Client Talk: Papa John’s

Welcome to Client Talk, a column where we chat with people who buy (or should buy) language services: when do they say professional translation is worth it? By talking with clients outside of the sales environment, we seek to uncover what’s truly important to them. Each month offers a different profile to learn from. The challenge as we move from one issue to the next is to find patterns: What do these interviews tell us about how clients see our industry as a whole?

The client

Hank Enright is director of international training at Papa John’s, a Louisville, Kentucky-based pizza chain with more than 5,000 locations worldwide. Enright says he oversees “markets in Latin America and the Caribbean, stretching from Mexico all the way down to Chile.” Once a week, he connects with Papa John’s Chinese team. In the past, he’s assisted with openings in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Latin America.

Enright’s experience with other cultures

When passport renewal time comes around, I always ask for the one with the additional pages,” Enright says. Raised in France, Venezuela and Mexico by American parents, he’s been to almost 50 countries — 25 for Papa John’s. “I grew up speaking English and Spanish, so translation and interpretation comes naturally to me as my brain was programmed to work in parallel between these two languages,” he says. Enright is currently teaching himself Portuguese and is translating Papa: The Story of Papa John’s Pizza (Koehler Books, 2017) into Spanish.

The need

Enright most recently oversaw translation of an eLearning update into Arabic, French, Korean, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish and UK English. Other files for translation include operations manuals, reference manuals, implementation guides, forms and auxiliary materials.

The client’s solution

Enright says, “In the past — depending on the content and the language — it was not uncommon to have our various departments and locations use multiple companies and providers to translate content.” During the eLearning project, though, he realized he could get more “competitive and realistic price quotes” if he limited translation to two or three “main providers.” Glossaries, translation memory and volume help these select providers present more “favorable quotes.”

In addition to partnering with professionals, Enright insists on translating a lot himself. He says native Spanish speakers at the company ask him to and that he “recently dusted off [his] French to support the training of our new franchisee for Morocco.”

Employees also translate Chinese and revise Korean. Franchisees perform review, based on volume. “Where we do not have a native speaker, we [partner] with the in-country franchise team as appropriate and even — on occasion — spouses,” he adds.

On a scale of 1-5, how important does Papa John’s think professional translation is?

Four or five, but “it really depends on your definition of ‘professional translation.’” Whether the translator is a professional or not doesn’t matter to Enright as long as the translation is: “You can have unprofessional end results from a professional translator if you do not proof and edit for common sense or proper meaning. An unprofessional translation, regardless of who performs it, makes you lose credibility and reflects that you do not respect the end user.”

That’s part of why Enright keeps translating: “I take great pride and ownership in reviewing, correcting and editing Spanish language material. It is critical that the end product reflects professionalism. At times, it takes just as much time to edit a translation than to do it all internally.”

So when are professional translators used?

Enright considers volume, complexity and timeline but says the most important factor is whether professionals can provide “high quality, understandable and usable translation that makes sense for the end user, within a reasonable timeframe and within budget. Editing for common sense and understanding for our audience is paramount.”

Are bad translators to blame?

The more Enright shares, the clearer it becomes that Papa John’s has simply picked poor vendors. When explaining how he decides which files go to professionals, Enright details a delivery driver translation gone wrong: “In US English it stated, ‘Never leave the car running’” — meaning be sure to turn the vehicle off. “The translator translated this as, ‘Do not exit the vehicle running.’”

“A translator can put forth their best effort, but if a native-speaking subject matter expert does not proof and verify that the meaning behind the words is interpreted correctly, you will end up losing credibility and transferring incomplete or incorrect information.”

An emerging pattern

From month to month we’ve seen clients unfamiliar with what a professional translator can do that bilingual employees can’t. While Papa John’s leans heavily on internal resources, the knowledge gap here isn’t what do translators offer — it’s a lack of trust that there are translators out there who do their jobs well. For the first time in Client Talk, we’re profiling a client who doesn’t need education on the role of translators, but rather on how to select quality vendors to work with.