The language industry in Africa is full of untapped opportunities. Kabod has ventured on a journey of identifying, documenting and highlighting inspiring stories and innovative projects from entrepreneurs, researchers and freelancers in the translation, interpretation and natural language processing communities. The final goal is to celebrate African professionals in the language industry and facilitate knowledge and experience sharing.
Ms. Ady Namaran Coulibaly is the Founder and Operations Manager of Bolingo Communications and Media Consult and Host of Africa’s LSP Podcast. Her company provides translation, interpretation and localization services for African languages. She loves Africa and is proud of being an African. She is always ready to serve her audience and deliver the best work.
Kabod: What attracts you to the language industry?
What I love about the language industry is the fact that it is the very foundation of almost all other sectors: it is at the centre of communication, language and culture. These elements are key in developing content, products and services across many sectors.
Kabod: What does localization mean to you?
Localization is the capacity to adapt one’s content, products and services to meet the needs of a particular locale. I believe localization demonstrates that a business, organisation or entity respects and has consideration for its target audience.
Kabod: How did the ideas of creating Bolingo and producing a podcast about the language services industry LSP come up?
Bolingo was established out of a desire to make use of the knowledge and skills I acquired after I was awarded a Master of Arts in Conference Interpreting from the Advanced School of Translators and Interpreters (ASTI) in Buea, Cameroon.
After Bolingo started providing language services a few years ago, we realised that there were not many spaces for engagement and interaction about language services within the African continent. This led us to produce Africa’s LSP Podcast, which is the first podcast that focuses on the language services industry in Africa. In this podcast, I have conversations with language professionals about their work, their native languages and cultures.
Kabod: What are some challenges you encountered during your career?
The challenges I have faced in my career have stemmed from my role as Operations Manager at Bolingo. A key challenge has been managing language professionals for the services we provide to clients. The professionals and teams we have worked with usually face several difficulties such as poor internet connectivity, power outages and lack of resources, which adversely affect their delivery within the given timelines on their capacity to deliver within the timelines.
Kabod: Can you share some success stories of projects involving Bolingo?
My company was contacted by an NGO to review Nigerian Pidgin English translation of media guides on misinformation. Our reviewer noticed that the quality of the translation was poor, and proposed that the original content be translated again into Nigerian Pidgin English from scratch. We agreed to the proposal after checking the quality of the translation, and proceeded to translate the content, and then had it reviewed. The client was very happy with the output. I consider this a success story because some projects might not necessarily work out as planned, so this example demonstrates some hurdles we need to overcome to facilitate client satisfaction.
Kabod: How do you market yourself and your services as an LSP?
For Bolingo, one of our primary marketing channels has been Africa’s LSP Podcast, and localization guides for African countries which we have developed and shared for free on http://www.localizationafrica.com.
Kabod: How did you get your first contract?
At Bolingo, we invest a lot in our brand identity and in delivering quality to our clients. The initial contracts that we landed at Bolingo came from people in our network (former colleagues, friends, acquaintances). This made us appreciate the importance of recommendation in our field. Specifically, the first contract we had was from an African continental organisation for which I had previously worked in a different capacity.
Kabod: What strategies do you use to increase your pool of clients while maintaining the existing ones?
To increase our pool of clients and maintain existing ones, we focus on delivering quality to our existing clients. If we do a good job, a company representative can share the good news with others in their network who need similar services, and this can enable us to get new clients.
Kabod: How can African translators position themselves to better tap opportunities in the global language industry?
Language professionals in Africa can tap opportunities in the global language industry by:
1. Being abreast with happenings in the industry. This can be achieved by reading industry news (for example, Multilingual Magazine), Language professionals can visit multilingual.com for a 1-year free digital subscription of Multilingual magazine.
2. Re-investing into their freelance business or language companies by learning about and purchasing CAT tools and other software and hardware that can enable them to improve their work.
3. Continuous professional development.
Kabod: How do you leverage technology to facilitate your work ? Do you use Computer Assisted Translation tools? Which one do you prefer and why?
I believe that knowledge about and use of CAT tools is currently indispensable to a translator’s work. At Bolingo, we use Translation Management Systems (TMS) to manage translations. Since these tools have varying features, it is best to read widely on them, and then choose a tool that is suitable.
Kabod: Do you think there is a viable market for African languages LSPs ?
Definitely, there are lots of opportunities to provide language services for indigenous African languages. However, clients are looking for companies and individuals that have a grasp of the intricacies of providing services for these languages, are reliable and can provide quality.
Kabod: What are the three top pieces of advice that you will share with a budding LSP from Africa per your experiences?
Based on Bolingo’s experience these past few years, the advice that I can share with budding LSP from Africa will be:
1. Ensure that your company’s structure is that of a fully-functioning LSP. By this, I mean that it is important to avoid doing all the work on your own, which is a trap that some company founders can fall into. Fill the key roles that are crucial in an LSP, such as project management, business development etc. Initially, it might be a challenge because the returns might not happen quickly, but it is an investment that is worth it, from my experience so far.
2. Have a growth mindset, which will enable you to re-invest resources into the company. Africa’s start-up landscape, unlike that of other continents, does not have many opportunities for seed funding and investment. As such, founders of LSP would have to bootstrap, i.e., use internally-generated resources to ensure the functioning and expansion of their business.
3. Be open to change and innovation, as the industry is rapidly changing.
Kabod: How do you envision the future of LSPs in African languages?
Africa is an emerging market, and I believe that due to the continent’s language and cultural diversity, much of the requests for language services in the near future will be for African indigenous languages. As such, this is the time for LSPs in Africa to prepare, so that we can all be in a position to provide these services when demand increases.
Thanks, Ms. Ady, for your time and for sharing your experiences with us.
Are you also in the language industry in Africa? Would you also like to be featured in our Knowledge Exchange Series, which highlight the journey and experiences of African language translators, interpreters, computational linguists etc.,? Then, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to express interest.
Grace Emmanuella Amah Yoboué is currently working at Kabod Group International as an Executive Assistant and a Translation Officer. She is studying translation in Ghana and is also a member of the Network of African Languages Translators and Teachers (ALATT).