Christiane Bernier Takes a Global Perspective

By Anna Schlegel

Christiane Bernier is a Senior Globalization Consultant with Merrill Corporation in San Francisco. She started her career at small, regional translation companies in the Midwest, and came to the Bay Area in 1998, where she managed the San Francisco operations of Lionbridge Technologies, a worldwide provider of globalization and testing services. She can be contacted at Christiane_Bernier@yahoo.com.

Did you grow up speaking different languages?

CHRISTIANE BERNIER: Yes, I grew up with different languages with a French-speaking Canadian father and an English-speaking Canadian mother. My mother was very much of a Francophile, and she insisted we speak only French at home. I remember her still taking French classes, when I was little, and I recall correcting her on the gender of nouns and on verb forms. This was not surprising then, but now, I think how odd that my mother tongue is not my own mother’s mother tongue! Needless to say, I developed an awareness of language very early on, and was curious about different languages and cultures. The language bug had bit me in a way that would not become clear until later on.

How did you get started in the globalization field?

I took translation courses at University and did some freelance translation work throughout my studies. I was nearing the end of my Ph.D. studies and the job prospects in academia being very poor, I jumped at an opportunity to work inhouse at a small translation services company within a larger advertising agency in Minneapolis. That was in 1993. I started realizing then that I liked the management of translation projects, and this is how my career started. A couple of years later, I moved over to another company, and ended up managing their large inhouse team of linguists. I found I enjoyed managing teams of people. In 1998, I moved to San Francisco and joined DLC, then about to be acquired by International Communications, itself acquired a year later by Lionbridge .

From a globalization perspective, what is the importance of Silicon Valley?

Silicon Valley is still one of the most important centers of globalization activity worldwide. It continues to create lots of opportunities and drive innovation in our industry. Certainly, what has happened is that localization, the tools, the processes, but especially the talent, have matured over the last few years. This, together with the new financial performance and profitability standards companies are being held accountable for, has meant that translation and localization budgets are scrutinized much more carefully, and buyers of these services, who are much savvier now, expect more for less.

What globalization challenges do corporations face today?

Continuing challenges, in addition to the financial performance standards that shareholders are holding companies accountable for, include whether to integrate and migrate to a single platform for multilingual content or keep English and the rest of the world languages in separate systems.

As well, multilingual service providers today need to evolve their offerings to the new realities: mature localization talent on the client side, but also maturing tools, technologies, and processes. But at the core as always—probably more so today than in the past—are high quality translations.
Information technology has evolved and now easily supports many, many languages. Tools now work with ever-increasing formats. Standards like XML are gaining wide adoption fast, and are removing a lot of the problems service providers solved in the past of English-centric formats. Content Management Systems are providing authoring platforms with built-in text recycling, reducing the amount of text needing to be (re)translated. Multilingual service providers also continue to face the challenge of finding and retaining good professional (external) translators, as well as good project managers and technical staff.

This means terrific new opportunities for freelance professional translators. To be sure, the translators that will benefit from this will be the type that also enjoy some amount of project management and can work technologically and otherwise, directly with clients. Our industry continues to fascinate me at its every turn and change.

In your opinion, what makes a great globalization team?

People: you’ve got to start with good, thinking, and experienced individuals. Processes: you have to have ground rules for working together, and everyone needs to know his or her role and tasks intimately well. Tools: you have to provide the team with access to as many tools as possible. And leadership: you need to make sure the team knows where they’re going, how success will be defined, and what the stakes are for each and every team member.