Should Translators Be on Clubhouse?

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, translation is in the house – the Clubhouse, that is. Billed as the cool new social media app all the rich kids are using, Clubhouse is an online chat forum created less than a year ago by repeat startup founders Rohan Seth and Paul Davison. Unlike Facebook, Twitter and other forums, you must have an invite to join. Each new member is allowed to invite one other person and on it goes. At the time of writing, more than 2 million people were on the app globally — including well-known names in the translation community like Lingua Greca’s Catherine Christaki, Verbaccino president Kathrin Bussmann, and MutliLingual‘s own Renato Beninatto.

Question is, should they be? After raising its venture capital series B on a $1 billion valuation, the app has certainly gotten its share of buzz. “Pretty much every marketing thought leader is on [Clubhouse],” Bussmann said.

“There’s a good size crowd from the loc[alization] industry, lots and lots of marketers and LinkedIn people. And big names of course,” Christaki said. For example, celebrity marketer Guy Kawasaki recently hosted a chat in the app on entrepreneurship with MultiLingual board member Tucker Johnson. “It’s great to learn from,” she added.

That said, the platform isn’t helpful in gaining clients, Christaki explaining, “The translation chats I’ve seen are mostly about ‘educating’ non loc people and explaining the terms and how global business works.”

Bussmann echoed this sentiment, messaging that she uses the app to “try to educate folks about what [localization] is.”

While this sort of effort may be helpful to industry trade associations — like the American Translators Association (ATA) — the majority of translators and language services providers (LSPs) don’t have the resources bare-bones client education requires. Clubhouse also has considerable data security issues: it not only uploads your contacts’ information without their consent, it also records all conversations. If client information is stored in a translator’s phone, sharing may breach customer confidentiality agreements. In Europe especially, many are concerned Clubhouse’s lack of transparency over data handling violates General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). On January 27, Germany’s largest privacy watch group, the Federation of German Consumer Organisations, filed a cease and desist order against the app, adding a lack of German language user agreements to GDPR concerns. And on February 9, China banned Clubhouse, citing data security.

This doesn’t mean the translation community is wrong to use the app. As Christaki mentioned, it does offer continued education benefits and — for an organization large enough to take it on — an interesting challenge regarding client education. As with any club, just know what you’re signing up for before you join.


Terena Bell
Terena Bell is a reporter covering the language industry for MultiLingual, The Atlantic, The Guardian, and others. In a past life, she owned In Every Language, an LSP, and served on the GALA and ALC board.

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