Lust for languages

Diversification gone wild?

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Translators are a bit like a chameleon. Yes, we translate, but we are down-to-earth realists who understand the importance of diversification. Editing & proofreading, copywriting, project management, teaching, transcription, voice-overs… These are some of the obvious add-ons to our service list, but what about the not so obvious? As linguists, we have a powerful tool – language – that is key in many roles. As a plus, translators are usually pretty computer-savvy, so that may open unexpected doors.
Have you ever considered community management as a service? Until a few weeks ago, it wasn’t 100% clear to me what a community manager does. It wasn’t clear until I had to learn it, that is. I’d say this lack of knowledge about what certain jobs involve is relatively commonplace nowadays. Technology and business are fields that move forward at a hair-raising speed and new needs arise on a constant basis. To meet these needs, new posts are created and pretty often the titles given are either too general or too specific for the (wo)man in the street.                                                    
Chiefs are ubiquitous (CEO, CTO, CFO…), fashion and internet evangelists abound, and almost everyone is apparently managing something, or so it reads in their email signature: ‘Whatever-it-is Manager.’ The latter takes me back to the community manager. What does community management actually involve?

As it turns out, it’s quite straightforward: it consists in monitoring a client’s social networks and other possible channels to engage in conversation with the users, answer questions, reply to comments, and share relevant content. Also, the social network manager is a kind of referee who makes sure the general tone stays respectful and follows the site’s rules, if any have been put in place. Any community manager would surely improve my brief description, but all in all, that’s the spirit of the job. A pretty important task, isn’t it? Today more and more customers, fans, and users resort to social networks to share their opinions and rant about companies, products and services. There is a real niche for a magician to work behind the scenes and keep things flowing.
So, I am writing about this because I’ve had the opportunity to put my source and target languages to work as a community manager. The offer came from an agency as a follow-up after a little job I did two weeks prior related to language supervision during a launch event and is related to two video game communities which are very active on various social networks.
The end client wanted to engage international fans more directly and that’s where us linguists take the stage. They needed native speakers to manage the comments and interactions of the Spanish users, in my case. Given the temporary nature of the post, I didn’t need much knowledge of the actual games – although, as you can imagine, and most of us translators would do, I did my homework and familiarised myself with them.
The fact that the client provided glossaries, templates and approved answers helped a lot, but I was still hesitant about being outwitted by the community I was supposed to keep engaged and provide answers for. However, I didn’t have to create or share content, neither get too involved with tricky questions. I was in charge of encouraging the fans to keep on playing, sharing knowledge and tricks. It didn’t sound too daunting, but I was still hesitant.
To make things easier, I was promised support from the head community manager and, better yet, there were more translators for other languages whose thematic skills were like mine. So, of course I decided to think out of the translation box and get onboard.
Something I found essential, and which also happens in transcreation, is that the client provided us with a brief including a tone of voice guide. They know what they want to sound like and it’s important to keep their brand consistent across borders and languages.
Needless to say, my favourite part of the deal was the actual translation of content and answers into Spanish, and the translation of fans’ comments into English to report back to the end client. This is when the glossaries provided came in handy for approved names related to the video games’ characters, weapons, scenarios, and so on.
Unfortunately, my role involved writing weekly reports and analysing graphs, which was my least favourite part of the deal, but I understand that the localised community management makes no sense to the client unless there are reports on what’s going on within the community so they can take action or change the course if necessary.

I must admit that the tech side of it felt overwhelming at times, especially due to the tight deadlines to learn how to use new platforms and tools. Being on Facebook’s backstage – using a business manager profile – was amazing; it gave me access to statistics, the reach of every post, etc. More powerful than the simple analytics on my website. Having access to all the comments on a single page from which I could reply, hide, and delete at will was mind-blowing, too.
By the end of the month, I felt that I had passed the test with flying colours and was comfy and confident enough with the tools. However, my confidence level regarding the actual video games wasn’t up to my standards when it comes to the content I work with, so I must admit the end of the four weeks came as a relief in that sense.
All in all, the experience was enriching and eye-opening: our language skills are needed in different fields and, as translators we are qualified to take on other roles, as long as the onboarding fills in the potential thematic or IT gaps. I would compare the experience with becoming a teacher after years sitting at a student’s desk: it’s priceless to experience ‘the other side’ to truly understand what the other’s role involves. The next time you write a comment on Twitter or Facebook about your experience with a brand, be kind. There’s a real person on the other side, and they would most likely love to help you.
So, do you offer exclusively one or two services? Do you take advantage of diversification as a way to make ends meet or spice things up a little? What’s the most unexpected role you’ve had as a linguist? Share away!

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