Interview: James Austin, Translation Manager | Integro

James Autin


Could you summarise your company for the reader?

We are Integro Languages, a translation agency based in Norwich. We deal with two main sectors: Our commercial division translates websites, brochures, and any other marketing material. Our insurance division deals with translations from other languages into English and we mainly work with travel insurance and health insurance companies, producing translations of their medical reports.

What is your role in this company?

My title is Insurance Division Translation Manager and I project-manage the requests from our insurance clients and organise translations from our network of linguists around the world.

What was your pathway into your current role?

My career path has been very straightforward: I started off at Integro as an account apprentice almost three years ago. I gradually took on more responsibility when a couple of other people left and ended up where I am now – as project manager. This is my first full-time job.

What is your company’s connection to Germany?

The connection is quite broad: We have digital marketing clients, insurance clients and a group of linguists that we work with – not all of them are native Germans, there are also a lot of Hungarians who have moved to Germany. Our clients come to us to have their documents translated into English, French or other languages.

What is it like to work with your German-speaking clients?

Generally it is a very positive experience. German native speakers – no matter what their level of English is – will always try and speak English. They all come across – apologies for the stereotype – as very polite and hard-working and they always come straight to the point, there is not much ‘fluff’ around it!

Is it difficult to find employees/graduates with German language skills?

Locally it is an absolute nightmare to find native English speakers who are trained to translate from German into English. We have German linguists in Norfolk who are bilingual but have not trained as translators. They help us out with translating insurance documents – it is fast and their level of German is good enough to pick up detail in the originals. Due to the growing demand for German linguists nationally, the price for German translators is much higher compared to the price for a French or Spanish translator, who are much more readily available. In other words, German translators are much more expensive for a company and a nightmare when you have to consider profits and margins. On the other hand, as a German translator you are in high demand and earn very decent money, much more so than being a French or German translator.

How does your company get around the shortfall of native English German translators?

There are many websites with networks of linguists that we use. A lot of the time we recruit through word-or-mouth, so a translator in Cologne may know a friend of a friend who is a freelance translator in Berlin. However, we would always prefer linguists who are native English speakers if the target language you translate into is English.

How, in your opinion, can attitudes to language-learning in the UK be improved?

It is hard to believe that I now work for a translation company! When I was at school and did GCSE German my attitude was poor. I didn’t think languages would get me anywhere and instead I focussed on my maths, English and science – the subjects that schools are pushing you to do well in. More often than not the attitude towards language-learning is shaped by the schools themselves and they forget that language skills can give you something that other subjects like maths and science cannot.

What would your message to schools be?

My message must be that teachers and the leadership team should focus more on how far a language and in particular German can take you in your career as it is a skill that now not many people have. I regret not having continued my German, I regret not having done as well as I should have done. Looking at where I work now, people around me speak Japanese, French, Italian and it makes me quite jealous. So much so that I have started attending German evening classes! Learning a language takes time and can be incredibly difficult but it is definitely worth it. Young people want to travel and having a second or a third language opens up doors to other people, their culture and, of course, further opportunities.