I want to express my sincere pleasure in having met so many of you in Sonoma at the recent UNConference. As my maiden missive on the subject of industry standards, let me focus on the work currently proceeding in the ASTM.
What Is the ASTM?
For those who aren’t familiar with the ASTM, it's essentially a standards-setting body in the United States that acts (among other things) as a feeder organization to the ISO. The ASTM helps coordinate efforts to codify standards, both in manufacturing and service industries, in the U.S. and around the world.
The F43 committee, of which I have been a member for more than six years, is that section within the ASTM that focuses on the language industry. 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
For much of the time I've been involved with the ASTM, I and my colleagues have been working on a draft standard for language companies which will accomplish two major goals: 1) help professionalize companies within our industry, and 2) provide some differentiation within the industry among companies in order to help clients select who will best serve their needs.
In order to meet our first goal, the standard aims to establish a baseline definition of a “Language Services Company,” as distinct from an individual provider of interpreting or translation. To create, if you will, an aspirational set of criteria that can guide new and emergent companies in the language service sector.
The second goal is providing a mechanism to help clients decide whom to use. If successful, it follows that those companies that meet the proposed standard can justify a higher price for their services, since they will have proven their value-added proposition.
It is my belief (and the raison d’être of the F43 committee) that operational standards will offer mutual benefits to both the companies who adhere to them and the customers who purchase our services.
Where Do We Stand?
So after six years and more than two dozen drafts, which I and others have written (and re-written), where are we today? As of mid-April, we have garnered approval from the vast majority of committee members for a new standard. We are in fact mandated under the ASTM guidelines to achieve 90% affirmative votes within the full committee for the standard in question.
I had hoped, as of this writing, that we would have cleared the 90% hurdle.
However, we are still one vote shy of the 90% threshold required for us to move the standard forward.
The critical issue is the metric for the size of the entity and the experience of the entity to meet de minimis standards. The current draft requires that “during each of its three years of continuous operation, the LSC [Language Services Company] shall have grossed at least $100,000 per annum and/or an aggregate of $500,000… for the language services for which it is seeking certification.”
The rationale for this requirement is to demonstrate that a company has the necessary experience to serve its clients. By meeting this benchmark, a company is assumed to have sufficiently developed procedures and methods that ensure a properly functioning company and a quality deliverable.
We hope to secure the one vote needed in the next week or two in time to unveil the newly-adopted standard at the ALC Annual Conference in Miami.
I urge all and sundry to please get involved with the ASTM, and I welcome your emails and/or phone calls.
If you wish to learn more about the process, or be involved in future projects to move our industry forward, please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accredited Language Services