ASTM Updates Standards for Translation and Language Instruction

ASTM Updates Standards for Translation and Language Instruction

The ASTM International (fka American Society for Testing and Materials) has been around for over a century. Based in the US, the organization covers standards worldwide that are developed based on consensus around best practices.

There are over 13,000 ASTM standards in use globally, addressing topics like quality and safety across many industries. They include guidelines and standard practices that detail what should be done when an organization wants to attain certification against the standard.

Two language industry standards were updated and voted on in November 2022, and Slator talked to industry leaders involved in these updates.

F2575-2014: Guide for Quality Assurance in Translation

ASTM F2575-2014 (the standard was previously revised in 2014) has been updated for a second time. The standard was revised in its entirety and has become a practice; which means organizations could have the option to be certified against it in the future.

F2575 outlines processes that bolster translation quality. Part of the standard sets requirements that buyer and provider must agree on, while the rest of the contents provide guidance.

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We asked Steve Lank, CEO of Cesco Linguistic Services and Project Leader for F2575, to elaborate on the most significant updates to the standard that will make the biggest difference for companies providing translation services.

Lank explained that the biggest change is precisely that the standard is being updated from Standard Guide to Standard Practice. He told Slator, “A Standard Practice connotes accepted procedures for the performance of a given task, which gives a standard more teeth. It also offers the possibility that a certification can be developed against the standard, which is not possible with a guide.”

Regarding the focus of the updated ASTM standard, he said Section 8 takes center stage. Section 8 contains the standard requirements and it details the pre-production or specifications phase, including the best approach for a particular project with industry best practices in mind, as well as use cases, risks, and other elements.

On the matter of translation technologies and how they may be taken into account as standards are revised, Lank told Slator that, since standard development is slow and technology development is fast, “if you get too specific with technology in a standard, then the standard is obsolete before the ink has had time to dry.”

Section 7 lists what a translation buyer should take into account when choosing a translation services provider, including technology competence. Section 8 covers the types of technology that could be used in a project. “This approach, we feel, will allow the standard to stay relevant longer, without the need for major interim updates,” he added.

F1562-2014: Guide for Use-Oriented Foreign Language Instruction

Standard F1562 was first published in 1995. The 2022 version is the third revision. This, the first language standard developed by ASTM, provides “guidelines on the parameters for learning a language for professional purposes.”

To learn more about the third revision of F1562, we asked Project Leaders Karen Decker (President, International Center for Language Studies) and Ewa Zeoli (Program Manager, US Office of the Director of National Intelligence) to share some insights with Slator.

We asked how levels of proficiency are addressed in the updated standard, given the many proficiency scales around the world.

According to Decker and Zeoli, “The standard refers to the descriptors of the ILR, ACTFL, and CEFR scales to define proficiency levels, which include, but are not limited to, learning a language for professional purposes.”

From the standard: “No one scale is considered to be superior to another. A consumer must consider the audience for which the scale was developed in determining whether the scale is appropriate for use.”

Since language learning now takes place in many different modalities, we also asked the experts what modality the standard focuses on. They said the focus is “on synchronous language instruction, either in-person or virtual, led by an instructor.” 

The project leaders added that F1562 also addresses blended learning approaches and they expect the future development of standards “in other areas related to language learning, such as self-study, language learning technology, and online learning.”

While the standard does not address specific methodologies, it does emphasize “that language training should be focused on use-oriented instruction with a learning-centered instructional methodology that is based on established best practices.”