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The ATC’s Member of the Month in January 2024 is The Language Factory, a language services industry veteran specialising in culturally sensitive critical sectors.

We caught up with The Language Factory’s General Manager Hilary Picken to talk about company values, translating for demanding client sectors with cultural awareness, and the importance of a dedicated, professional PM team.

32 years and going strong

The Language Factory celebrated its 30th anniversary in the language services industry in 2022. Today, 32 years on from the first kitchen-table projects completed by its Founder Shona Lockhart, The Language Factory’s mission remains unchanged: to deliver high-quality translations with a human touch, and to help global businesses to communicate effectively with their audience.

General Manager Hilary Picken has been with The Language Factory for 23 of these 32 years and grown together with the company. “We specialise in market research and insights translation, and also provide specialist services for the healthcare, marketing, travel and HR industries. Much of the work we do requires a deep understanding of the client’s sector and nuanced cultural awareness from our translators, but also from our amazing project managers. Every project we work on with our clients, whilst aided and enhanced by technology, is managed by our very human PM team,” Hilary explains.

Cultural awareness for critical sectors

Translation is never just about words, but when it comes to the insight and healthcare sectors, cultural awareness plays a critical role in delivering successful translation outcomes.

“The vast majority of the work we do is for the market research industry, which requires a lot of cultural awareness from translators, because what may be understood by research respondents in one country or region won’t necessarily mean the same to those in another – and vice versa when it comes to translating the market responses. This is where we rely on our linguist partners, some of whom have been working with TLF since the early days,” says Hilary.

“But working with the insight industry also requires a lot from our PM team, because by its very nature the work is fast moving there are often a large number of stakeholders in the production chain, ranging from the end-client senior leadership and marketing to outsourced market research agencies. This means that there are often very many moving parts and changes along the way, which is why it’s critical that our team understands how market research works when it comes to translating and localising surveys, reports and verbatim responses.”

In healthcare, cultural awareness and sector knowledge plays an even more vital role. “In the UK, around one in ten people do not speak English as their first language, which challenges healthcare providers to meet their patients’ changing communication needs,” Hilary continues. “We work together with the NHS and other healthcare providers to overcome language barriers in healthcare for an increasingly diverse and multilingual population.”

The Language Factory’s work with pharmaceutical and medical translation clients supports their work in broadening the understanding of medical conditions and patient responses, fostering the medical community’s ability to diagnose diseases earlier or more accurately, and to providing life-changing treatments. In this, TLF’s expert healthcare translators understand the cultural nuances and differences in medical practices that need to be considered, ensuring all the information is culturally sensitive and relevant to the target audience.

A PM team to celebrate

In 2024, The Language Factory’s PM Team received a commendation at the ATC Language Industry Awards, and Hilary shares in celebrating the TLF PM team’s results and achievements over the past year.

“Our team, led by our Head of Project Management Caroline Ondares King, works in a genuinely collaborative environment. In 2023, our team managed over 1,000 projects, covering more than 160 language combinations, achieving an outstanding Net Promoter Score of 85 and over 99% satisfaction for customer service. And beyond that, they also take fantastic care of our freelance suppliers, 4.9/5 of whom would recommend working with us to a colleague.”

That’s a great track record to start 2024 with.

Hilary Picken was in conversation with ATC CEO Raisa McNab.

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