Adam Torres and Jill Bishop discuss creating connections.
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Multilingual Connections is a Chicago-based agency that helps companies connect across the globe in over 75 languages. In this episode, Adam Torres interviewed Jill Kushner Bishop, Founder & CEO of Multilingual Connections. Explore Multilingual Connections and how it’s helping companies connect with their customers in over 75 languages.
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About Jill Kushner Bishop
Jill is the Founder & CEO of Multilingual Connections, an Evanston-based company that helps you understand, engage and grow your multilingual audience through translation, transcription, transcreation, multimedia localization – and now multilingual research moderation! – in over 75 languages.
Her PhD in Linguistic Anthropology focused on speakers of obsolescing languages, and her work experience includes user research for Sapient, implementing language, culture and diversity training programs for 130 Chipotle Mexican Grill locations and language teaching at the high school, university and corporate levels.
Jill is committed to providing linguistically accurate and culturally nuanced language services for their clients and creating a work environment that supports and develops the talents of her team.
About Multilingual Connections
Multilingual Connections helps organizations understand, engage and grow their multilingual audience through professional translation of documents and websites, foreign language audio transcription, multimedia localization and interpretation services.
Whether you need to translate documents/websites/eLearning, transcribe interviews and focus groups, subtitle videos or ensure that face-to-face interactions are understood, their team of project managers and international linguists are here to provide professional, accurate, dependable and cost-effective services.
Full Unedited Transcript
Hey, I’d like to welcome you to another episode of Mission Matters. My name is Adam Torres, and if you’d like to apply to be a guest in the show, just head on over to mission matters.com and click on VR Guest to apply. All right, so did I have Jill Kushner, Bishop on the line and she is founder and c e o over at Multilingual Connections.
Jill, welcome to the show. Thank you so much, Adam. Happy to be here. All right, Jill. So, um, I’m excited to have you on today. I know you’re, you’re coming to us today outta Chicago. You have a Chicago based agency. I, I’m from the Midwest. I love bringing the Midwest in the show. So, uh, I’m excited to have you on and get more into multilingual connections, um, and also really how your company is helping to create global connections.
So we’ll get into that of course, but before we do, um, we’ll start this episode the way that we start them all with our mission matters minute. So, Jill, we at Mission Matters. We amplify stories for entrepreneurs, executives, and experts. That’s our mission. Jill, what mission matters to you? To me and my team at Multilingual Connections, it’s all about creating connections.
That is what we do, although that looks different for different clients. So for some people, they’re looking to create connections with a local audience. Uh, they’re a hospital or a restaurant or a non-for-profit that needs to communicate with a diverse. Audience. For others, they’re looking to grow their business globally, and so they’re looking for translation or transcription or subtitling and vo voiceover for their marketing content, uh, to be able to resonate with global audiences.
So it’s all about creating connections. Hmm. How, how, so how did you originally get into this business? Like, like what drew you to this industry? Yeah. Well, I am a linguistic anthropologist by background, so I went on to study language and culture and how people use language. And then I was lucky enough to get an opportunity at Chipotle Mexican Grill, overseeing language and culture programs for about 130 restaurants.
So about a thousand employees who are largely Spanish speaking. We are working on helping. Improve their English skills so that they could give better customer service and grow within their roles. Um, and from there it kind of sparked me, the idea of creating something on my own, building on that. And so I, I started my business 18 years ago.
Wow. Initially with a, with a plan of doing English and Spanish classes for restaurants and hotels. And then very quickly we started doing translation. A few years later, transcription, a few years later, subtitling and voiceover, and it’s just kind of evolved over time. And now we even do multilingual moderation for market research.
Wow. I wanna, I wanna stay in the early years for a little bit longer. Um, and I know you’ve been in business a long time, but I want to take you back because there’s a lot of, you know, entrepreneurs and executives and business owners that are listening, and some of them are, you know, kind of going through transition.
Some are thinking about starting a business or going the entrepreneurship route. Um, if I could take you back to the beginning, like, how was that like to go out and kind of strike out on your own and, and, uh, you know, hang your single and start the, the company? Like how was that? Does that transition. Yeah.
Daunting, scary. Um, yeah, all of, all of that. I won’t pretend it wasn’t. Yeah. Uh, you know, I looked, found a, a, a bank account we had forgotten about with $500 and I thought, okay, I’ve got 500 bucks. I’ve got a flip phone, a laptop, the yellow pages, and let’s just give it a shot. And so, um, wow. And I was lucky that my husband had a job, so that, you know, we figured let’s try for six months and see if it had legs.
And, um, so we had a backup plan, or at least some cushion. Um, but it was, um, you know, it was, it was exciting to think about what might be, uh, Professionally and personally fulfilling for me what the need in the market was, how I could create an offering, um, that would really resonate with people. Um, and with HR directors, with so many people who are, were working with multilingual speakers who are super talented employees, but they realized that, that the language barrier was really creating an obstacle for their growth.
And so, um, so it was exciting, but it was certainly not, um, all puppies and rainbows, uh, at the beginning, nor has it been in these 18 years. You know, it’s, uh, yeah, it’s a challenge. There’s always challenges that come up. Of course. And, uh, obviously hindsight’s, you know, 2020, so that, that’s a given. But if you could go back to that, um, you know, that Jill, that was just getting, getting started and just, you know, sitting there with that flip phone and like, okay, let’s do this.
Like what, what kind of things would you tell her? I. Yeah, I would say, Hey Jill, why don’t you take a business class? Might be helpful. That’s great. And then I would also, by the way, that would be my advice to the young Adam, by the way that Me too. Go ahead. Sorry. Nice. No, you, it’s the kind of thing that was just never on my mind.
Never, uh, never a thought name. Mm-hmm. Uh, but also that when. When things are telling you, when the business is telling you it’s time to pivot, don’t wait too long to pivot. And so along the road, I had opened a language school for adults and for children separate from the translation services and the B DB language training that we were doing in workplace.
And I loved it and it was so fulfilling, but it was not financially viable and. I didn’t care because I wanted to do it, and I felt like, well, the, the other services are doing okay, so I’ll just keep it going, keep it going and maybe it’ll work. Maybe it’ll work, but it wasn’t gonna work. And, and I knew that eventually.
And I finally came to terms with that and closed the language training. And for a long time I said I wouldn’t, I didn’t wanna run just a translation agency if I couldn’t see people come into my space and learn language and get. So excited about it and apply it the very next day with their family or with their neighbors or at work.
I, I didn’t wanna do it. And then I really rethought that and realized that running a great company and, and switching my, my lens of what it means to create connections and that it might not be as me immediate to me. I might not. See it or feel it, but my clients were gonna see it and feel it. And, um, and now I love it and I, I look back periodically and it kind of tugs at my heartstrings, but I know that it was right business decision and it just took a while for me to emotionally catch up to what I intellectually knew.
Hmm. Well, well thank you for sharing that cuz I, I always, um, I like for especially the, the young entrepreneurs of those that are maybe going through it right now to know they’re not alone. Uh Right. We all have our ups absolutely. Ups and downs and that’s not, uh, and I feel like the more people that come in our show are just in general create content, whatever show.
Right. Um, that, that, uh, That, uh, validates that and let people know that we’re all connected in, uh, in one way or another. It’s just, I mean, it’s just for the greater good, in my opinion, but Right. And your point, um, Adam, about, um, about being not, not being alone. I think it’s really important also to seek out other business owners at similar stages and at more advanced stages.
And those types of peer groups, whether it’s formal or informal, can be invaluable. So even if it’s a totally different business than the one you’re running, There’s so many similarities in the daily struggles and decisions, and so being able to share experience and get support can be so valuable. Yeah.
Let’s, um, let’s shift the topic just a little bit. I wanna, I wanna go a little bit further into what you’re doing over at Multilingual Connections. So, um, first off, maybe tell us a little bit more about the company. I know you mentioned some of the services and translation. Mm-hmm. But, um, but really how, how does your company help create these global connections we’re talking about?
Um, Sure. So we support over 75 languages. We are about 25 people. We are originally, um, headquartered in Chicago and our headquarters are still there, but they’re just fewer heads in the quarters. We have, uh, um, most of our people are located outside the world, so we’ve got a bun up in Turkey, in Egypt, South Korea, Guatemala, um, Mexico, you know, other.
Other, um, regions around the world. And that has been great for finding the best people, um, and not just the best people that happen to work in Chicago. Um, we’ve got a lot of internal language and cultural expertise and just a diversity of backgrounds and experiences that have really made us a stronger company.
Um, but we offer a variety of different services. So, um, the most. Typical is a translation. So somebody contacts us and they have an employee handbook or a website or marketing materials that need to be translated from English, for example, into, um, you know, maybe five languages or maybe just one language.
And so we do the translation of, of that type of written documentation. We do audio and video transcription of, um, everything from focus groups and interviews to jail, phone calls and wiretaps. Um, then we do voiceover and subtitling of video con content, e-learning modules, documentary footage. Um, and I mentioned that we started doing, um, bilingual moderations.
So we work with a lot of market research and user research companies, and so we have experienced researchers that are fluent in other languages that can facilitate a focus group or help with a research project, not just from the language perspective, from, but from the cultural perspective as well. So it’s really, every day is totally different and each client comes to us with, with very different needs, but a similar end goal in mind.
So when we talk about, I don’t wanna assume, cause I’ve, I’ve never used a translation service maybe one day. I mean, we published a lot of books. We’ve, um, uh, for our, especially our business leaders book series, we’ve published over 300 authors and I’ve always like, amazing contemplated, um, you know, what does it look like to translate a book or something else.
So I guess broadly speaking, like what’s the difference between a translator and a, and a, like just somebody who’s bilingual, like how does that play out? Yeah, it’s a really good question, and we, we have that question a lot. And so obviously to be a translator, you need to be bilingual, but just because you’re bilingual doesn’t mean you’re qualified to be a translator.
Mm-hmm. And so translators, um, are, it’s, it’s a, it’s a skill. It’s something that people study and, and do for years and years to really hone their craft. And so it’s not just about knowing the one for one correlation between one word and one language and one and the other. It’s being able to render it in a way that.
Is both linguistically and culturally resonant with the audience When something’s translated, you want it to sound like it was originally written in that target language and not that it was kind of an awkward force fitting of some content. Um, you know, in English we use a lot of sports metaphors and.
Obviously when you’re translating those sports metaphors are not gonna work, and so coming up with something that’s different, um, but it’s also being, uh, a good writer knowing the different orthographic norms We had, um, we were doing Spanish translations for a company here in Chicago and we got feedback from, from the client that everything was great, but we forgot to capitalize the days of the weeks and the month.
In Spanish. And so they just fixed it and now it’s fine. And what they didn’t know is that their internal person that told them that, didn’t know that in, in Spanish, you don’t capitalize the days of the week and the months. And so if you’re not familiar with the way that the language is written and you haven’t been educated in that country, you don’t know.
Um, you don’t know what you don’t know. And then on the other hand, with the way that things are changing so quickly and language is constantly evolving, think about what the way that 16 year olds talk now versus. Somebody my age, um, who’s not 16 anymore. Um, language is changing all the time, and you wanna make sure that whoever’s translating has their finger on the pulse of language and how, how people actually are using language, um, especially around, um, topics like gender inclusiveness.
How do you, how do you. Translate that from one language to another, that’s gonna be appropriate for that audience. And so there’s a lot of experience and skill that goes into translating. So some native speakers can do a great job doing that, but they but it, but not all native speakers can. So that’s the, that’s really the difference, if that makes sense.
It does. And as I mentioned earlier, so a lot, a lot of business owners, a lot of executives listen to this call, and I know some of them have just like myself, been, their interest has been peaked in terms of like, Hey, you know, we’ve always thought about like, what does it look like to maybe have some of our content or some of our materials in another language, um, for businesses looking to expand globally, like how, how do you kind of recommend they, they address the, the language piece of it?
Sure. So it’s, it’s often challenging when they’ve, people often feel, um, kind of overwhelmed, like, you know, there’s too many items on the menu. They don’t know what they’re hungry for. They can’t choose. So if they’ve got multiple languages or multiple regions they’re working in, they’ve got all kinds of materials and they don’t even know where to start.
And so sometimes it makes sense to do it all, but oftentimes it just makes sense to prioritize and think, what’s the number one market that you really wanna. Start with, so pick one region. Cause it’s, there’s a lot of learning that happens along the way in, in this process. Um, even if on the translation side, that’s, that’s kind of the easy part.
It’s the, the workflows and what happens after the translation on, on the client side. So pick one region that you wanna translate into, and then pick some of your highest priority, most visible content that you wanna focus on. And let’s start with that and get the experience. Try to figure out, okay, yeah, we translated this document, but.
Do you have desktop publishing? You know, or do you want us to do that? How are you gonna get it out there? Do you need people who speak the language on your side so that you know if you’ve got, you’ve got it all translated, but what if somebody reads it and then contacts you and nobody in your company speaks the language to them?
Do the customer service or the sales. So you wanna kind of think through all the different. Steps in that process. Um, but I think starting small makes sense. Um, prove some roi, get your experience with it, and then gradually roll it out. I, you know, I never want people to feel like they have to do it all at once.
It’s, that’s not always the best, um, option. Even if ultimately they, their goal will be to have everything in, you know, five or seven languages. Hmm. Yeah, that’s, that’s really helpful. And I think what you said about like, the menu of options or how many things they wanna do and like all of this piece of it, like that, that can be overwhelming.
Mm-hmm. I can see that. But it seems, it sounds to me though, like if you’re working with, you know, the right company and if you’re working with somebody that maybe has been through this, um, that it’s becomes a little bit more like, like manageable. Like, can you maybe speak a little bit on like what it’s like to.
Work through, work with your company and kind of like through that process. Cause I’m guessing that’s part of what you’re advising clients on is kind of not just like I send it to ’em and okay, it’s done. But maybe some of those that haven’t done it, like I’m guessing that’s probably a pretty good market for you as well, considering your Absolutely.
Experience. 18 years in the business. I mean, yeah, no, you’re absolutely right. And it’s kind of like. You know, remodeling your kitchen. You can find somebody to do the tile and do the cabinets and do the paint and all of that, but there’s risk. You don’t know how to evaluate quality. You want somebody, it’s somebody’s full-time job.
They’re gonna get done. Yeah, exactly. And in the right order. And so, you know, there are freelance linguists available and you can use machine translation to some degree to help get you part of the way. But, but those are decisions that we, that if you don’t know, if you don’t know this business, you have to be really careful cuz you can make some really serious mistakes.
And so for us, we start by evaluating the content, understanding what, um, what the goals of the project are, what are, what’s your tone? Do you have any style guides? Do you have any glossaries, any kind of consistency? Do you have anything going in that you want us to keep in mind? Then we’re gonna think about who is the, who is the right linguist for this is who has the native language, the regional, um, language.
Mm-hmm. So Spanish for Spain versus Latin America, for example, who has the industry expertise? So if you’re doing marketing versus medical or technical, those would likely be three different translators. And so, and then what kind of, um, technology, what kind of computer assist? The translation tools, um, are necessary to help ensure that, um, there’s consistency and efficiency across the process.
And that’s not machine translation, it’s just, it’s translation, productivity tools. Um, and then who’s gonna edit the translation to make sure that it’s accurate and. And that it’s, um, proofed and polished. So you want two sets of eyes on this, and then is everything formatted and then sending it back? And then if there is feedback, how do we incorporate the feedback and track it?
And so there are many, many, many steps along the way. And so that’s, that’s what we help usher people through that process and help them know what to expect and, um, give us as many, as much as possible from the get go so that we can ensure that what they get in return fits exactly what their needs are.
Yeah. That’s great. Well, Jill, I’ll, I’ll tell you, it has been great having you on the show today. And, uh, what, what a, what a wonderful story of, you know, starting in, at your, at your kitchen table with the flip phone and the, and the phone book and figuring it out and to going to pivoting to like, it’s, it’s just, uh, to now, you know, 75, um, different languages, I believe you said.
Yeah. Um, and, and a full array of. Of capabilities that are really helping many businesses out there connect globally and to get their content out, to get their reach out, and to really just do it the way it’s supposed to be done. So, great having you on. And um, Joe, that being said, if somebody’s listening and they want more information or to connect with you and your team, um, what’s the best way for them to do that?
Yeah. Thank you for, first of all, thank you so much. I really enjoyed the conversation. And if anybody has any questions or wants to talk about a potential project, you can find us at multilingual connections com. Fantastic, and my team will put all that information, um, put the, put the website address and all that good stuff in the show notes so that our audience can just click on the link and head right on over and speak into the audience.
If this is your first time with Mission Matters or engaging or listening to an episode, Well, about bringing on business owners, entrepreneurs and executives, and having them share their mission, the reason behind their mission, really, you know, what gets them up in the morning, gets ’em fired up to go out there and to make a difference.
Uh, if that’s the type of content that sounds interesting or fun or exciting to you, we welcome you Hit that subscribe button because we have many more mission-based individuals coming up on the line, and we don’t want you to miss a thing. And Jill, really, again, it has been a pleasure. Until the next time, thanks again.
Thank you so much, Adam. Take care.