ISO Standards for Language Services

ISO standards are international best practice standards that set out requirements and quality expectations for the provision of language services, including translation and interpreting.

Compliance with international standards allows Language Service Providers to improve their operational efficiency, quality, customer satisfaction, and business resilience. LSP’s can demonstrate their compliance with international standards through certification with an independent certification body, giving clients and other stakeholders confidence on the quality and reliability of their services and operations.

The EUATC endorses the development of ISO standards for the language services industry. The EUATC works closely with its member associations, encouraging members to actively participate in ISO standards development through their national standardisation bodies, and in collaboration with other EUATC national associations.

ISO standards development

ISO standards for language services are developed at the ISO Technical Committee TC37 and Sub-Committee SC5 of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

The EUATC holds a liaison role within ISO TC37 and SC5. The EUATC’s national member associations participate in the development of ISO standards through their national standardisation bodies, working with other national stakeholders within the country’s ISO mirror committees.

These national mirror committees review and comment on ISO standards under development and vote on the country’s position during the various drafting stages towards publication of an ISO standard. Typically, mirror committees include representatives from language service company associations, translator and interpreter associations, academia and the national standardisation body.

For the EUATC’s member associations, getting involved in ISO development work at the national level allows them to influence the way emerging language industry standards are defined and used in the future.

ISO committees

ISO standards (published and under development)

How can you get involved?

At a national level, EUATC member association representatives can get involved in ISO standards development through their national standardisation bodies.

You can a list of national standardisation bodies in Europe through the European Committee for Standardization, CEN.

The EUATC promotes and fosters a culture of collaboration and communication across national borders through information-sharing sessions and conversations taking place outside formal ISO structures, helping member associations to become more informed about the standards under development, and to share best practices. The EUATC’s ISO Liaison role is held by a representative of a member association for one year at a time, to help increase the spread of ISO expertise and activity at a European level.

Subscribe to the EUATC Newsletter to get notified about upcoming ISO discussions hosted by the EUATC:

How does ISO standardisation work?

ISO technical sub-committee SC5 of ISO’s technical committee TC37 is the sub-committee responsible for the development of translation, interpreting and related technology standards.

In the ISO SC 5, working groups (WGs) are formed of interested representatives of the national mirror committees to perform the work necessary to take a project from a new work item proposal (NWIP) through all stages of its development to final publication as an international standard.

Apart from national mirror committees from countries involved in ISO work, eligible to vote during the various stages of standard development, there are also liaison bodies, such as the EUATC, GALA, and WIPO, who can comment on standards under development, but who do not have a vote in the process.

Overseeing all the technical work of ISO committees with respect particularly to the committees operating within the requirements of the ISO directives is the ISO Technical Management Board (ISO/TMB).

Throughout the stages of a new standard’s development cycle from a new work item proposal (NWIP) to a published international standard, it is the ISO national standardisation body members, or member countries, participating in the development work in the ISO technical committees, who vote on whether to accept or disapprove the standard in its current stage of development in order to move to the next stage.

The process starts with a NWIP submitted by a member country for ballot. It is considered by participating member countries and balloted. If at least 5 member countries express interest and offer named experts to work on the standard, an ISO working group (WG) is formed of experts who will participate in the work of creating a working draft (WD) which, if approved proceeds to a committee draft (CD).

The CD is then the basis of the work that follows for all national standardisation body mirror committee’s members and liaisons to comment on and member countries’ mirror committees only, to ballot through to the next stage.

This is the draft international standard (DIS) stage when the standard is open not only for commenting by the national standardisation body, but also by the general public in the country.

Before a standard finally becomes a new international standard, it undergoes a final draft international standard (FDIS) stage, when only editorial comments are accepted unless a negative vote is entered in which case, a technical reason has to be provided.

Where applicable, a WG may also opt out of both the CD and FDIS stages when speed is necessary and advisable given the maturity of the content.

Following the finalisation of a new international standard, national standards bodies may adopt, translate, and sell the standard as a national standard.

Other international standards work

Besides ISO, there are also other global standardisation organisations and international standards. These include the ASTM whose Committee F43 on Language Services and Products also develop standards for language services, translation and interpreting, and the European Committee for Standardization CEN, developing and defining voluntary standards at a European level in collaboration with national standardisation bodies in Europe.

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