It’s incredible to think fax machines were all the rage a mere 20 years ago. Telephone books were still the ‘in’ thing to have in the office. Smartphones were a faraway dream. Texting almost unheard of.
The internet was still hurtling through its ‘salad days’ to evolve into what we know now. And, yep, lots of us were scrabbling round in the car ashtray to find enough loose change to use a phone box.
Fast forward to the present and things are very different. It’s not just the technology and media industries which have seen a constant, and consistent, change over the past two decades.
Translators and interpreters have also witnessed a colossal transformation in the way in which they work.
Plymouth based Atlantic Language Services has been at the forefront of all of the technological transitions which have happened, since its inception, in 2000. The past 20 years has seen it build up a significant pool of European clients.
It’s also moved from its original offices on the Barbican to a more central location in Bretonside.
‘When we first started we used to photocopy diagrams and hand draw labels. We posted completed documents to clients,’ says Debbie Buse, Director.
‘We were using a typewriter and would have weeks to meet a deadline. Work today means deadlines are measured in terms of hours and everything is done electronically, nothing is sent in the post.’
As technology has advanced, so has the expectations of the client. Some will use a basic translation programme before passing it to Atlantic Language Services for the team to finesse and finely hone the words to ensure accuracy.
‘Translation work is supposed to read as if it was written in the language of the reader. The layout needs to match the source and so we have to be adept at using different publishing programmes.’
Crucially, the team can quickly and easily access interpreters and translators around the world which gives them the edge when it comes to being able to quickly turn work around.
So, if your conference is finishing very late, Atlantic Language Services can reach out to another part of the world to call upon a team member who’s just started their working day. You sleep. They work.
Upon waking, the finished translation is waiting in your inbox.
‘We can gain a huge time advantage for urgent work by using people in different time zones. We recently provided two translators for French and Portuguese for a malaria training conference in Africa.’
Atlantic Language Services provides both interpreting (spoken) and translating (written) services for clients. Both skills require a robust toolkit and complete fluency.
It’s a skilled job. Professional translators and interpreters have university degrees and regularly undertake Career Professional Development (CPD).
‘If you do speak the language, it doesn’t mean you can translate or interpret as you do need a specific skillset. So, with translators, it’s important to be able to call upon someone who is qualified and experienced in a specific area.’
‘As such, if the work is required for the medical or engineering industry then we will use someone who has that as part of their background.’
‘It means we can appeal to their strengths which allows for the translation to be technically accurate and natural.’
‘When interpreting you have to think on your feet and find words immediately but for translating you can be more mindful of the audience, the genre and the piece you’re writing.’
And this is where the skill of a translator comes to the fore. If they’re working on an advertising piece, for instance, the finished work will convey a sense of creativity.
For something which is more technical in its tone, the translator can spend time researching the precise wording to ensure the meaning of the finished article is 100% accurate.
‘For businesses using our service, it shows they are going the extra mile for their client. They can provide anything and everything in a foreign language.’
‘Speaking your client’s language is polite and accommodating. Using a professional service shows quality matters and provides reassurance for the client.’
Debbie can translate from both French and German into English (unsurprisingly their biggest clients are based in Belgium and France). But the team can call upon fluent speakers in a host of different languages.
These include ones which are not ‘mainstream’ for a European or American audience. They recently worked on a translation into Khmer, the native tongue for people living in Cambodia.
They can also provide transcription services for television production companies. It’s highly technical work which often includes the production of subtitles, which, of course, have to be grammatically perfect for the English market.
For the Atlantic Language Services team, it’s a hugely rewarding experience.
It feels good to see our work on television when we’re at home and have provided translation for docudramas and documentaries’.