A day in the life of a Language Specialist

Tanja Matic
Feb 19, 2018 · 4 min read

Translation, localis/zation and cuddling turtles

When I joined Booking.com from the NGO/Media sector, I did not have much knowledge about business terminology, and in particular, the Booking.com vocabulary was quite uncharted territory for me. I was suddenly surrounded by internal phrases, concepts and acronyms and my head was throbbing. All those AMs, LSs, POs and others who were scaling and owning FE and BE products, liaising with PS Marketing stakeholders for optimization of B2C communication, etc.

I’ll try to answer a few of the usual questions people ask me about this role.

What does a Language Specialist do? Are you translating hotel descriptions for the whole day? Why is the position not called ‘translator’?

Let’s start with the basics. Booking.com is the World’s #1 Accommodation Site which offers services in more than 40 languages besides English. And if you check the website, it is not all hotel descriptions. There is inspirational copy in the Unpacked: Travel Articles, there are many buttons, explanations, offers, newsletters, products like Business Bookers and much more — available in so many languages. You guessed it? Yes, translating all this text takes up the most of the Language Specialist’s day.

Also, when you travel, you know that you need a place to stay. Yes, accommodation owners from all over the world also have the opportunity to communicate with Booking.com in more than 40 languages. So, all of their contracts, property management tools, opportunities for business growth and awards are also translated by Language Specialists.

And no matter how well organized you are, everyone has experienced a moment when plans suddenly change and you have to contact Customer Service looking for a solution. Yes, a big part of the written communication between Customer Service and guests is automated in an enormous number of template letters. And yes — Language Specialists are translating those as well.

So where does that leave us with all those hotel descriptions? Contrary to popular belief, that is the only thing on the Booking.com website which is not translated by Language Specialists, but by an army of Booking.com Freelance Translators and translation bots. However, checking the quality of freelancer’s hotel descriptions is also part of our regular tasks, too.

Shall we solve the mystery of the title itself? Why aren’t we just called ‘Translators’?

The key word for solving this mystery comes down to the term ‘localization’. The everyday work of a Language Specialist revolves around this concept. It is the magic of not just translating English copy, but translating it in such a way to be the most suitable for the local market. That is the moment when your knowledge of the local culture, habits (and even football celebrities) plays a crucial role. It is a challenging and exciting part of the job to find the most natural-sounding, funniest, catchiest solution for a translation that at the same time perfectly reflects the idea in English. That is where the ‘Specialist’ part of the title comes in. It is the thrill of making sure that young hipster booking accommodation through his app, and the old professor loyal to his PC, are both able to find their way around our website with ease, and at the same time not be bored with or offended by our tone of voice.

But even with all this translation work, don’t be tricked into thinking that’s it — this only takes up part of our day. Language Specialists also have the opportunity to join extra projects and contribute to Booking.com’s growth, utilizing their additional interests and skills. Language Specialists are actively involved in testing mobile app updates, meeting weekly with developers to press all the buttons in order to find and squash any bugs so users can book smoothly; they are also involved in experience exchange workshops, among many other learning opportunities within the company.

And when they have enough of being Language Specialists, they can, just as other Booking.com employees, go and cuddle turtles, help organize museum nights and pride parade boats, or be part of some other socially and culturally engaging activities for the Booking Cares program. But hey, that’s a whole new topic we will get to some other time.

So if you are considering applying for the Language Specialist position at Booking.com, be aware that translating is just the first step in a big world of localization challenges and experimenting opportunities. Come and join us (you might even get to cuddle a turtle)!

We’re always on the hunt for new localization talent. Wanna join us? Apply here.


Stories from the writers at Booking.com