EN 15038 is the only internationally recognised quality standard for translation services. In this respect it’s different to more general quality standards like ISO 9001, which ensure quality management processes are in place, documented and known, because EN 15038 specifically details quality requirements for translating text from one language into another. The standard covers not only the core translation process, but all related procedures that are necessary for the delivery of the service. It recognises the professional competence of all parties involved in the translation process, including translators, project managers, proofreaders, revisers and reviewers. Some useful details are explained in this interesting Wikipedia article.
It’s easy to say that “services and processes are compliant with EN 15038” – but it’s quite another thing to be able to demonstrate that. If you’re looking to appoint a company to handle your translation requirements, we advise that you check carefully any wording about EN 15038. Many translation businesses – even some very big names who ought to know better! – choose something called “self-certification”. With self-certification, a company can pay a small fee to a certification body to issue a certificate confirming that they say their processes are compliant with the standard. With self-certification, the translation provider doesn’t need to provide any actual evidence of their processes or quality procedures: they just need to say that they are compliant.
To be certain, we recommend that you look for a translation company which has been independently audited as part of the certification process. This means an external auditor will have come in to the company, looked at the process documentation, spoken to project managers, assessed the IT systems and applications used, and confirmed that everything adheres with the EN 15038 standard. Only when your translation provider has been externally audited can you have an objective assurance that they really are compliant with EN 15038.
We also advise that you check whether the certification applies to the site/location you will be dealing with. Some companies choose to cut corners by having their head office certified, but do not obtain a level of certification covering their various other offices around the world – so it’s worth actively asking about that, too.
Of course, I would not be writing this if translate plus weren’t independently certified to the EN 15038 standard! For us this certification is a cornerstone of our on-going commitment to quality assurance, and we believe it gives our clients a benchmark level of reassurance about how we operate. If you would like more information, please contact us, but whoever you use, we recommend you read the small print carefully when it comes to EN 15038!