The fundamental difficulty in qualifying translations is that it is a very subjective field. Certain aspects of a translation – such as industry-specific terminology – are often just plain wrong. However, it is generally true that if you provide ten translators with a substantial sentence to translate, you will receive ten different translations. Therefore how do you measure quality and how can you be sure you’re getting it in an area which is so difficult to qualify objectively?
ISO 9001:2000 is a well-defined method which offers assurance to customers that they are obtaining services from a company that can deliver quality consistently. ISO 9001 is a set of international standards establishing quality management and quality assurance systems in organisations. As a third-party certification, it authenticates a supplier’s adherence to a well-identified, well-defined, well-documented set of quality procedures which facilitate the delivery of products and services. In other words, ISO 9001:2000 examines everything a company does to deliver its professional service or business product. Applied to the world of translation, it is important to note that ISO 9001:2000 cannot guarantee the quality or accuracy of a specific translation. However, it guarantees that you will receive a high-quality, professional service, managed and measured in an objective manner.
The primary purpose of the ISO 9001:2000 standard is to assure the customer that the translation agency in question has documented and maintained a quality system which ensures the highest possible quality of its product.
ISO 9001:2000 certification is impossible unless a company’s processes conform to specified international standards, by which a company and its employees focus their attention on quality, correcting mistakes, and preventing error recurrence.
For example, the ISO 9001:2000 standard requires that some form of measuring customer satisfaction is directly incorporated into the company’s core processes, as well as procedures for dealing with customer feedback.
Also, the quality of the suppliers (in this case the translators who carry out the work for the agency) must be objectively measured on a regular basis.
Therefore, although an ISO 9001:2000 certified translation agency cannot always guarantee the quality of a particular translation, it can guarantee the quality of its service and that procedures are set in place that help provide an environment which encourages a high-quality product. In such a subjective industry, this is as objective as it gets. Providing this kind of peace of mind is what differentiates an ISO certified company from the rest.