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Speaking your language

To avoid getting lost in translation, businesses turn to language services provider Megalexis for multilingual messaging.  

To successfully translate over 40 million words per year, it’s not enough to simply convert text from one dialect into another, especially when the French translation of an English term of endearment like “bookworm” i.e. rat de bibliothèque, directly retranslated in English becomes a less-than-complimentary phrase, “library rat.” Understanding context, local idioms and expressions are all in a day’s work for the close-knit team at Megalexis. Originally founded by his mother Ann Rutledge, Charles Lawton now presides over the 63-person operation with his sister Lisanne Lawton, Vice-President, along with General Manager Michel Frégeau. The need for translation service is growing daily. The team combines new technology with old-school customer service to help businesses deliver effective communications, documentation and online content. Michel Frégeau and Charles Lawton share the story behind Megalexis’ success.

Rogers Business: How does your service work?

Charles: New customers go online and submit a quote request based on their project. Our customer relations representative Christian picks up the phone and calls them right away to say, “Hey, we got your request, thank you.” They’re not used to that and are genuinely surprised. It may seem a little old school, but it’s well received. Our team can ask follow-up questions, understand the deadline and the semantics pertaining to the request. Our project management team then takes care of assigning the right professional for the project and delivering what was promised. We believe the human factor is a big piece. At the end of the day, we’re in business to serve people.

Rogers Business: Why is translation an important component for any business?

Charles: Our clients need to speak their customer’s language and adapt their text to the culture of that audience. Have you ever found an error in a text? What does your brain do? It holds on to the fact there was a mistake and you instantly ignore or forget the intended message. Some people can even be insulted. When you’re in Canada reading a piece that mentions “bangers and mash,” you’ll know it’s meant for a British audience, not you. We’re not translating words, we’re translating a message and a concept.

Rogers Business: How important are deadlines in your business?

Charles: We live and die by the deadline!

Michel: It’s like making a wedding cake. You can’t deliver it the day after the wedding. It’s too late, even if it looks great and it tastes amazing.

Rogers Business: It’s easy to think of translation as the last step of a project. Why is that a misconception?

Charles: Effective communication uses many rules; rules that can’t be broken. If you integrate language translation requirements at the development stage of any project, you’ll ensure that you’ll be able to respect those rules, and succeed. One of the things that are often overlooked is that French as a language is usually 15% longer than English. It’s better to take that into consideration earlier on in a project.

Michel: I always say, translation is the caboose of the train. You’re the last wagon. You can stretch anything in front, but you can’t go backwards because you’re at the end.

Rogers Business: In recent years, there’s been a rise in free online translation tools. What are your thoughts on this?

Charles: These automatic translation tools have a role to play. Sometimes people want a quick and general notion as to what the copy says, very roughly. But you won’t get all the subtleties of language and the translation may just be incorrect. Although machine translation has come a long way, it might just see the words for what they are, literally and the resulting idea might feel off to the destination language native speaker.

Companies who reach out to us for our services are often trying to sell a concept, whether it be to their employees, suppliers, agencies, government or customers. And that’s where language has to be done properly or else it can be taken poorly. It could damage a brand’s reputation. That’s why we focus a lot on the human aspect. Humans understand the use of idioms and puns. If you want to sell your idea to someone, you have to seduce them with it. That is where the plasticity of the human mind can bend language to get the point across in new, exciting, and memorable ways.

Rogers Business: How do you stay true to the original values of the company your mom started?

Charles: We hold on to them as guiding principles. Our quality shines through because we count on our team’s flexibility and professionalism to deliver the Megalexis customer experience. If a customer comes to us with a problem or needing a faster turnaround, instead of saying, “No, this is the deadline you gave us first” and being very rigid, we collaborate and try to figure out a way to do it. We’re as flexible with our employees. By taking care of our staff, they can in turn take care of our customers.

Rogers Business: What’s the mark of a good translation?

Michel: If the translator becomes invisible! Actually, in the industry, it’s frustrating for a good translator because you cannot detect the text was translated. If you read it and you feel that, “Oh, this is a translation,” then it’s not well done. So if a translation is done right, it’s perfectly invisible.

Rogers Business: What does good customer service mean to you?

Michel: Not only satisfying our clients, our minimum criterion, but doggedly delighting them combining product and service quality. For every request, you make sure that you have all the information and that you understand exactly what your customer is looking for in terms of terminology, culture and product. You’re only as good as your last translation. Not a day goes by that I don’t learn anything new about language.

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