How cleverbridge Carefully Balances Freelancers and Language Service Providers

Translation buyers Julia Spiegel and Eva Madelung manage between them all localization work for commerce, billing, and payment solutions provider cleverbridge. “We translate around 10,000 to 15,000 words per language per year,” Spiegel says. Madelung and Spiegel both hold the title Localization Manager.

Headquartered in Cologne, Germany, with satellites in Chicago, San Francisco, and Tokyo, cleverbridge uses English as its main source language. According to Spiegel, they localize into 29 languages, with the top languages being German, French, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Japanese, Italian, Swedish, Dutch, Danish, and Russian.

At cleverbridge, translation work centers around localized content for the company’s e-commerce solution, including customized text in the cart and checkout pages, e-mail content, legally required content, legal documents, and even documents used internally.

Fair Word Rate

According to cleverbridge’s Localization Managers, they use both LSPs and freelancers as “both have their advantages.” They prefer working with freelance translators for their monthly translation rounds because, they say, this guarantees consistency and high quality.

“These freelancers have been working with us for many years and are familiar with our content, corporate language, and environment. This is especially important because the way our development environments are set up requires dealing with strings that are not typically found in software localization,” says Madelung.

“These freelancers have been working with us for many years and are familiar with our content, corporate language, and environment” — Eva Madelung, Localization Manager, cleverbridge

She points out that, having established a relationship with individual linguists, working with freelancers makes the day-to-day business easier and more enjoyable. Madelung says, “We welcome any questions or suggestions from our freelancers and can respond to them immediately, thus avoiding ineffective communication through a middleman.”

The duo says they sympathize with what translators have to deal with in today’s industry. Says Spiegel, “I’ve been working at a translation agency for some time, so I know about the decreasing word rates translators have to deal with. I think large LSPs, especially, play a part in this continuous decline in prices.”

Eva Madelung (left) and Julia Spiegel on the rooftop of cleverbridge’s headquarters in Cologne. In the background is the famous Cologne Cathedral.

Spiegel adds that the person actually responsible for the most important part of the work — the translation — has to continuously lower the word rate because “everyone wants a piece of the pie.” 

On the other hand, Madelung says, working with LSPs “can be a valuable asset,” citing as examples working with legally sensitive material or a very large amount of content localized on short notice.

“We also use LSPs for a few selected language combinations. Our LSP has better access to linguists specializing in the legal field and has, naturally, a larger overall base of experts to choose from,” Madelung explains.

But with advancements in translation productivity and project management tools, it has become “easier and more rewarding” for companies to have their own translation or localization department so they can pay a freelance translator “a fair word rate,” the pair tells Slator.

TAT Rather Than Cost

To stay on top of quality, cleverbridge’s linguistic duo says they check for consistency, terminology and, “for our main (top 10) languages, we always include a proofreading loop.”

“We also make it a point to only work with professional linguists or experts in their fields and try to get feedback from our in-house experts, if applicable,” Spiegel says.

As for their tech stack, they have been using Alchemy Catalyst over the last couple of years and are currently in the process of switching over to memoQ Server. Both tools have been integrated into the company’s data management system.

“We also make it a point to only work with professional linguists or experts in their fields” — Julia Spiegel, Localization Manager, cleverbridge

Asked whether machine translation was a next step for cleverbridge, Madelung replies, “Based on our content and volumes, machine translation (MT) is not something that makes sense for us at this point.” Both add, however, that they monitor developments closely and “it is not impossible” for them to someday consider integrating MT into their processes.

On whether they expect MT to drive translation costs down in the near-term, they reply they expect any significant change to center around turnaround time rather than price.

“We believe that, to achieve a high standard of quality, it is crucial to employ human experts for pre- or post-editing. So, perhaps, the cost that we currently invest into human translation might then be invested into editing tasks,” Madelung says.

“We also believe you get what you pay for,” concludes Spiegel.