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International Guidelines Developed to Upgrade Quality of Foreign Language Translations

New York, Aug 02, 2002

Translation is not an exact science. Substituting a word in one language for a word in another can be a challenge, as the concept represented therein may not be equivalent across cultures. To aid professional translators in their quest to produce high quality texts, a new international standard has been issued to increase the reliability of translation services.

The first international document of its kind, ISO 12616, Translation-oriented terminology, emanates from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a non-governmental, worldwide federation of national standards bodies to which ANSI is the U.S. national member body. ISO 12616 provides procedures to enable translators and translation support staff to record, maintain and retrieve terminological information quickly and easily. The organization believes the standard will increase the performance and productivity of translators and improve the quality of their work.

Developed by ISO Technical Committee (TC) 37, Terminology and other language resources, Subcommittee 2, Terminography and lexicography and Working group (WG) 2, Terminography, the standard was designed to help translators organize terminological information and facilitate cooperation among individuals and teams of translators. The committee's chairman, Gerhard Budin, believes the document will "increase the reliability of translations and…provide translators with a reference document for the language services offered to its consumers worldwide." ASTM International, an ANSI member and ANSI-accredited standards developer, is the administrator for TC 37.

Sue Ellen Wright, chair of the U.S. Technical Advisory Group to TC 37, observed that the standard provides guidelines for translator-terminologists in documenting the terminology used in special texts, a process that is technically called terminography. She indicated that one of the document's most important attributes is that it provides advice on creating terminological databases for use by translation teams and in environments where terminology is shared across computer platforms and network boundaries.

WG convener, Carol Eckmann, noted the pervasiveness of the Internet as a contributing factor to the increased need for reliable language services. She explained, "The problems associated with monitoring the quality of the end-product make it even more essential to introduce quality control in terms of the production process itself."

ISO 12616 was designed to apply to the work of individual translators as well as to translation teams with the added flexibility of being adaptable to form the basis for administering source-language texts, parallel text translations as well as bibliographies and reference materials. The document's developers expect that ISO 12616 will initially be utilized by public-sector authorities and will eventually be exploited by the private-sector, where Eckmann states it is "sorely needed."

To download an electronic version of ISO 1216 or others from the Institute's collection of over 10,000 documents, please visit the Electronics Standards Store. ANSI members are eligible for up to 10% savings on the single-user purchase of standards from an inventory of thousands of documents.