Song White, White Song

By Steve Goldstein

Newly elected NCTA board member Song White is the cofounder of White Song, a translation firm that focuses on multilingual and multicultural communications, particularly in Chinese language and culture. The company currently offers translations in Korean, Spanish, Japanese, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Portuguese, and Italian.

What is the story of the name: both yours, and your company’s?
SONG WHITE: My parents gave my first name when I was born. Song is one of the volumes of the book, The Book of Odes. The Book of Odes is a famous ancient Chinese poetry book from around 700 B.C. My parents named their children after the names of the volumes in the book. The volume “Song” is the collection of songs sung in the religious ceremonies in the temples. My last name is my husband’s last name which I adopted when we married. When the company was started, we thought of several names. When we reversed my name to White Song, we found it had a strong sound in the market and decided on it.

How do you keep up with the terminology issues in emerging and constantly evolving industries such as biotechnology, computers, and others?
Between our contacts in many different industries and the niche expertise of our translators, we’ve been able to keep current on the latest terminology of our clients. When a better term is developed and should replace the term we currently use, we go through a change control process to apply the new term.

As your company’s specialization is in Chinese, do you have trouble attracting work in your other language pairs? Why should a client with a Finnish-English job come to White Song?
Lowering the translation cost is the first reason a client would come to us. Regardless of the language, translation processes are similar. Asking questions and educating the prospect with information on how to cut translation costs helps clients evaluate their decision, revise their source language material, and be confident in their investment in translation. This process itself, costing the client no service fee, already has saved the client a large portion of upfront cost.

Our process is another reason clients come to us. We adhere to our processes in translations for software, for websites, and for marketing material. Those processes, again, regardless of language, allow us to provide quality work for our clients.

Technical know-how is another reason clients come to us. With the growth of the Internet, our expertise in search engine optimization helps us win clients who need their foreign language website to be optimized for these engines. We also consistently educate ourselves to keep up with the most current technology.

What is the most satisfying part of owning an agency? The most difficult?
I mostly enjoy the teamwork. Completing a job with the team members’ professionalism and initiative is the most rewarding part. Balancing my business responsibilities and my translation responsibilities is sometimes challenging.

How has new technology changed or affected the way translators or interpreters do their jobs?
New technologies improve the productivity and quality of translation. Online dictionaries, delivery over the Internet, translation memory, and search engines have become indispensable due to recenttechnology advancements.

New technologies also provide more options for translators conducting business worldwide, from invoicing to getting paid, from checking the reputation of a client to marketing a translation service.

Finally, new technologies cut the cost of doing international business. Agencies can submit a bid request online and receive many responses promptly. Translators can upload the translation to a client’s site without using an expensive express delivery service. And interpreters can use VOIP (an Internet telephone service) to perform a phone conference interpretation without running up a large phone bill on international calls.

Our ever-more “globalizing” world encompasses multinational, multicultural, and multilingual environments. At the same time, English seems to be moving inexorably towards becoming the world’s lingua franca. If this is the case, would a futuristic scenario require a) more and more translators, or b) simply that everyone on the planet know English?
The need for more translators will grow, as globalization requires more and more interfaces among different languages and cultural groups. I believe the growth of the need for multinational, multicultural, and multilingual interfaces will outpace the speed of people mastering English.

It will be a long time before everyone knows English. The ability of a language to prevail as a global language depends on a variety of factors, among them political, economical, and technological forces. English has gained its momentum due to these forces, and many people will try to learn English as long as these forces support that. Any factors that change those forces, however, may change the course of the language—although they will not change the need for interfacing with other languages and cultural groups.

How will the world of translation be different 10 years from now?
The Internet has improved the world of translation in the past ten years. I believe the next thing is wireless technology. In upcoming years, you will be able to use translation services through your cell phone, or network with associates or locate a translator with any number of different types of handheld devices.

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