The translation business

The School of Languages and Cultures and Viclink are working together to transform language skills into a business that could generate jobs for students and add real value for Victoria University.

Four years ago, New Zealand-made Western, Good for Nothing, was brought into the University for subtitling. “We created subtitles for the movie in 18 different languages in just one month,” says Dr Marco Sonzogni, Reader in Translation Studies in the School of Languages and Cultures. “The exercise proved that the amazing capability we have in the School has real commercial potential—and the vision for a business was born!” After talking with Geoff Todd, Viclink’s Managing Director, Marco says that Geoff was supportive of that vision, but they needed the right person to make it happen—enter Rory McKenzie.

With his Master’s research centred on subtitling and audio-visual translation, Rory was the perfect person to help Marco test the potential of a real and sustainable translation service—currently known as the Victoria University of Wellington Applied Translation Service (VUWATS), based and administered in the School of Languages and Cultures.

“Our goals are three-fold,” says Rory. “First, we want to help Victoria promote the University to international audiences that might otherwise be inaccessible. Second, we want to provide Victoria’s students with an opportunity to gain practical translation experience that could help them get work as translators when they finish their studies. Third, we’d like to offer our services outside the University, so that we can be completely self-sustaining—and be able to fund our pro-bono projects as well.”

After Viclink invested in the purchase of professional subtitling software for VUWATS, they have translated a variety of different media, including books, films, brochures, PowerPoint presentations and even automatic prompts for voicemail, for a variety of different clients, including Viclink.

“It’s great to be able to support one of our own,” says Geoff, who often uses the service to translate documents between English to Chinese, as part of his work with the Robinson Research Institute in China. “We’ve got this fantastic resource, right on our doorstep, so it makes sense to use it.”

While the business is off to a great start already, Marco says that he and Rory see so much more potential. “Victoria has over 3000 international students from around 80 countries—that’s a lot of people who could need help with the translation of transcripts and documents for Immigration New Zealand or other NZ agencies. Plus, we are making approaches to the New Zealand Film Commission, to make it known that they don’t have to look overseas to get top-quality subtitles for films shot or post-produced in NZ—we can do it here!”

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