CBCC member interview - Jemma Pullen, Head Linguist & Founder, Language JEM

On her passion for languages, living in Russia and the Czech Republic, starting her own business, the role of technology and Artificial Intelligence in the translation industry, and much more.

You speak a few languages; where does that passion come from?

I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to study languages at school. It started with French, and later I added Latin. Latin lead to studying Russian, and Russian led to learning Czech. My heritage is a mix of Irish, English and Welsh, so as I currently live in Wales, I am now learning Welsh. You see, I am quite addicted to languages and I love collecting new words.

What was your reason to study Czech and Russian?

Russia really interested me as it was always on the news and the teachers I had in school were great. It was such a unique skill to have, so I continued with it at university, where I could also study Czech. I spent one year living and studying at Moscow State University as part of my Russian degree, and I later went back to Russia to work for an NGO in Irkutsk and Lake Baikal. When I graduated, I moved to Prague for three years to immerse myself in the language and culture. That’s where I passed the Czech State Language Certification.

How long have you been running your own business?

About a year. I’ve been working in the industry for nearly 12 years now, so I’ve had posts agency-side, in-house, freelancing and even in the government sector. Now I’m happy to be working for myself. I really appreciate the freedom to focus on what I want and the new challenge of trying to develop a successful business.

Who are your clients?

My direct clients include big brands, usually tech companies, and also members of the public – who want something like a marriage certificate or school diploma translated. I also work for agencies and small businesses. I am a member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists so I can self-certify official translations. I specialise in brand and marketing texts, and website localisation.

You provide a lot of services. Which one is your favourite?

Probably running a workshop. I work from home, so it’s great to get out and see people face to face. I take quite a creative approach to training people and don’t use ‘death by PowerPoint’. My workshops are interactive, fun and practical. I use gamification to make sure people are really picking up what I’m teaching them. When in my office, I like transcreation projects, which is a creative mix of translation and copywriting.

What does your typical day look like?

Every day is different for me and I thrive on the variety. I get up early to take my dog Ernest out for a walk on the beach. When I come back I check my emails and then I have a rough idea of the projects I will be working on. Things can change very quickly due to express and urgent projects, so I need to be flexible.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love the sea and will get to the coast in any spare moment I have. There’s plenty of beautiful beaches to choose from in the Gower where I live in Wales. I am trying to learn to surf and I volunteer as a surf mentor for the Wave Project Cymru. It’s a charity that helps vulnerable young people with disabilities or who are from disadvantaged backgrounds to reduce anxiety and improve confidence through surfing.

How has technology changed your industry?

Technology in translation is a rather controversial subject, but I’m a big fan of language technology.  We will not be able to fight technology as translators, so we need to embrace it. I like translation tools and use machine translation, so I know they can be really good given the right human input. My view is that people will be always needed to feed the tools and keep them on track. Being a language technologist is the best of both words – you get to work both as a linguist and an engineer at the cutting edge. I am optimistic about it and I don’t see it as the biggest problem currently facing translators. I see rate erosion by translation agencies and the use of unqualified and non-professional translators as a bigger threat to the survival of the industry.

What about AI?

Artificial Intelligence is going to play a role. There is a whole new field opening up to skilled linguists and technologists in natural language processing (NLP), machine learning and big data. Humans cannot be replaced outright. In my opinion, people will always be involved, but they may not be doing the work they currently do.

Where do you see the future of your company?

I am hoping to grow my business. My objective is to improve awareness of my company in the industry and among clients. To me, success means stability and long-term relationships with my customers.

For more information about the services provided by Language JEM, please visit www.languagejem.com.

By Tereza Urbankova, member of the CBCC Executive Committee

We are looking for more CBCC members to be interviewed! Please email tereza.urbankova@woodplc.com if you are interested.


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