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New work item proposal in ISO TC37 for a legal and specialist translation services standard is approved

Last August the ISO members have approved the creation of a new work item proposal for legal and specialist translation services. This future international standard will shall in particular specify the requirements for legal and specialist translation, including competences and qualifications of legal and specialist translators and revisers in the context of the process used for legal and specialist translation, and it aims to set all the relevant industry benchmarks.

What is EN 15038?

What is EN 15038?EN 15038-Translation Services-Service Requirements is the first European standard for Translation Services and can be applied by Translation Service Providers (TSP) of all sizes and types anywhere in the world.

What is the relationship between the EUATC and EN 15038?

The EUATC was the initiator of the standard and has worked very hard alongside other partners in the industry to provide technical know-how and organizational support, all of which resulted in the publication of the standard in 2006.

The EUATC has now created a working group with the objective of making TSPs and their clients more familiar with EN 15038. It is vital that all participants in the translation industry have the same understanding of what this standard is about, what it provides for the industry, why it is better to purchase from a TSP which operates according to this standard and how a client can evaluate the different levels of conformity to the standard.EUATC plans to develop a database containing all TSPs which are certified to EN15038.

What does it achieve?

Its primary objective is to “establish and define the requirements for the provision of quality service for translation”. Translation industry stakeholders across Europe have set the benchmark for quality and consistency of service. This benchmark does not in any way preclude individuality, innovative methods, improvements beyond the standards set nor does it regulate commercial decisions.

It enables the translation industry to be on an equal footing with other industries which already work to standards. It helps us to discuss the industry seriously with clients, governments and other parties. It provides a benchmark for good practice and is helpful to new TSPs. It also provides clients with a means of identifying those TSPs who demonstrate a quality focused approach.

Where can I find it?

Because standards are copyrighted, we are unfortunately unable to make EN 15038 accessible on-line. To buy a copy, you will need to contact the standards organization in your country. (If you have problems finding the correct source, please contact your national association or use the email below and we will try to help).

How do I know that a translation company conforms to this standard?

There are various ways that a company may demonstrate that it conforms to the standard, but the best evidence is that they carry the logo of a third-party certification body indicating that they have been audited. This is a similar process to ISO 9001 auditing and demonstrates that the company has made a real commitment of time and money to providing a service which meets the exacting technical and linguistic standards of the current industry. We advise that you always ask for evidence of their conformity.

As a TSP, how can I comply with the standard?

Many country associations can provide specific information and we suggest that you contact your association.

If you want some general information, different methods are described below.


The most effective way to conform to the standard and demonstrate that you have done so is 'third-party conformity assessment'.

The TSP puts in place the required procedures and processes and then submits to an audit by a third party. To provide full assurance, the third party should be a certification body that has itself been audited by an accreditation body and assessed to be competent against the EN 45011 standard in providing certification against product (including service) standards.  The accredited auditing company verifies that the TSP has understood the requirements, put in place the relevant detailed processes and procedures, including quality system aspects, and that the system complies with the requirements of EN15038. If the auditing is successful, certification is given for a limited period, and its continuation or renewal is subject to follow-up audits at specified intervals.

This is more expensive than any of the other modes of demonstrating conformity to the standard. Having said that, accredited certification provides clients and other stakeholders with the highest level of assurance as the recognition by an independent, competent party, that the TSP is successful in providing specified translation services which meet the complex technical and linguistic standards of the industry.

An alternative is self-declaration

Make sure that you have put in place all the processes required by the standard and that you can provide evidence that documented procedures are being followed.

Choose how to make the declaration from the following, keeping in mind that the aim is to genuinely improve your service.

  1. The TSP can engage an independent third party to carry out the assessment, make its declaration of conformity on the basis of that report which will also be prime evidence for a declaration in conformity with ISO/IEC 17050 Parts 1 and 2.
  2. The TSP can carry out its own assessment of conformity to the standard, obtain, read and meet the requirements of the ISO/IEC 17050 standard Parts 1 and 2. This provides requirements for a standardized self declaration of conformity which requires the TSP to maintain and produce, on request, evidence of the basis upon which the decision to declare conformity has been made. (The TSP can also make this information available to clients to increase levels of trust in their declaration).
  3. The TSP can carry out its own assessment of conformity to the standard, decide that it does conform and make the declaration itself.   

False declaration can lead to prosecution under trade description legislation.

What is registered self-declaration

This is a variant of self-declaration in which the declaration statement is registered by an agency such as a certification company or a standardization institute. A fee is charged for the registration service and the registration agency may entitle the TSP to use the registration body's name or logo to draw attention to the registration.

The EUATC wishes to emphasize that registered self-declaration does not mean that the TSP has had its systems and processes verified by an independent party. It simply means that the TSP has told the registration agency that it complies with the standard and paid the registration fee for being visible on the web site of the registration agency. The main difference between self-declaration and registered self-declaration is that in the case of registered self-declaration the logo of the registration organization may appear to be evidence that the TSP has undergone third-party certification (see above). This is very misleading.

 For further assistance, please either contact your country association or email mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.