Creative WomenInterviews

Language Translation as a Tool for Business/Artistic Expansion: Charlotte and Sheilla Addison’s Story

By September 20, 2016 No Comments

Sheilla and Charlotte Addison are twin sisters who began a venture using their language skills to provide translation services to cater for the language needs of businesses and individuals around the world.

The irony is that they almost rejected their university admission because they were offered a language course and such courses are not prestigious like Medicine, Law or Business Administration is.

Today, they are passionate about the role of language in business expansion, the literary world and how African Literature can be taken to the vibrant reading markets through translation. They have lived in Cuba for a year and have occasionally served as interpreters for tourists as well as worked with the Jeli, a London-based publishing firm, as Spanish translators.

Meet Charlotte and Sheila Addison.

Translator Charlotte Addison

For Creative Girls: Hi Charlotte and Sheilla, tell us about your background, growing up as twin sisters and all the interesting details you can share with us.
Charlotte: I am Charlotte Addison, a writer and translator at The Jeli; Founder and C.E.O of Enlaza Global Limited. We grew up in a nuclear family where we were taught to do everything together, we wore similar clothes, ate from the same bowl, did chores together. We practically did everything together. I believe that our upbringing has contributed a lot to the bond we now share.

Sheilla: I am Sheilla Addison. I work as a translator at the Jeli, Co-founder and Executive director of Enlaza Global Limited. One of the interesting moments we shared from our childhood includes my mom taking both of us to the hospital when just one of us is sick. In Africa, there is a belief that once one twin falls sick, soon enough, it’ll happen to the other too. So to avoid the trouble of going to the hospital again, my mom will ensure both of us receive treatments that include injection and medicine. Also, Charlotte used to receive lashes for me in primary school after having received hers because I was scared. Lol.

Using your language skills to provide translation services is a fascinating business exploration to us. Tell us more about your business and why you started it.
Charlotte: Enlaza Global is a professional language service provider which focuses on high-quality translation services by catering to the language needs of businesses and individuals. Our mission is to bridge the language gap in order to help our clients expand their businesses and build their corporate brands by providing the right language service in business communication and marketing that resonate with their target market.

Sheilla: We have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. While living in Cuba and working on translating the novel ’29 steps’ by Ebele Mogo published by the Jeli, we realised the potential and power of language in reaching millions worldwide. We did some research and realised that the world’s population is about 7.4 billion, approximately 1.5 million are English speakers and the question we asked ourselves was, “What about the rest?” They are untapped business markets. Our inspiration for starting this business is to unite these untapped markets to businesses within Africa and beyond.

What challenges have you faced so far and how have you been tackling them?
Charlotte: As a start-up, the challenges we have faced so far have to do with sourcing for clients and combining the workload with other important works. We have been handling this by taking advantage of our wide network base and using that power to leverage and get referrals as well as putting together a start-up and partnership package which we will be rolling out soon. Also, we believe in the power of relationships, we continue to build and strengthen our partnerships with start-up companies like PEDSOLUTION, our I.T service provider and SENTREP, a community of start-up businesses.

Sheilla: With the workload, we like to stick to a schedule and a to-do list, these have been very helpful and in a couple of weeks or a month, we will be calling for fellows (Blog contributors, Social Media Assistants and Researchers) for our fellowship programme to help us and also grow their wealth of experience with a language company.

Translator Sheilla Addison
What is it like running a business as twin sisters? Do you sometimes drive each other crazy or are you always in sync with each other?
Charlotte: Running a business as twin sisters is pretty interesting. Our strength compliment each other. For instance, I am the creative box, with good communication and leadership skills. Sheilla, on the other hand, is street smart with great financial management, negotiation skills, and great organisational skills. When it comes to these, she is a force to reckon with. *Smiles*. We are both go-getters and love working in a team and as a team.

Sheilla: It does get crazy sometimes when we disagree on the next step or a decision to take. Charlotte is very intuitive and I can be spontaneous especially when I get excited about something and that has cost us some things in the past. One thing we do now is to wait a day or some hours, defend our stand for a particular decision, assess it very well, then we make our decision. We have a strong bond, we argue and move on.

You are both passionate about the role of language in business expansion. In your experience and journey, how do you think language can further help businesses and economies at large?
Charlotte: We believe language has been underestimated for a long time. Nelson Mandela once said, ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language that goes to his heart.’ This is such a true and powerful statement which if considered seriously can boost our business expansion projects and partnerships within Africa and in turn our economies. Africans have a lot in common in terms of culture and diversity, our main problem is Language.

Sheilla: According to Common Sense Advisory, “72.4 {7516946f8b0c1a6ede41439c3ae11d430d01c6cb1788b8e4cf8ff90b3f78e65d} of consumers said they would be more likely to buy a product with information in their own language and 56.2{7516946f8b0c1a6ede41439c3ae11d430d01c6cb1788b8e4cf8ff90b3f78e65d} of consumers said that the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than price.’’

According to a new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit – A business research unit of the Economist Magazine,  “64{7516946f8b0c1a6ede41439c3ae11d430d01c6cb1788b8e4cf8ff90b3f78e65d} of businesses believe language and cultural differences constrain their international expansion plans.”

Looking at these numbers, the role of language cannot be overemphasised in our times if we want to create solutions that will impact our economies and create employment.

Let’s go to the creative side of this. Do you learn new languages from time to time? Or how do you keep up with languages?
Charlotte: Our personal policy with regards to languages is to get a firm grip on one language first before moving on to the next. I do have plans of learning Chinese and French.

Sheilla: Language is more than the words put together. It is a culture, an identity, a mindset, a people and as such it does take a bit of time to fully understand and imbibe all of that. We experiment once in a while with other languages so as to find one we can be passionate about. I would like to study Portuguese and French going forward.Enlaza Language Translation
You lived in Cuba for a year, you must have had a lot of fun! Describe your experience.
Charlotte: Cuba was as much fun as it was challenging! It is a beautiful Island, the environment is serene and the sea and arts are amazing! There is no pure Cuban, They are all a mix of a different race and as such, there is a diversity in terms of culture. They also share a lot with African culture especially religion because a lot of the slaves taken to Cuba were from West Africa. The dominant African cultural influence is the Nigerian culture and a bit of Congolese and Mozambique. They have a religion called Santeria (of Yoruba origin), gods named Ogun, Orisha, Yemaya, dialectal songs, energetic dance routines, the hand clapping, chants, drums and costumes among others. Time completely stood still there, we practically lived in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Lol.

Sheilla: Cuba can be a difficult place to live in because it’s a different system altogether. They are poor and the system was created with the Cuban in mind and that can be very challenging for the foreigner. Most of the people are very cunning, sly and not genuine. They have a saying over there “El Cubano es malo” which means “The Cuban is bad”. They have become suffocated by their system, they love to take advantage of foreigners and that is quite unfortunate. The internet problem is big because it sometimes felt we were shut out from the rest of the world as if the world outside didn’t exist. In spite of that, we did meet some wonderful Angolans, Grenadians, Ghanaians, Namibians, and Zambians.

You write for The Jeli and firmly believe that African Literature can be taken to the vibrant reading markets through translation. We’d love to learn more about your work with The Jeli and your thoughts on African Literature.
Charlotte: The Jeli is a London-based publishing company for Black millennials. It aims to be a place where people of, whether in Africa or across the globe in the African Diaspora can come together and share stories. Being a writer myself, I believe African literature, is a rich collection of who we are, our struggles, fears, joy, where we have been and where we are going. Working with the Jeli and having the opportunity to translate works from Blacks from different parts of the continents is exciting.

Sheilla: We started working with the Jeli while living in Cuba. Our role as Spanish Translators also ignited our passion for Enlaza Global. It is awesome working with Esther Kuforiji, the Founder and C.E.O, she is an inspiration.

Do you have a daily routine? Do share with us.
Charlotte: I like to plan my day ahead, by organising my to-do list the day before. From 4:30 am – 6:30 am are ME times where I connect with God, read and get ready for the day. Then I try to stick to my schedule and to-do list for the rest of the day.

Sheilla: I wouldn’t say I have a fixed routine but some things do run through, like have my prayer time, check my messages, prepare ads for the social media pages that I have and basically prepare for the day.

Share your creative and literary resources with us (at least 3). We’d also love to know your favourite books.
Charlotte: I have a lot of favourite books, I will share three:
* The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
* Their eyes were watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
*All short story collections written by Onelio Jorge Cardoso

Some of my creative and literary Resources are:
Aerogramme Writers ‘Studio
Brittlepaper
For Creative Girls

Sheilla: I don’t have a favourite book yet, I do love
*The ghost of Sani Abacha by Chuma Nwokolo
*A collection of Spanish Short Stories by Onelio Jorge Cardoso
*The Power of the Mind by Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, D.SC. D.D

Also, what’s the process for getting hired by you?
We have a team of freelance Translators proficient in French, Chinese, Arabic, English and Portuguese language who we are consider hiring based on language skills, passion, attitude and integrity. These four things are topmost for us when hiring.

Follow Charlotte and Sheilla on Instagram and Facebook.

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