Welcome to Client Talk, a newer MultiLingual column where we chat with people who buy (or should buy) language services: When do they say professional translation is worth it? If a client doesn’t buy, why not? How do they handle language needs instead?
By talking with current and prospective clients outside the traditional sales environment, we seek to uncover buyers’ true motivations. How do they really decide? As we move from one issue to the next, let’s look for patterns: What do all these individual profiles tell us about the way our industry sells as a whole?
PikMyKid is a startup based in Tampa, Florida. The company sells a comprehensive school safety platform that includes a panic button for school shootings, a safety dashboard for administrators and a geotracking app that schools use to shorten student drop-off and pickup times. They work with public school districts, charter and private schools, after-school programs and daycare facilities in the United States, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.
Founder and CEO Pat Bhava says, “Our contacts’ native languages are English, Spanish, Arabic and some others like Russian and French.”
experience with other
languages and cultures
Originally from India, Bhava has lived in the United States for 12 years. He says, “I have traveled extensively having been to every continent and over dozens of countries. I personally am fluent in five different languages, namely English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.”
“Roughly, we deal with two batches of non-English documents,” Bhava says.
First, all PikMyKid clients receive a set of training manuals: “These manuals provide insight on what the [company’s] system does and how to use it.” Full translations are available in Spanish and Arabic. Bhava says “a small version” of the manual has also been translated into Somali.
Why Somali? Bhava says, “We actually ask schools [that] have any large ethnic population to create their own translation of our parent training documents. One of our schools in the United States actually did this translation to Somali for us two years ago to be sent to their parent population.”
Scripts constitute the second content group. PikMyKid currently provides training videos in Spanish and English. Regarding spot needs, Bhava says, “Our customer service team replies to [customer support] tickets and calls in mostly English and Spanish.”
“About 15% of our communication is not in English,” Bhava explains. “We live in an interconnected world in which English is the international language of communication so — even though we do have schools overseas — the majority of them speak English.”
What is the budget?
PikMyKid doesn’t have a translation budget. In the case of the Somali manual, the startup’s client paid for translation.
How important does the client say professional language services areon a scale of 1-5?
1: “We basically write our own training manuals and record our own training videos; we don’t ask companies to do this. Plus, our in-house employees are native speakers of their languages and the translated documents are revised using several checkpoints — including peer-review — before sending them out to our clients and contacts.”
The client’s solution
PikMyKid doesn’t plan to pick a translation provider in the near future and will keep managing language needs in-house. “We don’t purchase any type of translation. We make sure that the people we hire are fully bilingual — English is a must — and that they’re able to communicate with the clients in their native language if that’s what they want. Aside from speaking English, our team has people who speak fluent Spanish, Arabic, French, Russian, Ukrainian, Hindi and so on.”
Is there ever an instance in which professional translators would be needed?
Bhava says it depends “on how important the document is. In other words, if it’s a document that will be given to the government — so it needs to be certified — we would send it to a professional translator. However, almost all of our documents have been translated by our in-house team members. They have expertise in both spoken and written translation so these types of tasks are something they’re already used to.”
As a clarifying note, by “expertise,” Bhava means that bilingual employees have translated as ad hocs in the past for PikMyKid and/or prior employers. One, a client relations specialist, did work as an in-house Spanish translator at Mr Innovation Co., Ltd. — a South Korean company that sells fertilizer — for four months.
An emerging pattern
PikMyKid is our fourth “Client Talk” profile; the one thing they have in common is an impression that the industry merely offers bilingualism. For the City of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, our first profiled client, this meant replacing interpreters with an app. Neither PikMyKid nor the previously-profiled Herald PR seems to understand what translators provide that bilingual employees can’t do. Is access to a foreign language the core value proposition our industry promotes?