Another blog is born … Why?
For starters, we have a number pragmatic reasons for doing so: Our new website is now online. We have revamped our corporate identity and spent a great deal of time thinking about the issue of social media. At the same time, we also want to offer readers insights into our business: Time and time again, we see how little the world inhabited by non-translators (and, occasionally, the one inhabited by translators themselves) knows about the type of work we perform. The business lives its life hidden in the shadows, even though it is a fast-growing economic factor that generates several billion euros of sales in Europe alone.
Our blog will explore the challenges, the mission and the daily activities of translation agencies and companies. It will tell the story of a business that is not performed on the big stage and does not produce dazzling products that can be trumpeted by executives decked out in black turtleneck sweaters as they parade around darkened theaters before rapt audiences of admirers. The translation business has no staged modesty and new opulence to offer the world. Rather, it is the provider of a real service – it really is a personal business, one that leaves no space for inflated egos and whose mission is to produce consistently good quality for its customers.
Translation – a “stealth” product
We translators live in a world of paradox, one in which we remain invisible when we do our job right. In such cases, our translations read like an original. This is the essence of our business. And this is what we are determined to do with each and every text we translate. If you really wanted to go to an extreme in describing the work that translators perform, you could simply say that the congenial relationship that we share with writers requires us to give up our individual selves. In a business that produces such “stealth” products, it takes a tremendous amount of hard work to develop an image, reputation or even a lobby. Think about your own experiences for a moment: I am certain that the terrible operating manuals that come with Asian electronic devices (who can forget those classic VCR instructions?) may immediately come to your mind. I, too, can really get a good laugh out of them. There have been entire book series written about the weird translations found in menus. We certainly have not forgotten the wildly gesticulating sign language interpreter in South Africa who turned out to be a fake or the unbelievable translation mistakes that have occurred in literature. In the end, we usually have a laugh at the expense of amateurs who hardly had any idea at all about what they were doing as part of their translation or interpretation hobby. And their customers had little idea as well.
In other businesses, people use the term “hygiene effect” to describe such situations. It is a term frequently used in the hotel and restaurant business. In essence, it means that perfection is not actively noticed at all by people. Rather, it is viewed as simply the normal state of things. A hotel room can be clean as a whistle. But if you happen to spot a dead fly lying on your starched white sheets, you will soon have questions about the hotel’s overall cleanliness buzzing through your head. A few minutes later, you will start running your finger across the window sill in search of dust and carefully examining the state of the bathroom.
Highest level of quality and time management
We have become intimately acquainted with this effect when it comes to specialist translations. I have no idea why we have to make our biggest blunders – when we do make blunders – in the headline or the very first sentence. But you cannot ignore the fact that we are all humans and make mistakes. As a result, we are professionals who work in a team that, at a minimum, applies something called the “two-man rule.” This means that a text is reviewed not only by the translator, but also by a colleague. Very, very frequently, we spot the big black fly in the first or second sentence, or even in the headline. It is teamwork that refines our products – as it does in the hotel and restaurant business – and just about all other industries as well. Of course, you could always argue that “too many cooks spoil the broth.” But for a team of professionals working under tight deadlines, there is really no place for such thinking. Our customers are driven by the principle of time-to-market, something that applies to everything from product marketing to corporate communications. And we are determined to perform at the highest level. This blog will serve as a platform for all professionals who ensure day in and day out that texts are “indigenously” transported into a different language and into a different market. I am talking about professionals who make it possible for messages to get their point across in other languages and markets, employ a prearranged tone and help marketing campaigns produce high-impact results in their target markets. In this blog, our aim is to show how we work as the customer’s invisible hand in the market.
What will we discuss in the future?
Personally, I think we can discuss just about everything that applies to our customers and colleagues. The spectrum can range from technology to interesting people who work here and in the translation business at large. We can talk about such things as the linguistic challenges of the profession, the art of writing and the innovative use of things like machine translation and crowd sourcing. I think our blog can explore anything that reflects the market, represents professional service and even prompts a laugh or two.
We will definitely pay special attention to all sorts of communication issues as well as to the topic of transcreation. Leinhäuser is a service provider that is deeply rooted in the business community and has developed a specialty in the wide world of corporate communications, internal and external communications and, not least, transcreation. Transcreation is the talk of the town right now. Why? Haven’t we always had good, freely translated texts in the past? Many translators themselves have been unable to understand the hype being generated by this new trend. They consider it nothing more than a buzzword, a fleeting fashion. And they may be right, particularly when it comes to flawed approaches. Other colleagues view it as a new magic wand that they can wave and produce a pot of extra cash. The fact of the matter is that transcreation is both old and new.
It applies the principle of free translation that has been pushed aside to a certain degree over the past two decades by the use of translation memory tools and the cost-cutting doctrine that underlies them and then adds some new approaches and thinking to the mix. In essence, transcreation is a communications package in which the translation and copywriting team are part of the development process of a campaign from the very beginning. The package ranges from the briefing to creative alternatives for headlines. In the end, transcreation amounts to market-focused writing and operates in a gray area between marketing agencies, creative agencies, end customers and providers of translation services.
New trends sweeping the market
We don’t intend to forget about technology in our blog. We want to talk about the fundamental ways it has changed our profession over the decades and the trends that we see developing in years to come. In these terms, I think it would be totally wrong to think in terms of decades, given that technology and the translation market are moving faster than ever before. I have been in the translation business for 25 years now, and it has never before been filled with such supercharged excitement. Translators have gained the courage to talk about themselves and to introduce themselves in social media or on other platforms. When a market that is known for its “stealth” character suddenly begins to think of itself as interesting, then the perfect time for a blog has come. And we are ready to write it.
We invite you to explore the world of our entire team. We really want you to show you how much fun our work can be.
Heike Leinhäuser and Team