Translators may be aware of the ISO 9002 standard often used in the quality assurance of translation work. However, several questions need to be asked in the analysis of this standard within the field of translation:
- Is this standard necessary?
- Does this standard cover all the intricacies of translation?
- Can quality in any way be assured (and measured)?
To (very) briefly summarise, the standard (also ISO 9001 2008) sets out the requirements for quality management in a variety of systems, not only translation therefore it is, by its very nature, a general set of requirements. The ISO revolves around the need to create a Quality Management System which enables people in an organisation to control, monitor and improve quality in the entire process. In order to achieve this, every organisation must see to it that the relevant documentation is in place which controls the quality management system. The process begins with the establishment of customer requirements and the general quality policy of the organisation through the establishment of quality objectives.
Although the above summary is (necessarily) brief it shows the very general nature of the ISO. To answer the first question, yes, quality standards are necessary for the translation process and product as they are for every field. The second question: does this standard cover all the intricacies of translation? Due to the fact that the ISO is so general it could in theory cover all the delicacies of the translation process, although it must be clear that the ISO suits better the work of translation agencies and companies rather than the individual freelancer working from home. The final question: can quality in any way be assured (and measured)? A previous post also dealt with this subject. The answer most certainly lies in the affirmative, although this is both a difficult and burdensome process as any quality assurance manager in any field may tell you.
It might be interesting for the translator and translation quality manager to consider two other methods of quality assurance/improvement that could be useful in the process of self-betterment:
Kaizen, a Japanese methodology/philosphy which is in essence the striving for continual improvement through the elimination of wasteful working practices and an openness to experimentation and change.
PDCA, essentially the Scientific Method as developed by Francis Bacon but revolving around quality improvement through the following stages: plan, do, check, act.
Although all of these are valuable tools for the translator, translator trainer and transltion quality manager, one cannot fail to take into consideration Katharina Reiss’ 1971 opus: Translation Criticism – The Potentials and Limitations. In it, Reiss formulates what is essential for Translation Quality Assessment. Even though this is not a ‘prefect’ solution it does go a long way in defining the problem. Perhaps, one possible solution for translation quality assessment would be to harness all the above methods in order to form one approach.