A few months ago, Qabiria turned 10. In a world which is in constant flux, reaching such a goal obliges us to take a moment of reflection, raises some doubts and - above all - drives us to publicly acknowledge the debt we owe to all the people who have helped us to get this far.
Let’s start with the last part. Thank you. Sincerely. From the bottom of our hearts. We owe you. And you’ve earnt it.
Since the end of 2007, dozens (or is it hundreds?) of people have contributed, to a greater or lesser extent, to the success and continuity of our project. Without getting too sentimental, and with the impossibility of listing every single person who has helped us over the years, I will limit myself to recalling some of them: the technicians of the consulting centres for entrepreneurs, some trusted friends with more experience than us in business matters, the advice of fellow more experienced translators, and especially all the linguists (the translators, proofreaders, editors, writers) without whose contribution we would never have been able to offer the services that we do now. And of course, a big thank you to all our clients, to those that have stayed loyal over the years, to those with whom we deal on a daily basis, to those who only send us a few words a year, and to those who appeared in our inbox for a few days and were never heard from again. We have learned something from each and every one of them, and it is entirely due to the trust they have put in us that we have been able to grow and prosper.
As I was saying, this anniversary raises some doubts of its own too... Sometimes I wonder if I really have done everything in my power to consolidate and build on Qabiria as a business. The ecosystem of startups and online businesses has got us used to companies that just pop up out of nowhere, manage to garner substantial investment from venture capitalists within just a couple of years, are absorbed by multinationals, or even go so far as to be listed on the stock exchange. In ten years, Qabiria has limited itself to providing sustenance to me, Sergio and all those who have been involved with us from time to time, sometimes generating some profit at the end of the year, sometimes not (the budgets are public, no need to do bluff here!). Our turnover is in line with other small companies in the sector, but when it comes down to it, we never wanted to grow too big anyway. And I think we’re happy with that, it’s a matter of personal goals and comfort.
Though we have mainly focussed on the technical translation of manuals and marketing materials, we have worked on some very different projects over the years too, occasionally getting involved in some literary translation (some particularly fun ones I remember being the Taschen series of monographs on famous actors, a very long essay about fertility and a book on how Christopher Columbus was allegedly Catalan). We have helped other companies as project managers, recruiters, and information architects.
On many occasions we have found a way to combine our passions for information technology and languages, creating - among other things - a browser toolbar, and a web service for travellers with allergies (sneak peek: refurbishment in progress!), even a dictionary of phobias for iPhone (unfortunately no longer on the market). One project we were really passionate about was the digitisation of the Dizionario delle Combinazioni Lessicali (Italian Dictionary of Lexical Combinations), which represented the high point of our role as cultural mediators and project managers: we led a team spread across Argentina, Luxembourg, Italy and Spain.
In all this time, we have also managed to publish two books in Italian: the Guida completa a OmegaT (Complete Guide to OmegaT), the first manual dedicated to this free and open source machine translation programme, also adopted as a textbook in various universities, and Il traduttore insostituibile (The Irreplaceable Translator)a short book aimed at helping less experienced colleagues not to make the same mistakes we did when we started out. The books have been an effective tool to extend our network of contacts and share some of the knowledge that we felt would be useful for all.
Right from the start, in fact, Sergio and I have been swimming against the tide: in an industry dominated by secrecy and jealousy of resources, we have always defended the sharing of knowledge. We try to combat that tendency to take ourselves too seriously with a certain self-deprecation that makes us stand out (as is evident from the choice of name and logo). Since it is clear to us that translation is almost always only one link in a much wider value chain, we have always prioritised a deeper understanding of the customer’s needs over a pedantic adherence to linguistic precision.
The articles in this blog, our training platform, presentations, and participation in events have all been aimed at this sharing and transmission of knowledge. The culmination of this philosophy was this year’s launch of the diventaretraduttori.com website (only available in Italian), a portal that aims to contain all the questions (and answers) that arise for those who want to work as translators. Once again, I extend the invitation to register on the site and participate in the evaluation and creation of content.
In conclusion: These have been ten adventurous, stimulating, sometimes tiring years, often full of curiosity, and always full of satisfaction. As the son of two civil servants, I would never have believed that I could make a business project a reality and ensure even the slightest bit of continuity. But lo and behold, here I am. Here we are, Sergio and I, and dozens of dear colleagues, who are a faithful reflection of the best that the language services sector has to offer: open-minded, tolerant, diligent and reliable people. They are the reason why directing Qabiria is not a cumbersome duty, but rather a pleasant responsibility that I hope I will continue to take on for many more years to come.