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Say It Again With Feeling

What's Your Problem?


Charlie Baxter, 35, president and CEO of eTranslate Inc., a San Francisco-based company that translates Web content from any language into any language in the world.

What's Your Problem?

"We're not just translating words; we're translating meaning — and our clients' business — into different cultures. That's why we need translators who are on the ground in a particular country, not expatriates living in the United States: Language changes on a daily basis. We're adding 300 to 400 translators to our database each month. How do we set up a network of well-tested people who can provide excellent service around the world?"

Tell me about it.

"The Internet opens up an entirely new paradigm for our industry. Each Web site is like a living organism that keeps changing and expanding; it's not one static document that needs to be translated once. So the speed factor is key. We automatically scrape content from clients' Web sites and transfer it out to translators around the globe. Within six hours, that content is back, fully translated, edited, and proofread — and then it's reposted online. But we're as slow as our weakest link — and that's a human being. We need to know that we're dealing with exceptionally talented people."

What's your solution?

A comprehensive, Web-based multiple-choice test. "The test was designed by the Monterey Institute of International Studies. It's the kind of test you'd dread as a student, because it deducts points for answers that we know are unrealistic. For example, we know that it's rare for a person to be able to do quality translation in three languages, so if they say that they're fluent in three languages, we deduct points. Roughly half of the applicants are weeded out by the test. Without the test, we'd be inundated with email. It would be a nightmare. Finding those people that we really want to talk to would be an impossible task."

Alison Wellner ( is a writer based in Newark, Delaware. Contact Charlie Baxter by email (, or visit eTranslate on the Web (

A version of this article appeared in the September 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.