Quality Management System

Why Translators Need Standards

Today we are seeing increasingly stiff competition both between freelance translators themselves and between translation providers (companies). The ranks of qualified professionals are being boosted (and at the same time diluted) by growing numbers of amateurs, some of whom haven’t yet finished high school but already regard translation as a relatively easy way to earn some money. People who have recently graduated from colleges and universities (both those offering specialized linguistic education and those specializing in quite remote fields) consider themselves qualified translators simply by virtue of the fact that they were once taught a foreign language and have no hesitation in indicating in their CVs that they are fluent in this or that language. 

The result is a very uneven candidate field, with dumping practices becoming nothing short of rampant. A single project can attract any number – often dozens - of bidders, pushing the price down to as low as 50 cents per 1,800 characters with spaces, irrespective of the complexity of the text concerned.
     One therefore has genuine sympathy for clients who, in search of a cheap deal, offer their projects to such “translators”, hoping that the saying about free cheese and the mousetrap is only a figure of speech and does not apply in their situation. But have no doubt – it does apply, most directly. It’s just that the repercussions may not be immediately obvious. Another typical feature of today’s market is that a client will invite bids for fairly substantial and serious projects at ludicrously low rates. Even large client companies with substantial budgets that hold tenders for translation services often specify in the tender documentation that they will “negotiate down” offers received from translation service providers, using as a benchmark prices quoted by “dumpers” with no concern for the quality of their product.
It should be absolutely and undeniably obvious to everyone concerned that good quality translation is only achievable where there is some serious investment on the part of the provider. This includes renting suitable premises, hiring high-caliber professionals (who, these days, are well aware of their true value and charge accordingly), buying professional software and equipment, and establishing an efficient communication network. The management system in such a company has to be highly flexible and very well organized. In a word, a modern translation company is a hi-tech mechanism that requires precise tuning, and that comes at a cost.
All this is critically important for a company to be able to generate a high quality translation product on a continuous basis. And for this reason the product cannot be cheap. Any quality standard for translation must therefore address the full range of issues discussed above, and when certifying suppliers of translation services begin by rejecting any company that merely intends to act as an intermediary, investing none of its own money and creating no added value. Obtaining a certificate under the new ISO translation quality standard absolutely has to be a very complex and costly process with the aim of setting challenging demands and thus purging the market of those who are only after a quick buck, sometimes placing their clients in a hopeless position through the poor quality of their translation product.

bulet GOST R ISO 9001 – a Russian standard
bulet Quality standards for translation services
bulet DIN 2345 – a German standard
bulet ASTM F2575-06 – an American standard of translation service quality
bulet Professional community and its stance vis-à-vis translation standards
bulet Some comments on «EN 15038: 2006 Translation Service – Service Requirements» standard
bulet Why translators need standards