Throughout 2023, for our series, we will be interviewing a variety of companies, members, employees and exciting people from our network. This July, we’re on the road with Mark Cheetham from SemioticTransfer AG and his team. SemioticTransfer is THE Swiss translation agency for every type of translation need, whether in Switzerland, or abroad.
Just some of those ‘in need’ are the more than 800,000 Swiss abroad. They leave – and sometimes they come back again. They live and work around the globe. They study, marry and have children. Just like in Switzerland, this requires a ton of admin. But the difference whilst abroad is that all that variety of documents have to be translated and often certified too, to overcome any language barrier. Co-managing director Mark Cheetham tells us about the support offered by SemioticTransfer AG in these cases and the added value professional language services provide.
Mr. Cheetham, how would you describe your team? Who do we meet when we come to your office?
The SemioticTransfer team is varied and smart. It’s made up of a host of highly qualified specialist translators and dedicated project managers spread over two continents, in addition to two extremely cute office dogs. Indeed, we are very proud of the cultural and linguistic diversity in the team (Woof!). This allows SemioticTransfer to meet even the most challenging translation needs.
There are dedicated services for the Swiss Abroad. What motivates you and what added value does SemioticTransfer offer? Is there anything that makes you stand out from your competition?
I’ll rephrase that question with a bit of a tongue-in-cheek reply:
“Why doesn’t SemioticTransfer have any serious competition in the area of certified translations?” What is everyone else doing wrong? 😊 No, seriously, of course, we offer certified translations for all types of documents, industries, and language combinations. However, our services are based on a real awareness of the challenges faced by Swiss people abroad. Often, it’s a matter of meeting country-specific requirements, which we are usually very familiar with, thanks to our many years of experience. If someone emigrates to Portugal, we don’t simply offer a basic translation into Portuguese, but we provide a professional, certified translation, which, for example, can be perfectly understood and accepted by a person working in an office in Lisbon. As well as ensuring the correct use of the target language, tailored to the respective country and even region, we ensure that the translation can be recognised by the competent authorities, with, for example, a notarial certification or a country-specific apostille. Our language services aim to relieve our clients, as far as possible, of a great deal of the hassle involved when having completing the admin for any number of different types of document, helping to make their everyday life just a little easier.
What’s your goal? If five years from now you are still working in the same sector, what would you like your organisation to achieve?
Despite technological advances and new tools such as ChatGPT, we will still be active in the same sector in five years. Why? Because a machine is just an aid. Human translation is still going to be around for a long time, not least because people tend to trust a human rather than a machine. Our experience tells us that as long as people work in public authorities and offices, we can be sure that there will still be translators. Another interesting factor is data security. This is likely to become increasingly important in the future.
In five years, we would like to have further strengthened our position in the market and continue to be known as a reputable translation partner for both individuals and businesses.
Where are you exactly and – if you could – where would you like to reach with your team and why?
Our company is based in Baden, and some of our employees are Swiss people living broad. They are located in different places in the world. As well as working well for us as a team, this is also an advantage for our customers, as our presence abroad allows us to cover more time zones, not just the eight hours while Swiss offices are open, and to process any enquiries in a particularly timely manner. In future, we can well imagine being present in multiple locations. Although our business works wonderfully on a remote basis, having physical premises in Switzerland allows us to address customer needs in a more targeted way. Documents can be brought directly to our office, where we can offer a personal consultation and clarify any questions.
What does the concept of homeland mean to you and where do you feel at home?
Homeland is a complex concept. For some, it’s where you grow up and feel connected to your roots. For others, it may just be a ‘chosen home’, as is the case for many Swiss abroad. Sometimes, you can feel more ‘at home’ in a place far away from your actual homeland. Globetrotters may even have many different places that give them a sense of home. It’s definitely a gut feeling.
Is there anything that would make your job easier or better? If yes, can you elaborate?
Yes, of course. Consistent and worldwide regulations (or at the very least, Switzerland-wide guidelines for certified translations) would be helpful and fair, for both customers and businesses. In this respect, we have already introduced a tool. On our website, our price calculator allows customers from all around the world to request prices around the clock with just a few clicks or order and pay for translations directly. Digitalisation is definitely a driver of innovation, and its use enables us to optimise time and resources. It’s also an advantage for our customers, as the ordering process is simple and transparent.
With the progress of artificial intelligence, it is obviously going to be extremely helpful to integrate those new tools into our work process. As well as increasing our productivity and efficiency, this would guarantee our customers even faster and more precise communication.
Is there any advice or tips you would like to share with future migrants?
Before you move abroad, seek out comprehensive advice and make sure that you have all your most important documents translated (including birth certificate, diplomas, family register, pension card, criminal record extract, divorce judgments), and then certified. Ideally also with the accompanying apostille or super-legalisation for the destination country. This way, your documents will be recognised by foreign authorities as official documents and you will find your way around in your foreign destination country faster and much more easily, at least from a bureaucratic point of view.
Straight away, you will blend in among the locals. And of course, have more interaction with the language and culture. Be open to new experiences, because each culture has its own peculiarities and official procedures. In many cases, things may not go quite as smoothly as you would expect in Switzerland. Patience and understanding are your best friends in this case.
Foto von Amy Shamblen auf Unsplash