What the European Quality Standard for Translation Services (EN 15038) can teach us?

This week we'll give a quick look at the European Standard on "Translation services - Service requirements", also known as EN 15038.Why? In search of structure, mostly. Game localization is a young field and this gives us the freedom to experiment every day, but there is also a constant risk of reinventing the wheel.

This standard actually makes a surprising amount of sense, so it's worth studying it to improve our processes.

What is the EN 15038?

Created in 2006 by the European Committee for standardization, it defines a process to ensure quality and traceability in translations, with multiple steps and roles.It is the official standard of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom.

The whole document is just 17 pages long (annexes included) and can be purchased or downloaded online.

Terms and definitions

-Translation Service Provider (TSP) - An organisation or person who supplies translation services. Also known as Language Service Provider (LSP).-Added value service - Services which can be provided by a TSP in addition to translation.-Competence - Demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skill-Interpreting - Rendering of spoken information in the source language into the target language in spoken form.-Translation - Rendering of written text in the source language into the target language.-Translator - Person who translates.-Source text - The original text. The text which is being translated.-Target text - The translated text.-Locale - The linguistic, cultural, technical and geographical conventions of the target audience-Revise - To examine a translation by comparing the source and target texts, and recommending corrective measures.-Reviser - Person who revises.-Review - To examine a target text for its suitability and recommend corrective measures.-Reviewer - Person who reviews.-Proofreading - Checking of proofs before publication.

Most of these are quite obvious, but TSP/LSP/locale are useful jargon to master and, most importantly, it's great to have clear names for project roles.The translator turns the written source into the target language, the reviser checks the target against the source (bilingual check) and suggests changes, the reviewer checks the target alone (monolingual check) and suggests changes, the proofreader just checks proofs before publication.

Basic requirements

This section lists basic obligations for TSP, like:-Taking responsibility for the actions of their outsourcers-Having a documented procedure for selecting human resources (including required skills and qualifications)-Ensuring that the professional competences of their resources are maintained and updated-Ensuring the availability of technical resources, including equipment needed for the translation, equipment needed for communication and relevant information sources and media-Having a project manager supervising the task according to procedures and client agreements-Having a quality management system with at least stated objectives, a process for monitoring the quality of delivered translations and taking corrective actions, and a process for handling information and material received from the clients

More interestingly, it also defines the required levels of competence:-Translators must either have:➤ Advanced translation studies (recognised qualification) or➤ Equivalent qualification in another specialisation plus a minimum of two years documented experience in translation or➤ At least five years of documented professional experience in translation

-Revisers must have full translator competence plus experience in the field under consideration-Reviewers must be domain specialists in the target language

Client-TSP relationship

In a nutshell, the TSP must have documented procedures for pretty much everything, including-Determining the project feasibility (determine if human and technical resources are available for meeting requirements)-Quoting clients (with price and delivery details)-Entering into agreements (copyright, liability, confidentiality, settlement of disputes, quality assurance - all successive deviations must be agreed and documented)-Handling translation projects, contact with the client during the translation and quality assurance-Final verification, for archiving, traceability, follow up and assurance of client satisfaction

Also, it must contact the client to request information and clarification of ambiguities in the source text.

Procedures in translation services

According to the procedures above, the TSP shall proceed to:PREPARATION-Record each accepted project and maintain a log throughout its duration, allowing to identify it, trace it and determine its status at all times-Assign projects to the appropriate internal and/or external resources, and recording them-Prepare the necessary technical resources and carry all the necessary technical and pre-translation processes-Recording specific linguistic requirements like compliance with a client style guide, adaptations, use of terminology and updating glossaries.-If the project has no specific terminology, TSP and client can agree if terminology work can be carried out as an added value service before translation begins-If the project has no specific style guide, the TSP shall use a proprietary or other appropriate style guide.


The translator shall transfer the meaning in the source language into the target language in order to produce a text that is in accordance with the rules of the linguistic system of the target language and that meets the instructions received in the project assignment.

The translator shall pay attention to the following:-Terminology: compliance with domain or provided terminology, as well as terminology consistency throughout the translation.-Grammar: syntax, spelling, punctuation, orthotypography, diacritical marks.-Lexis: lexical cohesion and phraseology.-Style: compliance with the proprietary or client style guide, including register and language variants.-Locale: local conventions and regional standards.-Formatting

On completion of the initial translation, the translator shall check his/her own work.


A person other than the translator, with the appropriate competence in the source and target languages, must carry the revision comparing the source and target texts for terminology consistency, register and style.Any necessary corrective measures should then be implemented, and this may include re-translation.


If agreed with the client, a reviewer can carry out a monolingual review to assess the suitability of the translation and recommend corrective measures.


If agreed with the client, a proofer can carry out a final proofread of the text.


-Translations are offered by Translation Service Providers and involve at least 1 translator and 1 reviser.-To qualify as a translator, one needs a specialist degree in translation, a degree in another area + 2 years of translation experience, or five years of translation experience-Revisers must have the same qualifications, plus experience in the domain involved-Revisers can ask a complete retranslation, if needed-TSP must have documented procedures for their whole process, from the first quote to assessing client satisfaction.-All projects must be carefully logged, with status and assigned resources accessible at all times-All projects should start with an agreed style guide and terminology, either internal or received from the client.

Sources http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EN_15038 http://web.letras.up.pt/egalvao/prEN-15038.pdf http://www.eratranslate.com/zx/zxa.htm