Why does the Language Services Industry need ISO Standards?

International standards relating to the language services industry aim to set the bar on basic requirements and quality expectations on services provided. Standards provide the criteria upon which the professionalism of language service providers (LSP’s) can be objectively assured.

The ATC endorses the development of language services industry standards to enhance the position of the language services industry by being seen to be at the forefront of both the development and the application of the emerging ISO standards for the industry and ensuring that they serve the purposes of its member companies.

Naturally, there are no “one-size-fits-all” solutions, and no standard will be relevant to or useful for all LSP’s. The language services industry is in many ways extremely fragmented, and the sheer range of LSP types, sizes and operational setups means that it would be impossible to develop standards that everyone can – or should – be certified to.

The ATC ISO Standards Commenting Group

The ATC is actively involved in the development of new ISO standards for the language services industry via The British Standards Institution (BSI) and the United Kingdom’s mirror committee at the ISO Technical Committee TC37 and Sub-Committee SC5 at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

The ATC’s ISO Standards Commenting Group reviews and comments on ISO standards under development and votes on the UK’s stance during the various drafting stages towards publication of an ISO standard. The group is headed by the ATC’s CEO, and has LSP representatives from a variety of UK-based companies providing valuable input to the standards development process.

Getting involved in the commenting group allows you to influence the way emerging language industry standards are defined and used in the future.

ISO Standardisation Structure

ISO technical sub-committee SC5 of ISO’s technical committee TC37 is the sub-committee responsible for the development of translation, interpreting and related technology standards.

In the ISO SC 5, working groups (WGs) are formed of interested representatives of the national mirror committees to perform the work necessary to take a project from new work item proposal (NWIP) through all stages of its development to final publication as an international standard.

Apart from national mirror committees from countries involved in ISO work which are eligible to vote during the various stages of standard development, there are also liaison bodies, such as GALA, EUATC and WIPO, who can comment on standards under development, but who do not have a vote in the process.

Overseeing all the technical work of ISO committees with respect particularly to the committees operating within the requirements of the ISO directives is the ISO Technical Management Board (ISO/TMB).

ISO Standardisation Process and Concepts

Throughout the stages of a new standard’s development cycle from a new work item proposal (NWIP) to a published international standard, it is the ISO national standards body members, or member countries, participating in the development work in the ISO technical committees, who vote on whether to accept or disapprove the standard in its current stage of development in order to move to the next stage.

The process starts with a NWIP for a new international standard to be developed being justified as being needed and submitted by a member country for ballot. It is considered by participating member countries and balloted. If at least 5 member countries express interest and offer named experts to work on the standard, an ISO working group (WG) is formed of experts who will participate in the work of creating a working draft (WD) which, if approved proceeds to a committee draft (CD).

The CD is then the basis of the work that follows for all national standards body mirror committee’s members and liaisons to comment on and member countries’ mirror committees only (not liaisons), to ballot through to the next stage.

This is the draft international standard (DIS) stage when the standard is open not only for commenting by the national standards body, but also by the general public in the country.

Before a standard finally becomes a new international standard, it undergoes a final draft international standard (FDIS) stage, when only editorial comments are accepted unless a negative vote is entered in which case, a technical reason has to be provided.

Recent changes in the process have been introduced in the ISO Directives whereby it is now possible for a WG to opt out of both the CD and FDIS stages. These allowances will make sense when speed is necessary and advisable given the maturity of the content.

Elements of ISO Standardisation Process

The attached PDF file provides a schematic view of the elements involved in the ISO standardisation process.