Icebreaker 12, October 2013

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Welcome to the twelfth issue of Icebreaker, the STP newsletter.

In putting together this issue, I have been ably assisted by our new English in-house translator Siân Mackie, who is of course not English at all, but Scottish. And not all her skills are linguistic either – this Saturday, Siân and I will be teaching STP staff some beautiful Scottish Ceilidh dancing at our annual weekend away in Canterbury.

Company news

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Specialise or Do-it-all?

I recently attended a conference session with the above title at the ELIA Networking Days where Michael Oettli from nlg and Spyros Konidaris from Commit debated this question from their respective points of view. They were mainly focusing on the effect that this choice has on the client service side of their businesses and discussing whether an LSP should specialise in one industry rather than span all fields. It was recognised, however, that the typical scenario is an LSP specialising in its language offering.

As an Operations Manager of a company that does exactly that, it is absolutely clear to me that whether on languages or vertical markets, specialisation is not merely a unique selling point for the sales and marketing department; it also has ramifications for all the production-related processes of a translation company. There are many benefits to specialisation when it comes to the planning, implementation, supervision and measuring of the company’s operations: it makes quality control more realistic and manageable. It simplifies the project management database structure for products supplied and the units they are supplied in. Employing in-house translation teams becomes a meaningful option and this in turn facilitates extensive translator training and peer support opportunities. Vendor Management is able to build up resources in advance with purpose and direction instead of having to respond to each new quote, account or client on the fly. Investment in terminology management as well as in sophisticated linguistic or subject-knowledge dictionaries makes sense. High-quality machine translation output can be achieved with dedicated engines trained on adequate volumes of specific material.

The rewards for excellence in a niche market can be very high indeed, but the expectations of a specialist are high, too. Working as a regional language vendor (RLV) for other LSPs, like STP does, means serving a knowledgeable client base who understand what they are buying and how to ascertain its quality. The best specialists are also usually thought-leaders who contribute generously to their industry’s developments while remaining flexible go-to-people, ready to be called upon whenever their services are in demand.

Staff News

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Delightfully Danish

Originally from the countryside of Northwest Zealand, Sara Pedersen graduated with an MA in English Translation and Interpretation from the Copenhagen Business School with Spanish as an additional language. After graduation she decided to explore the global job market and, not doing anything by halves, went to China to work as an English teacher for six months. She then increased her work experience with a five-month translator traineeship at the European Commission in Luxembourg before joining STP.

Sara joined STP in April 2013 and now works as one of our Danish Account Linguists, a role involving elements of project management and translation for a few designated clients. Sara finds the diverse range of tasks that accompany this role very interesting as they allow her to become particularly well-acquainted with the work of specific companies and their products, which she feels is beneficial for everyone involved.

Sara enjoys living in England, and hopes to be able to explore more of what the country has to offer in the future. Her interests involve singing in a choir, keeping fit, cooking, learning languages, playing board games and fun nights out with other young STP employees.

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Nanna Sloth Kristiansen comes from Jutland and graduated with an MA in International Business Communication in English from the University of Aarhus. While studying she focused her efforts on translation and interpretation, looking at localisation and machine translation among other things. Nanna also has a BA in Italian Language, Literature and Culture from the University of Aarhus. She was hired by STP shortly after graduating, so this is her first experience of working as a translator in a professional capacity.

Nanna joined STP in July 2013 and currently works as a Danish Account Linguist alongside Sara. She also finds being able to dedicate more time to certain clients very beneficial, and enjoys varied responsibilities that come with such a role.
Nanna also enjoys living in England, and is very much looking forward to the arrival of her fiancé, Martin, and their dog Viktor. Her interests include reading, going to the gym, cooking, brushing up on her Italian and going to the pub with other STP employees. She also plans to start dog training again when her dog gets here.

Industry issues

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In it Together

In the past month, I have listened to a number of great speakers sharing their wisdom on the causes of and solutions for the challenging state our industry finds itself in today. Hans Fenstermacher, with a language industry career spanning three decades, touched on the topic at both the 18th Annual Conference of the Localisation Research Centre in Limerick and the ATC conference in London. Today the CEO of GALA, the world’s largest localisation association, one of Hans’ tasks is to promote the visibility of translation and localisation to the outside world. “To the corporate client”, he says, “localisation is always primarily a cost and that is how they continue to measure it.” This means that they treat it as a commodity; one product must surely be identical to any other product of the same size and can thus be purchased strictly on price. It seems to be this ignorance of and lack of experience with localisation on the client side that is driving the current commoditisation trend all LSPs struggle with.

One frequently proposed way out of the situation is to raise the profile of the industry as a whole. To effect any change in what motivates the commercial sector to localise, and to localise well, means proving to them that it makes a difference to their market share, customer base, or sometimes simply to their image. In his inspiring presentation at the ATC conference, Hans described language today as a craft, a profession, a technology, a business and a community, all coming together to form a language enterprise that consists of service companies, clients, freelance professionals, technology developers, educators, researchers and associations. As an enterprise, we have mutual interests. As an enterprise, we have an opportunity to create value, share knowledge and advocate our relevance collectively.

In this, the industry associations have a key role and it has been good to see the ATC, GALA and ELIA in particular considering cooperation and taking steps in the right direction. Perhaps over the coming year, the association heads should get together and compare notes on successful, creative marketing efforts from their respective member companies? Perhaps some of these innovative ideas could be transferred from local initiatives to national or even international ones? Perhaps at our conferences next year, we could do something truly newsworthy? Talk to Gisela Kooistra at Global textware in the Netherlands about her guerrilla tactics or Marek Gawrysiak at TextPartner in Poland about riding his bike for Translators Without Borders. What brought a small ROI to an individual company could do the same a hundredfold for the image of an industry.

Nordic focus

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Box, Box, Baby

New arrival to the British royal family, Prince George, recently found himself the lucky recipient of one of Finland’s baby boxes, traditionally distributed to expectant Finnish mothers as a means of giving all children an equal start in life. It also gives parents quality time with their child without the initial stress of buying essential items such as clothes, nappies, baby toiletries and, it would seem, a cot. What a relief it must have been for proud parents William and Kate to discover that the box came equipped with a mattress and bedding for quick and easy box-to-cot conversion, perfect for those moments when all that hand-shaking and baby-juggling just can’t be coordinated.

The boxes were first distributed in 1938 as a means of decreasing infant mortality in Finland, which at that time was very high, yet now the country boasts one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world – something I’m sure helps the parents sleep well at night, whether their child is in a box or not. Swedish Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel also received a box when their daughter, Estelle, was born last year, so it seems a new trend may be evolving. Just imagine all those royal toddlers stumbling about their various estates wearing Finnish baby snowsuits. No snow, no fear! At least if the child takes a tumble they’ll have plenty of padding.

It would seem that Finland is alone in such a unique provision, but the Nordic countries still come out on top when it comes to promoting an equal start in life for all newborns. In the UK, for example, new fathers are given two weeks of paternity leave, whereas in many of the Nordic countries they are given up to five months of paid leave for quality bonding time with their child in those crucial first months. Yet, it should be noted that one of the most common first words in the UK is ‘Daddy’ – so either he still manages to play an important role in his child’s life or the baby is simply wondering where he is!

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