E-learning company Quizlet recently hired Bryan Lopuck as its first Localization Manager. Lopuck reports to Thompson Paine, VP Operations and Business Development.
A translator and conference interpreter, Lopuck brings with him years of experience from the buyer side. Before Quizlet he was at mobile app HotelTonight and prior to that with Apple. In his new role at Quizlet, Lopuck has his work cut out as he was recruited to begin the localization of the company’s apps and website.
Quizlet was in the news late last year after it secured USD 12m in a Series A funding round led by Costanoa Venture Capital and Union Square Ventures. The company has gained a lot of traction since it was founded more than 10 years ago. According to the company website, one in four US high school students uses Quizlet daily and 40 million users visit Quizlet every month.
Slator talked to Lopuck about the new role and his localization strategy for the San Francisco-based company.
Slator (S): What made you join Quizlet?
Lopuck (L): They had been around for a number of years, but were still developing an English-only product. They were profitable and wanted to localize aggressively in several languages. It was an exciting opportunity to get in at the beginning and drive localization the right way; and it would allow me to oversee localization projects in languages I wouldn’t have been able to take on in my previous role, such as Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.
S: What is the core of Quizlet’s business and how does translation and localization play into it?
L: Quizlet builds learning tools, which allow students at any level to improve performance and give teachers fun teaching tools and performance statistics. Localization will allow us to reach millions of new students, especially school-age students, who may not otherwise have the proficiency required to use our tools in English.
S: Is translation and localization considered a cost or revenue driver at Quizlet?
L: Strategic investment in localization in the short term will lead to increased revenue in the long term. Quizlet is investing in localization and committed to doing it right. As such, we’ll reap the benefits of our work when millions of new students and teachers discover Quizlet internationally.
S: Would you consider Quizlet mature in terms of its translation and localization workflows or processes?
L: Quizlet made the strategic decision of hiring a localization project manager, me, to oversee workflows and processes. In that aspect, we’re mature because I’ve been working in the field for 20 years. However, the actual processes are new to the team.
S: How many Quizlet staff are working in some translation or localization capacity?
L: We have two engineers who are dedicated to internationalizing the website, and the three of us form the “international team.” We are dedicated to getting the site ready for localization and making sure everything works—from user accounts, to e-mail generation, to cross-platform compatibility.
S: What sort of work is passed on to your translation and localization partner? Does it include technology integration, management, and transcreation? Or quality assurance and end-to-end?
L: I handle all the management and context clarification. We have a TM/editor that allows the team to access content. The team is responsible for transcreation where it’s needed. Everyone participates in QA and LQA since we don’t have a dedicated QA team at the moment.
S: How much translation and localization work do you need processed and what volume of work does your partner receive?
L: Our initial roll-out is approximately 60,000–80,000 words, not counting any other administrative materials we require.
“The trouble is, most of (the translation companies) are still using the archaic per-word system, which devalues the translation profession and pits people in higher cost-of-living areas against those in lower. These companies are often deadline-focused and not quality-focused.”
S: How much of the budget is set aside for translation and localization?
L: I don’t have specifics, but Quizlet is investing a lot in the initial roll-out, and the rest will be for maintenance or new content. They want to do it right and are making serious investments in it.
S: Who do you use for Quizlet’s translation or localization technology and management platform? Why?
L: We use Smartling. I always source out my own translation vendors, because A) It allows me to keep costs down. B) It eliminates the middle man. C) It improves communication. I need to be able to communicate directly with my team to convey exactly what I mean, without having to go through some company’s project manager who does exactly what I do. D) It allows me to develop a long-term relationship with the localization professionals. They get to know the business and our preferences. With a big language service provider, you don’t know who you’re getting.
S: What changes are you planning to make at Quizlet over the coming year, if any?
L: I’ll be going through all our content and looking at it from a localization perspective, and making changes where necessary. [Also] implementing a process to integrate localization into the business—product, support, and engineering—and various other improvements to make localization a part of the Quizlet culture.
S: What trends do you see in the broader translation and localization industry?
L: It looks like there are a lot more translation companies out there now—in different countries. The trouble is, most of them are still using the archaic per-word system, which devalues the translation profession and pits people in higher cost-of-living areas against those in lower. These companies are often deadline-focused and not quality-focused.
S: Which trends are most interesting to you as a buyer?
The tech is expanding to fit the new online markets—we’re not working with Word documents anymore—and machine translation-plus-editing is often used to replace traditional translation.
I think the next big challenge is integrating payment into the tools. I want to be able to pay people right away in other countries, and professionals want to be paid right away too. Gone are the days of waiting 60 days for big translation companies to pay you. I don’t stand for that anymore. Having an interface where the translation platform allows for payment could be the next big thing.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Bryan is a former translation and conference interpreter. Bryan, in fact, still does translation and has regular bookings as a conference interpreter.