Better Languages origins

Better Languages sign

Better Languages traces its origins back to 1982 when Enelia Avila, a Chilean linguist, decided to set up her own translation business. In the 1980s translations were sent and received by fax or floppy disk, and most work was with European languages, with some work into Indian languages. Clients were generally locally based within the Nottingham area. Translators were also recruited locally. Over time, a larger network of mainly UK linguists was established offering a widening range of languages and specialisms. From its earliest days the business was characterised by a “can do”, customer orientated approach to translation, and developed a reputation for speed and accuracy in translation.

Labels for China

With the emergence of China sourcing for clothing labels, we started to work directly with our first label translation client based in Hong Kong in the early 1990s. Faxed orders would arrive overnight, and we could process label orders for start of Chinese business the following day. This was, and still is, very time efficient for our clients, as they could send orders up to end of day their time, and have a response for start of business the next day, only these days work is processed electronically and we actively discourage clients from sending work by fax, as you get much clearer information by e-mail.

Changing structures

From 1993 the business was bought by Hilary Charman, who worked first as a sole trader, and then as a partnership with Beatriz Hunter, who took over the day to day running of the agency, and eventually purchased it in 2000. At the time the business mainly specialised in care label translations for the retail sector, and translated into around 40 languages on a regular basis. Translators were still predominantly UK based, and members of one of the two UK translators bodies, the Chartered Institute of Linguists or the Institute of Translation and Interpreting.

Mike Hunter joined the business in 2000, and started to make changes to the way the business operated. Internet developments had been allowing the agency to send and receive work by e-mail for some time, even though download speeds were slow. We remember receiving large engineering drawings for translation which could take up to an hour to download, with dial up broadband, you would be looking at the clock, checking progress, and hoping it would finish downloading before the session timed out! The advent of broadband has thankfully changed all that.

The business started to recruit a wider range of linguists, including in-country translators in a growing number of countries. One of the constant industry debates is about the merits of translators being based in countries using the source or target language. When recruiting translators we always look at level of understanding of both source and target languages, as well as any specialist expertise.

4 years in Spain followed by growth in the UK

After four disastrous years trading in Spain from 2001 to 2005, we re-registered the business in the UK, and haven’t really looked back since. Incorporating in 2007, the business has continued to grow, currently using a network of several hundred translators in 27 countries (and counting)! We are always looking for freelance translators offering different languages and specialisms. In financial year 2008-9 the business grew 173% against a background of global recession. 2010 was a tricky year for Better Languages, when although continuing to grow the customer base, loss of a key account resulted in a difficult year’s trading. Recovery and consolidation in 2011 has led to sustained growth since. 2014-15 was a record year, including our largest ever single order, major new clients, and more translated languages than ever before.

A few milestones

Our core values remain offering a client focused, and flexible translation service, with a reputation for quality and accuracy in translation projects. Here are a few of our major milestones:

  • 2006: won Mothercare and New Look as clients on the same day.
  • 2007: Our first major website project for a major multi-national into 11 European languages.
  • 2008: Translation into new languages, including English to Catalan and Catalan to English.
  • 2010: Our fastest ever large volume job, translating 62,000 words into Polish in 5 working days.
  • 2010: Our highest volume single language project into Hungarian.
  • 2013: Our widest range of languages on a single order so far (40 languages).
  • 2014: Largest ever direct export order, direct exports over 30% of total sales for the first time.
  • 2017: major relaunch of our website.

The agency has won new business in the US and within other EU states, and continues to serve a wide range of customers with diverse translation service needs across the globe.