Laying the Groundwork for Accrediting Language Service Companies
The world’s modern, service-based economy offers a wide variety of on-demand solutions for the problems of daily life. A staggering number of services are available at the press of a button – easy access to everything from ride sharing to pet sitting is literally at one’s fingertips.
But how can the average consumer be confident that these products and services will be adequate to meet their needs? How can providers of products or services assure their customers that their organizations meet a generally accepted level of performance?
One approach is to create a generally accepted industry standard.
Since 2011, Accredited Language Services has been leading efforts to create just such a document for the language services industry, working with other members of the community to establish an industry-wide ASTM standard for Language Services Companies (LSCs).
Creating an ASTM standard has been a valuable experience both for the growth of Accredited Language, and for the language services industry as a whole. Accordingly, we wish to discuss our role in creating this standard, so that other organizations — as well as consumers — might benefit from the knowledge we have acquired over the past six years.
What Is the ASTM?
Founded as the American Society for Testing Materials in 1902, the ASTM was originally established to create standards for industrial materials used in the railroad industry. Since its inception, the ASTM’s structure has always been formed around a framework of consensus building. This collaborative approach was vital to the early efforts of the organization, as the often-divergent interests of manufacturers and the railroad industry had to be resolved in order for standards to be enacted.
Now known as ASTM International, the organization helps coordinate efforts to codify standards in both manufacturing and service industries, in the United States and around the world. Although the ASTM does not directly enforce the standards created under its aegis, these standards become enforceable once adopted by a corporation and/or government body. The ASTM also acts as a feeder organization to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
The ASTM is made up of hundreds of specialized committees. The F43 committee is a relatively new ASTM committee with the mission of developing standards for not only the the language industry in the United States, but also for the global community. Accredited Language has participated in F43 since its inception. The membership of the F43 committee includes company owners, CEOs, practitioners, linguists and users of translation and interpreting services (such as US government agencies and private clients), as well as individuals with a general interest in language and linguistics.
Goals of the F43 Standard
The overarching purpose of the standard is to establish a benchmark for LSCs that can be supplemented by more specific standards going forward. The standard, as written, establishes minimum requirements for LSCs pertaining to (among other things) experience, human resource administration, information technology, finances, customer service capability and quality control.
To this end, representatives from Accredited Language have been working towards a draft standard for language companies which will accomplish two major goals:
- Help professionalize companies within our industry, and
- Provide some differentiation within the industry among companies in order to help clients select who will best serve their needs.
In order to meet the first goal, the F43 Standard aims to establish a baseline definition of a “Language Services Company,” as distinct from an individual provider of interpreting or translation. This definition will serve to create an aspirational set of criteria that can guide new and emergent companies in the language service sector.
The second goal is to provide a mechanism that will help clients decide which LSC to use. If this goal is successful, it follows that clients will recognize that an LSC provides premium service and has proven its worth accordingly.
The ultimate reason for the F43 committee’s existence is to create operational standards that will offer mutual benefits to both the companies who adhere to them and the customers who purchase our services.
The Work of the Committee
From its inception, the F43 committee has worked to establish a standard for Language Services Companies that can serve as a living guideline for the language services industry. In consultation with the other members of the committee, representatives from Accredited Language have worked to formulate a standard that can be applied to the industry as a whole.
Changes to the standard are made based on the input of all members of the F43 committee. Seeking consensus among these members is one of the most important tasks that Accredited Language undertakes pertaining to the completion of this standard. After a version of the standard is established, F43 committee members vote on the completed version, and revisions are made to the standard based on these votes and on member comments.
Where Do We Stand?
After six years and more than two dozen drafts, where does the committee stand today? At the present time, we are wending our way through the second of three required balloting stages for which we must obtain 90% approval. We are confident that the final draft of the standard will be accepted in due course, and welcome its adoption by the language services industry as a whole.
The work of the F43 committee is nonetheless continuing, and Accredited Language’s role remains vital to the committee’s functioning. Our efforts within the ASTM F43 committee represent one of the most important tasks we have undertaken as a company, and we look forward to the benefits that will accrue to the language services industry upon adoption of the standard.
Do you need professional, certified language services? Contact Accredited Language today.