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Hi everyone,

my name is Marcel Goya. I’m the CEO of a company called LinguSocial. We are currently working on an online workplace / community for remote interpreters which is similar to oDesk / Upwork but specifically tailored to remote interpreters.

Our platform lets you do video / voice chats, voice calls to landlines & mobiles and instant messaging with real-time automatic translation from within your browser, landline or smartphone.

We have 4 different pricing tiers for the interpreters. They are going to earn the following figures based on their skill set:

  • Beginner: $31.20 per hour
  • Advanced: $63.00 per hour
  • Professional: $84.00 per hour
  • Volunteer: Free

Nonprofits / Charities will be getting the interpretation service for free. It's up to the interpreter if they want to work voluntarily.

I am currently in the process of making connections with interpreters & businesses / nonprofits because we are doing a private beta by the end of July. The marketplace will go live in September.

I am also in the process of building an online training center for the interpreters with the help of a major institute.

The reason why I’m reaching out to you is because we need your feedback about our concept and I am also looking for interpreters who are interested in participating in our private beta in July.

Here the link with more information about us and the online workplace:

www.lingusocial.com

www.lingusocial.com/interpreters

Many thanks,

Marcel

asked 19 Jun '15, 06:50

lingusocial's gravatar image

lingusocial
11114

edited 19 Jun '15, 06:52

Hi Gaspar,

thanks for your input and for reminding of Babelverse :) The service Babelverse offers is completely different to what we do. For example, we focus on voice calls & video chats and they focus on conference interpreting.

Below the reasons why I think we are different:

  • Our key focus is to provide professional interpreters and the ones who started working in the industry with quality work. That's the reason why we are putting the focus on getting businesses and nonprofits to use our platform because they have to rely on real professionals

  • The average Joe won't be paying $2.00 per minute for a professional anyway. They are more likely to pay for using our machine translation feature which costs 19 dollar cents per min or people who do the job for fun (beginner)

  • The professionals will be able to earn $84.00 per hour. I disagree that its peanuts compared to the 12-20 bucks they earn with LanguageLine and co

  • We are also working on a training center and we are in touch with several language institutes, so that we can provide the best quality training to the interpreters for free

  • And finally we are going to offer a community site where the interpreters can talk about their experience, best practices etc.

(19 Jun '15, 07:14) lingusocial

Hi Marcel,

I wanted to reply to your comment on $84 being a lot of money more in detail.

Yes, it is a lot if you are working for a company, and make it hour after hour, day after day. If you work 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year (since it's an hourly payment, there is no chance of vacation - or overtime - pay), that would be $168,000/year. I would certainly be happy with that income!

But you forget two things: the first is that you can't interpret every single minute of your 8 hours working. Let's say that you get businesspeople (because at $84/hr it won't be your average Joe with a social conversation paying) who need a conversation to move a contract negotiation along. I would need the time to at least jot down the name, hear some of the background to the issue, do some preparation. I presume that the platform is set up to give me this information? Do you pay me for the preparation time? Probably not.

So, it looks like the $84/hour - which in reality is $1.40/minute as it states on your site - is paying for my preparation time, my overhead (the computer and hardware I had to buy to work for you, as well as my rent and utilities costs for the silent space I am working from), my health insurance, my accountant's services, my taxes, my administration time, and my rest time. And, as Andy says, we don't get 8 hours of work from your platform - we get a few minutes each hour (if we're lucky!), unless we are one of the fortunate ones to be on call with you 40 hours a week.

The second thing is, quite frankly, we cannot physically work for 8 hours interpreting. Even were I to do an entire day of consecutive interpreting, as I've said in another post, my schedule would give me 2 1/2 hours break in 8 hours of work, just to be able to do a high quality job. But on day 5 I would probably need more time off, as I would be exhausted, so a lot fewer minutes @ $1.40. Interpreting is a hugely demanding job, and requires enormous amounts of stamina if one works constantly - it can be compared to high-level sport. Does Roger Federer play another match as soon as he's finished the first one, if that first one didn't last 8 hours? Ok, I am not Federer, but that is the level of concentration and commitment to my work that I bring to give a high quality result.

Moreover, I cannot but support what Camille and Andy say about the underlying assumptions that your business model makes of our profession (that we unfortunately also contribute to). I spent two years training full time, plus another two years minimum in the countries of each of my languages, to be able to do the job that I do, even as a beginner. How would your customer know the difference between your advanced and professional levels? How could s/he differentiate? Understand what I offer vs what someone (maybe gifted but) untrained offers? And were I a client, I would worry about what gets discussed on the interpreter forum on your site - after all, confidentiality is at the heart of our business model.

I have worked as a remote interpreter (as your platform presents it, since remote interpreting also means conference interpreting in a booth not in the same room as the speaker) in many different contexts, for telephonic interpreting companies, for agencies, for the US government. I have done insurance calls, court interpreting, negotiations, relationship management calls, and highly technical scientific calls. They all paid differently - when for the government I received a full day's pay, as they were paying for my preparation time as well. When for the court, I received a half-day's pay. When for agencies, I was paid per hour approximately what you offer, with the minimum being one hour's pay, and the full second hour kicking in after 75 minutes. When for Language Line and their counterparts, much less than what you are offering, so yes, your rate is highly competitive in your niche of telephonic interpreting companies.

You let us know about your company to recruit interpreters for your beta - I am sure you have attracted some interpreters through this post and the thread who haven't seen fit to reply here. You also asked for our opinions on the venture, and several of us have given them. Here I have to agree with Gaspar, in that we have asked legitimate questions based on your website's promises and information (or lack thereof), and instead of answering them, or getting your marketing person (rather than a senior software developer, as you call yourself) to do so, you just get upset. After asking for our opinions, you should not now get upset merely because you don't like the answers.

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answered 24 Jun '15, 07:16

JuliaP's gravatar image

JuliaP
2.9k249

Hi Marcel, a follow-up question regarding those $84 per hour, still assuming we're comparing the same kind of work and working conditions, from a business and sales point of view: How can you manage to pay four times more than your competitors? Are you selling at a higher price or making a smaller cut, or both? Anything else that might explain your financial ability to pay more? Will the pay remain at least as high in the long run as it is announced right now?

(30 Jun '15, 04:33) Gáspár ♦

Hi Marcel,

what you're suggesting is exactly the same as Babelverse, which has been discussed at length, see here: http://interpreting.info/questions/1619/babelverse-remote-interpreting-your-thoughts

In a nutshell, if you're aiming at the conference interpreting segment, quality service providers aren't interested because:

a) it pays peanuts

b) you'll only get monkeys and poor quality

c) going low-cost for the aforementioned reasons it gives our profession a bad name, and we can't be sustainable if we aren't a top notch added value.

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answered 19 Jun '15, 06:54

G%C3%A1sp%C3%A1r's gravatar image

Gáspár ♦
6.5k141829

edited 19 Jun '15, 06:56

Dear Marcel,

I had a look at your website and, from what I understood, interpreters in the categories "Beginner" and "Advanced" are not professional interpreters but people who would first work for free to gain some “experience” before they can qualify for the "Advanced" category.

Even though I really appreciate your decision to ask professional interpreters for their opinion, I don't think you realize what you are implying, otherwise you probably wouldn't be asking.

You're asking us, professional interpreters, what we think about a company who gives our job to non-professionals, paying them peanuts, claiming you can train them for free, while most of us had to go through a long and expensive training? Ultimately you're claiming that our job can be done by anyone.

You're asking us if we want to be associated with a company who undermines the reputation of our profession by giving the client the impression that he pays for professional interpreters while half of the time he does not. Or will you give the client the choice between a professional and a non-professional interpreter?

As Gaspar said, with that offer, you will most probably only attract non-professional interpreters and clients who don't care about quality. Not exactly the kind of companies I would want to work for.

I am also surprised by the fact that you claim giving professional interpreters “quality work”. Remote interpreting is not quality work and should only be the exception and not the rule. I also don't think that getting paid by the minute is considered as quality work.

It seems that the main issue is your failure to see our profession as a real one, which requires a real training and expertise. Let me point out that, even if we love our job, as professional beginners, we don't “do the job for fun” (read "for free"), as you claim.

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answered 22 Jun '15, 05:27

Camille%20Collard's gravatar image

Camille Collard
8939

edited 22 Jun '15, 08:04

I agree with most of what Gaspar and Camille have said here. But let me add two new points...

1) I don't think it's necessarily only Marcel that "fails to see our profession as a real one". The whole world seems to agree on that point unfortunately and the internet is awash with free or very cheap translations and that means lots of derisory rates offers for interpreting work. The profession has a problem - how to differentiate between what is worth paying for and what is not.

2) Imagine any other profession of independent freelance professionals - for example a painter & decorator, an computer/software repair man, or a lawyer. If you had a problem that needed solving by any of these professionals would you really want a "volunteer" or a "beginner" doing it just because they are cheaper? The answer might be 'yes' when it doesn't really matter too much. So you get your neighbour's kid to paint your shed for 10 bucks or sort out your problem with Skype. But if you want the inside of your house painted (or the office you receive customers in), or you've accidentally deleted all the photos you've ever taken of your kids, then you're going to want a professional to come in and do it. The same is true of translation and interpreting.

Platforms like yours offer lots of the bottom end solutions but don't make, or pay for, the distinction between that and the top end product. If I were a business, looking to have important conversations interpreted I would be worried about using your service. Firstly, as said above because the way interpreters move up your grading system is hardly a guarantee in a profession where long and difficult training is required, but secondly because what does the customer think of a graded service like yours (beginners or advanced levels). I mean, can you grade interpreting ? It's either right or it's not isn't it?

It's too early to tell, but my feeling is that these platforms will not get repeat customers from business, which you'll need to make money, because the quality will be very poor. And secondly you won't find interpreters who stay with your scheme, because the pay is so low. So you will have a continuous turn-over of non-interpreters churning out poor interpreting to unwitting amateur customers who don't come back once they realise that the product is not worth the money they paid. That might make you some money, but from our point of view - people who love languages, and their work - it's a terrible idea.

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answered 23 Jun '15, 06:58

Andy's gravatar image

Andy
6.7k212738

Our key focus is to provide professional interpreters and the ones who started working in the industry with quality work. That's the reason why we are putting the focus on getting businesses and nonprofits to use our platform because they have to rely on real professionals

Babelverse claims to do the same, even if they want to provide conference interpretation as well. And they seem to struggle with their client and provider acquisition for all types of interpreting.

The average Joe won't be paying $2.00 per minute for a professional anyway. They are more likely to pay for using our machine translation feature which costs 19 dollar cents per min or people who do the job for fun (beginner)

If I were the average Joe, I probably would use (or at least try once or twice) the very much advertised and free Skype/Microsoft gizmo speech recognition and live translation tool rather than pay to have a polite chat with my Korean or Swedish in-laws. But I probably wouldn't pay for the service, because the average Joe simply doesn't have a regular need for such a service and hence will be happy to use anything that is free and of poor quality.

In a nutshell, I don't see a real demand for what you want to supply. And I'm not sure either that you'll be able to supply. Users expect a 24/7 availability of your service. How many happy-to-work-for-free-because-it's-fun beginners will you have online around to clock to work from and into all languages you wish to cover? Here again, if I were to try to use your service, should the service not able to cover my needs when I want to use it, I won't come back and try again.

The professionals will be able to earn $84.00 per hour. I disagree that its peanuts compared to the 12-20 bucks they earn with LanguageLine and co

If you're paying over four times more for the same job, working conditions, quality and workload, all the better. I only work in the conference segment in Europe, so I wouldn't be able to elaborate and compare what you offer and what is standard in the remote industry in the US.

We are also working on a training center and we are in touch with several language institutes, so that we can provide the best quality training to the interpreters for free

From an European perspective, that sounds a bit odd. Like asking a cello player to teach piano. Formal interpreter training already exists, in the US as well, so I'm not sure what added value language institutes could bring. Who would train? How long would the training be? How would you select the people to be trained? How would it be for free (would you be paying for it)?

And finally we are going to offer a community site where the interpreters can talk about their experience, best practices etc.

Sounds nice, but I don't know a single professional who'd like to talk about his work on his client's platform. And we already have many established places to exchange.

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answered 22 Jun '15, 06:29

G%C3%A1sp%C3%A1r's gravatar image

Gáspár ♦
6.5k141829

edited 22 Jun '15, 10:43

Thanks for your answers.

I don't know in what kind of world you're living in but for me $84 for an hour of work is A LOT, even for a senior software developer like myself!

It seems to me that you guys have never worked as a telephone or VRI interpreter, so I therefore assume that you don't know what it means to work for REAL peanuts.

I'd also suggest that you read the content we have put on our website again, because your criticism about low pay and giving jobs to non-professionals is totally unjustified and absolutely misleading.

I have spoken to several dozen remote interpreters over the past couple of months and I know exactly what their biggest problems are:

  • Low pay ($10-15 per hour)
  • Working in sweat shop like conditions
  • Feeling isolated
  • No freedom to choose when and who they want to work for

And we are going to change that with our platform!

@Camille You're absolutely wrong! I'd suggest that you read the information we have provided again because we pay ALL people who interpret on our platform.

The beginners have to go through an initial training program because we have to teach them basics about working as an interpreter and also provide them with the tools so that they can feel confident enough to start working as a remote interpreter. They ONLY have to work the first our for free. it's a safe guard for both parties, so that the interpreter can see if this is something they'd like to do and also for us to see that they are serious. After that they will be paid by the minute.

Advanced people might not be accredited but they have working experience in the industry.

Professional is for people who accredited and also have enough working experience.

I also don't appreciate the way you attacked me and the level of arrogance you are showing towards remote interpreters, especially from a person who herself only worked in this profession for less than a year!

@Andy Yes, you can grade interpreting based on experience. Thats the way it works in all other professions.

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answered 23 Jun '15, 07:55

lingusocial's gravatar image

lingusocial
11114

3

I don't know in what kind of world you're living in but for me $84 for an hour of work is A LOT, even for a senior software developer like myself!

In your case, is your client only paying you for the seconds during which your fingers are actually hitting they keys of your keyboard, or are you billing entire hours? That might make a difference. In that sense, $84 an hour is misleading, unless you pay an entire hour for each hour started.

your criticism about giving jobs to non-professionals is totally unjustified

It is my understanding that you bill a service and pay untrained people to provide the said service. Isn't that giving jobs to non-professionals?

The beginners have to go through an initial training program because we have to teach them basics about working as an interpreter and also provide them with the tools so that they can feel confident enough to start working as a remote interpreter.

Who is we? How long is the training? What expertise does we have in interpreter training?

They ONLY have to work the first our for free. it's a safe guard for both parties, so that the interpreter can see if this is something they'd like to do and also for us to see that they are serious.

Wouldn't the quality training you're providing suffice to assess the capacities and expectations of the people you want to work with? Or does this mean that your training doesn't allow to make sure about the quality of the people you bring on board and that you aren't sure of what you'll be actually delivering to your paying customers? Do your customers get their first hour for free (just as a safe guard for all parties), or will you be cashing money while not paying the person who actually does the job at that stage yet?

you can grade interpreting based on experience.

If the guy mistranslated something during my business meeting, since I hired him, its safe to assume that I'm monolingual and won't notice.

(23 Jun '15, 08:05) Gáspár ♦

It's all written in the article above. If you don't like our service that's fair enough

(23 Jun '15, 08:23) lingusocial

Dear Marcel, I don't think you can accuse me of being "absolutely wrong" when I said that the beginners first have to work for free since they actually have to work the first hour for free. I agree with Gaspar's comment on that matter.

I understand that you don't want to pay untrained interpreters the same amount as trained professionals but they will be doing the exact same job. As Andy explained, interpreting is delivering a message, if the message is wrong, the interpretation is worthless. So the beginners will have to deliver the same quality as the professionals. How can you then justify paying them less than half the rate for the same job?

And again, you have not responded: will the client know whether he is dealing with a beginner or a professional? And will he be paying less for a beginner?

Moreover I don't think that I am attacking remote interpreters by saying that their working conditions are more difficult than those of conference interpreters.

Indeed, I have never worked as a remote interpreter. But you have asked for opinions and you did not mention that you only wanted the opinion of remote interpreters. I have given you the opinion of a young conference interpreter, your choice to take it or not.

(23 Jun '15, 08:55) Camille Collard
4

Hi Marcel,

it's not about not liking your idea, it's about questions remaining unanswered and the feeling that you're not really here to discuss your business idea, rather than try to advertise it, but without wanting to hear what the interpreters think.

As I know all contributors who have replied so far, I can assure you that none of us thinks less of colleagues working remote, public service, medical, court, etc.

Camille, Andy and myself are first and foremost conference interpreters, but that doesn't make our questions invalid, as we are also entrepreneurs and are trying to understand your business idea and to give our two cents, as we might think that we know a thing or two about (all types of) interpreting.

Unfortunately, I can't find any answers to who is training, what the training entails, how long it lasts, how you finally award your internal certification, what experience you have in the field.

All I can read is pretty vague:

We want to give you the best training possible, so that you can provide your customers with the best service possible. That is the reason why we are currently developing a training platform. The trainings will be suggested and reviewed by senior members of the community and members of our team.

What are senior members of the community? How many qualified interpreter trainers do you have on board? Who are the members of your team and what is their professional experience (if any) in the field of interpreter training?

Neither do you tell whether your clients will get freebies or not while you're not paying your providers at first.

It's a bit unfortunate, because you seem not to want to answer these pretty standard questions any colleague of the industry might ask, without having the intent of attacking you. We just want to know what the idea is all about. And if you keep referring to the website without answering, it gives the impression that you're defensive and don't see us as prospective business partners.

(23 Jun '15, 08:56) Gáspár ♦
5

Just a quick point I didn't make clear enough.. Yes "$84 for an hour" is a decent wage per hour. But you are not offering 8 hours work per day. What about all the interpreters that only get 1 hour's work per day but have to sit by the phone all day in hope of more? Even if you did have work for them all day just in practical terms they could't work 9-10 and then 10-11 etc. It doesn't work in practical terms. And what about preparation?

It's also not great for you as a recruiter because any sensible interpreter will accept your offer of a 1 hour interpreting call, and then drop it as soon as they get a better offer, for example a 1/2 day meeting for $200 or $300. So you'll have more logistics to do because you'll be replacing a lot of people last minute.

(23 Jun '15, 09:35) Andy
3

I certainly don't look down on remote interpreters. However, I don't like the fact that they are, and allow themselves to be, exploited. (And that is a general remark, not specifically aimed at your platform). And I don't like that some of them aren't trained.
When the technical conditions are good enough, and when the market can offer 84USD for 20-30 hours work per week then I, and many over-travelled interpreters, will be more than happy to work at home on your platform or any other.

(23 Jun '15, 09:42) Andy

Another thing you've just found out the hard way Marcel, is that this Q&A is overwhelming populated by conference interpreters. With current pay rates and technical specs, at least in Europe, remote interpreting is very much an unattractive option to us. If you asked people already involved in remote interpreting they might be more positive.

(23 Jun '15, 09:56) Andy

Just to underline that there are others trying to do the same as you have a look at this Q on this same site http://interpreting.info/questions/4152/vos-avis-sur-une-startup-de-tele-interpretation-de-conference

"La plateforme réinvente totalement l'approche traditionnelle puisqu'elle permet à l'interprète de travailler de chez lui en facturant à l'heure, et au client de n'avoir aucun investissement matériel à réaliser puisque les spectateurs écoutent la conférence via leur smartphone" Google Translate gives the following "The platform completely reinvents the traditional approach as it allows the interpreter to work from home by charging by the hour, and the client to have no material investment to achieve since the audience listen to the conference via their smartphone"

(23 Jun '15, 10:02) Andy
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question asked: 19 Jun '15, 06:50

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last updated: 30 Jun '15, 04:33

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