People who rock the industry – Simon Andriesen

For this last interview of 2012, I interviewed Simon Andriesen, CEO of Medilingua and Board Member of Translators without Borders, major contributor to the TWB training center for translators in Kenya… and much more. A fascinating and inspiring colleague – discover him now!

P1040571Hi Simon! Tell us about about you. Who are you?

Hi Anne, I am Simon Andriesen, CEO of MediLingua, a medical translations firm based in the Netherlands, and Board Member of Translators without Borders (TWB).

Your background is quite interesting – how does one go from a masters degree in history to working for the Associated Press and then to medical translation?

Oh well, when I got my degree, journalism was one of the options, or rather: a way out to escape from teaching, which is what I knew I did not want to do. It was great fun for a while, but it was more translation that journalism, and after a while got fed up with it, and started a text bureau, together with Jaap van der Meer, whom I had been friends with since high school. The company (INK International) developed into the first software localization firm in Europe, and to cut a long story short, the company grew rapidly and in the early 90s we had a staff of 200 persons, half of them in our head office in Amsterdam, the rest in offices in 9 different countries across Europe. We then sold the business to RR Donnelley & Sons, the largest printing company in the world, who, just like us, worked for IBM, Microsoft, WordPerfect and so forth. The only thing they did not do, was what we did. To keep the story short, we sold the business to them, and I moved to the US for a few years, with my wife and daughter. After 2 years I came back to Europe and left the company to set up a similar firm, but then dedicated to medical. Donnelley eventually sold the translation division and it became rather well-known as Lionbridge. So you could say that INK, the baby Jaap and I had nurtured for a dozen years, is the core of what Lionbridge now is. But they are in a different league, of course. When we sold INK it was a company with $20 million revenue, and 200 people on the payroll; Lionbridge is by now well over $450 million today, with a few thousand people. MediLingua is focused on high-end medical translations. We provide 50 or so languages to 200 regular customers, with a staff of 15, who are managing around 500 different translators world-wide.

You are also a member of the Advisory Board of the Life Sciences Roundtable during the LocWorld conferences. What is your role there?

The Advisory Board is composed of 6 representatives from companies on the demand side of medical translation (Siemens, Medtronic, and  St Jude) and the supply side of medical translation (Lionbridge ForeignXchange, and MediLingua). The board prepares the Life Sciences preconference day-and-a-half before each Localization World conference. I have been involved with LocWorld since 2004 and enjoy supporting this great event and its 2 conference organizers, Donna Parrish of Multilingual, and Ulrich Henes of the Localization Institute, who are also fellow-directors in Translators without Borders. The Advisory Board puts together the program, invites speakers, moderates the sessions, and so forth. Basically, our aim is to come up with a great program twice a year.

You’re a Translators without Borders  Executive Board Member. How did it all start?

The founder of TWB, Lori Thicke, called me the day after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. TWB had received hundreds of test translations from translators who offered their help. Lori asked for MediLingua’s support in reviewing these translations, as most of these were medical. Several translators/editors started the same day with the reviews. And one thing led to the other. I was invited to join the Board and found myself focusing first on Operations, and when the TWB Translation Workspace, generously donated by ProZ, was up and running, I redirected my focus to Training. The Executive Board and Rebecca Petras, the TWB Program Director, meet every 2 weeks via Skype, and together we basically run the organization. It is a lot of work and every time I am amazed by the dedication of the directors, and by the amount of time that is put into it.

2012-08-10 15.02.42You’re currently working on a program to train translators in Kenya. Tell us about this program.

Within the Board, we decided to help create translation capacity for underserved languages. Our pilot language is Swahili, a language spoken by around 60-80 million people in East Africa. During the course, which is partly based on the MediLingua course Medical-Pharmaceutical Translation, participants get an introduction to translation, as well as basis medical know-how about 20 Africa-relevant health issues, such as pneumonia, diarrhea, my other types of infectious diseases. They do lots of exercises and Paul Warambo, our local course instructor, projects the translations on a screen and discusses the results. This works very well.

In 2012, we gave our short course (4 days) to over a hundred persons, and the longer, advanced course (6 weeks) to a few dozen people, all of them with strong language skills but no translation experience. We currently employ 13 of them, and they work in our translation center in Nairobi, Kenya. The team is specialized in healthcare information. This is crucial in any country with too many patients and not enough doctors, and also in Kenya, where health information is only available in English. Which is the wrong language for the vast majority of the population. We know of too many stories where people suffered or died for lack of information, rather than lack of medication. And for health information to be accessible, it has to be in the right language. During a recent conference in Tanzania, where I was invited to make my point about health information in the right language, I spoke a few sentences in my own language, Dutch, which I knew nobody would understand. I then asked them to imagine how they would feel if they had serious health problems and somebody providing help would talk to them in a language they did not understand…

You regularly go to Kenya – tell us about our Kenyan colleagues.

Yes, since late 2011 I have been in Kenya for a few weeks every few months. Our center is located on the campus of the Bible Translation and Literacy, who focus on Bible translations into ‘small’ African languages. Also on this campus is SIL, the developers of Ethnologue, the database that lists details of all 6,900 living languages. Together with our TWB health translation team this campus is the place in Africa with the most people involved in translation.

What other countries have similar needs for healthcare information in local languages? What can be done?

Africa counts around 2,000 different languages. If health information is available in English, French or Portuguese, this is not helping people who do not or not sufficiently speak these languages. We as TWB can help by providing training and by supporting translators. The translation world can help TWB by helping us finance our work.  Our sponsor program is rather successful, with many LSPs listed as Silver sponsors, some Gold and a few Platinum!

P1040566Many young translators are considering specializing in medicine. Based on your experience, what would you recommend them to achieve this?

Young translators aspiring to go into medical need to build translation routine first, and at the same time invest in medical know-how. As a medical translator you must be able to understand what you translate, and you only get that by studying medical info, for example from med school books, or you can read all medical articles on Wikipedia. That way you become familiar with the medical language. It is a difficult mix, but in my experience it is less difficult for a talented translator to become a medical translator than for a doctor who has no feeling for language.

In your opinion, what is the current state of the medical translation market? And its future?

It seems that every Tom, Dick & Harry is now providing medical translations and not in all cases with acceptable results. As medical translation specialists we do a lot third-party review work, and far too often, we have to conclude that the quality is simply not good enough. Big companies hope they will get the best price-quality mix by organizing tenders and even auctions. We actually decline most of these invitations; it is a lot of work and as it seems that only the price is taken into account, and not the price/performance mix, we find it hard to win. Too often the focus is on the word rate. We know what it takes to generate safe, high-quality medical translations and we use that expertise for our calculations. Many others charge less. But what if the work is rejected by the authorities? What if a product has to be taken off the market due to poor patient information? What if a patient dies because it was not clear whether to take 4 tablets per hour or 1 tablet every 4 hours.

In your free time (do you have any? ;)), what do you do to take a break?

I spend whatever free time I have with my wife and with our daughter, when she is around. To take a real break from work I run a few times per week. My best accomplishment is the half marathon in 2 hours 12 minutes, but most of the time I do 10 km, which I usually complete within 55 minutes. I play the cello in our local symphony orchestra, and this takes me one evening plus a few hours per week.


New CSA report on critical issues affecting freelancers

New Research Report Sheds Light on the Critical Issues Affecting Freelancers in the Translation Industry

(Boston) – December 20, 2012 – Freelancers are at the very end of the translation supply chain, but their views play a significant role in the market, according to “Voices from the Freelance Translator Community,” a new report from independent market research firm Common Sense Advisory. The report, which was based on a survey of 3,165 freelance translators throughout the world, sheds new light on the role of freelancers in an industry that the firm estimates at being more than US$33 billion in 2012 and growing at an annual rate of more than 12 percent.

“Translation agencies that do not safeguard their reputations with freelancers can end up being blacklisted by the freelance translation community, which limits their ability to recruit the best professionals and deliver the best possible quality,” explains Nataly Kelly, lead author of the study.

The report also names translation agencies that were listed by freelancers as having reputations as poor payers, as well as those that had reputations either as high-quality or low-quality providers.  Companies mentioned in the report include ASET International Services LLC, CETRA Language Solutions, CLS Communications, Corporate Translations, Crimson Language Services (a division of TransPerfect /, euroscript International S.A., Geotext Translations, Lingo24, Lionbridge Technologies, Moravia Worldwide, thebigword Group, RR Donnelley, SDL, and Translated.

Voices from the Freelance Translator Community” details freelancers’ concerns and reviews critical issues affecting their work, including:

  • On average, freelancers receive approximately two-thirds of their income from translation agencies, and about a third from direct clients.
  • More than one third (34.7%) had been victims of a translation agency failing to pay them for work completed.
  • A large number of freelancers (40.3%) had turned down jobs from a translation agency because other translators had warned them about the agency’s reputation.
  • The vast majority of freelancers (81.0%) had turned down work because the agency’s rates were too low.

“Many translation companies go to great lengths to protect and promote their brand to their customers and prospects, but very few consider how important it is to develop good relationships with the hundreds of thousands of freelance translators actually performing the translation work,” Kelly points out. “Translation agencies that wish to seek an advantage in the marketplace should pay more attention to what freelance translators are saying.”

For more information about the firm’s research services, visit

About Common Sense Advisory
Common Sense Advisory is an independent market research company helping companies profitably grow their international businesses and gain access to new markets and new customers. Its focus is on assisting its clients to operationalize, benchmark, optimize, and innovate industry best practices in translation, localization, interpreting, globalization, and internationalization. For more information, visit or

Source: Common Sense Advisory

eHealth Week 2013

ehealth_week13 – 15 May 2013, Dublin, Ireland.
With the success of eHealth Week 2012, the planning for next year’s event is already underway. eHealth Week 2013 will bring industry partners and providers, important government and regional decision makers from across Europe.
“Ireland is engaging in a major health reform process over the next number of years and ehealth and ICT will play a critical role. This will be a great opportunity to learn and share experiences from those leading in the field,” mentioned Kevin Conlon, Head of ICT, Irish Department of Health.

Exhibitors and attendees will have the opportunity to connect and discuss their health information technology solutions in an environment that provides access to buyers while remaining cost effective. Be at eHealth Week 2013 to showcase your product offerings to a key audience or your competitors will.

The WoHIT 2013 Exhibition floor is the place to be this year. Witness the many world class exhibitors, new product launches, educational sessions, vendor exhibitions, interoperability demonstrations and so much more.

Industry Programme Sessions
The Industry Programme Sessions will provide key learning and best case examples from across Europe, of how IT has been used to deliver better Healthcare. These 45 minute sessions will examine where the challenges lie for our future healthcare systems and how to overcome those challenges.

HIMSS Europe Corporate Member Focus Groups
eHealth Week 2013 will offer the opportunity for HIMSS Europe Corporate Members to host a key stakeholder focus group during the conference for healthcare professions to explore the critical issues facing the industry, to gain access to industry lessons learned and best practices, and to showcase how technology can improve healthcare.

HIMSS Health IT Venture Fair
NEW at eHealth week, the Health IT Venture Fair brings together investors and pre-qualified companies looking for investment. Networking built into the agenda to help you find new business partners and meet health IT investors.

For further information, please visit:

First “Access to Knowledge Awards”

translators-without-bordersTranslators without Borders honors volunteers, donors and partners with first “Access to Knowledge Awards”

(DANBURY, CT USA –21 December) Global translation charity, Translators without Borders (TWB) today announced the launch of its annual Translators without Borders Access to Knowledge Awards. The awards, honoring six individuals or organizations who exemplify the mission to translate for humanity, are chosen and given by the non-profit’s board of directors.

“We have had an exceptional year of progress and success,” said Lori Thicke, president and founder of Translators without Borders. “Reaching 6.5 million words translated through our workspace, opening our first training center in Nairobi, working with Wikipedia on critical health information—none of this would be possible without the generous support of our donors, the dedication of our volunteers, and the commitment of our non-profit partners.”

The organization created the Access to Knowledge Awards to honor volunteers, donors, and non-profit partners. The awards are given within each of the Translators without Borders’ six ‘pillars’, identified earlier this year as part of the organization’s strategic framework. These pillars—Organizational Excellence, Translator Community and Workspace, Training, Nonprofit Partnerships, Financial Sustainability, Awareness and Communications—work together to deliver the mission.

The organization’s executive committee, the management body of board members and the program director, created criteria for each award. Board members and staff members were not eligible. Board members nominated recipients and the executive committee made final decisions on the winners. In addition to six winners, a number of honorable mentions were also awarded.

The Translators without Borders’ Access to Knowledge recipients will receive a Translators without Borders T-Shirt, a lapel pen and a certificate of gratitude.

“I wish we could recognize by name every single person who has contributed to Translators without Borders this year –there are so very many people who make it work,” said Rebecca Petras, program director. “And the real winners are the people who can better understand vital information because of the hard work of ALL our volunteers and support from ALL our donors. Thank you very much to everyone!”

See the list of winners on The Translators without Borders website

MEDXPO 2013 – International Medical Exhibition and Congress

MedExpo7 – 9 March 2012, London, UK.
MEDXPO 2013 is the international medical and hospital equipment exhibition and congress comprised of plenary, conference, workshop and round table sessions that serve and connect the broad disciplines of the healthcare spectrum.

MEDXPO 2013 is the ideal opportunity to showcase your innovative products and services and offers a platform to exchange views on the current global challenges in the converging world of healthcare.

The UK medical industry is renowned for its creativity, exceptional research base and outstanding talent, with a history of discovery and a reputation for turning innovative ideas into trusted healthcare solutions.

It’s fitting then, that MEDXPO 2013 should be hosted in the UK.

Taking place at London’s Alexandra Palace the event will provide a focus of collaboration for medical and healthcare professionals, specialists and academia.

MEDXPO 2013 offers a dynamic meeting place that will attract all of those across the medical and healthcare industries, academia, the NHS and Government who are invested in maintaining and growing R&D in the life sciences industry, and delivering benefits for patients in the UK and around the world.

Notable specialists and globally recognised speakers will address a programme of conferences and workshops, providing an opportunity for open discussion and debate about advances in healthcare, medicine and surgical procedures.

The programme of speakers and workshops offers a platform to exchange views on the very latest global challenges in a converging world.

For healthcare industry suppliers, MEDXPO 2013 provides the ultimate in showcase exhibition space for the best of their products and services, positioning themselves at the forefront of their field. Exhibitors are also invited to sponsor MEDXPO 2013 through a number of promotional packages.

For further information, please visit:

The new LinkedIn profile is here: what’s new?

Yay, it’s finally here – annouced months ago and rolling out since October, we are all finally getting the new LinkedIn profile.  So what’s new, how much has changed?

Well, actually not THAT much. I mean yes, but no. The layout and feel are different, and a few fields have moved. Let’s see what’s changed:

Your activity (posts, links, new connections, etc.)  is now right below the top box containing your picture – it used to be in the right sidebar. This change is interesting because your posts get a much better exposure – particularly links you post with an eye-catching image. Definitely a plus for your content marketing strategy. You cannot change the position of this box.

LinkedIn1A new “Background” box
Your sections such as “Summary”,”Languages”, “Specialities”, “Experiences”, “Education”, “Certifications”, “Skills” etc, are now all together in one big “Background” box – but in Edit mode, you can still change the order you want each section to be displayed – if you want your languages to appear before your Summary for example, click the arrow shown in the screenshot here in red. Then simply drag and drop the section where you want it to be displayed.

The middle icon (left from the arrow) is a new gadget that came with the profile redesign. It is a simple tool that enables you to add a link to a section – it can be a link to a video, a publication, an image, a blog, etc. This is a small additional way of creating backlinks to your contents (good for your SEO) and showing your expertise/experience.

Editing is now easier
Each section now displays the icons shown in the screenshot above when in Edit mode, which makes editing them even simpler than it was before. Click the blue pencil icon left available for each section and just navigate the information you wish to edit.
In Edit mode, you also now have a right sidebar “Recommended for you” where LinkedIn suggests fields/information to add to your profile – these are personalized, based on how complete your profile already is. For example, LinkedIn suggests me to add the following based on my profile information and completion level:

“People you May Know”
This box is now displayed on your own profile when you edit or view it – it used to be only available on the homepage.

“Profile Strength”
Still in the right sidebar, there is a new “Profile Strength” box. You actally already know that feature – it used to be a blue bar at the top of your profile showing how complete it was, in %. Now you even get a status for profile completion… Yay!


“Your Network”
Now, this is probably the most interesting new feature in the revamped profile – it gives you a visual and colored overview of your LinkedIn network based on Company, Location, Industry or School.  Having that kind of overview at hand is very useful. For example, if I look at my network by country, I see that most of my contacts come from France (left screenshot).
Each other circle around the main one is another location, arranged in size based on how many contacts ou have in these locations. It’s exactly the same for companies – the main circle shows the name of the company where the highest number of your contacts work, same for School and Industry – the latter can be particularly interesting for agencies and freelancers using LinkedIn for end-clients prospection in a few selected industries.

General thoughts

More colorful
Ok, this is a silly one – or is it? I often found the old profile design boring – black and white text. Now there is more color in your profile thanks to 2 minor changes:
– the logos of the companies listed in your “Experience” section are displayed – if these companies have a LinkedIn company page and uploaded their logo on it.
– thumbnails of profile pictures of people who recommended you are also displayed below each “Experience” entry.

What I personally like about this new profile – it’s clean, neat, simpler to edit and navigate. Section titles are bigger and bold, which makes them easier to spot when navigating a profile.

What about you? What do you think of the new profile ?

The Translation and Localization Conference 2013

543034_226794867425371_226788537426004_366277_2005841408_nThe 2013 Translation and Localization Conference in Warsaw is on!
Jointly organized by and TexteM, this event is one of the most important international events in Poland and Eastern Europe. With attendees and speakers from all around the world, as well as a variety of cutting-edge topics, the conference will take place March 23rd and 24th.

GxP Language Services will be attending and presenting again in 2013 (read Anne’s report about the 2012 event here) – Siegfried will present “Medical translations – What is the difference with other specialty fields and what is required to achieve top quality?” and Anne will present a case study on Social Search engine optimization.

We are very much looking forward to attending again, meet potential translators to collaborate with and see our Polish friends again!

Complete info and registration on the confernce website: