Acquiring capabilities in translation: Towards a model of translation businesses

Gaby Thomson-Wohlgemuth and Ian Thomson
University of Surrey, UK / United Kingdom

There is increasing pressure on all industries to introduce Quality Management Systems, a development which has now also found entry into the translation industry. Industrial standards like the ISO family provide the basis of many such systems; however, for several reasons, such process-based standards are regarded by many as inappropriate for translation businesses. One common factor considered in this article is their failure to emphasise the role of people both in the definition of the processes and in their implementation. The present article proposes a new model for translation businesses, accepting the importance of people in the translation industry and recognising that process-driven quality systems may be inadequate in maintaining consistent levels of quality. The model is based on identifying the capabilities that incorporate the processes of an organisation and the behaviours embodied in the people involved in these processes. In this article, the model is referred to as Acquired Capabilities for Translation Systems (ACTS).

Table of contents

There is an increasing trend in modern industry for customers to insist that companies demonstrate conformance to recognised quality standards, a trend which has started to find its way into the translation industry. This is particularly true of the ISO 9000 series of quality standards which is rapidly gaining in international acceptance. For some organisations, this has been a positive development and has enabled them to expand their business, whereas others have serious reservations about ISO 9000’s general applicability to translation. In particular, some have argued that such standards may be a burden to sole [ p. 254 ]practitioners. Certainly, there are strong arguments that applying such extensive requirements to an individual translator is inappropriate in most cases. Nevertheless, there seems little doubt that the trend towards such requirements will continue. Therefore, it is in the interest of translation services to develop a methodology customised to their particular requirements. This methodology would have to be defined in such a way that it is acceptable to translators, translation businesses and their customers.

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