Nothing Is Lost In Translation

October 3, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — Languages International Inc., una empresa de servicios completos de traduccion e interpretacion en idiomas extranjeros con sede en Grand Rapids, Mich, tiene una nueva propietaria.

To have that sentence translated — which announces that Languages International, a full service foreign language translation and interpretation services company based here, has come under new ownership — contact Beverly Fishell Wall.

Wall recently bought Languages International and is the new CEO. She is also the 2003 ATHENA Award winner.

“When (Davenport’s) Dr. (Jacqueline) Taylor called and gave me the news, I had to sit down — to tell you the truth. And then I just commenced to fluster and bluster. For a communicator to not be able to express what was going on, it was really an awkward moment,” said Wall, also president of Fishell Properties.

“It was wonderful and awkward at the same time.”

Wall won the ATHENA, presented by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Huntington Bank for her contributions to the community, the professional excellence she has displayed over the years and for the leadership opportunities she has provided for women.

A few weeks prior to the awards ceremony, Wall picked up Languages International. The 15-year-old company has 70 employees, most of whom are women. It offers document translation, typesetting and design, foreign language instruction, coaching on foreign culture and business etiquette, and interpretation services to individuals, small businesses, large companies and governments.

Wall told the Business Journal that she has had a desire to get involved in international commerce for quite a while and that was the main reason she purchased the company. She got a taste of the global arena as controller for Truss Technologies for a decade, but wanted a bigger bite of that business apple.

“This opportunity came up and I thought, ‘This is it.’ I can now have service and make an impact with other companies. I get to be on a team with several different industries, not just companies, but industries that need language translation. I can provide a real benefit for them as they go on to improve their business,” said Wall.

Not just in a few languages and dialects, either, as Languages International can provide services for roughly 200 of these. Although the company had customers in 48 states, most of the firm’s current clients are located in the northeastern U.S. Wall, however, plans to expand services into every corner of North America.

“Somebody asked me, why not the world? Well, the answer is logistics. I need to get a currency exchange in place so I can exchange a ruble or a yen for a U.S. dollar. I have just not set up the logistics for a worldwide organization, yet. We’re going to concentrate on North America for the next couple of years and service these great companies,” said Wall.

Spanish is easily the language that the firm translates most often. Italian, German, French and European Spanish are next. Wall said that Chinese, Japanese and other Pacific Rim dialects are emerging, being translated more frequently, but not as often as the others.

“The Pacific Rim languages are based on symbols. It’s a little more complex to translate and then be able to typeset a computer font and get a program that can read that type of a unique symbol, and then put it into a document,” said Wall.

Activity at Languages International slowed when the economy slumped. But Wall said things have picked up recently, as clients who hadn’t used the firm for the past year have started placing orders. She sees the rise in business as an indicator that the economy is turning the corner and as a sign that interest in international business is returning.

Languages International has its corporate headquarters at 2849 Michigan St. NE and sales offices in Chicago and Ohio.

Wall was raised near Carson City. She earned her MBA from Grand Valley State University, with her undergraduate degrees coming from Aquinas College and Davenport University. She has been very active in the local community, serving on a number of boards and as president of the Cedar Springs Chamber of Commerce two years ago. Steve, her husband, is an engineer with the Blackmer-Dover Co.

Fishell Properties, Wall’s other company, specializes in buying single-family homes on the foreclosure market and selling the houses to new buyers. Right now, that market is active.

“Foreclosures are significant out there. I’m able to come in and help folks that are in such a situation that their home is no longer a pleasure,” she said. “It’s a financial burden, and I’m able to help them get out from under that, and then get the next homeowner into that property to keep the neighborhood viable.”    

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