ForeignExchange translates Web for world

LOUISVILLE – Web sites that speak only one language are dead in the seven seas. And those that speak more than one language don’t want to get lost in the translation as they charge into the world marketplace via the Internet.

English is the language used most on the Internet, and Japanese is the second-most popular, with more than 19 million users. Companies from Yahoo! to IBM to Land’s End have all deployed Web sites with Japanese as an option.

Companies trying to grow their shares of the world market are compelled to offer Web sites in multiple languages, ranging from Arabic to Vietnamese. But it’s no easy task, and while many companies maintain Web sites in-house, they’ll hire someone else to handle translations.

ForeignExchange Translations Inc., headquartered in Providence, R.I., has opened an operations center in Louisville where it will translate Web site and software content into 32 languages. It’s competing against a half dozen companies in the Denver/Boulder area that provide the same service.

The center is in a 1,000-square-foot suite at Christopher Village, 1017 S. Boulder Road. Sonia Monahan, vice president of operations at ForeignExchange, is one of three employees in the office now, but she expects to employ about 20 project managers, engineers, product specialists and translators within the year, and 50 more within two years. “The potential market is huge,” she said. About 12 employees of the 2-year-old corporation, including founder Andres Heuberger, handle the financial, marketing and administrative tasks in Providence.

Companies like ForeignExchange offer their clients expertise in what is called “localizing” a Web site – understanding cultural preferences, date formats, currency, slang and even the bandwidth capabilities of the intended audience. “Viewers won’t spend much time at a Web site that doesn’t fit their culture,” Monahan said.

Monahan has eight years of experience in the localization industry. She left competitor Lionbridge Technologies, which has offices in Europe, Asia and North America, including Boulder. At ForeignExchange, she’ll manage the company’s major accounts, as well as its project-management and production teams.

ForeignExchange chose Louisville for its operation center because it provides access to technical talent in Denver, Boulder and Longmont, and is an ideal base from which to support clients on the West Coast, Monahan said.

ForeignExchange’s clients include Fortune 500 companies H&R Block, Guidant, Beckman Coulter and Victoria’s Secret. Tax-return kingpin H&R Block wants its Web site to be available in Spanish as well as English, targeting the Spanish-speaking taxpayer working in America. Medical equipment and supply companies Guidant, Beckman Coulter and Medrad have all asked ForeignExchange to help them overcome the language barrier.

Monahan said ForeignExchange’s client list includes businesses in the telecommunications, financial and automotive industries, as well. “We support companies that require precise translations and a Web site that accurately conveys a target country’s culture,” she said.

The operations center in Louisville taps the globe for its translators. ForeignExchange maintains a database of about 1,200 translators who are hired on a contract-basis – generally 5 cents to 15 cents per word – and who live throughout the world. “We prefer to use an in-country translator and editor,” Monahan said. “It goes a long way toward eliminating errors and making sure the content is culturally correct.”

Translation services are based on the company’s Multilingual Compliance Process, which produces translated products. A feedback system provides businesses with a way to check the effectiveness and correctness of the translations.