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Certified Translation Services

Certification raises confidence in the quality of a German translation service


If you plan to invest money in buying translations, then you want to know that an independent certification body believes the translation agency you have chosen offers a professional level of service & meets set translation standards.


The benefits of using certified translation services

Certification benefits both the translation agency and its clients:

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  • Credibility & trust is a great USP for attracting new clients
  • Greater process consistency & efficiency is good for the bottom line
  • Proven compliance is increasingly important for public procurement contracts
  • Greater customer loyalty & client confidence
  • More efficient workflows lead to higher quality results
  • Regular monitoring ensures professional standards are maintained

Understanding translation standards

In the translation world, when it comes to certified translation services, one standard is fast becoming  the industry norm:

  • EN 15038 – “Translation Services – Service Requirements”.

Other translation-related certifications you’ll come across includes:

  • ISO 9001
  • CGSB 131.10 (Canada, 2017)
  • ASTM F2575-14 (USA, 2014)

If your German translation is being provided as part of a range of services offered by a localization or globalization agency, then these will be subject to the professional guidelines of the Localization Industry Standards Association (lisa.org), or the Globalization and Localization Association (gala-global.org).

Remember: Translation standards cover translation agency work processes - not specifically the output of the individual translators they employ.


Good professional translation services will employ freelance translators with translation-related qualifications such as the UK’s Diploma in Translation or ATA certification, and who are members of professional translation associations.


1.  EN 15038

EN 15038 was developed in 2006 by CEN, the European Committee for Standardization.

All CEN standards are subsequently adopted and published as national standards by each European country - hence the variety of logos associated with EN 15038 (here the blue Austrian logo).

Although some national governments had already introduced translation standards for their local industry (e.g DIN 2345 in Germany, ÖNORM D1200 & D1201 in Austria, UNI 10574 in Italy, etc.), EN 15038 is the first European-wide standard developed specifically to certify translation services.

EN 15038 is the response to the industry’s attempt to introduce greater levels of professionalism. It is a process standard which means that it certifies the way a translation agency organizes and monitors the translation process, with project checklists, procurement processes, etc.

Certification is awarded by independent certification bodies.

One such is LICS , the Language Industry Certification System, which offers independent, third-party certification services for the language industry (translation, documentation, localization...). Hence the red logo, too.

Another is TÜV SÜD America, originally a German certification body but now operating worldwide.


What do certified translation services with EN 15038 certification offer?

EN 15038 certifies 3 main areas:

  • Human resources and processes - competence of translators, technology and equipment, quality management system
  • Relationship between the client and German translation service provider - quoting, agreements, dealing with client information, etc.
  • Procedures - project management, preparation and the translation process itself, including a “second set of eyes”.

EN 15038 is aimed at providers of translation rather than interpretation services. However, all agency services are expected to be carried out to a similar level of professionalism.

Certified translation services with EN 15038 certification will be subject to regular audits, so you can be fairly sure that a certified agency will do everything it can to retain its status.

For more information: www.lics-certification.org or www.tuvamerica.com



2.  ISO 9001

Before EN 15038, many German translation service providers sought ISO 9001 International Organization for Standardization) certification which is primarily a measure of internal quality management systems.

ISO 9001 covers systems for controlling documentation, records and products, communicating with customers, audits and meetings to review performance, etc. However, as ISO 9001 did not address many translation-specific processes, it failed to become widely adopted by the translation industry for certifying translation services.


3.   CGSB 131.10 (Canada, 2017)

Canada has its own translation standard.

The Canadian Standard for Translation Services CAN CGSB 131.10-2008 is a modified version of Europe’s EN 15038, and developed by the Canadian General Standards Board specifically for the Canadian translation services industry.

Like EN 15038, it doesn’t apply to interpreting or terminology services. It specifies the requirements that translation services must meet when providing translation services.

The major requirement is the documentation of procedures; this helps ensure consistency, both from job to job, and client to client.

Freelancers can also apply for CAN CGSB 131.10 certification, and agencies are increasingly requiring this of their Canadian translators.




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4.   ASTM F2575-14 (USA, 2014)

You may also come across the ASTM F2575-14 “Standard Guide for Quality Assurance in Translation”.

However, this is not a standard but rather a set of “guidelines”, approved by the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials).

It is aimed at all stakeholders in the translation process, and to help new buyers of language services get a good translation from their chosen German translation service.

According to the ATA,

“It explains terminology, the process of purchasing and producing flawless copy, selecting a translation service provider, defining project specifications, actual production (terminology management, translation, editing, formatting, proofreading, and quality control), and post project review.”



A few final thoughts...

It's always a good idea to choose certified translation services for your translation needs. Certification indicates an agency is professional, and is set up to do a good job.

However, certification and translation standards are not a panacea for all the industry’s ills.

As I see it, there are 2 major problem areas:

  1. How do you judge the quality of a translation? Grammar is one thing, but quality assessment metrics can’t address questions of style. No two reviewers of a translation will make the same amendments to a translated text. Translation is an art, not a science, and we need to keep this in mind as we busily regulate our management processes. (Here are some of my thoughts on what makes a translation "good")
  2. Standards says a lot about the processes of managing translation, but nothing about the treatment of the translators involved – their pay, conditions, training, etc. Translator forums are full of the “race to the bottom”: translators increasingly competing on the open market by price alone, thereby driving down quality and the ability for a professional translator to make a living at their work.


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Joanna Scudamore-Trezek

I'm a German to English translator living and working in Vienna,  Austria.  I turn German texts into clear and accessible English, allowing clients to present their stories, ideas and information to a completely new audience. My business and marketing clients rely on me to get their message across clearly and effectively.  How can I help you today?



Joanna Scudamore-Trezek

I'm a German to English translator living and working in Vienna,  Austria.  I turn German texts into clear and accessible English, allowing clients to present their stories, ideas and information to a completely new audience. My business and marketing clients rely on me to get their message across clearly and effectively.  How can I help you today?