While in Cape Town, we had the opportunity to meet Johan Botha, Director of Folio Online, a language service provider (LSP) established in 1988. Folio Online provides translation, copywriting, editing & proofreading, transcription, interpreting, voice-over, and localization services. Johan has an extensive background in languages and translation and a passion for technology in the language services domain.

The Cape Town-based company supplies services in over 100 different languages and prides itself in collaborating with non-profit organizations such as Translators without Borders. Folio Online also created InterTel, a telephonic interpretation service that helps people who require medical assistance overcome language barriers.

We met up with Johan and his intern, Maria, at the Faculty of Informatics and Design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). We had sent some questions to Johan in advance, and he graciously covered most of them during our meeting. He also shared with us that the company was recently ranked as the second major African LSP – quite an accomplishment for a smaller company competing against the giants of LSP.

Q: How many languages does Folio Online translate into?

We translate into over 100 languages and specialize in African, European, and Asian languages.  

Q: How many production sites does Folio Online have?

We only have the HQs in South Africa and that helps us manage the quality of the deliverables.

Q: What are your thoughts on ISO certification?

ISO certification is even more challenging when you are serving the long-tailed languages. In fact, one of the most problematic sides of ISO 17100, which is the proof that translators have to send regarding the amount of words that they have translated and proof of whether they are full-time employed. How would you prove sufficiently that you have translated, e.g. 100k words when most of it is confidential? When even the client is confidential. How would you prove that you translate full-time? Things like these are challenging.

Q: How do you manage quality? And how do I, as client, get assurance that the linguists working in some of these languages are qualified?

Terminology management and glossary maintenance are both quite important. We also provide certificates for the translations provided that they were performed by qualified professionals.  

Q: Have you ever dealt with a customer complaining of a bad translation?

Yes, and you must strike the right balance between educating your customer on industry best practices and keeping the accuracy of the translations without going over budget or making too many preferential changes.

Q: Do you use CAT tools and does Folio provide them?

There are many CAT tools available to translators nowadays and fortunately most, if not all of them, use TMX standards, which enable the translators to use whichever translation software they have access to. The main challenge in using CAT tools in some of the communities that have reduced access to reliable Wi-Fi is the ability to work offline and then upload the translation afterwards. I try to make light of this challenge whenever a client requests the linguists work online.

Q: How do you deal with data security issues if the translators are working from a café?

We typically provide them with firewall software that can be downloaded to their PC from a USB stick.

Q: What do you look for in a Localization Project Manager?

Thick skin and organization. You need to be able to take criticism gracefully and keep the projects moving. And if you think you know it all, then you are in the wrong industry! I continue to learn and educate myself on the latest trends and best practices. It’s important to stay relevant and familiar with new technology.

Johan closed out by sharing some of his favorite resources and influencers to keep up with the industry:

Thank you again, Johan! It was a pleasure learning from you and your team.

For more on our latest trip to Cape Town, visit our Study Trips page.