Translation Service Providers and the European Standard EN 15038

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In 2006 the European Committee for Standardisation brought into being EN 15038 aimed at setting a quality standard for translation services. This standard provides translation providers with the certificate to offer a good quality service guarantee for their clients’ that meets with independent audit institution requirements. EN 15038 has been gaining global acceptance since its inauguration and has been set as a benchmark in its tender specifications in the European Union.


The standard offers guidance on a variety of subjects including technical resources, human resources, project management and quality management to name but a few. EN 15038 is a particularly useful tool in regulated industries where standards are crucial.


The basic requirements of EN 15038 focuses upon the competencies of the linguists – translation – they must be able to translate to an acceptable level regarding terminology, phraseology, style, grammar and the aspects unique to the target locale. Linguists must have full knowledge of the target language for translation, must have cultural competence, behaviour, value systems and cultural standards, they must be proficient in using the necessary software and hardware. EN 15038 further requires that specialists appropriate to the subject matter should be used such as medical, finance etc. Key to the standard is that all translation service providers have the appropriate selection and qualification processes when recruiting linguists to ensure the best possible service to the client.


In terms to the technical resources, EN 15038 requires that all translation service providers should have the appropriate equipment to provide confidential handling of clients’ documentation and data and that they should have necessary hardware and software. It is important however, to recognise the fast moving changes in technology rendering it unwise for EN 15038 to set a standard that could change overnight. The client therefore should check with their translation service provider as to how they store archive material and what recovery protocols they have in place.


EN 15038 specifies that the translation service provider should have a statement of quality assurance and quality of systems objectives and monitoring. When making an assessment of a service provider it is advisable to inquire as to their existing certification and compliance standards. EN 15038 suggests that it should be standard that all translation service providers should employ a project manager to oversee each translation and ensure it complies with the initial agreement and expectations. A further standard focuses upon how assessments of a project are made by the translation service provider and agreed upon with the client in mind. They should be able to provide documentation of capability to carry out the requirements of the client and be honest about level of capability. The translation service provider must undertake appropriate post service procedures which includes the archiving of material. Finally, the standards set by EN 15038 are there to protect the client and to provide guidance to the translation service providers.

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