Linguistic Qualities of International Standards

Linguistic Qualities of International Standards

Hans Teichmann (Erasmus University, The Netherlands), Henk J. de Vries (Erasmus University, The Netherlands) and Albert Feilzer (Academic Centre for Dentistry, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-561-0.ch006

Abstract

Linguistic qualities are essential for the fitness for use of every standard. The intentions of the standards developers should become perfectly clear to those who will finally use the documents, but language barriers at several project stages may hinder this. This chapter addresses the topic for standards at the global and regional levels using a case study about the linguistic qualities of the standards published by the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission). Most IEC standards are bilingual (English and French), and they are frequently translated into national languages. Feedback on standards use, translation practices, and user satisfaction has been obtained by means of two questionnaires sent to the IEC national committees (NCs). These data are assessed with respect to the language skills of the technical experts concerned, the particular linguistic aspects of the standards, the process of standards development, national translating practices, and standards user satisfaction. Standards development in two languages adds to their fitness for use, but this advantage should be balanced against the cost of bilingualism. The current practice satisfies more or less all parties involved; nevertheless, some improvements can be suggested. The issue of bilingualism vs. unilingualism also has an important cultural and political dimension.

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