AIIC News

January 20, 2021
ISO publishes the Draft International Standard ISO/DIS 23155 Interpreting services — Conference interpreting
ISO Group

The Draft International Standard ISO/DIS 23155 “Interpreting services — Conference interpreting — Requirements and recommendations” (in French, “Services d’Interprétation — Interprétation de conférence — Exigences et recommendations”) was uploaded on the ISO servers last week. 

The draft offers information and guidance to users of conference interpreting services as well as to other parties involved in conference interpreting including conference interpreters, international organizations, governments and their departments and agencies, consultant interpreters, conference organizers, and providers of conference interpreting equipment.

The Draft International Standard considers the needs of users of conference interpreting and lays down the competences of conference interpreters and the processes to be implemented by providers of conference interpreting services in order to ensure quality in conference interpreting.

ISO/DIS 23155 is available for purchase at: https://www.iso.org/standard/74749.html

AIIC would like to thank and congratulate all the experts involved for their hard and diligent work which has resulted in a document reflecting the expertise developed during decades of conference interpreting.

Background

For decades, the world of conference interpreting has been relying on AIIC texts to organise interpreting for conferences. This knowledge and experience have been enshrined to a large extent in the agreements between AIIC and most international organisations, the largest employers of conference interpreters in the world. But this is the first time an international standard says “how conference interpreting should be done”.

An international standard is the benchmark against which providers of services measure their performance. A standard, as the name suggests, also helps to keep a level playing field and thus promotes transparency in the market.

The work on ISO 23155 has been developing since 2018 at the ISO Technical Committee 37/ Subcommittee 5/ Working Group 2, or ISO TC 37/SC 5/WG 2 for short. Subcommittee 5 comprises a number of National Standards Bodies (NSB) as well as other stakeholders including the Council of Europe, Court of Justice of the European Union, European Commission, European Parliament, European Legal Interpreters and Translators Association (EULITA), International Federation of Translators (FIT), WIPO and AIIC.

How ISO works

Founded in February 1947, the International Standards Organisation (ISO) promotes worldwide proprietary, industrial, and commercial standards. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. ISO has produced more than 21,500 standards, covering everything from manufactured products and technology to food safety, agriculture and healthcare.

Linguists may be fascinated to read on the ISO website that whatever the country, whatever the language, the short form of the name of the organisation is always ISO, emulating the Greek word “ίσος” (isos), meaning "equal".

ISO has put together groups of experts that represent every sector imaginable from soaps to spacecraft, MP3 to coffee. In fact, there are more than 250 technical committees at ISO. The first technical committee, TC1, deals with screw threads and was created back in 1947! While, more recently, TC 323 was created to standardize the circular economy. 

ISO and conference interpreting

Work towards ISO 23155 has been moving forward at Technical Committee 37. The Scope of ISO/TC 37 Language and terminology is “the standardization of descriptions, resources, technologies and services related to terminology, translation, interpreting and other language-based activities in the multilingual information society”.

ISO/TC 37 comprises five Subcommittees:

  • SC 1 Principles and methods,
  • SC 2 Terminology workflow and language coding
  • SC 3 Management of terminology resources
  • SC 4 Language resource management
  • SC 5 Translation, interpreting and related technology

ISO 23155 is the responsibility of ISO TC 37/SC 5.

Then, Subcommittee 5 (ISO/TC 37/SC 5) comprises three Working Groups:  

  • WG 1 Translation
  • WG 2 Interpreting
  • WG 3 Facilities and equipment for interpreting services

The working group where ISO 23155 is being developed is WG 2 (full name: ISO TC 37/SC 5/WG 2).

Below you can find a list of some Standards and/or Projects under the direct responsibility of ISO/TC 37/SC 5 that are relevant to conference interpreting: 

Technical Standards

ISO 2603:2016 Permanent booths

ISO 4043:2016 Mobile booths

ISO 20108:2017 Quality and transmission of sound and image input

ISO 20109:2016 Equipment

ISO 22259:2019 Conference systems — Equipment

ISO/DIS 24019 Simultaneous interpreting delivery platforms

Interpreting standards

ISO 13611:2014 Guidelines for community interpreting

ISO 18841:2018 Interpreting services — General requirements and recommendations

ISO 20228:2019 Interpreting services — Legal interpreting — Requirements

ISO 21998:2020 Interpreting services — Healthcare interpreting — Requirements and recommendations

ISO/DIS 23155 Interpreting services — Conference interpreting — Requirements and recommendations