Issue: 2013: Vol. 12, No. 1

Language Services Go Global: An Interview with Bernie Colacicco at KeyLingo

Article Author(s)

James Schiffman

James Schiffman
Dr. James Schiffman is an educator and journalist, most recently as a faculty member on the Spring 2023 voyage of Semester at Sea and as an associate professor of Communication at Georgia College & State University. He began teaching after a long career in journalism, which included stints in Beijing and Seoul as Bureau Chief for The Asian Wall Street Journal. He earned a Ph.D. in Communication at Georgia State University in 2012. His dissertation critically compared narratives about ... 
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KeylingoEditor’s Note: Keylingo, founded in 2004, is a global translations services company with many locations throughout the U.S. and Canada and is one of the China Research Center’s corporate sponsors. Center Director Penelope Prime asked Bernie Colacicco, Keylingo Georgia Managing Director, to share some insights into the changing translation services market with a particular focus on Chinese language translation challenges and opportunities.

Q:Many trends in the economy point to growing internationalization of business, such as growing exports, more foreign investment, growing tourism, etc. Does the growth in your industry track these trends closely?

A: Yes, there is a very close parallel to the internationalization growth of business and the continued growth and high demand experienced in the language services industry, not only in North America, but worldwide. In fact, in 2013 the language translation services industry in North America alone is expected to grow from U.S.$11.7 billion to U.S.$13.1 billion or 12%. Looking forward, the language translation industry in North America is projected to grow to U.S.$16.5 billion in 2015 and to U.S.$47.3 billion worldwide.

Q: Did the financial crisis of 2008-09 stall this growth? And if so, has it recovered?

A: Prior to the 2008-2009 recession, the industry had been experiencing growth of approximately 20% annually, but during the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the growth never really stalled or receded, instead it decelerated to very respectable and sustainable annual growth numbers of approximately 10%. I am not so sure the industry will get back to the level of 20% annual growth, but based on the five-year projections that I have seen, the industry is expected to continue growing at a very healthy rate of 12%.

Q: Is there a rising need for translation into, or from, Chinese?

A: While we don’t specifically track growth metrics for each client-requested target language, I can tell you that the demand for translation from English to Chinese remains very strong, and Chinese translation requests remain in the top five to six of our most requested languages.

Q: Where do you find your talent for Chinese translation?

A: We have a Vendor Management team that works very closely with our Chinese linguists. The Chinese linguist teams that we select must pass a very rigorous vetting process that includes certification from an association belonging to the International Federation of Translators, a degree in translation from a recognized institution of higher learning, years of experience (our linguists average over ten years of experience), previous project references, and sample translations. In addition, there are ongoing proficiency tests each linguist must pass on an annual basis.

Q: What are the most sought-after services in your sector? How much of your work is written translation as opposed to oral translation?

A: The greatest demand for services in the industry is in the form of written content, which is either printed material or digital content for websites. Approximately 10% of the services we provide fall into the oral category, which can either be simultaneous or consecutive interpretation or what is known as OPI (over the phone translation). Conducting a deeper dive, the manufacturing vertical represents the biggest share of where the need for language translation services exists, and this vertical represents about one third of all of the market for outsourced language services.

Q: If a conference needed your services to provide simultaneous translation in Mandarin, how would the process of a bid and delivery work?

A: The most important pieces of information needed in order to successfully fulfill a Mandarin simultaneous interpretation request are: subject matter, duration of the event, number of attendees, venue location, date(s), and whether or not equipment is needed. Once we know these components we can prepare a firm project estimate for the client and secure the services of the appropriate linguists. Of all of the components involved with the scope of the project, the subject matter is the most critical piece. Linguists are very specialized, and if the subject matter is biosciences-related, then an interpreter with translation experience in the biosciences field would need to be used.

Q: How has the delivery of translation changed over time? How does technology facilitate the delivery of your services now?

A: Technology has certainly played a vital role in the development of the industry. One of the biggest technological tools is something called Translation Memory or “TM.” TM is a client and client language specific database that stores every translation completed for that client. TM ensures accuracy and consistency of translations by keeping track of what was previously translated and then allowing the linguist to incorporate those translations into future translation projects, when the identical source words or “fuzzy matches” of sentences appear in the source text that is in need of translating. In addition to a cost savings for the client, TM helps improve the speed of translations. Two important items to emphasize are that a separate TM file by target language is kept for each client, and the TM is the client’s intellectual property and is treated as such.

Q: How did you become involved in the translation services sector?

A: I was in the midst of a career transition and I was looking for an opportunity in a growth industry. In addition, I felt very strongly about Keylingo’s business model and their client centric approach. As I investigated the industry it became clear that the demand for language translation services would be strong for many years to come and that Keylingo was positioned very well to meet this demand.