn up from within the certified translation sector itself, and is not a general standard that adapts to our profession: translation companies, translators, associations of companies and translators, universities and specialists in standardisation are well aware of current problems and have been present at all times in their preparation and improvement. In any case, certification of the standard can be limited to the presence of the quality seal if the management of a company, for example, does not commit and believe in that standard, and actually applies it. If this is done in the future, there is no doubt that it will help to improve the image of a sector as battered, but absolutely necessary, as in which we all work.

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