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E.g., 07/14/2020

The Impact of Sourcing Responsibly in the Language Industry

By: Claudia Mirza (CEO) - Akorbi

26 April 2017

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 use global products, 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.

How does this apply to the language industry?

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.

Questioning the Two Cents

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.

Claudia Mirza is the CEO and Co-founder of Akorbi. With a tireless entrepreneurial spirit, she has led the company’s evolution from a language translation company to a global provider of multilingual business solutions. Claudia has led Akorbi’s rapid growth and expansion into new industries including multilingual staffing and contact centers.