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LanguageLine’s New Owner Says Tech Will Not Replace Interpreters

From Slator...

Article Excerpt: By selling to French call center operator Teleperformance, over-the-phone interpreter LanguageLine Solutions (LanguageLine) enters another chapter. The company’s history stretches back to 1982 when it was founded by a US marine and a policeman to help law enforcement officers communicate with Vietnamese refugees.

...LanguageLine is the dominant US player in remote interpreting. In 2015, the company generated revenues of USD 388m and EBITDA of nearly USD 150m. Of LanguageLine’s 8,000 interpreters, 92% work from home; 86% of the business comes from over-the-phone (OTP) interpreting with video and onsite contributing the rest.

Paris-based Teleperformance is new to language interpretation services. One of the largest call center operators in the world, the company was founded in 1978 by current Executive Chairman Daniel Julien. Its 190,000 employees share 147,000 workstations. Like LanguageLine, Teleperformance is highly profitable with an EBITDA of EUR 492m on revenues of EUR 3.4bn in 2015.

Link to the full article here

InterpretAmerica's Take: Teleperformance who? LanguageLine has long been the giant of the US and global telephonic interpreting market and it has just been bought by a French company for a whopping USD $1.5 billion. That amount is hard to digest in an expanding but still relatively modest remote interpreting market. Indeed, it represents an estimated 2/3 of the total telephonic interpreting market value.

The potential implications of this purchase for telephonic interpreting in the United States are huge. It may feel like business news unrelated to the average interpreter, but it is important for the indivdual interpreter as well as for large consumers of telephonic interpreting.

LanguageLine is likely the largest single employer of freelance interpreters in the US (approximately 8,000). It services hospitals, courts, emergency responders (they hold the 911 contract) and other businesses who need interpreting services. How Teleperformance chooses to proceed with LanguageLine's existing labor force infrastructure will impact wages, work conditions and expectations.

The sale represents much that is in flux in our field. There has been sporadic interest by call center companies in acquiring a telephonic interpreter infrastructure. Will the company maintain LanguageLine's predominant market position or will it fold it into its own business platform? What will happen to LanguageLine's role in nationwide 911 contracts, as well as the key role it plays in many US hospital language access programs. Moravia's Douglas Green posted an insightful blog about Teleperformance's possible motives that makes for an interesting read.

Many other articles and blogs are being written about the sale. We have chosen to highlight Slator's in-depth analysis of the sale. Slator is one of the first news sites dedicated solely to the language services industry. We see their growing presence as a positive sign of increasing professionalization in our field. InterpretAmerica Co-president Barry Olsen was interviewed for the article, as were several other experts. We hope you'll click through to read the entire article and take a moment to explore Slator's site. 

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