intercontact has been translating for 30 years and countless translations have been produced over the years. To mark the occasion, we took a look at how our agency – and the work we do – has changed since we started out.
Our roots actually date back 33 years to 1988, when Claudia Vollmers founded her original intercontact company, providing multilingual personnel for trade fairs.
On top of staffing requirements, it soon became clear from her trade fair clients that there was a high demand for translations as well. So in 1991, intercontact expanded its portfolio of services to include translations. Taking on a new name, intercontact for Language and Trade Fair Communications GmbH was established in Düsseldorf, with their main clientele coming from the trade fair and advertising sectors.
Translations in the early 90s – talk about a huge difference
Digitalisation in the translation business was far from commonplace in the early 90s. Technology like the internet and e-mails was still unknown in standard offices and was only used by a few tech-savvy specialists. Back then, we usually received our translation orders by fax, or delivered by courier, either as a manuscript document or saved on a floppy disk. For the benefit of our younger audience, floppy disks were magnetic data carriers. The PCs used for text entry at the time were able to read these disks. Only a few companies had access to remote data transmission via data line.
Despite this, the translation speed was already an important factor. Maybe even more so than now, as we had to offset the time required for the complex task of physically transmitting the translations.
Unlike today, translators didn't have access to online dictionaries and compendiums, let alone software solutions like translation and terminology management tools. The only help at their disposal were thick, heavy dictionaries.
It wasn’t until the late 90s that the internet started gaining widespread acceptance. From that point on, it became more commonplace to commission translations by e-mail, sending the documents to be translated as attachments.
This development ushered in a whole new spectrum of business for translation agencies. As corporate websites started to emerge, many of these businesses required translation and localisation services for their international web presence.
The translation agency expands
As the Internet continued to develop, so did the need for new translations. Our agency kept pace, and it wasn’t long before we needed more space. In 1997, the company's headquarters were relocated from Düsseldorf to Willich with five permanent employees plus a team of freelance translators.
In 2000, the management team was reinforced by the appointment of Hagen Schläger, joining Claudia Vollmers-Schläger at the helm. As time passed, the need for our translation services took precedence over our trade fair business operations.
So it was that in 2004, we made the strategic decision to focus on our translation business, rebranding as intercontact GmbH. In this new constellation, we worked on the global expansion of the first major online fashion shops, providing top brands with shop translations and localisations.
The digital revolution arrives
In 2005, process digitalisation marked the start of a new era at intercontact. The dictionaries from the early 90s were replaced by translation memory systems and termbases, making it even easier for us to ensure consistent, high-quality translations.
The number of translation projects relating to the internationalisation of online fashion shops was constantly expanding. In light of this, intercontact expanded its expertise in the key sectors of fashion, advertising, zoology and technology to become a specialist in these fields.
As our business grew, so did the number of employees, prompting the next relocation to larger premises in 2012. A new office in Krefeld provided space for our growing permanent team, as well as a number of newly recruited specialists.
This made it possible to build in-house teams of native-speaking experts for English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Italian and Polish. Parallel to this, we expanded our IT structures to accommodate the increased workload. We expanded the existing servers and infrastructure, renewed our technology and translation software and implemented new server and cloud-based translation memory systems. Finally, in 2015, the new browser-based translation management system went online, which has since formed the basis for all our translation processes.
Fully equipped for the digital future
In 2016, the next generation of intercontact joined as shareholders, thereby increasing the future viability of the company. Luc and Dan Schläger brought with them fresh ideas and a direct line to young target groups, helping the company stay closely attuned to the demands of a dynamically changing market.
This was reflected in the new intercontact website that we launched in six languages in the summer of 2017, completely revised in terms of both technology and content.
In 2019, intercontact acquired a stake in Jobasoft GmbH – a solution provider for all aspects of corporate digitalisation. This enabled us to able to offer a broader portfolio to our customers with an affinity for online services.
One year later, Luc Schläger joined intercontact's operations following the successful completion of his studies in economics. He became responsible for key account management, together with coordinating customer system implementation and translation process automation.
Meeting translation challenges in the future
Looking towards the future, there are definitely things to consider:
Will automated translations make translation agencies redundant at some point?
Will human translators be replaced by artificial intelligence?
We know that part of the market will certainly be affected. However, we also know that our clients require a more integral approach with comprehensive services, and this is something that automated translations cannot even begin to fulfil.
Take, for example, the internationalisation of a company. This process requires far more than text translations. The partnering agency must also bring knowledge about the legal requirements in different countries, together with SEO experience and cultural specifics. Moreover, this expertise needs to be carefully reflected in the choice of images and references.
Another key factor is integration. To facilitate this, we developed individual, streamlined workflows that use API* to simplify our translation processes and automatically transfer data into our clients' systems.
A translation agency with clear priorities, intercontact is well equipped to take on challenging and complex translation tasks. We continually strive for excellence in our field so that we can provide you, our customers, with even better service.
* API stands for application programming interface. This method is essentially a messenger that allows two pieces of software to talk to each other.