As a child, Mariona Sanmartin used to help her father translate payslips from Spanish to Catalan, in return for sweets. She has since developed her translation skills into a career. She and her business partner Robert Bolohan have worked as freelance translators since 2015. They launched Lotuly, a bespoke translation service, in 2019.

Mariona and Robert are based in London and now work with more than 500 qualified freelance translators, across the world, providing translations in 90 languages.

The Lotuly business name combines ‘lo’, short for ‘logus’ which means words in Latin, and ‘tuly’, short for ‘tratuli’, which means translation in Latin. Lotuly has banked with Starling since 2020 and has business accounts in GBP, EUR and USD. The co-founders often use Starling’s international payments feature, covering 39 countries and 21 currencies.

Machine vs human translation

Lotuly never uses machine translation. “We love technology, but for translation it’s not the right approach. Sometimes businesses ask us to proofread a text that’s been translated by a machine. It takes so much time to figure out what the machine is trying to say that it ends up being easier to translate from scratch,” says Mariona.

“I once saw ‘paper jam’ translated into Spanish as ‘mermelada de papel’, which in Spanish means the jam you put on toast, made of paper,” she says.

A client-centred approach

Mariona, 25, and Robert, 27, speak Catalan, Spanish, English and Romanian. With the recent business growth, they now spend less time on translation and more time on communication with clients.

“When a client doesn’t speak the language they need a translation for, it can be daunting for them - they can’t know if a translation is correct. So we encourage clients to ask any question they need to,” she says.

Lotuly offers translation services in 40 subject areas, including law, medicine and technology, and can provide website or app copy, presentations and educational resources. Lotuly clients include software companies, marketing agencies, NGOs and financial firms.

The business can also help with marketing campaigns for companies branching out internationally. “For example, if you want to sell shoes in Spain, we can help by researching your target market, including your audience’s age, where they shop, what they like. We can incorporate Spanish keywords that customers might use to search for the product,” says Robert.

“We pay our translators in advance, they can work from anywhere they want and they are not trapped by contracts - they can have their own little business on the side. All this has helped us build a great team.”

Managing multiple currencies with Starling

As a branchless, paperless bank using debit cards made from recycled plastic, Starling appealed to Lotuly. “We chose a digital bank because we try to do everything to minimise our waste as a business. We’re an eco-friendly company - we plant one tree for every project.” Robert says.

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