We’ve been in Los Angeles for a few weeks now. How’s it going so far? Well, the competition is as tough as we expected. But surprisingly unstable too. Major language service providers (LSPs) such as TransPerfect, Moravia, Welocalize and Lionbridge are either busy in court or are getting sold to private equity. And for good reason: the language industry is hot. Maybe not as hot as the marijuana industry. But with a projected growth rate of 6.5 % to 7.5% annually through 2018, the temperature is definitely rising.
There are tons of young and hungry Silicon Valley startups trying to disrupt the language industry. Neural machine translation (NMT) is the buzzword of the times, deep learning the new frontier, artificial intelligence algorithms set to rule the future. Google CEO Sundar Pichai told investors recently: “We have improved our translation ability more in one single year than all our improvements over the last 10 years combined.”
What company doesn’t claim to be great?
So how does Supertext set itself apart in such a competitive environment? What makes us different? It’s a big question. Let’s start with what isn’t unique about us. Because nowadays, every company claims to have the best talent, deepest expertise, highest professionalism, greatest capabilities and most passionate employees. They’re doing things differently. Finding the right people for the right solutions. And using the most cutting-edge technologies, of course. Well, have you ever heard of company that doesn’t do these things?
In fact, even when these USPs are truly representative, like at Supertext, the best team and most sophisticated technology are no longer trustworthy differentiators. Because translation agencies often recruit from the same network of translators, manage similar workflows and use a handful of industry-standard CAT tools. The truth is, the easier it’s become for many to be good (or at least claim to be good), the harder it is to be truly great. Being different has never been so hard.
We don’t translate your copy. We put in a good word for you.
So what’s Supertext’s secret? It’s pretty simple. We are not a translation agency. We just happen to excel at producing copy in more than 30 languages. When we launched in February 1, 2006 as the very first online copywriting and editing service, our mission was (and still is) to free the world from bad copy. We started off helping clients write better, release compelling websites and send mailings that make reading a pleasure. And as many of our clients began asking for great copy for international markets, we expanded into other languages. Today, we are what you might call a translation agency. But we don’t translate. Instead, we write and create in multiple tongues.
Most of our competitors focus on solutions and services to get the translation process done – the faster and cheaper the better. Production centers with project management teams in Poland or Chile to keep salaries low and margins high. Technology to streamline workflow and cut costs. Robot overlords to translate more words in less time. But when it comes to really connecting with the audience – when every word counts – they’re missing the point. At Supertext, we understand that translation is not a puzzle that can be solved by an algorithm. It’s not math, or a logical process. Which is why we’ve stayed true to our copywriting roots.
The true revolution in the language industry is not NMT but a new approach to human translation.
Translation is about truly understanding the message. Getting inside the brain of the reader. Pushing their buttons with the right words. Putting those words down in a million different ways until they sound just right. Good writing doesn’t come easy. And the thinking behind good writing is mindbogglingly complex. It may be an endangered art, but it’s a very human thing at the very least. So when artificial intelligence perfects the process of transforming an English phrase into a grammatically correct Japanese phrase, we will be here to inject heart and soul into the words. Because we’ve been doing this for more than 10 years now. Maybe it’s what makes us different. We’re 10 years ahead.
Artwork by Sarah Jane Szikora