Tag Archives: Association of Language Companies

ALC 2011: Contractor versus Employee

21 May

The Association of Language Companies (ALC) puts on its annual conference in Las Vegas on May 18-21, 2011.

Contractor vs. Employee: Introduction to the Contract Interpreter Information Center (CIIC)
Bill Graeper (Certified Languages Internationals), Vic Marcus (Northwest Interpreters, Inc.), Francesco Pagano (Interpreters and Translators, Inc.)

Vic Marcus, Bill Graeper, Francesco Pagano, Kristin Quinlan

Interpreters as Independent Contractors or Employees – this has been a hot topic for several years as federal, state, and local taxing bodies look to increase their revenue to help balance budgets.

  • “Misclassification” is a hot topic, not only in the US, but also in Canada and Europe
  • Many industries are targeted; construction industry in particular
  • Who is after us? Federal and state government agencies facing budget crises and shortfalls; the primary purpose is tax collection; the primary focus is on Employment and Workers’ Comp
  • Translators and interpreters by and large want to be independent contractors
  • Bill Graeper has a blog on this issue at www.contractinterpreters.com

Contract Interpreter Information Center

  • Includes translators
  • Purpose: to promote contractor business model
  • It is an informational website; focus: use of contractors in the language services industry, industry advocacy and support; education for all stakeholders
  • Founding members: Certified Languages International, Northwest Interpreters, Interpreters and Translators, languagelink, Dynamic Language
  • When audited, hire a professional (attorney specializing in labor law), reach out to CIIC members for assistance, be proactive – note reactive

The Connecticut Story

  • In 1999, Interpreters and Translators, Inc. (ITI) was audited by the CT Department of Labor
  • Audit was successful and the DoL conducted two more audits the next two years; audits were also successful
  • In 2008, an interpreter made a claim for unemployment
  • The DoL came back and requested records of all independent contractors; ITI hired an attorney
  • ITI’s attorney found a similar case: Daws Critical Care Registry vs. State of Connecticut Department of Labor (CT Supreme Court case, cited in other states as well)
  • The DoL reclassified the contractor with a claim as ITI’s employee and attempted to reclassify all interpreters used by ITI; the process took several years
  • Citing the Daws Critical Care Registry case, ITI’s attorney was able to change the DoL’s attitude

Lessons Learned

  • Keep your records clean by abiding with state and federal requirements for proper classification
  • If you sense any heat, contact and retain an attorney right away
  • Don’t allow any attorney to tell you “let it go”
  • Encourage your contractors to get a business license

ALC 2011: Translation Technology – What’s Missing?

21 May

The Association of Language Companies (ALC) puts on its annual conference in Las Vegas on May 18-21, 2011.

Translation Technology: What’s Missing?
Jost Zetzsche  (International Writers Group)

Where are we with our use of translation technology? We all would agree that while technology plays an important role in our workflows, there could be so much more. Who is at fault? Are we too hesitant to implement existing technology, or are we waiting for technology that is not available yet? And if it’s not available, what’s missing?

Available technologies which do not intersect very much (if at all):

  • CAT technology
    • Translation memory
    • File processing
    • Terminology management
    • Quality assurance
    • Project/Workflow management
    • Machine translation

Need for open systems:

  • Open, readily accessible APIs
  • Server-based workflows
    • The “new” capture technology
    • Common web service exchange standards

Data exchange standards:

  • XLIFF used as an internal exchange standard; has failed to be a true exchange standard due to extensibility
  • Hope on the horizon (?): Interoperability Now organization; “Melby/Lommel project”

Machine translation:

  • MT developers need to understand our processes
  • Integration into TM and terminology processes is needed

“Lossless Roundtripping”:

  • Between translators, editors, proofreaders, desktop publishers, project managers…
  • Representation of the latest state of the project in TM

External data:

  • EU resources, TAUS, etc.
  • Little true integration
  • No common or easily implementable ontology


  • Completely integrated term extraction and processing needed
  • Currently a painful, manual process
  • Understanding the value of terminology: need to define field of translation terminologists
  • Morphological tool kits – available only for the most common languages; University of Illinois project has some potential

Cloud vs. Desktop:

  • Bridging the connection problem (translators are not always online to work with web-based tools; a hybrid system could be a solution)
  • No feature parity in user interface; common word processing features missing


  • Quote from a tool vendor: “It’s really quite magical technology when you see it work” – The reality is that technology is not magic, it’s data processing
  • We need to give the tool vendors reasons to implement the changes and introduce technologies that we need

The business case:

  • Lose the Good Guy vs. Bad Guy image; Microsoft and other companies are in the game for business
  • Make strategic investments

See Jost’s presentation in pdf format.

ALC 2011: Mergers and Acquisitions

20 May

The Association of Language Companies (ALC) puts on its annual conference in Las Vegas on May 18-21, 2011.

Mergers and Acquisitions
Moderator: Shamus Sayed (Interpreters Unlimited); Panelists: Sayed Ali (Interpreters Unlimited) and Michael Sank (TransPerfect)

Michael Sank and Sayed Ali


Nearly one-fourth of ALC member company owners are looking to acquire, and another one fourth are looking to be acquired (if the price is right). What do you need to consider if you are planning on acquiring another company or selling your own?

Q: How do you value your business? A (Michael): TransPerfect looks at M&A as an investment, therefore the valuation is based on cash flow – multiple of annual EBITDA. Depends on the growth rate of the company; want to break even in about 4 years. A (Sayed): Also looking at multiples of cash flow; age of the business; intellectual property. Looking also at comparable sales, and the top line.

Q: Who does recasting of the financials (in cases when a non-contributing spouse is on the salary etc)? A (Michael): It’s a mutual exercise to figure out the true long-term cash flow. Typically presented by the seller and the buyer goes through it with the seller then to determine the long-term sustainable cash flow.

Q: Is there a value put on long-term contracts? A (Sayed): Yes, if it is five or more years.

Q: What are you seeing in the market for guaranteed compensation and earn-outs? A (Michael): In our case we want people to stay on. Typically 50% is paid upfront and the rest over 3 years (could be more than 50% if things go well).

Q: Do you offer equity position? A (Michael): No. A (Sayed): We are open to that. Tied to certain goals.

Q: Is there a particular revenue size you are looking for? A (Michael): Only about 10% of our growth is from acquisitions. We are not trying to do a roll-up. $10 million is a good size, can be bigger or smaller. Interested in specialist companies. Transaction and opportunity cost needs to be considered. Typically look for $5 million as a starting point, but will consider $2-3 million as well.

Q: Do you consider corporate culture in acquisitions? A (Sayed): Very high on our list. Culture is the reality. A (Michael): Yes, it is a “relationship thing.” We are in people business.

Q: How does client concentration affect the valuation: A (Sayed): We are looking for 15% or less for client concentration (no client accounts for more of 15% in revenues).

Q: How about contracts in preferred class of vendors (e.g., minority owned business)? A (Sayed): We can form partnerships where the seller retains equity portion to retain the status.

Q: Are you looking at acquisitions outside of the US? A (Michael): About half or our acquisitions are abroad. A (Sayed): We are looking at an acquisition in Eastern Europe right now.

Q: Does it matter if the business model is B2B or B2C? A (Michael): We are a B2B company but will look at anything. A (Sayed): Same here.

Q: Is there one single thing we can do the increase EBITDA? A (Michael): Be a fast-growing company (but of course then you are not interested in selling…).

Q: How does TransPerfect integrate acquired companies? A (Michael): We try to go as light as possible on integration, try to keep the unit intact. We integrate accounting functions etc., but are not looking at relocating the acquired company or changing its structure.

Q: How do you reassure the seller in earn-out situation that your interests will be aligned when pursuing a certain revenue levels for particular clients? A (Michael): Sometime it’s a leap of faith. Due diligence is needed. A (Sayed): We want to have a win-win scenario; will have the seller be in a position to maintain existing relationships with the clients.

Q: Does ISO certification adds or decreases value? A (Michael): I don’t know why it would decrease it, the question is whether it increases value. If the processes are followed, it is likely to add value.

Q: What is the range for EBITDA multiples in our industry? A (Michael): Broad range is 4-6 multiple of EBITDA.

Q: What do you do in HR and IP during the due diligence process? A (Sayed): Background check on key individuals. Our focus in on financial performance as it relates to IP, employee agreements, human capital. A (Michael): Sometimes we do simple background check. Our due diligence is that we meet the seller. We like to meet the key employees before LOI is in place. We don’t value IP too much, we mostly look at service companies – there is no separate valuation.

ALC 2011: ASTM International Committee F43 for Language Services and Products

20 May

The Association of Language Companies (ALC) puts on its annual conference in Las Vegas on May 18-21, 2011.

Language Industry – Our Time is Now, Part 2: ASTM International Committee F43 for Language Services and Products
Kathleen Diamond (Advocate, language and Entrepreneurship; CCHI Commissioner; Membership Secretary, ASTM-F43 Language Services and Products)

  • ASTM: founded in 1898, now the largest US-based international voluntary consensus standards writing organization; independent, private sector, non-profit
  • Over 3000 AST M International standards are used as the basis for national standards by reference in regulation in over 60 countries
  • First meeting of F43 held in February 2011; anyone can become a member of the committee
  • Balance of interest is important: producers but also users and general interest (academics, government, private sector)
  • Over 140 Technical Committees (languages used to be in F15 before F43 was created)
  • Very structured process: main committee, sub-committees, task groups
  • F43 received COTCO approval in September 2010; will maintain standards previously in F15
  • Broad scope: development of standards for language services and products
  • Six sub-committees: Interpreting, foreign language instruction, translation, language proficiency, executive, US TAG to ISO/TC 232, US TAG to ISO/TC37
  • Chairman Bill Rivers
  • F43 URL: www.astm.org/commit/committee/F43.htm

ALC 2011: Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters Update

20 May

The Association of Language Companies (ALC) puts on its annual conference in Las Vegas on May 18-21, 2011.

Language Industry – Our Time is Now, Part 1: Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters
Kathleen Diamond (Advocate, language and Entrepreneurship; CCHI Commissioner; Membership Secretary, ASTM-F43 Language Services and Products)

  • URL: www.healthcareinterpretercertification.org
  • More than 20 years in the making
  • CCHI was formed in 2009 with a mission to develop and administer national certification program for healthcare interpreters
  • National, Valid, Credible, Vendor-Neutral program
  • 13 commissioners representing a wide range of interests (mostly interpreters and non-profits)
  • Benefits: fulfills standards and elements of performance critical in accreditation settings; facilitates management of interpreter services; and more
  • Who benefits: LEPs, spoken language interpreters, LSPs, healthcare providers, hospitals/clinics, policymakers
  • LSP benefit: differentiation, validation by neutral party, base line for training and professionalism
  • Certification test: Part 1: managing healthcare interpreter functions (written, multiple-choice); Part 2: perform healthcare interpreting (actually interpreting)
  • AHI: Associate Healthcare Interpreter Credential; available in multiple languages; entry point into professional certification, conducted in English; two-hour, 100-question written test
  • CHI: Certified Healthcare Interpreter Certification; currently in Spanish only; one-hour oral performance exam (AHI is a pre-requisite)
  • What does CHI measure: knowledge, skills and abilities
  • Why obtain the credential: psychometrically validated; 235 interpreters worldwide earned it already; meets all NCCA requirements; follows the blueprint created by the Job Task Analysis
  • Fees: application $30.00, AHI exam $175.00; CHI exam $250.00
  • How can you get involved: join CCHI community; become a supporter; sign up for newsletter; check out website for updates; applications are open, testing is happening now – have your interpreters take the test
  • Suggestion: prepare a form letter for LSPs to send to their interpreters
  • Study materials are available on the website (www.healthcareinterpretercertification.org)
  • The certification is voluntary; it cannot be mandated
  • There is a parallel effort made by the National Board (group centered around Language Line)

ALC 2011 Roundtable: Quality Control for Interpreters

20 May

The Association of Language Companies (ALC) puts on its annual conference in Las Vegas on May 18-21, 2011.

Roundtable: Quality Control for Interpreters
Kristin Quinlan (Certified Languages International)

Kathleen Diamond and Kristin Quinlan

How can companies make sure their interpreters are of the highest caliber? Issues discussed:

  • Employees versus contractors; in some companies, all interpreters are employees (particularly in CA); in others, they are independent contractors.
  • A Wisconsin company got three audits in nine years; decided to make all their interpreters employees.
  • Employee model is expensive but safe.
  • Quality control: some companies send observers for on-site interpreting (both announced an unannounced); expensive but effective quality assessment. Other companies rely on client feedback.
  • Other quality control methods mentioned: six-week onboarding process, battery of tests (written and oral), in-field supervisors, continuous education.
  • Observing interpreters by LSPs who employ them is a fascinating experience and is also appreciated by the interpreters.
  • Question: How do you use quality control methods like on-site observation if you service clients globally? What else you can do for quality control? Answer: A pre-qualified Lead Interpreter can take on that role.
  • Interpreter certification is unique in that it is bestowed on the interpreter often without any follow up, observation, monitoring, etc.
  • Recruiting: Through website; recruiting department; ProZ; ATA; ads in in-language newspapers locally; relationships with local non-English communities; relationships with immigration organizations (who can alert LSPs about influx of new immigrants from a particular region); churches and mosques; restaurants; stores; determine who the industry leaders are in a particular communities and develop relationships with them; your interpreters can provide referrals; college international clubs.
  • Quality control in languages of lesser diffusion: Role-play scenarios; one interpreter tests another.
  • Quality review: In OPI, written evaluations are common with suggestions for improvement.
  • Dealing with client complaints: Not always an interpreter error – analysis is needed first. Formal written report for the client is recommended. Train the client how to work with interpreters. Suggestion: print the instructions on the back of usage cards.
  • ASTM International has a subcommittee for interpreters.
  • Interpreters should be trained not only how to interpret, but also how to do quality control and interact with clients.