Free-lance translators against CEN Standard for Translation Companies
Thread poster: Evert DELOOF-SYS

Evert DELOOF-SYS  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:47
English to Dutch
+ ...
Dec 7, 2001

Dear friends in arms,

I posted this topic elsewhere as well (forum on Business Issues). I hope you won\'t mind.

This posting might be rather long, but is/should be of great interest to all free-lance translators, interpreters and small translation agencies worldwide, and especially to those based in Europe.

I would, therefore, appreciate it very much if you could spare a few minutes on this:

Just recently I came across the following letter from Mrs. Erika Obermayer, president of The Austrian Association of Translators and Interpreters UNIVERSITAS

\"Št.: 154 Datum: 09.08.2001

Dear Colleagues,

The European Union of Associations of Translation Companies (EUATC) has submitted a European Standard Project for Translation Companies to the European Committee for Standardization (CEN).

The members of CEN ( have been called upon to submit their opinions on this project.

The Austrian Association of Translators and Interpreters UNIVERSITAS, which has initiated and co-operated on Austrian national standards for translation and interpreting services (find attached the completed standards for translation services), is for several reasons opposed to the above-mentioned project. These reasons are given in the position of the Austrian Standards Institute (see the file kommentar_n1098 in the attachment mentioned above).

We believe that it would be in the interest of all free-lance translators and interpreters in Europe to counteract the adoption of a CEN Standard for Translation Companies which would override national standards, such as the Austrian ones.

To further our common cause, we should therefore ask you to request your National Standards Institutes to fashion the opinions they are going to submit to CEN on the position of the Austrian Standards Institute.

Thanking you in advance for your co-operation, I remain

Yours Sincerely,

Erika Obermayer, President\"

I read the attachments she points out in her letter and have to say she\'s absolutely correct.

Please read what the CEN Standard for Translation Companies would be all about (it\'s still a \'draft\') at

.PDF file (CENN1098.pdf)

These are the

Austrian comments


CEN N 1098 \"Quality systems – Translation companies – Particular requirements for the application of EN ISO 9001\"


Austria appreciates the idea to elaborate European Standards for translation services and agrees with the principal objectives stated in document CEN N 1098.

Nevertheless Austria believes that the project as proposed by EUATC needs some amendments in order to be as widely as possible accepted among the translation service industry.

Genuine service standards vs. ISO 9001 approach

Austria believes that ISO 9001 is not an appropriate approach for the service industry in general. ISO 9001 refers to formal procedures to be applied, but does not (and is of course not able to) describe quality requirements for a specific product (or in this case a service) itself and of course not the qualification of the service provider. In particular the issue of the personal qualification of a translation service provider is crucial since translation is an intellectual service.

The market of translation service providers is characterised by very small companies and even more by free lance individuals. An ISO 9001 approach will put small service providers at risk of being pushed out of the market because such \"companies\" or individuals are not in the position to afford the costs of an ISO 9001 certification.

Austria thus proposes to follow a different approach. The Austrian standards

OENORM D 1200 \"Translation and interpretation services - Translation services - Requirements for the service and the provision of the service\", and

OENORM D 1201 \"Translation and interpretation services – Translation services – Translation contracts\"

are genuine, stand-alone documents which comprise

· a catalogue of translation services

· a code of good practice for the provision of translation services,

· qualification requirements for translation service providers,

· a guidelines for defining the service provider/client relationship.

The above mentioned Austrian standards were drawn up by representatives of all relevant parties of the industry, e.g. the Austrian Professional Association of Translation companies with the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, the Austrian Association of Translators and Interpreters as well as representatives of the International Federation of Translators (FIT).

\"Translation service provider\" vs. \"Translation company\"

The EUATC proposal refers specifically to \"translation companies\", although a rather vague definition is given in the EUATC draft. Austria believes that is not the purpose of a (European) standard to imply per se that a particular part of the industry (i.e. free-lance translators) does not deliver a quality service by excluding this particular part of the industry from the scope of the standard. In fact such a standard for translation companies only, would be applicable only to a minor part of the translation industry. Austria therefore proposes to use the more generic term \"service provider\" for the scope of the project.

The Austrian proposals are as follows:

· to change the title of the project to \"Requirements for translation services\",

· to change the scope of the project from \"translation companies\" to \"translation service providers\",

· to base the project on a genuine, self-contained approach – as done e.g. in Austrian standards D 1200 and D 1201 (see attachment) – without specific reference to ISO 9001.\"

As far as I\'m concerned, the above should be backed by all free-lance translators and interpreters worldwide, as an ISO 9001 approach will indeed put small service providers at risk of beeing pushed out of the market because such \"companies\" or individuals are not in the position to afford the costs of an ISO 9001 certification.

Simply put, we\'ll be in for a ride if the above proposed CEN Standard would indeed be implemented as such.

I wrote to Mrs. Obermayer about this issue and this is what she replied (dated December 1, 2001):

\"Dear Mr. Deloof-Sys,

Thank you for your mail.

We have just concluded work on the Austrian standards for interpreting.

On this occasion we also discussed the matter of the proposed CEN standard

for translation companies.

A first poll among national standards institutes which are members of CEN has shown that the majority has indicated approval.

(This may largely be due to a reluctance to give reasons for withholding approval).

It appears that a first CEN meeting on the matter is scheduled for January.

On behalf of the Austrian Association of Translators and Interpreters we

shall do our best to prevent the adoption of standards that leave the

concerns and interests of free-lance translators out of consideration, and

we shall fully support the position taken by the Austrian standards

institute which I attach.

If you see a chance of influencing your national standards institutes in

our common interests, I should be extremely thankful.

Yours truly,

Erika Obermayer\"

There you have it; now might be the time to really do something.

I would appreciate any and all comments possible on the topic, which I\'d then submit to Mrs. Obermayer, who could then take it from there in January.

What about it?

Avanti populo!

Kind regards and sincere thanks in advance for all comments,

Evert Deloof-Sys



Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO) (X)
Local time: 02:47
German to English
+ ...
Thank you for the information Dec 7, 2001

Thanks for the info.

I know Erika very well - we both served on the executive board of UNIVERSITAS several years ago, and I was there when the debate on ISO 9000 started. In a nutshell: ISO 9000 was shot down from the very first moment it reared its ugly head icon_wink.gif.

My personal feeling is that the EU can and will do more harm to the translation industry than initially expected (just look at the standards they have for their own translation departments - yuk!). It\'s a shame really: the EU, being a supranational organization could use its clout to bring about some very positive changes in our industry; instead, the EU, in my view (and many colleagues across Europe share that view), appears to be doing everything possible to undermine it.

Evert, please keep us updated. Thank you!


Henri (X)
Local time: 08:47
English to Dutch
+ ...
Dec 8, 2001 as a whole/ as such should react


Evert DELOOF-SYS  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:47
English to Dutch
+ ...
Exactly Dec 9, 2001


On 2001-12-08 08:18, Henri wrote: as a whole/ as such should react

Absolutely and I think ProZ will react, provided (some) ProZ members air their opinion first.

This issue is more important than we may think.

Freelancers (be they translators or interpreters) and smaller agencies who can\'t afford ISO certification will be out of the picture the moment our clients (companies, corporations,...) will demand such certification.


Yolanda Broad  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:47
Member (2000)
French to English
+ ...

Poll? Dec 10, 2001

I remember reading about this issue back when it came up on the French Traducteurs list. At the time, a poll was being circulated amongst European translators, and I gathered that there was general opposition to the CEN standards. There were also some pointed comments made about the relevance of ISO standards to the translation industry: ISO \"standards\" are whatever gets registered with the ISO; that is, the ISO doesn\'t develop standards, it is a repository for standards developed by private interests, not by professional bodies. It is the registration process that allows the company registering them to claim that it has \"ISO standards.\"


Evert DELOOF-SYS  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:47
English to Dutch
+ ...
Update on actions against CEN Standards Dec 16, 2001

Further to my previous message, this is what Mrs. Obermayer wrote me:

----- Original Message -----

From: \"Erika Obermayer\"

To: \"Evert Deloof-Sys\"

Sent: Saturday, December 15, 2001 6:12 PM

Subject: AW: 8.12.01 - Re: CEN standard

Dear Mr. Deloof-Sys,

Many thanks for your support.

Let me just inform you that apart from the reservations made by Austria,

Ireland voted against the proposal on practically the same grounds, and so

did the Netherlands. Reservations were made for various reasons by Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

I shall keep you posted on new developments.

With Season\'s Greetings and best regards,

Erika Obermayer

I would appreciate any comments or actions on your behalf.

Best regards,

Evert Deloof-Sys


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