Children from around the world can track Santa throughout the year thanks to a locally-owned company, the Globelink Foreign Language Center, which is the official translator for NORAD Tracks Santa.
The Colorado Springs-based private company was started by Fadia Zaki-Gnoske, a former language professor who is fluent in five languages. She translates the popular Christmas website into seven languages, but this is only one of Globelink’s many clients and services.
The small business offers on-site interpreting for 50 languages and over-the-phone interpreting services for 180 languages in addition to its translating services. Globelink serves thousands of clients every year who need translation or interpretation services, who want to take language classes at the center or use its resources, according to Zaki-Gnoske.
Her clients include those who need a quick translation of a birth certificate, businesses who need a translation of an employee handbook or anyone who wants to learn a new language. Services are provided by the staff of six and the more than 200 contracted linguists who work with Globelink.
Before she started Globelink, Zaki-Gnoske worked for a short time at the Foreign Language Center, which opened in Colorado Springs in 1978. Eventually she went into teaching at the Air Force Academy, Colorado College, UCCS and Pikes Peak Community College.
“That’s how I met a lot of wonderful professors — linguists who truly knew the language and, because I spoke five languages, had lived in so many countries and taught in so many universities (and I have a degree in business), it occurred to me start my own language school and language service company,” she said.
In 1999, Globelink was founded and solely operated by Zaki-Gnoske.
“I never thought in a million years I was going to go head-to-head against the Foreign Language Center. [But] a lot of people knew me from the places I taught and many people would say, ‘You’re like a walking language school, why don’t you have one?’”
Globelink started out of Zaki-Gnoske’s basement, and she became successful through her network and referrals. Her company continued to grow and, in 2005, she acquired the Foreign Language Center.
“The Foreign Language Center had changed hands many, many times and, in all honesty, was experiencing some growing difficulties,” she said. “The last owner wanted out. He was an engineer and didn’t know too much about language. He bought it as a pure business.
“To me it’s a business and a passion. So when the opportunity came to purchase I, of course, jumped on the opportunity and decided to combine the two and start molding the future.”
Globelink has seen growth every year. When it started, the business generated thousands in revenue and is now making seven figures, said Zaki-Gnoske, who declined to give specific numbers.
After several relocations, the business found its permanent home in its current spot on South Tejon Street in 2010.
As the business grew, Zaki-Gnoske said she received many phone call requests for more languages in Colorado Springs that were not being offered. She said she saw the need for her services.
Aside from her success, the few challenges Zaki-Gnoske saw included making sure business operations ran smoothly and understanding her clients’ needs.
“Those needs were actually changing because of certain laws that impacted schools, hospitals and clinics,” she said. “There is something called Title VI that requires entities that get money from the federal government to provide language access at no cost to the person receiving the service.
“So there is a need for interpreting and translations by a wide variety of clients. Those changing needs were definitely a challenge — anticipating what is happening in their world and in the law that impacted them.”
When hiring translators or interpreters, Zaki-Gnoske said she makes sure they know what their job truly requires as opposed to just being fluent in different languages.
To stay successful, quality has remained a top priority for Zaki-Gnoske.
“You must absolutely have … a quality service or product. … Credibility is very important. You don’t create credibility just by having a fancy website. There should be something behind the website. Part of the reason we succeeded is because we are a true brick-and-mortar type of operation with real people answering the phone as opposed to [clients] just leaving a message.”