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Language Institute Translates Success for Businesses

A North Hollywood company has found that speaking to the world can mean big business. ISI Translation Services recently has hired more employees and has moved into larger quarters in a Laurel Canyon Boulevard office building. It also has started a new division to improve the quality of the original English language documents the staff translates. All of these changes at the nearly 30-year old company are indicative of movement in the larger translation services industry. The industry is rebounding from the recession, and U.S. companies, once again, are interested in boosting their sales abroad and engaging non-English speakers domestically. Founder and CEO George Rimalower said assembling the right team of employees has been at the core of the company’s success. ISI employees are not just fluent in foreign languages, but are familiar with the terms and jargon used by their health care, financial and retail clients, he said. “Translation is an effort that should not be done by a single person or even two people,” Rimalower said. “It needs to be a team approach.” ISI has hired 12 project managers and linguists in the past year with more hires expected in the coming months. In addition to the staffers in North Hollywood and Madison, Wisc., the company uses freelancers based around the country. In-house project managers speak 12 different languages, and the company provides translation and interpretation for up to 80 languages. Beyond having the verbal skills necessary to work for a translation company, employees also must have technical expertise, especially when working with jargon-heavy financial, legal and medical documents. Translating makes for an excellent second career – provided the translator has the right work experience and training, said Kevin Hendzel, spokesman for the American Translators Association, an industry trade group. “No one is going to pay them to translate the newspaper,” Hendzel said. “But if you’re translating product inserts for a pharmaceutical company, you’d better know organic chemistry.” The U.S. translation services industry is expected to bring in $3 billion in revenues this year, according to a study released in May by market research firm IBIS World. The market segments that need translated materials most frequently are retail and business, legal and government, and marketing and advertising, the study found. ISI has a presence in all of those markets, but most of its growth comes from clients in the health care, life science and pharmaceutical industries, Rimalower said. The finance industry uses ISI to translate documentation relating to insurance and pension plans, while mortgage lenders need accurate translations of their lending documents in the event their validity comes into question, he said. Changes in government regulations also open the door to new business for companies such as ISI. After the passage of the California Language Assistance Program in 2003, health care providers were required to make vital documentation available in languages other than English depending on the size of the non-English population the provider served. “That created an enormous amount of work,” Rimalower said. “With (federal) health care reform we are seeing the same thing.” Regulations imposed by some foreign governments require that certain packaging information be presented in their native language. That was a condition Laurie Hyman faced in wanting to sell her eco-friendly toys in France. She used ISI for French translation of her toy packaging. Translations into German and Spanish, on the other hand, were all about trying to gain market share for Green Toys, the San Francisco area company Hyman co-founded in 2008. Foreign sales contribute about 22 percent of the company’s revenues, she said. Just as important as an accurate translation is a translation that accurately depicts the Green Toy brand, Hyman said. “We trust them to be experts in their field when it comes to the words,” Hyman said. Creating trust with the clients is important to Rimalower, and he said ISI has rigorous review policies in place. A document will go through multiple versions before a client gives final approval to make sure that it says what the client wants it to say and no misinterpretations have slipped through. Shortcuts do not work, Rimalower said. While technology cuts down on the time and cost of providing translation services, the process of translating documents, manuals, retail packaging and sales materials remains a human endeavor, he said. “When something has been translated for publication there is no margin for ambiguity,” Rimalower said. To improve the process by catching potential mix-ups early on, Rimalower this year started the company’s English Proofing & Technical Editing Division. This division of five employees based in Wisconsin makes sure the source material is clearly written and easily understood. The staff also catches U.S. specific references such as sports teams or holidays, Rimalower said. “It cuts down on the turnaround time,” Rimalower said. “It reduces the number of questions we may have that come about as a result of document that may not have been carefully written or reviewed.”

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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