Icebreaker 15, September 2014

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

The summer months have seen twelve new employees start at STP and, in addition to the teams training new colleagues for old tasks, we have also trained a number of old staff for new, exciting roles. The offices are buzzing with people back from exotic holidays, and the smell of apple crumble wafts through the air.

Company news

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Married to memoQ

When you are committed, resistance is futile. Eventually, any business will have to upgrade to the latest and greatest version of the important software it uses. There is just too much temptation when reading about the many new features and performance improvements highlighted by the software manufacturers in their marketing of the new product. And so it came to pass that in June 2014, we at STP embarked on upgrading our memoQ server installation from the old version 6.2 to memoQ 2014 shortly after it was released. We made this decision despite a couple of challenging months in the summer of 2012 after our upgrade to memoQ server 6 when that was brand new. It’s worth noting that STP skipped memoQ 2013 and 2013 R2 altogether, having weighed the pros and cons we experienced when upgrading to version 6, and despite 2013 having many new features in which we had a great interest.

Early adopters of technology get the best of the new features and can capitalise on them sooner than the competition. But early adopters also bear the brunt of finishing the beta testing that the software manufacturer couldn’t complete in time for their announced release date. In our opinion, memoQ 2014 was not quite as ready for release as Kilgray had told us, since the beta testing could have been more comprehensive and not all new features worked properly. Furthermore, a good number of existing features that had worked flawlessly in the past were suddenly broken, and there were also performance elements that had worsened compared to the previous versions.

STP’s preparation for the migration was comprehensive and detailed. We had just a smidgeon under 10,000 projects on our memoQ 6.2 server, around 8,200 TMs and just under 1,000 termbases. Most of this data was archived, but a good amount of it also needed to be moved to the new installation. The actual software upgrading (installation and configuration) went fairly smoothly, but once we started using the 2014 server and client application, we ran into a wide range of problems, some of them affecting us both internally and in our collaboration with external suppliers. STP has a strong relationship with Kilgray and we feel assured that during these demanding months, the support and service we received from them was as prompt as it would have been for any important client of theirs. And yet, it was a challenge. Now that most of the problems have been ironed out and there are no longer any showstoppers in the process, we are back in a place where we once again appreciate what a great tool we have – so comprehensively – deployed.

It is always easier to manage change when it occurs in small, incremental steps. The alterations do not become overwhelming and the benefits are immediately obvious to the users. Bigger manoeuvres like this call for trust, expectation management, transparent cooperation and vigilant communications so that all the stakeholders are able keep their sights fixed on the envisaged end result throughout the project.

Staff News

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Swedes that rock

Karin Sundqvist joined STP in September 2013 as an Account Linguist, and since then has worked for the Swedish Google team at our London office. She had already worked closely with STP for some time as a freelancer, so we were thrilled for Karin to come and join us in-house.

Originally from Örebro in Sweden, Karin has a MA in Translation Studies from the University of Gothenburg. After graduating in 2010, she worked as a freelance translator for a few years before joining STP, translating mainly from English and French into Swedish. She has also studied philosophy, environmental science and a little bit of Danish.

Karin didn’t always intend to become a translator. She had a variety of jobs – including working as a prison guard – before finally deciding to move in to the world of translation. She also spent some time backpacking in Australia and France, working at the same time to get by.

Music is one of Karin’s great passions. She has a particular interest in rock and metal and is currently learning how to play the bass guitar. She is also a keen amateur photographer and has had some concert photos published in a web magazine. She also practices kendo to keep fit.

  

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Born and raised north of Stockholm, Pia Andersson studied English and translation at Stockholm University alongside Raphael from our Stockholm office. After this, in 2011, she completed a three-month internship at the translation department of the European Central Bank, where she learned everything she knows about monetary policy, central banking and weird financial instruments. She then started freelancing and worked for a short time as a translator for another Swedish LSP during annual report season before heading to SDL in Stockholm, where she stayed for 14 months before doing a bit more freelancing and finally giving into the lure of STP.

Pia joined STP in June 2014 after applying for a position as a Swedish translator. She now works as an Account Linguist, a role combining elements of both translation and project management for a designated client. Prior to joining STP she had never visited the UK before, but is very much enjoying being here.

Before discovering her true calling as a translator, Pia studied engineering at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm for many years. During this time she also participated in a lot of “spex”, a kind of amateur comedy theatre performed by university students in Sweden and parts of Finland, where she helped with sets, costumes and make-up and sometimes even acted in minor roles. Pia continues to be interested in theatre and also enjoys opera, reading (mostly sci-fi and fantasy) and gaming (strategy and puzzle games).

Industry issues

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In quest of talent

The 2014 Sodexo University Lifestyle Survey concludes that more students than ever are going to university to improve their job prospects in the UK. It maps the results for the first time in the era of the recently introduced annual £9,000 tuition fees that are allegedly the highest in Europe, and it urges UK universities to critically assess whether they are doing enough in this respect to justify the new fees.

The employability of graduates is a subject that European employers and higher education institutions tend to have differing views on, as indicated in the ©McKinsey 2014 report ‘Education to employment: Getting Europe’s Youth into Work’. The report encourages education providers to focus more on what happens to students after they graduate and commends interventions where employers and education providers work closely together to design curricula that fit business needs. Employers are advised to increase the availability of work placements.

Karen Netto’s article on internships in this month’s ITI Bulletin (the bimonthly magazine for the UK Institute of Translation and Interpreting) highlights the fact that with work placements – as with most things in life – mere quantity is no substitute for quality. European Commission figures indicate that 60% of European internships are unpaid and in 30% of them, the content is poor. Karen refers to Interns Go Pro and Intern Aware, both organisations that advocate stricter quality regulations for internships.

At STP, we believe that internships are primarily a learning opportunity. In our experience, translation graduates need to be supervised and supported for 6–24 months as they prepare to work independently in the demanding commercial setting the translation industry is today. An internship can obviously only ever form a part of this period. For an LSP to justify paying interns and junior staff a decent wage during those months of learning and mentoring, it really helps if they have graduated from a good translation programme that has equipped them with relevant skills. Not only in translation theory but also in how modern translation technology and client expectations have changed translation methodology and the use of reference and legacy materials. STP has been taking interns for the past five years and in more than half of the cases, the internship has led to a permanent job offer from the company.

STP was fortunate to have French student Pauline Malcouronne as a translation project management intern for five months earlier this year. A discerning and ambitious BA graduate, Pauline had started a Masters in Translation and Linguistics in France but became disillusioned with the course content, dropped out and decided to seek work experience opportunities before applying for another MA course this autumn. She says internships are popular with graduates since they help them to find a job after graduation, but also allow them to try a variety of different companies and even industries before finding the right one for them. Pauline enjoyed being in the UK so much that she decided to stay with STP and look for a local university for her Masters. She applied to the University of Portsmouth, with which STP has strong links, and was accepted. Pauline’s case is a pleasing example of an informed student voting with her feet in favour of an academic institution that strives to keep in touch with the workplace and offers training that truly improves the students’ job prospects.

Nordic focus

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Everybody speaks English anyway

The European Union promotes and safeguards linguistic diversity in Europe and carries out studies into the language skills of its citizens. After surveying 26,751 respondents above 15 years of age in 27 member states in February–March 2012, their report ‘Europeans and their languages’ concluded that just over half of Europeans (54%) were able to hold a conversation in at least one additional language to their mother tongue. Out of these, 44% said they were able to follow the news on the radio or TV in a foreign language, and the same percentage were able to read a foreign newspaper or magazine article. Interestingly, only 25% of them said they could do it in English.

Read any European piece of export advice on the Nordic countries, and you find them confidently declaring that language will be no barrier for doing business in that region, since everybody speaks English. The report on Europeans and their languages both confirms and shatters this claim. In Denmark and Sweden, 86% of the respondents said they speak English well enough to have a conversation. In Finland, the figure was 70%. The figures were admittedly higher than Spain’s 22% and Italy’s 34% – and impressive compared to the 19% of British people who said they could hold a conversation in French – but being able to talk about a topic is all the Scandinavians were laying a claim to. They did not claim to be able to make informed decisions in English, prefer to buy and sell in a foreign language, understand instructions for operating machinery, conduct business transactions or influence others in English. In fact, when asked about the level of their language skills, only 44% of Danes and 40% of Swedes rated their English as “very good”. Typically, these are the 15–24 year olds, people who live in larger towns, those who are still studying or have risen to a managerial position in their career or those who use the Internet daily. And, considering the Scandinavians’ reputation for speaking English, it’s almost inexplicable that only 30% of Swedes said they were able to communicate online in English and only 28% said they could read newspaper or magazine articles in that language.

The focus of the report was obviously on multilingualism and language learning, but it lends itself nicely to the purposes of a translation company wanting to demonstrate to its clients how important it is to keep a translation budget for these smaller markets, even though they have a well-educated population with good language skills. The Nordic countries boast high literacy rates and invest heavily in translation and localisation for their own exports. Perhaps for this reason they seem to understand the role and value of translation better than their European brethren. In the report on Europeans and their languages, almost a third of the European respondents said that translation played no role in their lives at all. More consolingly for our industry, just over 43% indicated that translation had an important role to play in their everyday lives. In Finland and Denmark, the figure was 67%.

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