Last Thursday I “attended” an online workshop on quality management and terminology, focused on national and international standards, such as ISO, IEC and IRAM. Delivered by Sworn Translator Silvia Bacco, I found it to be packed with information that, sometimes, we are not too keen on getting into because it involves long, dense texts about processes and regulations. However, the workshop was a good reminder that there are increasingly more national and international standards regulating our profession.
During the presentation, standards were seen both as a source of terminology and context when translating technical documents, as well as guides that can help us improve our translation practice. On the one hand, the search box on the ISO website can be used as a way to access reliable information about a topic. If you are translating about, say, copper alloys, you can type “copper” on the search box and you’ll be able to access various documents about wrought copper, copper alloys, refinery shapes, etc. In my case, the search becomes particularly useful when the information is also available in Spanish, which doesn’t happen that often. However, if you are an English-French translator, the parallel texts can be an extremely useful tool, as it offers terminology in context, as well as definitions and other kinds of information.
On the other hand, ISO offers standards about translation, terminology and quality assurance per se. ISO 17100:2015 is all about us. The preview will only let you read some definitions of the main terms involved in the translation process, as standards are not free. However, you can find information about it on Wikipedia and translation blogs.
There is also a standard for quality management systems: ISO 9001:2015. This is a generic, all-encompassing set of requirements which are a good way of fine-tuning your translation practice. On a more practical level, though, translators and agencies have a set of tools that can be used to assess translations. I found this part of the course really useful, as I think there is no better way to improve your skills than through corrections and by being aware of the parameters that will be used to judge your work. I have seen agencies use scorecards to give feedback and audit translators, and the results have always been surprising. This is an example I have found:
Scorecards are a tool used by organisations to measure performance in all sorts of industries. There are many business and marketing concepts that can be applied to our profession. I suspect it is them who master these concepts who succeed. And I say “I suspect” because I truly hate doing it. I force myself to pay attention and look into it, but it is not something I enjoy. It’s an activity that’s right up there, together with invoicing. So, if you’re like me, I invite you to join me in this struggle (and then share with me all the truly excellent tips you’ve acquired).