Adding value, quality and reassurance with accreditations

Anyone can set up a language services business and proclaim themselves to be a translator. Some excellent linguists have no formal translation qualifications or expertise, having learned their craft in other ways. Unfortunately, there are also some not-so-good ‘professionals’ operating, with translation companies offering their services without ensuring they have the necessary skills and experience to produce sound work. Translation is an unregulated profession, and it can be difficult for clients, particularly those with little understanding of the complexities of the job, to distinguish between professionals and amateurs.


However, the surge in media talk about AI and translation over the last couple of years has, to a certain extent, put the translation field in the spotlight. In the past, people might not have given much thought to where their translations came from, but this is changing. It’s incredibly important that we recognise and follow professional principles and practices and take steps to ensure quality. This will allow us to distinguish ourselves as experts and give clients the high standards that they deserve.


How can we do this?

Regulatory bodies and professional associations ensure that their standards, requirements, and codes of conduct are adhered to – particularly when choosing the right linguist to work with. Accreditations are a way of proving your professionalism, and your clients can sleep easy knowing that their document translations are being properly taken care of by a company dedicated to raising industry standards. For a translation agency, working to industry standards or getting professional certification is a no-brainer if you want to truly show that you know the language service industry inside out, and set yourself apart from the amateurs.


That said, there are many options available, and you’ll need to do a bit of research to find out what is best for your company.

ISOs (internationally recognised standards for best practices in a certain field) are widely used. In translation, the ISO 17100:2015 (requirements for translation services) is probably the most well-known but isn’t necessarily the most suitable because it doesn’t cover the use of raw output from machine translation plus post-editing, a service that many translation providers offer. This standard has defined criteria for translators and revisors. Language service providers must ensure that anyone they work with meets at least one of the requirements.


However, there is a separate ISO for MTPE (Machine Translation Post Editing), the ISO 18587:2017). But 2017 was (relatively) a long time ago, and the translation industry is moving fast. Is it up to date with today’s expectations? It’s worth noting that standards are reviewed every five years, and this one is set to be replaced by ISO/AWI 18587. These examples represent the tip of the ISO iceberg. There are standards for general guidance, legal translation, presentation of translations, and more. It’s worth exploring all the options to find the one that best matches your service provisions and expertise, bearing in mind that these standards might become outdated in the not-so-distant future.


If you ultimately decide that ISO accreditation isn’t right for your business, you could consider looking into professional body membership. The Association of Translation Companies (ATC) defines the standards of excellence and best practices for companies operating in the UK’s language service industry, and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) offers a corporate membership category for the same purpose. Members adhere to strict codes of conduct – another badge of reassurance for potential clients. Think also about organisations outside of the translation field when thinking of professional bodies, particularly if you work in specialised fields.


Yes, translation is technically an unregulated profession, but our industry has found a way to raise standards through ISO accreditation and professional body membership. Clients can take these badges as reassurance that companies are the real deal – committed to upholding industry standards and uplifting the profession together.


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