EN 15038

EN 15038

Translation companies within Europe have been trying to establish a way to prove the quality of their service to their customers. Many went with ISO 9001. Most companies using this offer a high quality of service but the mere fact of being certified under ISO 9001 is not a guarantee of quality. In 2006 CEN, the European Committee for Standardization, have published EN 15038 which is a quality standard for translation services. This is a serious attempt to provide a way where translation companies can offer a good quality service and can certify under the standard with independent audit institutions. This standard is gaining acceptance world-wide and the European Union has started including it as a benchmark in their tender specifications.


There have been a number of initiatives in Europe to create a universal quality standard that could benchmark the quality of the translation services and gain recognition through independent audit certification. This includes the Italian UNI 10574 Standard, the Austrian Önorm D 1200 and Önorm D 1201 Standards, the Dutch Taalmerk Standard and the German DIN 2345 Standard. In 1999 the EUATC (European Union of Association of Translation Companies) saw the need for developing an industry specific quality standard. This initiative built on previous standards which had been established by some national associations of translation companies. This standard was the first European wide initiative. In 2003 the EUATC took this standard to the next level. They started working with CEN, the European standards body, in April 2003 with the aim of creating a certifiable quality process standard for translation. The public consultation period started in September 2004 and EN 15038 was published by May 2006. The EUATC is made up of national associations of translation companies throughout Europe and these national associations has been translating the standard into their own language and cooperating with their national standards bodies for publication and certification by independent third party auditors.

Scope and definitions

The area not covered by EN 15038 is Interpreting and service matrix. While the committee developing the standard recognised the value of including Interpretation within the scope of the standard, it was felt that managing interpreting quality would make developing the standard more difficult and it would extend the process. Within the translation industry many words are used to describe different processes from one company to another. It is very important for anyone who intends to implement EN 15038 that they understand the meaning of the terms and definitions used in the standard. The standard also uses the terms ‘should’ and ‘shall’. When the word ‘shall’ is used, it's obligatory while ‘should’ is used for recommended. The following are some of the terms which are defined in the standard:

  • Translation Service Provider (TSP) – An organisation or person who supplies translation services.
  • Added value service – Services which can be provided by a TSP in addition to translation.
  • Competence – Demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skill
  • Interpreting – Rendering of spoken information in the source language into the target language in spoken form.
  • Translation - Rendering of written text in the source language into the target language.
  • Translator – Person who translates.
  • Source text – The original text. The text which is being translated.
  • Target text – The translated text.
  • Locale – The linguistic, cultural, technical and geographical conventions of the target audience
  • Revise – Examine a translation for its suitability for the agreed purpose, compare the source and target texts, and recommend corrective measures.
  • Reviser – Person who revises.
  • Review - Examine a target text for its suitability for the agreed purpose and respect for the conventions of the domain to which its belongs and recommend corrective measures.
  • Reviewer – Person who reviews.
  • Proofreading – Checking of proofs before publication.

Main provisions

The EN 15038 standard set out the:

  • Basic requirements for the human resources and process used in the provision of translation services
  • Client – TSP relationship
  • Procedures for translation services

The appendices provide additional information on project registration, technical pre-translation process, source text analysis, style guides and a non exhaustive list of added value services.

Basic requirements for the human resources and process used

This section outlines the level of competence required by translators and others working on the project, the need for the right technology and communication equipment and the need for a documented quality management system.

Client – TSP relation

The standard sets out steps in the Client – TSP relationship. These include:

  • Enquiry & feasibility
  • Quotation
  • Client – TSP agreement
  • Handling of project related client information
  • Project conclusion

Procedures in translation services

This section of the standard is divided in three subsections which deal with Project Management, Preparation and Translation.

The standard states the TSP shall have documented procedures in place for handling translation projects, contact with the client, quality assurance and compliance with the client – TSP agreement.

The sub-section on preparation deals with project registration, project assignment, technical resources, pre-translating process, source text analysis, terminology work and the style guide. The standard specifies the following steps in the translation process translation, checking, revision, review, proofreading and final verification.

Added value services

If a TSP offers any added value service, it should make every effort to apply the same level of quality to those services as to the services covered by the standard.

National standards

The EN 15038 is published as the following national standards.

  • PKN EN 15038 Poland
  • BS EN 15038 Great Britain
  • DIN EN 15038 German
  • NF X50-670 France
  • OENORM EN 15038 Austria
  • SN EN 15038 Switzerland
  • UNE-EN 15038 Spain
  • SFS EN 15038 Finland
  • UNI EN 15038 Italy

See also

External links

CEN - European Committee for Standardization

TM Global Resources pages – Contains information on language standards

The EN-15038 European Quality Standard for Translation Services* What’s Behind It? By Juan José Arevalillo Doval, Managing Director, Hermes Traducciones y Servicios Lingüísticos & Head, Spanish Committee on EN-15038

Multilingual Magazine – Has articles on EN 15038 - Practical aspects of EN 15038:2006 by JUREK NEDOMA (March 2008), European Quality Standards for Translation Services by Gloria Corpas Pastor (April/ May 2007).

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