Questions for Hans Schlamadinger, CEO for Apex Translations.com
Q: Apex Translations began with you, Mr. Schlamadinger. What prompted you to start this business and put it online?
A: Before I started this company, I worked as an engineering manager for a major diesel engine manufacturer. Through my employer, I had connections to various patent attorneys. One of these attorneys knew that I spoke both German and English fluently, and he asked me if I would be willing to translate patent applications from German to English. I accepted, and I translated about a hundred or so patents over a period of two years mainly in the evening and weekends. I enjoyed doing this because as an engineer, I enjoyed learning about the various ideas that were presented in these patents, plus I was able to apply my language skills.
Once I saw that there was commercial viability in this endeavor, I retired from my employer and started a company, hired employees, and developed the company into a well-established Language Service Provider that currently competes in North America and Europe.
Q: Apex has significantly grown since its inception. Your return client list continues to expand each year. What was your vision for this company in the mid-90s?
A: My vision was to develop this company into a Language Service Provider mainly for companies, organizations, universities, and government agencies, offering high quality translations while controlling production cost as much as possible. This fact is important to us at Apex and allows us to offer our translations at a moderate yet competitive price.
Q: Growing up, you watched your father and, indeed, the entire family immerse themselves in international business. Did he or any other family member give you any advice about business?
A: My father was the Austrian distributor of earth-moving equipment, imported from every corner of the globe. As such, I was exposed to international visitors all the time. We mainly spoke English with these visitors which probably laid the foundation for my interest not only for engineering but also in English, now the world’s language.
Q: Your native language is German. Do you speak any other languages?
A: Growing up in Austria, I naturally spoke German, my native tongue. I learned English mainly in school from the age of eight to graduation and from my interactions with people from abroad. At 23, I moved to the United States to start a career in engineering. After having lived in the US for nearly 40 years, English has become my second native language.
Q: At Apex, what is the most requested language pair?
A: By far, that pair would be English to Spanish, followed closely by English to French. This is due to our neighboring countries to the south and north of the United States.
Q: What was the most memorable translation request you’ve had at Apex?
A: A couple of years ago we processed a project that was very difficult not only from a linguistic perspective, but also from a technical perspective. It required a significant amount of research, know-how, and knowledge, etc., just to meet the technical challenges. I actually found this project enjoyable as I very much like working on projects that demand a high level of technical skills.
Q: Mr. Florian Deltgen is currently your business partner at Apex Translations. Can you elaborate on your relationship? How do you learn from each other?
A: Florian Deltgen joined Apex as a partner soon after Apex was created. I realized very soon that in order to become a viable language company, the company needed a language professional, who can provide the linguistic skills that I was not always able to provide. He also offers a wealth of business experience due to the fact that he ran several companies before joining Apex.
Q: As technology changes almost every three months, what is the future of Apex Translations?
A: We’ll continue to upgrade the capabilities of the company with emphasis on cost and quality. We spend quite a bit of time to stay abreast of technological advances and apply these as appropriate.
We are quite proud of our database of translators from all over the world. These professionals apply to be an Apex translator, and both Florian and I scrutinize and authenticate educational credentials, practical experience, and writing samples scrupulously. We have globally-recognized translators on Apex’ staff.
Q: What has surprised you the most about the translation business?
A: As an engineer, I am used to measuring quality accurately, using very specific and verifiable parameters. To measure quality in language translation is much more difficult and not nearly as straightforward as in engineering.
A translation may be perceived differently by different people, mainly due to their personal preferences in terms of word selection, style, syntax, etc. It took me a long time to get used to this phenomena, yet we are gladdened and encouraged by our testimonials from clientele, who are quite pleased with the results Apex is able to provide to them. Put succinctly, this is our goal at Apex Translations.
Q: You lead a demanding business. Any hobbies? Where do you vacation?
A: Yes! I dock my 30-foot sailboat in Northport, Michigan, a coastal village right on Lake Michigan. I have sailed since my boyhood, so it’s second nature to me. In summer, there is nothing like sailing to these historic yet quaint towns which dot the coastline of northern Michigan. Some favorite destinations are Garden Island, Beaver Island, and the Benjamin Islands a little way north of the US/Canadian border. It’s absolute heaven sailing, exploring, and navigating on Lake Michigan!
Questions for Florian Deltgen, Chief Linguist, QA and QC for Apex Translations.com
Q: What is your position and title at Apex Translations.com?
A: I am the Company’s Chief Linguist and responsible for Quality Assurance and Quality Control.
Q: You are a co-owner and a co-founding member of Apex Translations. How did you and Hans Schlamadinger meet?
A: After leaving Heitman of America, a Language Service Provider, I worked as a freelance translator for a while and I found Apex in the ATA catalogue. At the time, Apex was a sole ownership and provided only German <> English transIations. I produced translations for Apex for about two years and and eventually started discussing turning Apex into a more comprehensive translation provider. In 2002, we incorporated.
Q: We know you have a distinguished academic background. How many languages do you speak, and what are they? How do these masteries or competencies help you in your work for Apex?
A: My father was from Luxemburg and spoke French, German, English, and Letzeburgisch. My mother was German but grew up in the French speaking part of Switzerland. At home, my parents spoke French. So, French became my first language. I went to school in Germany, which made German my second language. I studied Latin and English at the high school I attended for nine years; I also learned some Hebrew and Greek.
When I was 14, I discovered that I could learn languages quite quickly if I felt I had an affinity for them.
I started learning Italian at age 14 and then Russian as a hobby. I also learned Cantonese Chinese in a barter relationship with a Chinese student: I taught him German; he taught me Chinese. I became so good at Russian that the Cologne Berlitz School asked me to substitute for their Russian teacher. They typically use only teachers who are native speakers of the language they teach.
While studying anthropology, I minored in African languages. I learned some Ewe and Haussa, but mainly Kwe and Kiswahili (which also made it necessary to learn Arabic script). I made some money on the side at the Deutsche Welle radio station as news controller for the Kiswahili news. When I applied at the Department for Comparative Linguistics of Cologne University, I found that I did not know any agglutinating languages and had to hurry to learn some – like Turkish. I also started learning Samoan and Gaelic. I almost participated in an expedition with Professor Funke to Nepal and Tibet, which made it necessary to learn some Sherpa. Later, I began to focus my work as an anthropologist on South American Indians and began to study Spanish and general Tucano and Ñengatú, a lingua franca based on Tupí Guaraní.
Later, during my actual research in Colombia, I learned the Tucano dialect of Yebáucomiamasá and some Brazilian Portuguese. I had also spent some time studying in Sweden thereby acquiring some Swedish. And Dutch came naturally, because it is somewhat similar to Letzeburgisch and because I lived for many years in Western Westphalia, a region where most of my neighbors spoke “Zand” a Dutch dialect.
Knowing this many languages and being familiar with their different structures (grammar/syntax/styles) makes it much easier for me to deal with translations, translators, proofreaders, reviewers, and occasional complaints, problems, and misunderstandings and to act as the quality assurance person at Apex.
Q: Do you remember the most challenging job request/translation order you encountered at Apex?
What languages were involved?
A: That was a gigantic software translation that involved many languages. The problem was not the languages nor the software. The problem was that the client provided the source text in Excel format and that the many thousands of strings were all too often with insufficient or no context. This client did not understand that translators do not translate words but meaning within a context. This job was an uphill battle because we had to ask the client constantly for clarification. The client, however, did the translation within a larger project for a third party and often did not have an answer.
Q: In your vast Curriculum Vitae, can you recall a favorite professor? What course(s) did he/she teach? Explain if he/she had a profound influence on you and why.
A: That would have been Professor Helmut (“Crash”) Petri. He taught information about the Australian Aborigines (oh, and I temporarily forgot – I also learned some Garajeri and Ungaringin from him). However, he also gave a lecture about charismatic movements and leaders that opened my eyes to this strange phenomenon. His teachings inspired my doctoral thesis about the concept of “movement” in sociology and historical science.
Q: What is your favorite pastime? Any hobbies?
A: I ride my Harley Davidson Softail Heritage Classic. I also hunt, shoot, fish, and mow my lawn (7.5 acres every week during the season).
Q: At what age did you know you that you had a talent for language?
A: Very early. My mother told me I spoke unusually early and in a very articulate manner. My parents were both actors with an affinity to language and elaborate memories. I must have inherited this.
Q: If you have a favorite author or a favorite book, explain what it is and why it is so instructive, captivating, or memorable.
A: Runciman’s “History of the Crusades”; I must have read it four times already and I still find new aspects in it. I like reading Asterix and Obelix comics in French. Keeps me in touch with French humor.
Mommsen’s “Weltreich der Caesaren” (Empire of the Caesars) is a book that provides deep insights into human nature and history. I read it twice so far. I also read a lot of current affairs and political analysis books. Also, I re-read my own publications from time to time. I recently published a book with brutally funny short stories from my days in Colombia, South America. It is available on Amazon in English and German (“Not to Worry – Pretty Atrocious Colombian Stories” and “Keine Sorge! Ganz schön schreckliche kolumbianische Geschichten”).
Q: Name the dictionaries (hardback) you frequently use.
A: Ernst, „Wörterbuch der industriellen Technik“ (Dictionary of Industrial Technology)