Icebreaker 21, May 2016


Welcome to the twenty-first issue of Icebreaker, the STP newsletter.

In this edition, spring is in the air as STP’s in-house team welcomes five new arrivals. Johanna Lindroth, Senior Swedish Translator, tells us how technology has transformed the profession since the start of her career in the early 90s. We challenge a conventional piece of marketing wisdom. And we discover how nothing – not even the weather – can stop Swedes from enjoying the summer.

Company News


Spring arrivals strengthen STP’s in-house team

Since the last edition of Icebreaker, back in February, we have welcomed five new employees to STP’s talented and ever-growing in-house team.

On the linguistic side, Eivind Ellingsen joined our ranks in April as a Norwegian translator, while Rasmus Legêne and Junie Haller both started as junior Danish translators in early May.

Our project management team welcomed another Dane in the shape of Carmen Hannibal, who joined in April, while Linus Strand began a translation internship with us in May and will support our Swedish in-house team until August.

All five of our spring arrivals have completed STP’s extensive induction programme and are now settling into their new roles. They will each receive ongoing training relevant to their positions, and our new translators in particular will benefit from regular mentoring from more senior colleagues.

We hope you’ll join us in wishing all our new starters a happy and successful time with STP. And if you have yet to work with our friendly and efficient in-house team, either as a client or a supplier, there is certainly no time like the present.

Staff Spotlight


Interview with Johanna Lindroth, Senior Swedish Translator

Our employee Q&A this quarter is with Johanna Lindroth, a senior Swedish translator and language lead at STP, and is taken with permission from the April edition of TAUS Review.

Johanna works remotely from Gothenburg, Sweden, where she translates and revises everything from commercial brochures and product manuals to computer software and patient information leaflets.

In the interview, Johanna talks about her first forays into translation in the early 90s, comments on the rise of translation technology, and gives a frank and pragmatic view of how machine translation is changing the industry landscape.

TR: Johanna, how did you first get into the translation industry?

JL: I’ve always been interested in languages and linguistics, and I have a Master of Arts in Computational Linguistics from the University of Gothenburg. But I did not set out to be a translator from the start.

During my last year at university, in the early 1990s, a translation company offered me extra work translating the Windows operating system. I said yes, and I continued to work for the same company after I graduated.

At the beginning of my career I did mostly technical, IT and software-related jobs, because those were my main areas of expertise.

Do you use translation technology?

I use various translation tools in my daily work, including memoQ, Trados Studio and Across. This makes my job easier, as it means I can draw on previous translations and have instant access to glossaries and term lists. Many clients also have their own tools that they ask us to learn and use.

How has your role changed over the years?

The widespread use of translation tools is the main change I’ve seen over the course of my career. There were few, if any, commercially available tools when I was first starting out. The company I worked for back then did have some proprietary tools, but I think that was unusual at the time. It was a great advantage for us, though.

Another big change, of course, has been the rise of the internet, which has transformed the way translators research, communicate and handle files, among many other things. Our technical environment has also evolved over the years, with a shift from local to global.

I used to have everything installed locally on my own computer. Now I use online tools and server applications that someone else in the company installs and updates. This has enabled me to focus more on the act of translating, and has reduced the time I need to spend on the technical side.

There is always a risk in becoming too dependent on technology, however. If I lose my internet connection, for instance, I cannot work. I also use the internet a lot for researching terms and concepts in a way that was simply not possible before. These days it is hard to fathom how we ever managed without it.

In recent years, STP has received a growing number of requests involving machine translation, and we’ve seen raw MT output from various sources and of varying quality. This type of work is a rising trend, so we have invested a great deal of time and money in training our staff to handle it.

MT is here to stay, whether we like it or not, and I try to keep an open mind. I once heard a translator say that MT was as threatening to him as the scissors are to a hairdresser. We all know how to use scissors, yet we continue to go to hair salons. I try to see MT as just another tool of the trade, creating a base to start from.

What do you value most in your role – for you and for your clients?

I take pride in my work and always strive to deliver quality translations. Caring about every little detail makes my job more interesting and challenging, and it’s an approach that certainly benefits our clients.

Who or what do you think are the game-changers in the industry?

The use of self-service automatic translation tools will probably grow in the future and they are indeed changing the industry landscape. However, professional translators will always be able to offer quality as a competitive edge.

A good translation can be very valuable to a company or a brand. Hopefully clients will continue to recognise this and set aside the time and money to do things properly.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?

Working as a translator has its pros and cons. The pay is not always great, and there is no obvious career path. It can also be a lonely trade, but nowadays you can work from anywhere in the world, as many translators do.

If I were starting out today, I think I would try to specialise in a particular area, like medical or scientific texts, because I’d be able to charge more for my expertise. I’d also recommend developing skills such as creative translation and copywriting, because these services are in growing demand.

Above all, enjoy your work – because in the end, translation should be fun.

Industry Issues


Why your translation business does not need a USP

Popular marketing wisdom says that every business needs a unique selling proposition, or USP.

Your USP is the special something that makes your product or service unlike any other. The inimitable quality that sets it apart from the rest in the eyes of a potential customer.

For translation businesses, working in such a crowded and competitive market, the need to stand out is huge. But how do you stand out when so many others are already doing what you do?

And how do you define your USP when there’s nothing truly unique about anything you offer?

Indeed, taking the word ‘unique’ in its purest sense, the difficult truth is that few – if any – translation businesses can claim to have an offering that’s genuinely one of a kind.

This realisation struck us recently at STP during an internal chat about our own USPs.

On the face of it, the answer to the question “What makes us unique?” seemed simple. We specialise in the Nordic languages. We work almost exclusively for other translation companies. We have a large team of in-house translators. And we are experts in translation technology.

We realised, though, that not one of those factors makes us unique.

Other companies share our Nordic niche, serve fellow translation agencies and employ in-house linguists – albeit all on a much smaller scale than we do. And no matter how good we are with technology, we know that there’s always someone out there using it better.

But does that discourage us? And should it dishearten you?

Not for a moment. Because what’s clear from our example, and from that of many of our clients and suppliers, is that you don’t have to have a USP to be successful in the language services industry. You don’t have to be unique at all.

You just need to be different.

And here’s some more good news. Despite the vast number of translation businesses around the world competing for clients’ time and attention, it is still relatively easy to mark yourself out from the crowd.

To illustrate: take a dozen translation company websites at random and give them a browse.

Chances are you’ll find little to differentiate one provider from the next. You’ll see similar claims about the number of languages and domains offered. And words such as ‘speed,’ ‘quality,’ ‘accuracy,’ ‘punctuality,’ ‘reliability’ and ‘professionalism’ will crop up more times than you can count.

Of course, a fast, high-quality, accurate, punctual, reliable and professional service is what we must all strive to offer.

But here’s the thing: it’s also the bare minimum that all clients demand from all translation providers. In the same way that when you buy a car, the very least you expect is four wheels, an engine and an ability to get swiftly from A to B without breaking down or blowing up.

And this is where, with a little thought, you have the chance to separate yourself from the herd.

First, accept that speed, accuracy, professionalism and so on are basic needs – not selling points. Use them to support your case, absolutely and by all means. But then dig deeper. Pinpoint anything and everything that lifts you above the masses. And then tell the world about it.

If most of your rivals are generalists, trumpet the fact that you specialise. If everyone else offers every language under the sun, be proud that you keep your offering small and select – and show why it matters.

Do you employ exceptional people? Offer industry-leading training? Provide a service that your clients go out of their way to recommend? Have suppliers who love working with you?

Is your company culture admired by your peers? Do you have a larger-than-life leader? Are you renowned and respected for doing things properly? Or do you give back to the profession and inspire future generations to be part of it?

Whatever it is, shout it out for all to hear.

It doesn’t even matter if you have nothing discernibly different to speak of. It can be enough simply to present what you do in a way that most others do not.

So instead of talking in abstract terms about your ‘innovative’ services and ‘groundbreaking’ achievements, bring them to life with concrete examples and case studies.

If other companies are vague or guarded about their internal processes, be open and transparent about yours. And if the norm is to communicate in buzzwords and jargon, disarm your prospects with clarity, directness and human warmth.

None of this will make you unique. But it will make you different – and in our line of business, that can be every bit as powerful.

Nordic Focus


The sweet taste of Swedish summer

By Karin Sundqvist, Swedish Account Linguist at STP

The season all us Swedes have been waiting for is just around the corner. In a few days’ time, June will be here and we’ll be kicking off the eagerly awaited stretch of summer months with two important dates.

First up is the National Day of Sweden on 6 June. Since 2005, when this date actually became a public holiday, we’ve taken to gathering in parks with picnic blankets every year to celebrate.

In the middle of Gothenburg, my home town, the lawns of the large Slottsskogen park fill up with people, single-use barbecues and the occasional musical instrument or football to pass the time before the food is ready.

Some people wear traditional clothes – like my friend Anders in this photo – and some even take part in traditional dance sessions. There is also a ceremony each year on the big stage in the park to welcome new Swedish citizens. This year I will personally cheer a little louder than normal for a friend of mine who just got his citizenship.

A few weeks after this, always on a Friday and usually towards the end of June, comes the most important holiday of the year – with the possible exception of Christmas.

Midsummer is a tradition-packed festival to celebrate the summer solstice. While children dance like “little frogs” around a high pole covered in leaves and flowers, adults gather around the buffet table to fill up on pickled herring with new potatoes, dill, sour cream and chives.

If you are so inclined, you can wash it all down with a bitter, herby schnapps – a drink that can make even the strongest Swedish toes curl. If not, you can just dive straight in for the dessert cake, which, in my humble opinion, should be one with whipped cream and strawberries.

This may sound like a wonderful way to celebrate an important holiday. And it truly is. But unfortunately there is another recurring theme for this day: rain.

Indeed, there’s always a high chance of showers and chilly temperatures at this time of year. But we don’t let that spoil the fun (it is summer, after all) and we go outside regardless.

All it means is that instead of seeing us breeze around in light summer gowns and summery sandals, and with flowers in our hair, you’re more likely to find us huddled in our raincoats and shivering away in our wellies.

In a way, Midsummer perfectly embodies the concept of the ‘Swedish summer’. It can be either bitter or sweet, depending solely on the weather. And despite knowing better, we never stop hoping and believing it’ll be sweet.

From the blog


If you have any feedback about this issue of Icebreaker, or if you’d like to suggest a topic for a future edition, we’d love to hear from you. Please send us your thoughts and ideas by email.

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