Position Spotlight: Language Specialist
Today we sit down with Melanie Spies, German Language Specialist, as she gives us the play by play on her daily tasks and illustrates the difference between translation and localization.
Could you please tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Melanie. I grew up in the northernmost part of Germany (basically Denmark), and moved to Berlin about 7 years ago to study linguistics and history. Before joining GetYourGuide, I worked as a content creator for a tech magazine.
What is your role at GetYourGuide?
I’m a Language Specialist and as such I’m part of the Localization Team. My job is to make the German version of our website sound smooth and natural and make our products available to our German speaking customers.
What does an average day as a Language Specialist look like?
Our core task, of course, is the translation of the GetYourGuide website. The Localization Team currently supports 17 different languages. Our in-house team consists of 13 nationalities from Spain, France, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Brazil, China, Poland, Italy, Croatia, and Germany. And this is not counting our team of freelancers who support us remotely from all over the world. It’s a highly diverse and inspiring working environment.
Our job is to provide smooth and natural translations to make our product descriptions easily understandable and engaging for our customers. This sounds like a very creative and language-driven task (and it is), but we also need to be business minded.
To figure out which activities are most relevant for our respective markets, we apply a complex prioritization strategy. Not all activities are equally interesting for customers from different locations. For example, if a tour guide for a particular product only speaks Spanish, it might not make sense to translate this activity into German, Dutch or Japanese.
So, are you translating activity descriptions all day?
Haha, far from it! Activity descriptions are the only piece of the GetYourGuide website rarely translated by a Language Specialist. This task is taken on by our freelancers. The Localization Team is supported by an army of freelance translators located all over the world. Managing and coordinating our freelancer teams is one of our regular tasks. We need to check the quality of their translations and make sure they adhere to GetYourGuide’s style and tone of voice.
But of course, translation is a big part of a Language Specialist’s job. If you take a look at the GetYourGuide website, you’ll notice there is a lot more translatable content besides activity descriptions. Every button, badge, headline or explanation you see needs to be translated into 17 different languages. We also regularly localize inspirational copy for our newsletter and ads, translate email templates for customer service, provide ideas for A/B tests, create keywords for our local markets, and the list really does go on.
As Language Specialists, we constantly put ourselves in our customers’ shoes. We perform regular quality checks on both our desktop site and the mobile app to make sure the booking process is smooth and easy.
Why is it called the ‘Localization Team’ and not the ‘Translation Team’?
There is a big difference between translation and localization. Translation is the simple process of changing words and sentences from language A to language B. Localization goes far beyond this. It means that the copy is not merely translated from one language to another, but from one culture to another. And this is where the magic happens.
Localization is about adapting to a local audience, and it even comes down to eating habits. Remember Pixar’s Inside Out, that cute animated movie about the personified feelings of a young girl? In one scene, the dad struggles to feed his infant daughter broccoli. Like most kids, she’s grossed out by the vegetable and refuses to eat it. However, in the Japanese version of the movie, the broccoli was replaced by bell peppers. Apparently, kids in Japan love the taste of broccoli, but consider bell peppers disgusting. This is a beautiful example of localization in a non-language scenario.
How has your role changed since joining GetYourGuide?
I started out as a German Content Editor, so my focus was mainly on editing the German translations of our activity descriptions. Over time, my responsibilities grew and I became more and more independent. I started taking more ownership and explored the topics that were most interesting to me personally.
I then became a Language Specialist. Since transitioning into this role, my tasks have become much more diverse and I’m more involved in various other language and marketing projects.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
We’re an online marketplace and competition never sleeps. We need a lot of translations and we need them fast. Finding the balance between speed and perfection can be tricky; I need to be quick, accurate, and creative at the same time – this isn’t always easy and I need to constantly prioritize.
What is your favorite thing about working at GetYourGuide?
I love the fact that you have so many ways to contribute and grow within the company. Right from the start, I was granted a high level of autonomy and there were no fixed processes written in stone. You are really encouraged to question everything and to bring in new perspectives and ideas. You want to do things differently? Go for it! Think something’s missing? Create it!
If you do this, of course, there will be times when it doesn’t work out, and you realize you made a mistake. But that’s also the beauty of it, because this is how you learn and grow. Our product is still at an early stage and I’m happy to have the opportunity to grow with it and have an impact on the company journey.
What advice would you have for someone who would like to work as a Language Specialist at GetYourGuide?
Don’t expect to spend all your days translating product descriptions. You won’t. There’s so much more to our job and so many opportunities to learn and develop. Take advantage of these opportunities by being open to feedback and to the challenges of a fast-paced working environment. Believe in yourself, be brave, and challenge the status quo.