By Anna Schlegel
Founded by Dagmar Dolatschko in San Carlos, California in 1991, NCTA Corporate Member Peritus Precision Translations (peritustranslations.com) offers a full range of language and globalization services including translation, interpretation, software localization, linguistic quality assurance, and international brand name analysis. A native of Germany, Dagmar is certified as a translator by the Bavarian Ministry for Education and Culture, and has a graduate degree from the highly accredited European language institute “Sprachen- und Dolmetscher-Institut,” in Munich.
How did your business get its start?
DAGMAR DOLATSCHKO: Peritus began as an “international trade consulting side business” in 1991, although it has since evolved into a focused translation agency. Originally, it was the outcome of my work in export/import and the desire to start something of my own after obtaining my MBA. It was called Peritus International at the time and, strangely enough, was founded in San Carlos, CA, where we landed again in 1999, after having been in Massachusetts for some time. In the first year of our new agency, in 1996, I had already won a few projects that required up to seven languages. Today that number is at 70 languages, with about 50 percent of our business coming from California, and the rest from all over the U.S. and some from Europe.
What languages do you deal with the most?
The majority of our work is in the standard business languages, such as French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. This is probably true for most agencies, and is determined by economic need for those languages. But we also work in Nordic and Eastern European languages, as well as Vietnamese, Russian, Khmer and Lao.
What does the name of your translation agency stand for?
Peritus is Latin; it describes a person who helps others with their knowledge; an expert, a qualified professional. That was fitting for the image I want the firm to portray.
Describe your ideal translator.
My ideal translator is solid in two or three languages. He or she either studied the languages and/or lived in countries where those languages are spoken. This translator truly knows his or her mother tongue, is specialized in a number of related fields, and has the professionalism to say no to work in areas that he or she does not feel fully comfortable in.
We use quite a lot of translators who are excellent examples of what I expect of our profession. Besides the professional, linguistic background and experience, I am also looking for certain characteristics such as great attention to detail, commitment to quality, flexibility, willingness to follow instructions, technical capability to use today’s software as necessary, willingness to accept feedback to learn and grow, and the ability to work on a team with an editor or other translators (on large projects).
Describe your ideal interpreter.
My ideal interpreter meets criteria similar to the translator’s from a linguistic and professional background. But the best interpreters also have quite a few years of experience, have diplomacy and sensitivity, can adapt easily to change, and always come across as true professionals. A translator can often hide behind the computer and has more time to figure things out. An interpreter is on stage and needs to perform the way an actor performs. Another aspect I find very important for both translators and interpreters is the willingness to speak up if you find errors or oversights in the source language. This is more the case for translators—interpreters have to handle such issues with great tact. This shows that the translator is really engaged and has thought about the work and did not just mechanically translate the text.
What are your current challenges?
Client education—making sure clients understand why there is a certain price for good work and at the same time dealing with the ever-increasing price pressures from low-cost translation vendors, both in the U.S. and overseas. That is probably the biggest challenge. It makes it hard for all of us professionals, to see the low price at which the art of translation is traded in some circles.
Where do you see the translation business in 10 years?
I see more and more mergers and acquisitions. The big fish will get bigger. The small fish will have to find their niches and diversify or specialize. Using tools such as MT can no longer be avoided and will be an important part of the survival of the fittest. I don’t think that machine translation will be a challenge to high-end, high quality translation, however. There is no substitute for the subtleties of the human mind.