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The Impact of Sourcing Responsibly in the Language Industry

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Have you ever wondered where the items you use come from or how they were sourced?  After all, most of the items we use daily come from different parts of the world – from coffee grown in South America to cell phones manufactured in Asia.

As we continue to use products from around the world, it’s important to consider whether these items are being sourced responsibly.  Unfortunately, not all products are. One shocking example of negligent sourcing is the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) case in Chad.  The company hired thousands of local workers to drill for crude oil, which helped create a stronger economy.  However, they dumped oil into the countryside.  This blatant disregard for the safety and health of the community and workers, as well as the environment, led to the famous Chad vs. CNPC case.

The CNPC case is just one example of the repercussions of global irresponsibility. In the language industry, we see this irresponsibility when translators are paid two cents per word.  The reality is that the cost of a quality human translator, who is sourced responsibly, is fixed at real market value.

Unfortunately, the demand for cheap translations has led to trends such as crowdsourcing. With crowdsourcing, companies blast out translation projects to millions of translators, creating a bidding war. The translator who accepts the project first, at the lowest price, wins. In this process, there is clearly a complete disregard for sourcing responsibly and quality when the only goal is finding the lowest bidder.

Technology has allowed us to increase volume and improve productivity.  As a result, we’ve been able to reduce costs.  However, we still can’t justify paying a translator two cents per word.

I encourage companies to ask the tough questions such as:

  • How are these two cent languages being sourced?
  • Who is doing the work?
  • How are they able to do it so cheaply?
  • Where and how is the work being produced?

The impact of sourcing languages responsibly goes far beyond gross profit – it’s an investment in a translator’s livelihood. Offering exceptional translators fair market prices should be a constant goal. After all, talented translators are not a dime-a-dozen.  They should be treated and paid fairly.

So, as your translation prices continue declining, you may want to ask yourself:

  1. Is my global workforce paying a bigger price in regards to their health and wellness so we can offer drastically lower prices?
  2. Are we proud of the working conditions we provide our global workforce?

Most language companies rely on overseas operations due to the scarcity of qualified talent in the U.S. and certain parts of the world. In some countries, doing the right thing is enforced. For example, some countries require us to set an extra 150% aside from employee salaries in order to comply with government regulations that cover health insurance, taxes, yearly bonuses, vacations, safety, quality of life, time off, extra holidays, religious celebrations etc. Unfortunately, some shared economies are failing abroad due to the lack of compliance with these local laws.

What does sourcing responsibly require?

Sourcing responsibly requires several full-time team members to verify university degrees and references, provide training in fraud, waste and abuse, as well as to manage contract signing and language testing. They also have to confirm that the translator has experience in specific industries and specialization in certain topics.

Sourcing responsibly also requires paying invoices on time, trust coupled with respect, an impeccable work ethic for on-time delivery, communication and continuous quality improvement.

Quality takes glossaries, client feedback, workforce training and development, teamwork, leadership and motivation.  Quality also requires human resources and an amazing technology engine coupled with antivirus/security protection. Finally, quality takes storing your data in private servers that are government compliant. After all, quality affects much more than just the text – it affects the entire workflow process.

At Akorbi, we leverage our translator databases to provide translator performance feedback. Exceptional translators get the rankings they deserve, while less-than-perfect translators get lower tier rankings. We go to great lengths to take care of our community of translators.

Sourcing translators responsibly is by no means an easy task. But, it pays great dividends. It results in more consistent project quality and better quality of life for your global workforce.

Everyone wins when we put our people, and not our bottom line, first. I hope you join me in taking a stand as an industry to do what’s right and fair for the people we employ and contract.


About the Author:

Claudia Mirza is the CEO and co-founder of Akorbi, the second fastest-growing language services company in the world, according to Common Sense Advisory. What started as a home- based translation business has become a global company with 931 employees around the world. In addition to leading one of the fastest-growing companies in the world (with 1,267% growth in the last five years), Claudia is a published author in key industry publications, a sought-after speaker, an inventor with several patents-pending and a student at Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management Program.

About the Co-Author: Caleb Boliver

Caleb Boliver is a Project Coordinator at Akorbi. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Critical languages International Studies with a certificate in Globalization, Internationalization, Localization and Translation (GILT) and a Post Editing Certificate.  While in school, Caleb studied in Russia for a summer at Voronezh University receiving a Russian course certificate. He also studied in Berlin, Germany with a University of Texas in Arlington led program where he received his German Certificate. Caleb also obtained a second bachelor’s degree in History Pre-law while at UTA and was awarded the 2016 Laverne Prewitt Excellence In pre-law Undergraduate Award in 2016.

About Akorbi:

Akorbi provides enterprise solutions that empower companies to achieve success in the global economy. It helps companies connect with employees, vendors and customers in over 170 languages 24×7, in any modality, from any location. Akorbi’s customizable, enterprise solutions include: technical and multilingual staffing, learning services, multilingual contact centers, video remote solutions, translation/ localization and in-person interpretation services.


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