Icebreaker 17, May 2015

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

Last Friday, the On Our Bikes (http://onourbikes.info/) team from TextPartner (http://www.textpartner.com/) passed our way on their charity ride from Dublin to Berlin. The cyclists will reach their destination at the beginning of June, just in time for LocWorld28 (http://locworld.com/). STP’s Susan Hoare and Anna Norek joined the team for their leg from Romsey to Southampton to raise awareness of the work of Translators Without Borders (http://translatorswithoutborders.org/).

Company news

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Breaking ground and building bridges

A group of 14 translation students at the University of Helsinki had the privilege of attending a unique course called “An Introduction to the Translation Industry” this spring. In an unprecedented industry effort, seven LSPs and four developers of language technology software came together in Finland to deliver this brand new training initiative. The course was created by STP’s Managing Director Anu Carnegie-Brown who drew up the curriculum for the university, wrote the bulk of the material and led the classroom-based teaching in Helsinki.

All participating companies made their contributions free of charge. The LSPs were motivated by meeting the students as potential employees and by being able to manage their expectations of future cooperation in the commercial workplace. The course also gave the companies a good idea of the students’ skill level and indicated where the gaps in their knowledge were. As a compulsory part of the training, all students were asked to select two of the LSPs to visit on open days which the companies organised specifically for this purpose.

After 15 years as an audio-visual translator, Jarkko Saastamoinen wasn’t sure whether he would really benefit from the course, but it exceeded his expectations: “It was one of the most useful courses I have attended. The CAT training alone helped me immensely! I had thought of LSPs as mainly exploiting translators, but now I know that working with demanding clients and workflows calls for great organisation, project management and quality control, as well as effective marketing.”

Patricia Åkerman was impressed by the idea of a week’s induction training at STP. She also liked the day we spent looking at CVs, job applications, interviews and the cooperation between freelancers and vendor managers. Being introduced to STP and Arancho Doc Nordic, as well as other LSPs and industry organisations, opened her eyes to the variety of job roles available to translation graduates today.

“Until now, our curriculum has been missing an element that focuses on translation as a business and an industry,” said Anniina Merilinna. She had high hopes for the course, and she wasn’t disappointed. “We graduate with good translation skills but with no idea of how the industry operates and what it encompasses. These commercial and work oriented aspects should be included in our university education, because it isn’t possible to study translation anywhere else at a non-academic, vocational level.”

Jenny Hurtola summed up the mood of the participants after the last lesson: “I was about to give up on translation as a career because so few companies employ in-house translators these days, but this course has re-kindled my enthusiasm, in project management in particular. My friends, even those studying subjects completely different from translation, have been green with envy when they have heard about this. Apparently, our course was not only unique in the realm of translation studies, but would be very welcome in other disciplines, too. ”

Staff News

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A talent for relationships

We are delighted to announce the appointment of our new Client Services Manager, Maria Lindley, who joined us in April from global recruitment leader Hays. Maria, who used to run her own successful translation agency, combines a passion for languages and people with a highly impressive track record in business development and client relationship management.

A born entrepreneur, Maria started working in her father’s retail business while studying in Finland, and once qualified as a translator she soon moved into sales and business development for an international language company. While raising a young family in the UK and Germany, she set up her own translation agency, employing a team of freelance translators to provide translation services to clients in the UK and Scandinavia.

On returning to the UK 10 years ago with invaluable experience of living and working in different countries, Maria joined Hays, managing their UK Public Practice Division for the South Coast. After eight years, she decided to combine her commercial expertise with her in-depth understanding of the translation sector and came to STP to help develop our existing client relationships, build new ones and grow our business. In her spare time, Maria enjoys keeping fit in as many ways as possible – she particularly likes swimming, Pilates and walking, including taking the family dog on long coastal and woodland walks.

Industry issues

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On input and output

The Translation Automation User Society (TAUS), which defines itself as a resource centre for the global language and translation industries, has designed an online course in machine translation post-editing. The course targets a wide audience within the language industry including translation students, translators and editors, and teachers and researchers involved in translator training, as well as project managers, terminologists and language technologists working at LSPs. It tackles the challenges linguists face when working on post-editing assignments and provides a comprehensive background on machine translation together with facts, trends and good general knowledge of post-editing. The practical module gives the participants a chance to post-edit real machine-translation output.

STP supported TAUS in creating this PE course by developing the Danish, Norwegian and Swedish modules for the training. First, we agreed the size of the project (10,000 words) and the preferable domain (IT) with them. We then searched among our customised MT engines for the most suitable ones and opted for test engines trained on consumer electronics and software data (including content downloaded from TAUS Data). We narrowed down the domain to “consumer electronics” and searched for an MT-suitable text type (“user manual”). Once we identified a suitable text, we settled the copyright with the content owner (Canon Europe Ltd), and prepared the file format, text encoding and layout aspects of the data. Once the texts were machine-translated, we asked our in-house linguists to post-edit the raw MT-output and annotate each segment with comments concerning the MT quality. Whenever our linguists came across a translation error or inconsistency, they had to classify it according to the error typology developed by TAUS (such as incorrect tags, punctuation, spacing, capitalisation, grammatical word forms and untranslated or omitted words).
All this output resulted in the training material for the practical section of the e-course. Our linguists also translated the TAUS Machine translation post-editing guidelines into the Nordic languages.

All of STP’s translators and project managers are now completing the course as part of their continuing professional development, and we have also extended the free offer to our regular freelance translators, saving them the course fee of EUR 80. If you are interested in the course, you will find the details here and you can contact STP’s Anna Norek if you want to take up the offer of completing the course for free.

More information about the work of TAUS is available in TAUS Review, an online magazine launched last year in order to increase the visibility of the language and translation industry.

Nordic focus

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A rock and hard place

The fifth Nordic Translation Industry Forum will be held in Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, this year, so let’s take a look at this amazing country with 330,000 inhabitants before gathering there in November. Incidentally, the opening speech at the welcoming reception of the conference will be delivered by UNESCO’s goodwill ambassador for languages, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, who has also been honoured with the title of “the world’s first democratically elected female president” and is the only Icelander to be addressed as madam.

Until recently, and perhaps still to a certain extent, any mention of Iceland would often conjure a definite sense of ”otherness”. The location of this 103,000 m2 rock on the outermost periphery of Europe, the romance of its windswept, sheep-gnawed, volcanic landscapes and the notion of a people and language so far removed from the rest of the continent as to be relatively uninfluenced by European trends and follies still have the potential to enthral, even though the vast majority of us are well aware that nowhere is as far removed as it used to be. Iceland perhaps least of all.

Despite the world growing ever smaller, it cannot be denied that Iceland has experienced historical events that the rest of Europe would struggle to relate to, and has numerous tales and traditions that are arguably unique and have captured the imaginations of people all over the world. Recent news stories to gain international coverage include the halt of road construction work for fear of disturbing the huldufólk (lit. hidden people, elves from Icelandic folklore) living in its path. Surveys indicate that more than half of Icelanders are prepared to entertain the possibility of such creatures existing, and it is not unusual to see tiny wooden elf houses in people’s gardens, placed to gain favour with them and bring luck. It is suggested that stories of these creatures may have come about due to Iceland’s small population, in an attempt to increase numbers, which in turn propagated amusing notions such as not throwing stones in case you hit something or someone you cannot see and incur its wrath.

We might wonder whether reports of huldufólk activity have increased in recent years in connection with another Icelandic event recently covered in the international news. 1 March is Beer Day in Iceland (also known as B-day), commemorating the end of prohibition in Iceland on 1 March 1989. The ban, which came into force in 1915, originally prohibited all alcohol, but was later partially lifted in 1921 and 1935 to permit wine (on Spain’s insistence) and spirits respectively. Numerous reasons are cited as to why beer was banned for so much longer. The most popular seems to be a fear that the relative cheapness of beer would lead to people drinking with their meals, which in turn would naturally lead to alcoholism, and that the drinking of beer was unpatriotic and inherently Danish (Danishness being one of the biggest insults you can hurl at an Icelander). However, even now the ban has been lifted, Icelanders still drink less than many other Europeans (including, it may please them to note, the Danes) and have a relatively large number of teetotallers.

And of course, where would we be without mentioning the world’s secret love affair with the Icelandic language? As much as many people wonder why a population as small as Iceland’s doesn’t simply give up and speak English (a horrifying notion to those of us that work as translators), there are also people all over the world who are enchanted by Icelandic history and the sagas, some of whom even go so far as to attempt to learn some basic Icelandic or Old Norse in an attempt to further immerse themselves. There is no question that the existence of the Icelandic language – as well as other small languages such as Faroese, varieties of Sámi, Scottish Gaelic, Manx and Basque – enriches European cultural heritage and as such ought to be treasured.

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