Italian to English: This Week’s Interpreter Spotlight with Marina Rasulo.

Marina

Marina is an Italian, French, and English interpreter based in Italy.

Damla: Hi Marina, thank you for sitting down with me today. We’re excited to share your story with the VerbalizeIt community. To start, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Marina: I’m excited to be here! At the moment, I own and run a bed and breakfast in Naples, Italy
After graduating with a degree in architecture in 1999, I started my professional career as an architect and as a translator almost simultaneously.
In fact, while I was working at my PhD course and thesis in civil engineering, I found out that most Italian university professors could not speak or write any English. Thus, I started translating for them, helping them with international conference proceedings and such. Consequently, my career as a translator started in a very academic environment!
Later on I started translating at a wider scale, as a freelancer for translation agencies all around the world, which I still do and love!
In the meantime I became an adjunct professor in Italian public high schools. I’m happy to say that my professional life is pretty varied and vivacious!

Damla: That’s quite a history you have. How did you end up where you are now?

Marina: I studied very hard: I graduated cum laude in architecture in 1999 and received my PhD in civil engineering in 2003.Besides my academic career, I passed several exams to become a teacher in Italian high schools where I teach Technology, Constructions, Technical drawing and Art History. Moreover, I studied English and French at very high levels and thanks to my language skills I could travel all around Europe and half the world… alone or in company, I always know where I am!

Damla: It must be amazing to be able to travel without worrying about language barriers! How did you end up interpreting in the first place?

Marina: While I was living in Fort Worth, Texas, USA, I started working as an interpreter for Italian expatriates and business people that needed English interpretation. Back in Italy, I still continue this activity every now and again. For example, I was involved in a project with Parsons Transportation Company that built the bridge over Messina strait. Oftentimes my company needed English to Italian interpretations and translations. In this way, I got to do my professional work as an architect and translate!

Damla: It’s great that you can work with both of your passions at the same time. What do you do outside of interpreting now?

Marina: Beyond running my business, I love reading good older literature, listening to oldies, and watching classic movies.

Damla: Thank you so much for your time Marina, it has been great getting to know you and your story. I look forward to speaking with you soon!

#FoundinTranslation Friday: The River Banks, Paris’ Giant Terrace

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“Restaurants with outdoor spaces in Paris”… something tells me that you are frantically looking for just that these days. Well so am I. An alternative that I find more original than the terrace option: the banks of the River Seine, Paris’ largest terrace, overlooking the Eiffel Tower.

As I’m constantly being rejected on the phone when trying to book a table at Monsieur Blue, the new restaurant of the Palais de Tokyo, or at Saut du Loup in the Tuileries (I must say that I am an expert last minute booker), I opted for a safer bet and headed to the river banks which has been pedestrianized since mid-June. Explore the riverbanks with the full blog from our #FoundinTranslation Friday partner, Webflakes.

German to English: This Week’s Interpreter Spotlight with Nandini Pande

This Week’s Interpreter Spotlight on Nandini Pande, a native Indian who has lived in the United States and Switzerland. 

Damla: Hi Nandini, it is a pleasure to speak with you today. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with our community.

Nandini: It’s great to be here!

Damla: Could you start off by telling us a bit about yourself?

Nandini: So I was born in India and brought up all across the country, even in the most remote parts of the country – untraceable even on the most detailed political map! My traveling continued after I got married, as my husband’s job took us to the United States and Switzerland. I hold a Master of Science degree in Microbiology.

Damla: It seems like you’ve been all over and involved in all sorts of things. How did you end up where you are now?

Nandini: Quite true! While living and working in German speaking part of Switzerland, I took it as a challenge to learn the local language and make my stay comfortable. I worked at the Gymboree Play and Learn in Basel, where I could practice my newly acquired German language skills with my pre-kindergarten students! Upon returning to India, I worked as a German language expert in the growing company Knowledge Process Outsourcing for 4 years. Now I work from home as a freelance interpreter and translator so that I can spend more time to my daughter.

Damla: How did you end up interested in interpreting?

Nandini: I have always been multilingual, surrounded by three or four languages. Switching between languages– Bengali at home, Hindi with friends, English and at school and in more formal settings,came naturally to me. I managed to pick-up Punjabi from neighbours and Marathi in order to communicate effectively with my mother-in-law!
People coming to Switzerland for job assignments from all parts of the world was common. All too often, I found there was a need to bail out a person struggling to find a grocery item in the store, someone unable to communicate with a store associate, or a tourist trying to find which tram or bus to catch! I always had an innate urge to help, after all, it only took a few seconds and a few spoken sentences – and the job was done!

Damla: Its great to hear that you started simply from passion for communicating. What do you do outside of interpreting now?

Nandini: Cooking, baking and watching travelogues are my favourite pastimes. I also love reading about history of food, food habits of people across the globe and so on.

Damla: We will definitely be inviting you to the office for us to taste test one day. Thank you so much for sharing your story again!
Nandini: It’s been great speaking, and I’m looking forward to my future projects with VerbalizeIt!

VerbalizeIt & Webflakes Partner to Break Down Language Barriers

Today we are proud to announce our newest partner: Webflakes. Webflakes is an innovative online destination for English readers to discover the best and latest in international lifestyle content from around the globe. Webflakes exposes readers to new, inspiring perspectives from influential international bloggers with authentic local perspectives.

Webflakes connects international bloggers to a crowdsourced community of multilingual individuals who utilize their translation skills to remove language barriers while simultaneously raising funds for global charities.

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Together, VerbalizeIt and Webflakes aim to make entering new cultures a seamless experience. When traveling, users can use the VerbalizeIt app to navigate their way to the local hotspots highlighted by Webflakes’ global community of bloggers. For example, if a reader learns about the best wines in the region via a local Webflakes blog, they could then use VerbalizeIt to help ask for that earthy malbec or smooth cabernet without facing language barriers.

Also, because of the amazing feedback we had from our #FoundinTranslation campaign, we are excited to reveal VerbalizeIt & Webflakes #FoundinTranslation Fridays. By checking in with VerbalizeIt every Friday, you will see our favorite Webflake image of the week, and the next place, restaurant, boutique, or experience that you can get #FoundinTranslation through. As we roll out the first stage of our partnership with Webflakes, we are excited to add yet another partner to help us break through language barriers.

Become fluent in Wine with Webflakes & VerbalizeIt’s first #FoundinTranslation Friday 

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Mandarin to English: This Week’s Interpreter Spotlight with Ping Liu

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Damla: Hi Ping! We are happy to have you with us for this week’s Interpreter Spotlight.

Ping: My pleasure Damla. It’s great to be here with you all.

Damla: To kick things off, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Ping: I was born a peasant in China, but my life changed when my mom took me to the city where my father was a lower official in the army. I was 6 at the time. The experience of learning standard Mandarin established my early competence with languages. I talked with friends in standard Mandarin and dialect with my family.

When the time came for me to learn English, I found that comprehension and pronunciation came easily to me. I met three good teachers in my school years before university, where I became an English major and received professional training. I doubt my interest in English will ever stop.

Damla: That’s an amazing story, and a lovely example of how language skills can be life changing. How did you end up interested in interpreting?

Ping: After graduation, I found a job with an architectural decoration company working as the chief interpreter and translator for their Motorola project. Numerous meetings, negotiations, and on site communications accelerated my transformation into a real professional interpreter. It was then that I became completely interested in interpretation because it is challenging and involves on-site improvisation.

Damla: So how did you make the transition into working with Verbalizeit?

Ping: I worked for years as a company interpreter until my daughter was born. Today in Sweden, I am a freelance interpreter and I work with VerbalizeIt!

Damla: What do you do outside of interpreting?
Ping: For the most part, I enjoy translation, proofreading, editing, and gardening. I’m also a fantastic cook when it comes to Chinese food.

Damla: Now I feel like I should make a trip over to Sweden to test this out! Thank you so much for sharing your story with us Ping, and we are proud to have you as part of our Interpreter Community.

Ping: My pleasure Damla. Talk to you soon!

How To Prepare Your Company for 14 Million Eyeballs and a Whole Lot of Questions

Last month our company was fortunate enough to have a big uptick in traffic—really big. We were featured on the season finale of ABC’s hit series Shark Tank and found ourselves transitioning from a company that a few thousand people knew in the translation arena to a company millions of people watched all over the world. Did we expect a sudden spike in exposure? Sure. Did we expect this level of exposure and continued attention? Not quite.
Ben Franklin said that, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” We heeded his advice and took it a step farther, we prepared to win. Here are a few things we did in preparing not just to avoid failure but also to embrace the transition from being a young startup to a name synonymous with breaking language barriers around the world.

Prepare your product: 

It seems like a given, but it should never be overlooked. Your product is everything and when mixing the pace of a startup with the exposure of primetime television, it’s easy to lose track of your core. We double, triple, checked every feature on our translation platform and within our live interpretation app and ensured that our telephony partner Twillio was standing at the ready. Warby Parker went through a similar spike in exposure recently, as they prepared for the launch of the Man of Steel movie and Clark Kent wearing their glasses.

Prepare your servers: 

This is more of a defensive move but remains incredibly important. The last thing we wanted to experience was a site crash so we leaned on our partners at Amazon Web Services (AWS) to help us prepare for a seven-fold increase in website traffic. Animoto, the image and video sharing company, had a similar experience with AWS a few years back. After allowing for auto-creation of its animations when users downloaded their app, they went from using 50 computer nodes to over 3,500 in a matter of days.

Prepare for consumer questions (and more questions): 

If you’re not careful, this can be a huge energy drain on your team. Customer support is often one of if not the most crucial elements to a service oriented business. Unfortunately, it’s often the most thankless. We signed on with Zendesk and walked through dozens of different user journeys. Since Shark Tank we’ve been able to respond to consumer inquiries in a timely and thoughtful manner without tripping over ourselves.

Prepare your brand. Branding matters: 

Much like meeting someone for the first time, your brand never gets a second chance to make a first impression. Prior to the shows airing we had 3,500 translators and interpreters worldwide. We now have more than 10,000. Every single one of those people decided to join the VerbalizeIt community—the VerbalizeIt brand. With our partners at Ideation, we worked tirelessly to make an inviting website and social campaign that would not only make the best possible first impression but lead to many more impressions when people returned.

Ryan Frankel is the co-founder and CEO of VerbalizeIt. He is a Wharton MBA graduate and a recent TechStars participant. Ryan was a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs prior to entering business school. 

Arabic-English Interpreter Spotlight of the Week: Islam Elsadek

This Week’s Interpreter Spotlight on Islam Mohamed Elsadek, a native Egyptian living in Kuwait. 

Islam.

Damla: Hi Islam, thanks so much for joining us today. We are excited to show our community one of the best examples of our Arabic-English interpreters.

Islam: Thanks for the opportunity Damla!

Damla: Great! Could you start by telling us a bit about who you are?

Islam: My name is Islam Elsadek, and I am a VerbalizIt Arabic interpreter. I am Egyptian and I graduated from the Department of English Language and Literature from Zagazig University, Egypt. I currently live and work in Kuwait as an interpreter and as an occupational Analyst for Kuwait Occupational standards, Assessment and Certification Center. For the most part I work between English and Arabic, but I also speak a little Bengali. I have been privileged to work with the Multi-national Forces in Iraq as an interpreter. I interpreted with local tribe leaders, with key persons ,and helped ease tensions between parties involved.

Damla: So how did you end up where you are now?

Islam: I have always been fascinated by the process of interpretation as it involved numerous real-time challenges, from the level of the topic concerned, to cultural references, to the choice of appropriate diction, with the end goal of producing the best end-result . When I came across VerbalizeIt, I decided to go through the interpretation test. It was extensive and mentally exhausting because it examines you from the simplest sentences to the most complex ones. This reassured me of that VerbalizeIt had high standards, and it was an honor to be accepted into the VerbalizeIt community.

Damla: How did you end up interested in interpreting?

Islam: Well, I started to be interested in interpretation when I was still studying English at my university. To practice the language, some of my colleagues and I used to organize weekend-based trips to famous Egyptian monuments where we expected to interact with foreign tourists in English. Once in Tahir Museum, a police sergeant asked us to explain to three American boys that the use of flash-operated cameras was not allowed inside the museum. This was my first interpretation and since then I loved it and became an interpreter.

Damla: That seems like the perfect chain of events, and we are glad you ended up working with us. Do you have a favorite personal anecdote about your time interpreting?

Islam: I was on a foot patrol with one of the British military transition teams (MITT) deployed in Basra city in Iraq back in 2008. The main aim of the patrol was to detect any suspicious movements outside the MITT camp. At that point in time, it was the Muslim Eid Al fitr ,which comes right after fasting the holy month of Ramadan,and in which Muslims celebrate the breaking of their fast to God. In all of the Arabian countries, children show celebrate the occasion by playing with fireworks and fake guns. As we were advancing and entering one of the nearby residential areas, we started to hear sounds of bullet shooting.

All of a sudden, one of the soldiers began shouting and took the shooting position. He saw a bunch of boys directing their guns to him. I felt a disaster was about to happen if didn’t act immediately. So, I started yelling “No! No! Stop! Don’t do it! They’re just kids!” When we approached boys,we could clearly see they were only playing with fake toys. After the incident, I shared with the team some of the Arabian customs and traditions and how to deal with them without causing any offense to others. It was such a dreadful experience to think something tragic could have happened, but this is one example where breaking down language barriers literally saved lives. The British Service Broadcasting Service did a story on my unit and you can see me interpreting on the ground in it.

Damla: That is an incredible story Islam, thank you so much for sharing. As we wrap up, how about sharing another fun aspect of yourself with us. What is your favorite personal random fact?

Islam: Well, I am into Arabic poetry. I write classical Arabic poems and I regularly publish them on Facebook. On top of that, I am a fan of technology, especially mobile phones related stories and events.

Damla: And a poet on top of it all! It is great to add an artist to our ranks. Thank you again for sharing Islam!

Islam: Thank you Damla, talk to you soon!

Tone from the Top: Executive Leadership from the Inside-Out

VerbalizeIt CEO Ryan Frankel speaks to company leadership in a globalizing world.

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The global economy in recent years has been a roller coaster. Businesses big and small have focused their efforts, pared down excess expenditures, and opened themselves to the global marketplace. One common link across industries has been a focus on efficiency rather than overall quantity. How do you make sure your employees are working to their greatest potential, your company is targeting the right consumers, and that your executives are cultivating the right type of culture?

In their recent collaborative study, Reducing the Impact of Language Barriers, Forbes and Rosetta Stone reported that eighty-four-percent of executives at international firms believe that employees are more efficient when spoken to in their native language. Additionally, the same rule of thumb applies to consumers. Allowing employees and customers to find your business in their native language and helping the two constituencies connect with one another in a common language—both from an employee-to-consumer and consumer-to-employee perspective—is paramount to growing an international business.

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The same Forbes and Rosetta Stone study showed that sixty-five-percent of executives at international firms face language barriers in managing their global workforce. These barriers come in a myriad of forms ranging from speech, to tone, to inflection, to facial expressions to contextual understanding. They account for the core components of human communication which, as demonstrated by McGill University Faculty of Medicine, have been proven to outweigh the importance of language when examining human communication. It is therefore safe to assume executives who allow employees to couple their common cultural understandings and expressions with their native language are in fact leading more efficient employees than their competitors’ employees. Building a business culture that embraces the core components of human communications allows for employees to focus their energies on what executives want: higher-levels of efficiency and engagement with today’s global economy. 

-VerbalizeIt CEO, Ryan Frankel

Download our white paper, Interpreting Emerging Markets, to learn why translating today will give you the competitive edge tomorrow.

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The Trick to Preparing for the Uptick

Embrace the transition from young startup to overnight sensation, as you prepare for 14 million eyeballs and a lot of questions. 

Last month, our company was fortunate enough to see a big uptick in traffic—really big. We were featured on the season finale of ABC’s hit series Shark Tank, and we found ourselves transitioning from a company familiar to a few thousand people, to a company watched by millions of people all over the world.

Wharton1

Be prepared to win when a sudden spike in exposure hits your startup.

Did we expect a sudden spike in exposure? Sure. Did we expect this level of exposure and continued attention? Not quite.

Ben Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” We heeded his advice and took it a step farther. We prepared to win.

Here are things we did, not just to avoid failure but to embrace the transition from being a young startup in the translation arena to a name synonymous with overcoming language barriers around the world.

Prepare your product.

 It seems like a given, but it should never be overlooked. Your product is everything, and when mixing the rapid pace of a startup with the exposure of prime-time television, it’s easy to lose track of your core.

We double- and triple-checked every feature on our translation platform and within our live interpretation app. We ensured that our telephone partner was standing at the ready.

Eyewear company Warby Parker went through a similar spike in exposure recently, as it prepared for the launch of the Man of Steel movie, which featured Clark Kent wearing the company’s glasses.

Prepare your servers. 

This is more of a defensive move but remains important. The last thing we wanted was a site crash, so we leaned on our Web services partner to help us prepare for a seven-fold increase in website traffic.

Wharton2
Ben Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Animoto, the image and video sharing company, had a similar experience a few years back. After allowing for autocreation of its animations when users downloaded their app, Animoto went from using 50 computer nodes to more than 3,500 in a matter of days.

Prepare for questions. 

If you’re not careful, this can be a huge energy drain. Customer support is often one of, if not the most, crucial element to a service business. Unfortunately, it’s often the most thankless.

We signed on with a customer service software provider and walked through dozens of different user journeys. Since Shark Tank, we’ve been able to respond to consumer inquiries in a timely and thoughtful manner without tripping over ourselves.

Prepare your brand. 

We partnered with a brand agency to make an inviting website and social campaign to make the best possible first impression—and many more impressions—when people returned.

Prior to the show’s airing, we had 3,500 translators and interpreters worldwide. We now have more than 10,000. Every single one of those people decided to join the VerbalizeIt community—the VerbalizeIt brand.

See more here. This article originally appeared in Wharton Magazine on June 27th, 2013.

English-Portuguese Interpreter Spotlight of the Week: Leida Tolentino

This week’s Interpreter Spotlight focuses on Leida C. Tolentino, a current resident of Santa Barbara and an English to Portuguese Interpreter.

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Leida

Damla: Hi Leida, thanks for taking the time to sit down with us. You are a great example of one of the many fantastic Portuguese – English interpreters in our community.

Leida: No problem Damla! It’s my pleasure to share a bit of my story.

Damla: To start off, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Leida: One could say that I am an “interdisciplinarian.” I have a doctorate in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, and I investigate the human faculty of language to peer into the workings of the mind and brain. I am a college lecturer and, if asked, I could hypothetically lecture in many languages; I am multilingual and I was briefly a Portuguese and Spanish instructor. Otherwise, I perform and choreograph — West African dance has been a significant source of healing and personal growth for about a decade.

I was born and raised in the Cape Verde Islands, a small archipelago located about 300 miles off the west coast of Africa and a former Portuguese colony. Many Cape Verdeans are multilingual and I was required to take French followed by English during Middle and High school. I came to the US as a college student and have remained here through graduate school and other pursuits. I eventually married my husband Nick and we currently enjoy life together in sunny California. Today, I speak Cap Verdean, Portuguese, English, French, and Spanish.

Damla: You have a pretty incredible story Leida, one that had you speaking different languages and living all over the world. How did you end up where you are now?

Leida: My academic trajectory was not straightforward though it became predictable once I made the decision to study neuroscience after obtaining a degree in management information systems. I worked as a research assistant in both clinical and pharmaceutical settings, and later I continued to pursue professional goals and personal interests as my husband and I have relocated frequently. At our last location, I conducted research at an educational development nonprofit, while also performing with a local drum and dance ensemble as well as engaging in civic activism. More recently, I accepted a college lecturer position. I feel immense gratitude for the chances I have had in life.

Damla: It’s crazy how one thing leads to another, isn’t it? With such a broad range of specialties and interests, how did you end up where you are now?

Leida: Yes it is! As a multilingual individual (and psycholinguist), I am quite familiar with interpretation — it frequently takes place inside my head! Also, between my husband’s immediate family and mine, there are four different nationalities represented. It is often nice, sometimes necessary, to interpret for others.

More formally, translation activities certainly constituted a part of my foreign language teaching. I also came to serve as a song lyrics translator for my cousin who is a professional singer, recently translating Mayra’s new album from Cape Verdean to English. My current dissertation translation project from English to Portuguese is nearing completion. Curiously, I was referred to Verbalizeit by a former student who, knowing my language background, brought the opportunity to my attention after seeing Ryan Frankel and Kunal Sarda on Shark Tank !”

Damla: We will definitely have to that that student as you’ve been the example of excellence in our interpreter community. What do you do outside of interpretation, or work for that matter?

Leida: I question. I educate. I create. I engage, I speak up, I smile….I suppose I work hard and I play hard(er).”

Damla: Haha, well put Leida. Well thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and share your story with our community. Its been great speaking with you!