However, in the week that the city’s oldest translation agency celebrates its 25,000th assignment, its co-founders say that one third of its turnover now comes from overseas firms.
“Since the days of just a telephone and fax machine the industry has certainly changed over the years, mostly due to technology,” said Maryline Tergella, co-director of TransAction.
“With the currently weak pound helping significantly, we compete at an international level and with e-mail we communicate with translators and clients a lot more easily, many of them being based outside the UK.”
Mrs Tergella came to Sheffield nearly three decades ago to be a French assistant at Tapton School. When she first turned her hand to translation, TransAction was a co-operative of translators. It wasn’t until the end of 1999 – 16 years after it was established – that TransAction became a limited company.
Daniel Collis, Mrs Tergella’s co-director, joined TransAction in 1997 and together the pair employ a core group of 40 “old school” translators and work with up to 300 other people. Translators are categorised along subject areas and languages.
Of all the dialects that TransAction is asked to deal with, French, Italian, German and Spanish are the most popular. The company’s 25,000th job was a Spanish to English translation of internal documents relating to a worldwide mobility programme for Telefónica, the global telecommunications business. Telefónica, which has more than 315 million customers in 24 countries, has employed TransAction for the past seven years.
David Gogerly, international assignments manager at Telefónica, needed the translation so that the mobility programme could be communicated within the business in both Spanish and English simultaneously. He said: “I always come back to TransAction as I know they will do a good job. I can rely on their translations being correct first time.”
TransAction and its staff translate a wide range of languages, including a number of little-known ones. Chinese, Arabic and Urdu are popular requests but Malay, Sinhalese, Romanian and Tamil have also been requested by clients.
Translation of a rare language based on the Burmese alphabet was one of the company’s more unusual tasks.
Mr Collis said: “We have the odd African language now and again but a lot of what we do is French and German to and from English. Our work comes from local businesses and also from businesses on a national and international scale.”
Just as the type of languages can vary dramatically, so do the documents that need translating.
Mrs Tergella explained: “We have helped clients secure millions of pounds of business abroad through translated contracts, tenders and general correspondence. Private individuals come to us to have their official documents translated so they can marry abroad or come to work in the UK for the NHS for example.
“We also support Languages Sheffield, an organisation that helps local communities set up and run their own language schools, as well as promote the use of languages by speakers of all ages throughout British society. We have often had language pupils visit from local schools through Global Entrepreneur Week or Business Language Champions and hope we have helped inspire them to continue with languages in some way or other post-GCSE.”
After nearly three decades (TransAction celebrates its 30th anniversary in October), the agency enjoys an international reputation. In addition to Telefónica, its client list includes HSBC, WH Smith and Sutton Tools Europe.
At a local level, the company maintains relationships with, among others, Swann-Morton, Sarclad and Ancon. “We are holding up against local competition and the third economic downturn in our history,” said Mrs Tergella.