ULG's Language Services Blog

ISO and the Language Industry

A faulty translation can lead to embarrassing, and sometimes dire, consequences.

Companies are at risk of suffering severe damage to their reputations when global content is translated incorrectly, and, in the medical industry, a bad translation could mean the difference between life and death.

Strong quality standards are not a cure-all for mistakes, but they do provide a foundation from which translation companies can work off of. For Language Solutions Partners (LSPs), ISO has become one of the quality systems implemented to avoid errors and boost client confidence.

There are a handful of ISO standards translation companies boast, namely ISO 17100, 27001, 9001, and 13485. This post will explore the functions of these individual standards as well as provide a general outline of ISO, or the International Organization for Standardization.

What is ISO?

Established in 1947, ISO has created roughly 20,000 worldwide quality metrics for companies in a number of industries, ranging from food production to aerospace. ISO publishes these voluntary standards as a way to set parameters for certain quality systems or products. The idea behind ISO is to create an environment that fosters safer consumer goods and work conditions, along with more streamlined processes for companies.

Companies can either be certified or compliant to ISO standards. Businesses that are certified have been audited by a certification body, independent of ISO, and have had confirmation that their quality processes live up to a certain standard.

Businesses that are compliant have usually had their quality processes verified by a third party, but have not been audited by an official registrar.

ISO standards are implemented by many LSPs to gain client confidence and refine existing processes and quality procedures. In order to get a better understanding of the role these standards play in translation and localization, let’s explore a handful of ISO standards that can benefit LSPs.

ISO 17100

Related specifically to the translation industry, this standard regulates the processes and procedures in place to ensure translations are done accurately and meet client and industry standards. ISO 17100 defines the translation, revision, review and validation steps within the scope of a translation project. The standard also defines the roles of project managers, language masters and reviewers and requires LSPs to hire linguists that must have either a degree in translation, a degree in a different field plus two years of professional translating experience or five full-time years of experience as a professional translator.

ISO 27001

ISO 27001 outlines requirements for implementing an information security management system within an organization. The standard is a good one for LSPs to have, as virtually all translation companies submit and file project documents electronically through a Language Mastery Platform (LMP). ISO 27001 provides benchmarks for LSPs outlining audits, risk management and maintenance of an information security management system. Making sure there are processes in place to keep client data confidential and safe is not only imperative of translation companies, but something that will give potential clients peace of mind.

ISO 13485

A medical industry standard, ISO 13485 requires companies to have Quality Management Systems (QMSs) in place in order to provide services for medical devices. This standard ensures LSPs are equipped to provide translation for Instructions for Use (IFUs) or eLabeling for medical devices being marketed in foreign countries. Stringent standards are needed to properly carry out translations in the medical industry.

ISO 9001

ISO 9001 sets requirements for a company’s QMS, a set of policies and processes that helps a company successfully execute their mission. This ISO standard sets benchmarks that ensure a product lives up to consumer standards while also establishing uniform regulations for workers and management. A company certified to ISO 9001 creates an opportunity to improve their core processes while gaining trust from consumers.

Gaining Trust and Streamlining Processes

ISO certification is not required for companies; adhering to these standards is a voluntary decision. However, businesses that become certified to international standards can expect a boost of consumer confidence as well as a strong quality template to work from.