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Groups Seeking to Set Translation Standards Seek Input
Posted by Donald A. DePalma on February 21, 2013  in the following blogs: Technology, Translation and Localization, Supplier Business Issues
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Reaching buyer-supplier agreement on what constitutes a translation service offering was the first topic on the agenda at a presentation at this year's ATA- TCD conference in Orlando, Florida. Former ATA president and CEO of CETRA Language Solutions Jiri Stejskal and Brigham Young University professor Alan Melby presented an overview of the work taking place at ISO and some cooperating standards bodies. These groups seek to define translation projects, certify the language service companies that carry them out, and encapsulate the components they require:

  • ISO/TS 11669 standardizes the description of translation projects.  The International Organization for Standardization is developing a new standard, namely ISO/TS 11669 "Translation projects - General guidance." It outlines the phases of a translation project. It also describes the framework for a structured translation specification (STS), consisting of 21 translation parameters in five categories: the source content, requirements for the target, production tasks, environment, and relationships. ISO/TS 11669 addresses all stakeholders in a translation project - the person or organization requesting the service, the provider, and the end users. Melby emphasized the importance of the standard in getting buyers and suppliers to agree on what a job includes, thus allowing both to compare like proposals rather than full-service rates against those lacking QA steps, for example (see "Trends in Translation Pricing," Sep12).
  • ISO 17100 lays out the requirements for certifying translation companies.  ISO will soon publish ISO 17100, "Requirements for translation services." This standard is the international version of EN 15038, the European specification for translation providers meant to ensure consistent service quality. However, Stejskal identified inconsistencies between ISO 17100 and ASTM F2575 (the U.S.  standard for translation quality assurance) that could cause problems for language service providers (LSPs) operating in both Europe and North America. Specifically, he noted that the new ISO specification uses different terminology, implements the least common denominator of the European standard, does not distinguish between language service companies and freelancers, and requires revision via someone other than the translator. Finally, it does not define translation quality.

  • Linport specifies how translation components will be encapsulated in a standard container.  Linport, or the Language Interoperability Portfolio, outlines how all the components required for a translation project will be packaged for transfer between suppliers and their clients. The goal of this vendor- independent format is to allow different tools to process translations. Last year, it merged its efforts with Interoperability Now!'s Translation Interoperability Protocol Package (TIPP) to allow information exchange between different translation management systems (TMS). Begun two years ago by a group of associations, companies, and academics, the Linport effort is now supported by the Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission (DGT) and the Interoperability Now! initiative, and housed by LTAC Global. The Linport team is currently looking for real translation project data to test the model and setting up packages.  Interested in contributing? E-mail Alan Melby.

Finally, Melby told the audience that quality assessment standards by these standards-setting bodies are on hold. ISO terminated its project to develop an assessment standard for translation. Rushing into the breach are the QTLaunchPad, a collaborative effort funded by the European Commission designed to overcome quality obstacles in both human and machine translation. Separately, the TAUS Dynamic Quality Framework defines a way to select the quality assessment model best-suited to an application, a knowledgebase of best practices for evaluating results, and shared tools for benchmarking. Melby and Stejskal also mentioned other international bodies that are setting language standards outside the ISO system -- ETSI, OASIS, and W3C.

These standardization efforts are overdue - fragmentation in the translation automation sector limits choice and interoperability (see "Language Industry Standards As a Driver for Growth," Sep11). What's especially encouraging is the cooperation of the standards-setting bodies on the Linport and TIPP initiative. Unfortunately, we don't yet see the level of involvement among technology suppliers, end buyers, and language service providers that would guarantee the applicability, acceptance, and implementation of the resulting standards. More companies on both the demand and supply side of the translation business need to take an active role in defining requirements, providing data, and reviewing the results. What could you do?  Identify a standard that affects you or your company, search for a contact, and get involved.


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