From the corporate corner: Let’s tell our story 6

Meet Lori Thicke: founder of Lexcelera and the non-profit organization Translators Without Borders. In this guest post from the corporate corner, Lori speaks on why translation is under-appreciated and what we can do about it.


New York City at the height of the Ebola crisis in West Africa. I am speaking about language to a roomful of high-level executives from the largest aid groups, convened as part of a series of UN focus meetings.

I cover communications in the Ebola crisis, and how utterly unhelpful it is to tell people how to avoid Ebola in a language they don’t understand. After all, you wouldn’t go to France with public health posters in English: why would you do so in Liberia?

Afterwards, the Executive Director of one of the world’s top aid organizations (you’d know the name) says to me, “We really hadn’t thought about that.”

Hello, what? You didn’t think that it was important to talk to a rural villager in her own language? That language wouldn’t matter much, even when you’re trying to stop an epidemic as perilous to the world as Ebola?

Here’s a news flash: communicating in the wrong language is not communicating at all.

Lori Thicke: CEO and founder of Lexcelera

Humanitarian groups not getting that simple fact is the main reason I founded the translation charity Translators without Borders. Yet the same ignorance about how important language is also bedevils anyone who earns a living in the translation industry.

Before Translators without Borders, I founded a language company, which I operate to this day. Lexcelera began life in Paris, France, and we have a few small offices now on three continents. But operating in a different world, in business, in communicating B2B and B2C, we still face the same issues as in the humanitarian sphere: translation is wildly, crazily undervalued.

It may seem strange to make the leap from humanitarian translations to the business world, but I believe the same core problem affects both: people outside our industry, whether nonprofits or companies, think they can get by just some token translation. I mean, have you ever seen how most companies do their international customer support sites? You might see the menu items in a few main languages, but the information itself is in English.

The assumption there, of course, is that everyone speaks English. Talk about wishful thinking!

In the commercial sense, this wishful thinking translates into undervaluing our services – and that in turn leads to commodity (read low) pricing. This commoditization springs from the idea that what we do isn’t worth very much, so any old provider will do as long as the cost is cheap enough.

I can’t think of another industry where prices go down, year after year.

This may be a contrarian view, but I see the huge investments that are being made to improve machine translation (MT) as the one acknowledgement that speaking to people in their own language is the only way to go, and that technology is needed because there are too many languages and too much content.

Wait, investing millions and maybe billions in machine translation is actually recognition of the value of our work? Yes, that’s what I believe. But as I said, that is no doubt a contrarian view.

In any case, MT is really an aside to the bigger issue: the lack of recognition of the value that professionals bring to multilingual communication.

I believe the only way we can fix this is by telling a better story. A compelling story. Somewhere along the line we stopped being visible. When was the last time you saw a translator in a movie? In the press? We are one of the professions you don’t see or hear a lot about. And that hurts us.

We need to take control of the narrative.

ProZ.com and other professional bodies could help here by relentlessly passing the message that in our increasingly borderless world, companies need our services in order to communicate better – and to sell better.

Our trade associations could make headlines with stories about how people are more likely to buy products and services when addressed in their own language and how companies grow more when they get language right.

These stories could be backed up by hard numbers, compelling statistics that tell the story of happy customers and engaged employees. For example, the Common Sense Advisory tells us that people are 6 times more likely (duh) to buy from a website when addressed in their own language.

Citing facts like this can make the case that translation is not a commodity but an investment where quality pays.

I believe we need to tell our story as publicly as we can to raise awareness and appreciation for our craft. Translators need to be linguists, they need to be subject matter experts and they need, almost above all, to be good writers. This is a unique and valuable skillset that allows professionals to craft a translation that does the job it’s supposed to do: communicate a message that will be understood.

Now, is that so hard to understand?

 

Do your employees have the right profiles for your work on ProZ.com? Reply

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ProZ.com Corporate members enjoy all the benefits granted to freelance professional members, plus several other exclusive tools and opportunities. The prestige associated with the corporate badge and the positioning and visibility of Corporate members in the ProZ.com Translation agency and company directory are obvious advantages. This post will deal with other, lesser-known benefits.

Employee profiles: Corporate members may designate other profiles as belonging to their employees. These employee profiles will have member benefits without the need to purchase separate memberships themselves. For instance, they have full access to the Blue Board and can quote on member-only jobs (provided that the other requirements are met).

Search by email feature:  An exclusive tool enables ProZ.com Corporate members to enter an email address (received, for instance, in an application page or email message) and to search for the matching ProZ.com profile. This is an additional risk management tool to face the threat of scammers who impersonate translators to scam translation companies.

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Job posting notifications: Corporate members now have the option to receive notifications based on the fields declared in their company profiles. Company profiles are not bound by requirements that only make sense when the service provider is just one person, such as “Native language”. With this tool, Corporate members can choose to be notified of all the job postings that they can submit a quote on. This is done by comparing the requirements in the job posting with the working languages they have declared that their company provides services in.

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Use of the ProZ.com translation center:  Corporate members can use a dedicated instance of the translation center powered by ProZ.com to manage their projects. Several Corporate members are actively using this platform, and they delivered a cumulative total of over 2.5 million words in May 2016 alone. The platform is actively evolving. User interfaces have been improved and the next releases will include the import of CAT tools analysis and new vendor management tools.

This Corporate Corner is a section of the blog dedicated to conveying the voice of corporate members, to help them contribute to the growth and maturity of the language industry and to become better known in the process. If you are interested, please contact us by submitting a support request.

An investment in a ProZ.com Corporate membership provides value today – and well into the future. Let’s all grow together!

From the corporate corner: New benefits for Corporate members Reply

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Translation companies are an essential segment of the industry, and one key objective of ProZ.com is to better understand their needs and to provide them with tools, opportunities and resources which will help them achieve their objectives.

And of course this also means providing better opportunities for good translators and good companies to meet for their common benefit.

In line with this goal, ProZ.com Corporate members enjoy all the benefits associated with the site’s professional membership package, such as unlimited Blue Board access, plus several other tools and opportunities available exclusively to Corporate members, such as:

  • Increased visibility through privileged positioning in the Translation agency and company directory, the industry’s busiest directory for finding language service providers
  • Full access to both the traditional and advanced directories for finding service providers and collaborators, including premium job posts and vendor management tools
  • A corporate membership badge for added credibility among service providers and clients
  • Access to a dedicated instance of the translation center to manage translation projects, assign tasks and keep all communication and data in a single platform
  • Only Corporate members may apply for inclusion in the ProZ.com Certified PRO Network, giving them increased credibility, visiblity and promotion
  • The ability to extend the Corporate membership benefits and access to employee accounts
  • Immediate job posting (no vetting required)
  • Risk management through exclusive access to a scam prevention tool that allows them to verify the contact email address of potential service providers
  • In the event of feedback or payment disputes on the Blue Board, Corporate members have the ability to work closely with ProZ.com support staff in resolving issues quickly
  • Priority response to support requests, including phone support

The ProZ.com team is currently working on new Corporate-only features such as Classic jobs notifications, a mechanism for corporate members to report feedback on non-delivery by translators, and improved features for employee accounts.

Further down the road we plan to provide better risk management tools – especially for fraud prevention – as well as advanced vendor management features for recruiting, qualifying and managing service providers.

Several channels are used to learn about the needs of translation companies, including through the site’s support center. A survey is also being conducted in order for ProZ.com to better assess the needs of translation companies and learn how it can add value to Corporate membership. If you have not yet participated in this survey, please taking a few minutes to share your concerns and feedback.

Last but not least, I would like to open acorporate corner in this blog, and extend an invitation to all ProZ.com Corporate members to share their views on industry-related issues through a series of guest blog posts. If you are interested in contributing to this initiative, please reply in the comments section below.

Let’s all grow together!