Last week I spent three days in Germany at one of the biggest IT fairs in Europe – CeBIT – together with Rose Newell from The Translator’s Teacup (lingocode). The event was co-hosted by Poland, with over 200 Polish companies exhibiting. Apart from networking and chatting with potential clients, I also picked their brains about the ways they are getting translation and localisation done. Below are some of my observations that I drew from conversations with small and medium companies. So, this is how they go about getting things translated and what that means to us.
1. Translation and localisation handled by the parent company
A number of companies I talked to are subsidiaries (or local branches) of bigger American parent companies. A fair proportion of them told me they get their translations and localisations done in America and local branches have access to the files prepared for them. In such cases, the big American parent company usually works with an agency to handle the various multilingual projects. The results, according to the exhibitors I talked to, are not always satisfactory and they end up amending texts in-house using people without any linguistic background.
2. Translation and localisation outsourced locally
These exhibitors said they receive texts in English from their parent companies and then they look for people to translate documents into their local languages. These companies usually use translation agencies without putting much thought into their choices and often end up dissatisfied with end results.
3. Marketing department handling translation and localisation
For some companies, translation and localisation are part of marketing. I think it’s important to find out who handles translation and localisation at a potential client’s company, because the approach we’d take to pitch to a marketing person would be slightly different from trying to convince a CEO. Another positive side to dealing with the marketing department is that we can offer more services.
4. Bilingual in-house staff does the translation
What struck me most was the fact that plenty of companies were so dissatisfied with the quality of translation provided by agencies that they resorted to using their in-house bilingual staff UNTRAINED in translation or localisation. These companies are not usually happy about that, because their staff “should be doing something else”, but they feel they have no other choice.
5. In-house professional translator does the translation
Finally, some companies appreciate the value of translation so much that they hire in-house translators to cope with the workload and ensure quality. Exhibitors working with in-house translators emphasise that they are happy with the quality and are ready to reward their professional translators accordingly.
What does it mean to us?
I can see plenty of ways we can broaden our offering or tailor our marketing to appeal to different direct clients. It’s important, though, to find out more about their modes of operation. One way of doing that is attending trade fairs. Here’s a video I recorded with Rose to help you out a bit: