Language Industry Standardization in Argentina: A Brief Overview

Standardization in Argentina has provided a framework to all relevant parties in the industry and contributed to ensuring quality through predefined processes, thereby boosting productivity by eliminating guesswork and supporting the flow of information along the value chain.

In recent years, the term standardization has become increasingly relevant in the language industry, with a growing need for more information on the subject. The following serves as an introduction to the main aspects related to standardization and the language industry in Argentina. We’ll review the history of the development of Argentina’s language industry and define some basic concepts related to standards. We’ll analyze the historical development of standardization in Argentina. Next, we’ll focus on the adoption of standards applied to the language industry in Argentina by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Finally, we’ll share our conclusions about the standardization of language-related services in Argentina.

The Development of the Language Industry in Argentina

Argentina is a unique and well-developed market in the language industry, not only because of the large number of professional translators in the country with a high level of education and professionalism, but also because of the current relevance of Spanish as a target language. Argentine translators have inherited the tradition of extending bridges between cultures, a gift received from the culture and work of countless immigrants who came to the country from all over the world.

A high percentage of translators in Argentina have a degree from one of the many universities offering translation courses, and many seek additional training in areas of specialization. The most renowned universities are located in Buenos Aires1, La Plata2, Rosario3, and Córdoba4. These universities share the same focus in their curricula, which includes subjects such as linguistics, grammar, translation theory, interpreting, and translation methods and techniques applied to law, business, literature, science, engineering, and other fields. Translators can continue their professional development by attending the wide array of courses offered throughout the academic year by these institutions.

Many professional associations regulate the professional practice of sworn translation. To become a sworn translator (also called official or certified translator), linguists must have a university degree in legal translation and be accepted by one of the several professional translators’ associations in Argentina, such as the Association of Sworn Translators of the City of Buenos Aires (Colegio de Traductores Públicos de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, CTPCBA)5 or other professional associations in Córdoba, Rosario, Mendoza, Río Negro, Santa Fe, and Buenos Aires Province.

In 1973, the National Act 20,305 was approved by the national government, regulating the professional practice of sworn translators in Argentina. As a result, the CTPCBA was created as a non-state public legal entity to govern the control and administration of a professional registry of sworn translators in various languages. Searches within the registry can be filtered by language combination and by cities and regions of Argentina.

The CTPCBA now has around 9,000 registered translators. According to Act 20,305, every document in a foreign language submitted before official, judicial, or administrative bodies or agencies shall be attached to a certified sworn translation in the national language, or vice versa. Pursuant to Section 10, Paragraph D of Act 20,305: “the Association of Sworn Translators of the City of Buenos Aires shall attach a certification stating that the signature and seal affixed to the translated document match the specimen signature and seal of the sworn translator whose name appears on the attached translation.”6 Since 2019, certified sworn translators have been allowed to use their registered digital signatures. Translators have to file their signature with one of the authorized registration governmental authorities. The corresponding associations then authenticate the translated documents based on the registered digital signature.7

According to data from Nimzdi, an international market research and consulting firm, the most dominant services provided by Argentine linguists are translation (28.6%), desktop publishing (10.7%), localization (10.7%), interpreting (8.9%), transcreation (5.4%), training courses (5.4%), and other related services (5.4%).8

What Does Standardization Mean?

Standardization has a very long history dating back to the early 19th century, when the Industrial Revolution gave the real impetus for growth in this area. Standardization is a process intended to establish provisions aimed at common and repeated uses to achieve an optimum set of rules in a given industry. The result of this process is a document called a standard that specifies the provisions agreed upon by (ideally) all interested parties. Standards cover a huge range of activities. They can be about making a product, managing a process, delivering a service, or supplying materials. The purpose of a standard is to establish clear provisions that facilitate communication and commercial exchanges carried out at a national and international level. Standards can be national, regional, and international.

In general, standards are established by consensus and approved by a recognized body. They are agreed upon by experts who know the needs within the subject matter and of the organizations that these experts represent. Standards provide rules, guidelines, or characteristics for activities or their results to achieve the maximum degree of quality in a given context.

In connection with quality standards, the importance of a process-oriented approach must be stated. A process is an ordered sequence of interrelated activities. Process standardization is generally defined as improving operational performance, reducing expenses through decreased process errors, facilitating communication, and profiting from expert knowledge. Processes are designed to satisfy customer requirements more effectively and efficiently by assigning responsibilities within specific activities.

Historical Development of Standardization in Argentina

Each country has its own standardization body. Argentina is a trailblazer in standards in South America. Back in the early 20th century, some visionary organizations in Argentina saw the importance of founding a new technical, independent, and representative organization that could create standards that regulate and collaborate within the various activities of society. As a result, the Instituto Argentino de Normalización y Certificación (IRAM)9, a private nonprofit entity, was founded in 1935. It became a legal entity in 1937 and was shortly afterwards granted recognition by the government as the central organization for the technical and scientific study of standards, with the object of developing and maintaining uniformity of systems and process criteria throughout standards. The relationship between the Argentine government and IRAM is defined in Presidential Decree 1474/94, passed in August 1994, which established the National System for Standards, Quality, and Certification and defines its scope, operation, and implementation. Only two private sector organizations carry out standardization and accreditation in Argentina, working under the National System for Standards, Quality, and Certification: the Organismo Argentino de Acreditación (Argentine Accreditation Body) and IRAM (also known as the Argentine Standardization Body).

The ability to differentiate the meaning of accreditation and certification according to the National System of Standards, Quality, and Certification is very important. On one hand, accreditation is the formal acknowledgment submitted by a third party that an organization complies with the specified requirements and that the organization is competent to perform the specific tasks to assess compliance. On the other hand, certification is a voluntary process through which a certification body assesses the compliance of a process, product, system, or person to applicable ISO standards.

To date, IRAM has published more than 9,000 consensus-based standards and has 270 active technical organizations in which representatives from production, consumption, science and technology, education, and government participate.

At a regional level, Argentina is a member of the Pan American Standards Commission and Mercosur Standardisation Association. At an international level, Argentina is a member of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and International Telecommunication Union.

Standards Related to the Language Industry in Argentina

ISO and IEC form the specialized system for worldwide standardization. National bodies that are members of ISO or IEC participate in the development of international standards through technical committees. Other governmental and non-governmental international organizations collaborate with ISO and IEC to develop and adopt standards.

ISO defines the adoption of standards as: “the publication of a regional or national normative document based on a relevant international standard, or endorsement of the international standard as having the same status as a national normative document, with any deviations from the international standard identified.”10 According to the European Commission, “normative documents” consist of a broad category of documents, including those establishing juridical (legal) norms, and requirements.

In the adoption process, changes in wording may occur, such as replacing single words or phrases in the regional or national standard with synonyms to reflect common language use in the region or country adopting the international standard. ISO published its Adoption of International Standards—ISO/IEC Guide 21-1:2005 as a way to provide: “methods for determining the degree of correspondence/affinity between regional/national standards and international standards; adopting international standards at a regional or national level; stating technical deviations that would facilitate the identification of any deviation; and numbering of regional or national standards that are identical adoptions of international standards.”

Following this guide, the standards listed below have been adopted in Argentina. One of these standards (IRAM 13650) is still in the preparatory stage and has not been published yet:

  • IRAM-ISO 1087-1:2004—Terminology Work. Vocabulary. Part 1: Theory and Application
  • IRAM-ISO 1087-2:2004—Terminology Work. Vocabulary. Part 2: Computer Applications
  • IRAM 36200:2005—Terminology. Terminology Rules. Preparation and Presentation
  • IRAM-ISO 12616:2006—Translation-Oriented Terminography
  • IRAM-ISO 704:2009—Terminology Work. Principles and Methods
  • IRAM-ISO 12615:2011—Bibliographic References and Source Identifiers for Terminological Work
  • IRAM-ISO/IEC 27001:2013—Information Technology. Security Techniques. Information Security Management Systems
  • IRAM-ISO 13611:2016—Interpreting. Guidelines for Community Services Interpreting
  • IRAM 13612:2018—Interpreting. Requirements and Recommendations for the Provision of Language Interpreting Services
  • IRAM 17100:2019—Translation Services. Requirements for Translation Services
  • IRAM 18587: Preparatory Stage—Post-Editing of Machine Translation Output

Last year, we collaborated with IRAM on the last stages of a standard entitled “IRAM 13650—Translation. Sworn Translation. Requirements for services provided by a Registered University Sworn Translator.” This Argentine standard is currently in the open discussion stage of an adoption process. IRAM 13650 regulates the specific profession of the registered sworn university translator. We believe that this standard will be ready to be published by 2023.

We also collaborated with IRAM Working Group to ensure that the voice of the translation and interpreting industry was reflected in the adoption and adaptation of ISO/IEC 27000 Family of Standards on Information Technology, Security Techniques, and Information Security Management Systems in Argentina. Our perspective on the risks associated with working with new technology systems, such as cloud platforms, was very valuable to the development of this standard. You can read more about our involvement and work on this standard in our article, “Is Applying ISO Standards to Information Security the New Black in Translation?” in the September/October 2021 issue of The ATA Chronicle.11

Standardization in Argentina: Leading the Way

One of the main reasons the language services industry in Argentina is unique and well developed is due to the sound academic background of its language professionals. Thus, it’s not surprising that Argentina has been one of the first markets in Latin America to adopt international ISO language-related standards and develop its own national standard for certified sworn translations. Standardization in Argentina has provided a framework to all relevant parties in the industry and contributed to ensuring quality through predefined processes, thereby boosting productivity by eliminating guesswork and supporting the flow of information along the value chain. Moreover, the adoption and integration of language-related standards at a national level is of particular importance for competitiveness and opening up markets.

We hope this article inspires other national markets to embrace standards in their language industry. Our vision is that in the near future standardization will become commonplace for all language professionals around the world.

  1. See the curricula of the Translation Course of Studies at the University of Buenos Aires and the Translation Course of Studies at the Universidad del Salvador.
  2. Curricula of the Translation Course of Studies at the University of La Plata.
  3. Curricula of the Translation Course of Studies at the University of Rosario.
  4. Curricula of the Translation Course of Studies at the University of Córdoba.
  5. See CTPCBA’s official website.
  6. National Act 20,305 of 1973.
  7. Digital Signature in Argentina.
  8. “The Argentinian LSP Landscape: An Overview of the Argentinian Market” (Nimdzi, 2020).
  9. See the “Who We Are” section on the website of the Instituto Argentino de Normalización y Certificación.
  10. Definition of “adoption” provided by the Adoption of International Standards—ISO ISO/IEC Guide 21-1:2005(en).
  11. Escarrá, Gabriela, and Dolores Guiñazú. “Is Applying ISO Standards to Information Security the New Black in Translation?” The ATA Chronicle (September/October 2021), 29.

Dolores R. Guiñazú is a certified sworn (court-approved) translator. She has an MBA in marketing management (Universidad del Salvador and Albany University–State University of New York) and is a certified international copyeditor. She has certifications from the Translation Automation User Society in post-editing and transcreation. She specializes in marketing and quality management. She is a member of ASTM (TC F43 on Language Services and Products) and ATA’s Standards Committee. She is an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 27001:2013 internal auditor (Bureau Veritas) and a member of the Instituto Argentino de Normalización y Certificación, working on translation and interpreting and security issues in Argentina.

Gabriela Escarrá has degrees in translation (certified sworn translator) and teaching English and literature from the University of La Plata. She is an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 27001:2013 internal auditor (Bureau Veritas). She has been lecturing on quality management, international quality standards, and post-editing in Europe, the U.S., and South and Central America. She has participated at the Instituto Argentino de Normalización y Certificación (ISO representative in Argentina) in the adoption and adaptation of standards related to language and terminology (ISO TC37) and information security systems. She is a member of ASTM Technical Committee F43 on Language Services and Products and ATA’s Standards Committee.

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