Walking at a Brisk Pace, by cApStAn’s co-founder Steve Dept  

With the epic backdrop of geopolitical turmoil and environmental urgency, it may seem awkward to dwell on our minute successes. What with the barbaric invasion of Ukraine? What with the courageous revolt of the Iranian people in general and of Iranian women in particular? What about the denial of the right to education for Afghan girls and women? Not to mention the bomb cyclone of winter storm Elliott – all of these preclude extravagant celebratory statements. if I had some sense of propriety, shouldn’t I rather focus on expressing our collective solidarity and support? I suppose I should. Mind you, it is what we try to do on a daily basis, by the way we live, the way we work, and the choices we make. In language operations—LangOps is the term that industry gurus recommend we should adopt to replace “localization”, and Multilingual’s December issue sheds light on this lexical choice from refreshingly diverse vantage points—our celebrated excellence among friends attitude is an effective demonstration that professionalism and empathy can go hand in hand: efficiency and respect are perfectly compatible, and we experience the magic of this combination year after year.

More importantly, I think the nature and the objectives of the content we process are what gives us a sense of purpose and keeps us connected with the world and with society: international large-scale assessments (ILSAs) such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment (OECD/PISA) collect data that inform education stakeholders and policy-makers. Education systems worldwide gain access to data that allows them to benchmark student achievement and identify the variables at play in successful learning. Attitudinal surveys on the perception of immigration, policies, on violence against women and girls, on discrimination against minorities, on quality of life or on retirement and ageing give people a voice and advance social science. The results of these surveys and polls generate a broader understanding of the drivers of social movements and of the fears, concerns and priorities of diverse population groups.

While I do understand that I should exercise some restraint when reporting on the considerable feats of the cApStAn community, I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge at least a smattering of our achievements.   Let me use the word ‘sheen’ rather than ‘brilliance’ so as not to dazzle the reader. I want to trust that you wouldn’t read ‘patina’ as ‘lacklustre’ or ‘modest’ as ‘bland’. We have been walking at a brisk pace, bending forward to cut through the headwinds, wiping the drizzle away from our cheeks, processing words by the millions, churning out reports by the dozen. We have returned to cApStAn’s pre-Covid levels of activity and beyond. Today we are bracing ourselves for rough seas: never before did we have such a large number of sizeable projects in the pipeline at the beginning of the year.

There won’t be any downtime in 2023; and we shall need all the savvy, grit and capacity we can muster. In this context (and in any context) we are delighted to have welcomed Alice and Andrés in our Philadelphia office, as well as Aurélie, Nela and Tanya in our Brussels office—Tanya moved from Kyiv to Brussels and from freelance project manager to full-time employee. The stellar core team is six strong in the US, and 20 in Europe (5 of whom are independent professionals). You can find all of us on the Brussels and Philadelphia <Team> pages of our brand-new website, launched this year.

An important moment this year has been an external audit of our processes, our use of technology and our workflows. This has percolated into a roadmap for six work groups that scope, streamline, determine objectives and milestones. On the horizon of 2023, we see a learning curve leading to further efficiency gains: we have already started investing time and resources in more interoperability, more automation, and more transversal communication.

A big thank you to our partner organisations, our clients, our trusted community of linguists and experts, and the cApStAn core team for keeping up the brisk pace of our ecosystem, for being focused, for agreeing on priorities, and for mutual respect.