Guest Post

ISO certification success

Like any market in the global economy, translators work in a competitive environment. If we don’t differentiate, we´ll get lost in the crowd.

Specialising, and finding a niche market is sound advice. But is it enough? There are dozens of translators who offer the same services, in the same specialist field, at varying rates. Many clients don’t realise that such a thing as specialisation exists, and  believe that any translator can (and will) translate any text, no matter what it’s about. So, how do we get potential clients to choose our services over those of another translator?

I believe that one way to tip the scales in our favour is to become ISO certified. Complying with the International Standards Organisation standards requirements for translation and related activities not only helps us be more organised but also, more importantly, lets those who are shopping for translation services know that we strive to ensure they get the best possible product.

My first step was to get ISO Qualified via the ITI (Institute of Translation and Interpreting), something which was easy to do (for a small fee of GPB 29 during their introductory offer period, now GBP 49), given that I am already Qualified MITI, which, by the way, is another way to increase visibility and add to your professional credibility. Information on becoming ISO qualified is available to ITI members on its website, and this prompted me to participate in the “ISO 17100:2015 – raising the profile of the translation industry” webinar presented by Raisa McNab, Lead on Standards at the UK Association of Translation Companies (ATC).

ISO 17100-2015 cert - facsimile
ISO17100:2015 (Translation services – Requirements for translation services)

One of the things I was most curious about was whether an individual freelance translator could get certified, or if it was only limited to companies. In addition to answering this particular question, Raisa McNab gave a great talk about the demands of ISO 17100:2015, an overview of how standards are developed, and why they matter.

Following the webinar, I contacted the ATC to get the ball rolling. Why the ATC you may ask, given that I am based in Portugal and there are local certification companies? Simply put, the ATC knows the translation business and I thought, who better to certify my workflow than someone who understands it? And they offer remote auditing services. Another decision I made when contacting the ATC was to not limit my application to ISO17100:2015 (Translation services – Requirements for translation services). Given that post-editing is likely to be a significant part of our job in the future, I decided to be proactive and get certified to ISO18587:2017 (Translation services – Post-editing of machine translation output – Requirements) too.

ISO 18587-2017 cert - facsimile
ISO18587:2017 (Translation services – Post-editing of machine translation output – Requirements)

After an initial free consultation to discuss exactly what I required, so that the ATC could provide a quotation, we scheduled the three stages of the audit: Stage 1 for the electronic supply of data; Stage 2 for the closing meeting, and Stage 3 for the remote audit.

The timing, I guess, is fairly well spaced out. However, I am an Aries (i.e. impatient) and generally quite organised, so the process seemed a little too long for my liking. Following the initial consultation, in which the person I spoke with helped me understand what I would need to have in place to comply with the requirements, I immediately drafted the workflow that would need to be submitted; this made having to wait two weeks for the electronic supply of data frustrating. I had to wait a further two weeks for feedback on what tweaks would need to be made to my workflow, and then yet another two weeks for the audit itself, at which point the ATC would check that I actually practise what I preach. All this waiting left me a little antsy! But, of course, I do understand that the ATC has other applicants and other things to do and, so, I simply waited my turn.

I already had copies of the standards which I had previously purchased when looking into certification (I’m impatient remember?), but this was not entirely necessary, since the ATC offers access to assessment tools when you sign up to the service to prepare for certification.

The people at the ATC are all extremely friendly and helpful and make the process a breeze. The process itself isn’t complicated, if you get organised, and getting organised shouldn’t be that hard to do. Most of what is needed is probably already part of your general workflow. Basically, you just have to map it out step-by-step according to the standard, and have evidence and examples to back it up.

This is the “easy” part. What could be a little harder to digest is the cost. Of course, going in, I knew it wasn’t going to be cheap. Getting certified never is. As mentioned, quotations are tailored to the individual, so cost will vary, but be prepared to spend between €800 and €1,000, plus an annual fee every year of half that amount for annual audits. Plus VAT, of course.

You’re probably wondering whether the investment is worth it. Since I have only just received my certifications, it is a little too early to tell, although I believe it will be in the long run.

Either way, by having ISO17100:2015 and ISO18587:2017 certification,  I’m letting my existing and potential clients know that I am serious about delivering the best service I possibly can.

The sense of accomplishment I feel at having obtained ISO certification has also motivated me to continue to improve as a translator. I would heartily recommend ISO certification as a way to stay ahead of the pack!

©2018 Rossana Lima

Rossana Ferreira Lima - circle
Rossana Lima

Born and raised in South Africa, Rossana Lima has been a translator since moving to Portugal in 1998; first as part of her functions as an executive assistant, and then, later, in parallel to being an ESL teacher.
Now, dedicated to translating full-time, she specialises in translating contracts and other legal documentation, as well as in translations for the venture capital, finance and business and tourism sectors. In addition to translating, she revises and edits documents written in English.
She is a Qualified (MITI) Member of the Institute of Translations and Interpreting (ITI) in both the Portuguese-English and English-Portuguese pairs and certified to ISO17100:2015 and ISO18587:2017. She is also a member of the CIOL and APTRAD.

Guest Post

Time Out to Translate Better

Thirteen: four on my left leg, one on my little toe; three on my right leg, four on my left shoulder, one on my left palm.

Thirteen is the unlucky number of mosquito bites I got while attending Translate Better 2018 in Groß Behnitz, a village dominated by a once innovative and then dilapidated farm a few kilometers from Nauen, a few kilometers from Spandau, a few kilometers from Berlin. It is dilapidated no longer: an industrious family has turned the erstwhile farm into an impressive conference center called Landgut Stober – far from urban distractions, yet easy enough to get to, even for international guests .

Gross Behnitz
The view from my window for the three nights in Groß Behnitz. Note the locomotive in the courtyard: the previous owner of the estate was a son of August Borsig, whose company was Europe’s premier manufacturer of steam locomotives in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.


It’s not like I didn’t see and feel the mosquitoes biting, but, you see, it was the price to be paid for this idyllic setting—and let’s face it, if you’re going to attend a conference in the middle of a sweltering German heat wave, choosing one on the banks of a large lake in the middle of nowhere is probably the way to go.


path along the lake
The path along the lake invited to leisurely walks—though not too leisurely, given the number of mosquitoes waiting to alight on unwary passers-by!


Most of the mosquito bites came on the last evening, when I sat out on the terrace among friends new and old until nearly midnight, gamely batting the pesky critters away from my face.

In my previous life as a hard-core summer camp counselor, we gathered on the last night around a campfire singing “Mmm, mmm, I want to linger here, a little longer here…” While a two-day translation workshop is hardly the same bonding experience as writhing your way through a muddy cave or canoeing a mountain river in a sudden thunderstorm, there was a palpable sense that those around me on that terrace were “my people.”

I mean, who else can commiserate about the trials and tribulations of rendering “im Sinne von” or “Spannungsfeld” into elegant English? Or the difficulties of navigating the ever perilous “du/Sie” divide, not only in our professional and personal lives and correspondence, but even when translating a work of fiction in which the distinction plays a crucial part in the story? And let’s face it, even when we might quibble with a presenter’s example of a refined text, who doesn’t delight in the accompanying discussion or at least take comfort in the fact that, as translators, we have the opportunity to improve upon the original?

page 8 DLG - Translate Better
Information taken from

For those glorious two days at Translate Better 2018, the utmost question on the minds of these freelance translators was not whether or not Google Fonts on a business website is a terrible invasion of consumers’ right to privacy GDPR-style and prone to bring down the draconian data police on our heads. Instead we examined the fine distinctions between bolts and screws—observing, at least in my case, that I would be proverbially screwed should I ever venture too far into the field of technical translation.

After a session including a group assignment on specifications for the hinge attaching an automobile hatchback to the frame, or an attempt to render into English instructions on how to sit and stand after hip-replacement therapy, I am more than happy to retreat to my ivory tower of arcane academic jargon. Give me convoluted German noun constructions to unravel any day, but please get someone else to tell you how to go up steps one at a time with crutches!

Stephen Powley - expert habits
This part of Stephen Powley’s talk on nuts and bolts actually did make sense to me.


Those who planned the Translate Better workshop—a joint project of the ATA and BDÜ held during the last days of May 2018—set out to provide a somewhat exclusive atmosphere with top-notch language training, a Teutonic counterpart to the widely acclaimed French<>English “Translate in…” series. Registration was limited to fifty individuals, evenly divided between native English and German speakers, and the information published about the event stipulated that the workshop was for experienced professionals. We translators are a diverse bunch and in a room of fifty translators, there are bound to be at least a hundred fascinating Werdegänge (educational and career experiences) and Lebensläufe (curricula vitae). A few of these entertaining personalities got to go front and center in a series of three long sessions held on each of the two days.

The sessions—covering everything from art history texts and literary translation to “style in the age of digitalization” and the aforementioned “nuts and bolts” of translation—were 90 or 120 minutes long, but most of them could have been double that, given the amount of material the speakers had prepared and the audience’s willingness to engage with it.


translators linger on the bank
Groß Behnitzer See: Translators lingering lakeside


While none of the sessions provided quite the attention to the fundamental characteristics of good writing that I expected going into the workshop, all of them provided food for thought.

Even if Translate Better 2018 felt less revolutionary than I had—perhaps unrealistically—hoped, it was a high-caliber—klein aber fein (small but excellent)—conference that left me looking forward to the next one, and, two weeks later, I’m still dreaming about lingering around a table with a congenial group of translators, talking shop and life and all things linguistic.

©2018 Ellen Yutzy Glebe

Ellen - circle

Dr. Ellen Yutzy Glebe decided to spend her semester abroad in Munich, to take advantage of her year of introductory German before she’d forgotten it all; England could wait. The rest is history, as they say.
History, incidentally, is Ellen’s passion. While she only discovered German as an undergraduate, she spent hours even as a young girl curled up reading museum catalogs and biographies of important historical figures. She majored in History and German, spent a year as a Fulbright scholar in Marburg, and went on to earn her PhD in Early Modern European history at the University of California-Berkeley.
Somewhere along the way, she fell in love with Germany, and then with a German (or was it the other way around?). These days, she lives, loves, and works in Kassel, Germany. She worries at times about forgetting her English. She has yet to make it to England.