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Inttranews Special Report: Quality in translation
Posted on Tuesday, September 25 @ 06:18:49 EDT
Topic: Quality Assurance

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One of the latest sections to be added to Inttranews focuses on quality management and assurance in the translation industry, quality being the single most important factor for a successful career as a translator, whether freelance or as an employee.
As part of our launch of the Inttranews Quality section, we have interviewed Juan José Arevalillo, current Chair for the Spanish Association of Translation Companies, and the head of the Spanish Committee working on the EN-15038 European Quality Standard for Translation Services.


Inttranews: Can you briefly present yourself?
JJAD: I Arevalillo studied English Philology at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid and received my degree in 1985. After that, I took a two-year master’s degree in Specialised Translation at the Institute of Modern Languages and Translators at the same university. In 1985, I also started to work at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) — now Hewlett-Packard and formerly Compaq — as a technical editor and user information specialist. In 1991, I founded Hermes Traducciones, a translation and localisation company located in Madrid. At present I am also a lecturer at the Alfonso X el Sabio University in Madrid, and preparing my doctoral thesis on localisation project management.

Inttranews: When did you start your professional career?
JJAD: At the same time I was translating Latin, Greek and Old Saxon texts at university, I started to work at DEC as a linguist. At that time, it was very unusual for a linguist to work in such a technical environment, so I was very lucky to supplement my theoretical knowledge with field experience, which opened my mind to the new world of computing and how the computers could make translators’ and linguists’ lives easier. The next step was to start to work as a freelance translator (sometimes overnight…). When I left DEC, I set up Hermes Traducciones, and up until now…

Inttranews: How did you first get involved in quality assurance?
JJAD: When Hermes Traducciones started to operate, I had to play the role of a translator, reviewer, controller, managing director, etc. From the very beginning, it was clear to me that every word translated had to be reviewed by a person different from the translator, so we organized cross-review among all the people at the office. But when we started to grow, we needed a more organized system to spot and control the unavoidable and potential translation mistakes, so we trained all our translators on review and correction, which was the cornerstone of our company. At that time, I attended a number of seminars and courses on linguistic correctness, review and correction. At the same time, the Spanish Ministry of Education and Universities chose me as an external consultant of the II University Quality Plan, for which I received an intensive training on quality processes and standards before auditing some university translation programs as a professional consultant.
All this strengthened my quality profile and helped me set a thorough, extensive quality system at Hermes Traducciones. Finally, the Spanish Association of Translation Companies (ACT) named me as its representative in the Spanish and International Committee for the Quality Standard for Translation Services.

Inttranews: Is your company certified?
JJAD: No, it is not for the time being. We were in the ISO-9000 process, but I decided to stop it until the new EN15038 standard is ready for certification. The main reason was that after talking and negotiating with a pair of specialised certification companies, I realized that they did not have any idea about how the translation process worked… and I did not want to spend a considerable amount of Euros on teaching them… Even they did not know that the new EN15038 standard was in progress!!!
Needless to say that Hermes Traducciones procedures are fully compatible with the future standard, which will cover the whole service, and not only the management process as in the ISO service standards, and we are just waiting for 2006, in which this European standard is supposed to be ready for certification.

Inttranews: You are the current Chair for the Spanish Association of Translation Companies. What is the purpose of the Association?
JJAD: The Agrupación de Centros especializados en Traducción (ACT) was founded in 1990, its main goal being establish common criteria for the regulation of the translation industry in Spain, improve the relationship with freelance translators and gain more visibility for the translation profession with customers. Now, in 2005 we are on the way to reach 60 member companies.
During my chair, the ACT will try to make the translation profession more visible within Spanish society and increase our presence at universities, as we consider that universities and translation companies are bound to cooperate to reach a higher recognition of our profession.
The Association looks after the interests of quality-oriented customers. That is why the ACT's goal aims at uniting professional translation companies that are able to deliver an end-to-end, trustworthy and quality translation service. As a reference, the ACT membership requirements demand a quality process set up in those companies, either ISO-certified or not, and a value-added translation service delivery, so that our members can be differentiated from those translation agencies which are mere mediators between customers and translators.

Inttranews: Is it part of any larger organisation?
JJAD: Yes. It belongs to the European Union of Associations of Translation Companies (EUATC). The EUATC was founded in 1994 and the ACT was one of the members, and is the unique international organisation of its kind in Europe. The common feature among all EUATC members is providing quality-oriented translation companies. In fact, the EUATC has an internal quality process, which was the seed for the future European Quality Standard for Translation Services.

Inttranews: You head the Spanish Committee working on the draft EN-15038 European Quality Standard for Translation Services. When was the standard first drafted?
JJAD: The EUATC member companies used an internal quality procedure, which was the embryo for the future standard. In fact, the EUATC requested the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) to create a quality standard for translation services aimed at translation companies. In 2001, the first meeting was held and it was approved to write a standard covering the translation services provided by both translation companies and freelance translators, so that all parties could be present. After that, the different national standardisation bodies set up their mirror technical committees, in which all parties dealing with translation were represented: translation companies, freelance translators, translator associations, universities, customer associations, etc. The Spanish standardisation body, AENOR, was chosen for the Secretariat of the European Committee, which unified all the national committees, and after four years of intensive meetings and debates, the draft passed the public survey, and at this moment is at the editorial phase, very close to its end: the formal vote by the national standardisation bodies.

Inttranews: When is it scheduled for publication?
JJAD: If everything goes right in the formal vote, where no surprises should happen, the standard will be published in mid-2006 approximately, and it will be ready for certification at that very moment.

Inttranews: Briefly if possible, can you describe the scope of application the EN-15038 European Quality Standard for Translation Services? i.e. what does it cover in the translation process?
JJAD: The standard is designed to cover the whole process from the moment when a translation service provider, either a translation company or an individual translator, receives a translation for quotation until it is delivered to the end customer. I should like to point out what I consider to be the core of this standard: the revise and review phase, in which the translation is reviewed by a translator or reviewer other than the original translator.
The standard has several chapters, in which the following areas are covered:

  • Terms and definitions: it covers the terminology used in the standard itself, which will help unify the diverse terms used for the same thing in different translation environments.
  • Basic requirements: human resources, professional competencies, professional development, technical resources, quality management and project management.
  • Relationship between customer and translation service provider: project feasibility, quotations, contracts, handling of information, etc. This is very important as it can help improve the relationship, sometimes obscure, between companies and translators, as the customer can be another translation service provider, obviously.
  • Procedures in translation services: administrative, technical and linguistic aspects, the translation process itself, project management, revision, review, proof-reading and final verification.
  • Added value services: all those services related to translation, such as localisation, rewriting, updating, DTP, subtitling, etc.
  • Informative annexes: they are not subject to the standard itself, but contain information and recommendations for project registration details, pre-translation processing, source text analysis, style guides and list of added value services.
Inttranews: What is the difference between EN-15038 and a quality management standard such as ISO 9001?
JJAD: Mainly the fact that an ISO 9001 standard covers the quality of a project management, whereas this translation standard will cover the quality of the whole service itself, not only its management. ISO 9001 standards can have a more general scope, so there is plenty of room to fill with procedures. Industry-specific standards are created by the agents in that particular industry, and that room is already filled with those specific procedures.
In any case, the ISO felt interested in the European Standard, and very possibly it will be used as a bridge for a future ISO standard.

Inttranews: Can you explain the difference between quality management and quality assurance?
JJAD: If we consider quality as the extent to which a set of inherent characteristics complies with a series of requirements, we could say that quality management is a series of coordinated activities aimed at managing and controlling an organisation as far as quality is concerned. Hence, we can state that quality assurance is a part of the quality management aimed at giving confidence that the quality requirements are met.

Inttranews: If and when certification under European Quality Standard for Translation Services becomes possible, who will act as the certifying authority?
JJAD: Once the European Quality Standard is published, it will be ready for certification. That certification will be assumed primarily by the local standardisation bodies (the second-party certification). But, in the same way as the ISO standards, other agencies or companies can be enabled by those standardisation bodies to certify a company under the European Standard (the third-party certification).

Inttranews: Can freelancers apply the process?
JJAD: Yes, absolutely. In fact, in the standard the term translation service provider (TSP) is used for both translation companies and freelance translators, so that it is open for anybody at any place.

Inttranews: Will freelancers be eligible for certification?
JJAD: Why not? There are many translators who work as a virtual network in which they exchange projects and share resources, in which case they could be certified if they consider it as necessary or their customers tell them so. If you are a freelance translator working in your own, it may not be necessary, as some of the processes involve different persons, so it could be nonsense.

Inttranews: How do you see the translation market evolving in the future?
JJAD: If you had made me this question two weeks ago, my answer could have been very different, but at this moment of first-grade mergers and acquisitions, we will have to wait and see, as they could be more movement in the industry… I have been telling my university students for several years that the trend was towards synergy and integration between companies and software, and my thoughts have come true. I don’t discard more alliances in an attempt to compete against the new powers.
In Spain, the case is different as it can be seen in the first survey of the Spanish translation industry published by the ACT. The Spanish market is facing a period of fierce competition with low prices, in many cases in the detriment of quality, mainly due, in my opinion, to the number of Translation graduates, which is growing every year.

Inttranews: What sites do you recommend readers should visit?
JJAD: There are so many sites that I could recommend that it is a bit risky for me to choose only some, but let’s go with the ones I most often visit:

  • ACT: www.act.es
  • EUATC: www.euatc.org
  • LISA: www.lisa.org
  • GALA: www.gala-global.org
  • TILP: www.tilponline.org
  • Localisation Research Centre: http://lrc.csis.ul.ie/
  • Translator Tips: www.translatortips.com/
  • Translation Journal: www.accurapid.com/journal/
  • ELECT: www.electonline.org/
  • Inttranews: www.inttranews.net


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