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Episode Transcript: Talk with Jill Kushner Bishop, Founder of Multilingual Connection 

Minnie Sinha: Hi, everyone. This is Minnie again with a brand-new episode of our podcast, uSpeak. Yes, it’s been a while since my last episode, but it turned out to be a busy summer working, entertaining, and, to top it, vacationing. Yes, we took our long-awaited trip to Africa, and it was phenomenal. We saw so many animals on our safaris, and we were lucky enough to see the migration. We saw thousands and thousands of zebras and wildebeests everywhere. We also saw so many elephants, giraffes, lions, different kinds of deer, not forgetting hyenas, hippos, cheetahs, leopards, and the list is long.

And we also saw many beautiful birds for the first time, so…and, in case you are wondering where we went, we went to Kenya, Tanzania, and to Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls. Victoria Falls is simply majestic. It is so beautiful. Overall, it was a fantastic trip, and I must add here the people, they’re so nice wherever we went, so kudos to them. Anyhow, now, I must welcome my guest who was been patiently waiting for this interview to start.

Jill Kushner Bishop: Well, no, Minnie, I’ve been waiting to hear more about your trip. It sounds amazing.

Minnie Sinha: It was amazing, actually. I wish – you know, I could do a whole podcast on that.

Jill Kushner Bishop: I’m sure.

Minnie Sinha: I have so many new experience. So, anyway, let me introduce you. You are Jill Kushner Bishop, the founder of, a company that translates documents, transcribes audio, and supports multilingual research, subtitle, and voice video in over 75 languages. A very warm welcome to you, Jill.

Jill Kushner Bishop: Thanks, Minnie. I’m happy to be here.

Minnie Sinha: Okay. Good. Good to hear that. And I hope you are ready because I’m so happy to grill you now.

Jill Kushner Bishop: Okay. Bring it on.

Minnie Sinha: Okay. So, let’s start with what kind of services does your company provide?

Jill Kushner Bishop: Sure. So, we’re a Chicago-based agency that has grown and changed over the 18 years since I started it. Our bread-and-butter service is translation, document translation, website, app, marketing content, legal contracts, all different types of translation services. Next is transcription. We work in about 75 languages for transcription as well, also English, but then a variety of different languages, some monolingual, some what we call interpretive, where we go from one language directly into English. Voiceover and subtitling is another area of ours. And our newest, just in the last couple of years, is our multilingual research support.

Since so much of the work that we do is in support of market research and user research, – it could be survey translation. It could be audio and video transcription for focus groups and interviews – we launched our multilingual research support to help our clients when they need a facilitator for the research. And so, we have researchers in over 25 languages that don’t just transcribe or translate but actually do the research as part of the project team.

Minnie Sinha: Okay. So, that’s the part of something – a new service that you added to do research in.

Jill Kushner Bishop: Exactly.

Minnie Sinha: Okay. All right. Good for you. Okay. So, tell me, what inspired you to start Multilingual Connections?

Jill Kushner Bishop: Well, I was fired, so that was kind of the immediate impetus to start the business. But on a larger scale, it brought together all of my interests and my experience, both academically and professionally. I always loved traveling. I loved language. I studied Spanish and Hebrew growing up. I taught English in a number of countries around the world. I was always involved some way in language and culture. And I decided to get a Ph.D. in linguistic anthropology, which looks at the connection between language and culture.

And then fast forward a few years, I was doing user research for a corporation where I also had to do some multilingual research work. Then I was overseeing language and culture programs for Chipotle Mexican Grill, helping multilingual employees do their jobs better and more safely and move up within their companies. And I started thinking about ways that I could create something somewhat new and my own and have more flexibility to raise a family and more ownership in everything that we were doing. And so, I started to think about a business, and I worked on planning the business but waiting for the right opportunity and waiting and waiting. And then, as I mentioned – it was actually – I was caught on the wrong side of some office politics, and I was handed my voluntary resignation letter.

And three weeks later, I started my business. That was March of 2005. Excuse me. And the company has changed so much over the years, but what hasn’t changed is our focus on creating connections. It just looks a little different than it did back then in my basement.

Minnie Sinha: Okay. So, right after, like you said, three weeks after you resigned. So, that is 18 years back, right?

Jill Kushner Bishop: Yes.

Minnie Sinha: And no looking back. So, tell me, how does Multilingual Connections – whatever was in your head that time working with Chipotle as your client. How did it all start? Was that the time that that put the seed in your mind that you could start something in this field later on your own?

Jill Kushner Bishop: Yeah. So, even when I was – long before Chipotle, I was teaching English internationally. And one of the places I was teaching was in Argentina, and I had a variety of corporate clients. I was working for a couple of language schools, and they needed English teachers to go in and help executives learn how to speak English so that they could do global business more effectively and more confidently. And I really love the work. And, at the time, I thought, “Wow. I’d love to do something like this, but I really do wanna eventually go back to the US.” So, at the time, I didn’t think that there was something similar that I could do back at home.

I thought of doing corporate English training as only something that I could do when I was not in the US. And so, it was interesting. Years later, I wound up teaching a workplace English program at a community college. And I was going into factories and teaching English to speakers of Polish and Spanish and Vietnamese and Arabic and working on employee safety and helping them be able to communicate at work but also at home, in the community, or with their kids’ teachers, how to go to Walgreens and ask for cough medicine, you know, things that just people need to know how to do so that they could live their lives personally and professionally and grow and raise their families here. But these were little kind of seeds that got planted along the way. And then it wasn’t until I was working at Chipotle overseeing these programs, and I was going into the restaurants in four different states working with the line employees who typically are the ones who don’t get the training dollars.

Employee training typically is spent at the higher levels, the executive coaching and the middle management. But the hourly employees who are really functionally the face of the company, they typically aren’t the ones who are developed. And so, Chipotle at the time was really at the forefront of understanding that if they invested in developing the language skills of their employees, the employees would be happier, more productive, safer, and more promotable. The customers would get a better overall experience. There’d be less food waste. The burrito would be made right the first time.

There’s so many different things that were – different great outcomes. And so, that’s when I started to realize that there really was a huge opportunity for these types of programs in the US. And so, as I started to think about my plan for an exit, I was thinking about what companies didn’t have the luxury of a full-time department of people like myself. I think at the time, there were 10 or more people who were doing the same job as I was throughout the company. And so, I started thinking about hotels and restaurants that have multilingual workers but have no way – no idea how to approach this kind of training need.

And so, when I started my business, it was originally called Workforce Language Services. And the whole focus was going into restaurants and hotels and doing translation – I’m sorry, doing English and Spanish classes. And it was only a little bit later that somebody I knew from college called and asked if I could translate a website. And so, I thought “Okay. This could be a nice, little side thing,” still thinking that training would be the focus. And then, over the years, the training became less and less, and the translation became more, and then the transcription added – you know, jumped in, and then this voiceover and the subtitling and now the market research.

And it’s at the point, and for many years now, we haven’t done any training. We refer that to partners. And we focus on the B-to-B services of translation and transcription. And that could be academic transcription. It could be corporate transcription. It could be seminars, focus groups, interviews, documentary footage. It’s all such interesting work and, again, in English and 75 different languages depending on the day and what the needs are.

So, it’s been a really interesting process over these 18 years to see what my vision had been for the company in those early days and then how it’s shifted – changed over the years as our clients have requested different services, and technology has come into play. And it’s been an amazing 18-year ride with a fantastic team and thousands of freelancers around the world that help us get the work done every day.

Minnie Sinha: Wonderful. What a wonderful story.

Jill Kushner Bishop: Thank you.

Minnie Sinha: So, tell me – so, what is the process of hiring transcribers or translators, and do you hire globally?

Jill Kushner Bishop: Yeah. We absolutely hire globally. Because we work in so many languages, it’s really important for us to have a very wide bench of people. We need different people based on the language, based on the native language, based on the industry expertise, based on the service. So, the same person that we hire to do Spanish translation for, let’s say, legal content is gonna be a very different person than we’re gonna hire to do transcription of market research or medical. And then, thinking about regions too. In Spanish, again, we’ve got US Spanish. We’ve got Latin American Spanish. We’ve got Spanish spoken in Spain.

So, we always wanna make sure that we’re very sensitive to not just the native language but the region and then, again, the industry expertise, the experience. Not all translators wanna be transcriptionists. Not all transcriptionists wanna be translators. So, we really have to have a very wide global bench. We’re constantly recruiting for quality translators and transcriptionists and researchers as well. So, we’re always looking for people that have the language skills and the cultural understanding, which is such an important part of everything that we do. It’s far beyond the words. It’s really about the culture and the context and helping convey that for our clients so that they truly understand and create those connections that they’re seeking to create.

Minnie Sinha: So, how do you handle subjectivity in translation?

Jill Kushner Bishop: Yeah. It’s a great question, and there is so much subjectivity. And so, that’s something that we wanna pay attention to and have a collaborative relationship with our clients about. It’s often the case where there’s not a one-to-one translation. There might be a one-to-eight translation. So, sometimes it could be just a judgment call of what sounds best for the translator. But in other cases, we wanna involve our clients and explain to them that there are a number of different ways that this could be translated, or can you help us get – could you give us some context, or these are some options. This is why we think this one might be better than this. What do you think?

So, it can often be a collaborative process. We did work for Netflix for a while a few years ago. We were doing all of their Arabic translation for titles and for their marketing content. And when we were suggesting new title translation, which is more of a process called transcreation, where it’s part translation, part copyrighting where you step back and you think. Orange is the new black, for example. You could translate that accurately, but there’s no way it’s gonna make sense. You have to come up with something completely new.

And, when we created those new options for titles like that, we’d include cultural and linguistic explanations and rationales for why this would make sense. And then we allowed our client to make the ultimate choice of what felt right based on their understanding and their expectations. And so, a lot of it is a partnership. Sometimes clients view translation or transcription as a transaction, and they think it’s just something – you can get the same quality. If you can get the same thing on Amazon, just get it cheaper on Amazon.

And translation, transcription, it’s a skill as you well know and your listeners know. And so, it’s skill. It’s context. It’s nuance. And so, we really take that partnership approach rather than transactional approach and wanna make sure that we’re collaborating with our clients and that we work really hard to get to the true understanding and the true form of what it is that we need to convey. But it’s not always simple and straightforward.

Minnie Sinha: Yeah, I can imagine that. So, when you said that you do the Arabic translation or captioning in Netflix, you mean if I’m watching Fauda, was it you who put the subtitles in [inaudible-crosstalk] [00:14:08]?

Jill Kushner Bishop: I wish. And I love Fauda, but no.

Minnie Sinha: Okay.

Jill Kushner Bishop: And we actually – we weren’t doing the subtitling of the content. We were working on the product, so it was the titles, the descriptions, and the press releases. And that contract has ended, but it was amazing to see the titles that we had created knowing that those are going down in history. People for years, for decades, for who knows how long will be referring to those titles in the ways that we translated them. And so, there’s a permanence there that’s really pretty amazing and very fulfilling.

So, yeah, it’s just been so interesting over the years the contracts that we’ve worked on and the projects and the impact that we’ve been able to have out in the world, even on something like a market research or kind of a public health research study on insomnia or cancer or COVID and just understanding – helping people who facilitated focus groups and interviews with multilingual speakers and bringing those people’s voices to bear so that decisions can be made, ideas can be spurred, and solutions can be created for people’s particular needs.

And so, knowing that we give voice to people and help create those connections has been incredibly fulfilling, whether it’s Netflix or a small nonprofit or a public health research project.

Minnie Sinha: Yeah. And, since you have grown into so many fields, now your horizon is so big. You can go anywhere. And then you are – you have a global presence, so that’s really good.

Jill Kushner Bishop: Yeah.

Minnie Sinha: That’s really good.

Jill Kushner Bishop: Thank you.

Minnie Sinha: I’m happy for you.

Jill Kushner Bishop: Thank you so much.

Minnie Sinha: Okay. Tell me, are your translators ATA-certified?

Jill Kushner Bishop: Yeah. So, many of them are, and some of them are not. And so, the ATA, or the American Translators Association, is a really important designation that many translators go through studying and testing to get the ATA certification. But I’ll say that we have some fantastic translators that are not ATA-certified. And we’ve also had ATA-certified translators that have been poor communicators or they’ve delivered late. And so, even though, technically, it’s the gold standard, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re always the right person for the right project.

And so, we encourage our translators to consider it. And some of our clients require it, so, of course, in that case, we will match them with ATA-certified translators for those projects. But otherwise, we make decisions based on who we feel is the best person for the right project. So, that’s our approach there with the ATA.

Minnie Sinha: And this certification, is it available to people working overseas also? Can they be ATA-certified or…

Jill Kushner Bishop: They can be. It’s just not available for all languages.

Minnie Sinha: Oh.

Jill Kushner Bishop: And then, in some countries, there is an equivalent agency that does certification. And so, it’s not the only agency out there. It’s just the American Translators Association. So, it’s the one that most of our clients are most familiar with if they’re familiar at all.

Minnie Sinha: That makes sense. Okay. So, how easy or hard it is to hire a qualified translator or transcriptionist?

Jill Kushner Bishop: That’s an interesting question. So, there’s so many different aspects to it. There’s somebody who understands language. There’s somebody who understands the cultural context. There’s also the communication. There’s the responsibility. There’s the responsiveness. There’s the timeliness on delivery. So, there’s so many factors that go into it. So, it’s not just about hiring somebody who understands the language. It goes beyond that. Somebody who’s willing to look outside the box and let us know. For example, when something comes up that has a couple of options for translation or when they don’t have the context and they need additional information from the client rather than just guessing and doing the translation. But again, it's also about finding people that work well with you, that are communicative, that are responsive, that are pleasant, friendly.

You know, we’re very relationships-driven at Multilingual Connections. And so, we don’t value relationships over everything. Certainly, if you do a poor job but have a great relationship, that’s not enough. But doing a great job and having a great relationship with our talent team and with our project managers is really important and helps you stand out from the crowd. Somebody who’s proactive and responsive and super communicative and does a great job is what we’re looking for in a linguist.

Minnie Sinha: So, may I ask the process of hiring? How do you hire a translator or a transcriptionist?

Jill Kushner Bishop: Sure. So, we get applicants all the time. Sometimes we’re actively posting in different places like Prose for a specific combination of language and expertise. And then we review the applications. We often do testing. We check references. We do a sample project. And, based on the outcome of that, they’re onboarded with heavy supervision initially and lots of editing available and cushion. We always wanna make sure that for newer translators or transcriptionists, there is time built into the project for that second set of eyes in case it turns out that they are missing things or they don’t understand the formatting requirements or they just need a little bit of extra coaching.

And then we do audits. We do spot-checking. We give feedback, and it’s a – again, it’s a collaborative process with the talent team as well. And so, sometimes there are projects that have a language that’s less common for us, and unfortunately, we only need that once every couple of months. And then we don’t have that opportunity to create the kind of team connection and feeling that we do with some of our other languages, but when possible, we really do like to keep our linguists connected. In fact, a couple years ago, as a team, as an internal team, we did just a silly video that I can’t really explain very well. But our linguists saw that and then they created a version of it themselves. So, these were freelance translators and transcriptionists, I believe all for Spanish, and they all put this time together to create the analogist video for themselves to share with us.

And we just thought that was so wonderful that they knew us well enough. They’re following us on social media. They’re involved in our company, that they feel like they’re a part of our team to the extent that they can be. And so, we really do want to develop those relationships and make them feel connected to us. It’s just a better way of working for all of us.

Minnie Sinha: At the end of it, they’re hired?

Jill Kushner Bishop: Oh, yeah. They were. Yeah, they were. They were people that had already been working with us for a while. Yeah. And, for some like Spanish – we do so much Spanish that we have people that we work with every day close to full time because there’s so much work in Spanish. And then, with other languages, it’s less frequent. But we really love those kinds of relationships that we develop with our go-to team, our go-to freelancers.

Minnie Sinha: I think that’s a very clever way of hiring or finding someone who is like a very good fit to your company. Good.

Jill Kushner Bishop: Yeah. Yeah, a company culture is really important.

Minnie Sinha: Yeah.

Jill Kushner Bishop: So, you know, demonstrating that – that’s a little harder to demonstrate on a resume, but you demonstrate it through the way that you interact with people and your efforts and your connection and your communication.

Minnie Sinha: Okay. And, you know what? Here, I wanted to jump in and tell you briefly about us.

Jill Kushner Bishop: Sure.

Minnie Sinha: What do we do here at TCI? As you may know, we offer an online training program in general transcription. And we have a job board that matches transcriptionist and translators with transcription or translation company with their unique requirements. I hope you were paying attention. Any transcription or translation company can register with us and post their jobs on our job board, and the offer is open to you too.

Jill Kushner Bishop: We will be taking advantage of that.

Minnie Sinha: Sure. You know what? After this podcast, I will send you our job board in the backlink, and then you can sign up.

Jill Kushner Bishop: That’d be wonderful. Thank you.

Minnie Sinha: Yeah, I would love to have you on there. And I also wanted to add here that we have an accuracy assessment tools also for someone to test their transcription skills. Okay. So, now moving on to what I want to ask next. What measures do you take to ensure file security and confidentiality?

Jill Kushner Bishop: Sure. So, we always have – within our onboarding paperwork with new translators and transcriptionists, there is a non-disclosure agreement/confidentiality agreement. And we take that very seriously. It’s increasingly important to our clients, and it’s increasingly important to us as a result. And then we use secure file transfer. Some of our clients ask that all content be destroyed within 30 days. Everybody has their particular way of working, and we wanna make sure that the people that we’re partnering with comply with those requirements as well.

Minnie Sinha: Okay. Since you have people working overseas also –

Jill Kushner Bishop: We do.

Minnie Sinha: I know we work with a few transcription companies, and they are quite strict about it. And they say that their transcriptionists or translators, they are just based here in the US because of the file security and confidentiality. So, it must be a challenge for you, but I’m sure you’re – whatever you do, it’s working for you, so…

Jill Kushner Bishop: Yeah. Our talent team is really diligent, yes.

Minnie Sinha: That’s good. Good, good. Okay. So, what kind of advice would you give other students or people considering entering this field?

Jill Kushner Bishop: Well, I’ll say the translation and transcription field is a great field with so much flexibility, so many interesting projects, so many opportunities to essentially be your own boss and under your own circumstances make your decisions that work for your life. We have a lot of people that work for us that are digital nomads, and they’re traveling all around the world. And they work when they feel like it and don’t when they don’t, which I think is amazing. I’m kinda jealous.

But I would say attention to detail is so important. It makes or breaks a relationship with a client. We can’t risk their trust, losing their trust based on work that doesn’t pay attention to those details, so making sure you’re always editing and listening very closely when you come across an unintelligible and doing the best that you can to note if it’s unintelligible but see if there’s any way you can get to what is really being said then. And then I would say the communication with your project managers, communication responsiveness that will help you float to the top when they know that they can count on you, they’re gonna hear from you.

If there’s ever going to be a delay, you let them know as soon as possible. If there’s additional information you need, you let them know as soon as possible. So, being super proactive and super detail-oriented are the most important things that I can suggest.

Minnie Sinha: That’s a great advice. Okay. And what kind of job satisfaction do you get when running your business versus working for someone else?

Jill Kushner Bishop: That’s a great question. And I would say it’s been a long time since I’ve worked for somebody else. Eighteen years is a really long time. But the ownership, not the financial ownership but just the ownership of the knowing that I’ve created this company is so fulfilling to me. But I created it, but it’s the people that work for me that have made it into what it is today. So, mine was the spark, but it really is all about my people. And we’re spread across I think eight or nine different continents – or different countries, I mean.

We’re a team of 25 in-house folks. And we used to be focused in Chicago. Now we only have six left in Chicago, and everybody else is spread out. And we just – my husband and I just met a couple of our Turkish employees this summer. And just in the last couple of months, our team has traveling and meeting each other in person for the first time ever. And that is the most fulfilling part of it is the team that is here every day working to support our clients but more importantly working to support each other.

And so, I am so fulfilled by the impact of the work that – the impact of the work that we do and the impact out in the world. But really, it’s about the people that are together here every day doing the work behind the scenes and the friendships and family feel that’s been created. So, I feel very, very fortunate.

Minnie Sinha: Yeah. Yeah. And you said that 25 people are from, what, Chicago area or US area or…

Jill Kushner Bishop: Well, no. We’re 25 total. And, originally, when I started the company, we were all in Chicago. But we started hiring internationally. So, we have a few in Turkey. We have a few in Egypt. We’ve got South Korea. We’ve got Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, and the throughout the US. And I’m forgetting – and Guatemala, and I’m forgetting a couple other countries I’m sure too. So, we’ve just gone after where the best talent is without regard to borders.

Minnie Sinha: Good. Good. And then you have a reason to go and visit them.

Jill Kushner Bishop: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Minnie Sinha: That’s an added benefit.

Jill Kushner Bishop: For sure. Definitely.

Minnie Sinha: So, let me – I’m almost down to my last question. So, what keeps you going?

Jill Kushner Bishop: I would say the team definitely as I’ve talked a lot about. And, as I monitor our Google chat spaces, all of the different personal and professional information that’s being shared, everything from people’s weekends and weddings that they’re going to, and travel but also a lot about the clients and the vendor feedback. When we get praise from a client, we share it in that chat group. And, when we get praise or comments from our vendors, we share that as well. We also have a new chat group on important mission-focused projects. So, we just completed a project on a foreign organization that fights against domestic violence and supports victims of domestic violence. And knowing that we’re helping organizations like that with their missions is exceptionally fulfilling to me and really keeps me motivated and going.

Minnie Sinha: Good. It seems like you are a people person, and you enjoy what you are doing, so…

Jill Kushner Bishop: Absolutely, yep.

Minnie Sinha: Good for you.

Jill Kushner Bishop: All very true. Thank you.

Minnie Sinha: All right. That wraps up our conversation. And, Jill, thank you so much for doing this interview and sharing all sorts of knowledge and experience in this field.

Jill Kushner Bishop: Thank you, Minnie.

Minnie Sinha: I’m sure my audience will find this very valuable. I wish you and your company many, many more successes and achievement. Take care and have a good day. Bye.

Jill Kushner Bishop: Thanks so much, Minnie. I appreciate it. Take care.

Minnie Sinha: Thank you. Bye. All right, everyone. I look forward to our next installment of uSpeak. Please share this with anyone who may find it interesting. Please check out our website at and remember to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. See ya next time. Bye.