Icebreaker 23, December 2016

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

In this edition we have a special appeal on behalf of Translators without Borders, which urgently needs Nordic linguists to help with its response to the European refugee crisis. Our staff Q&A has a distinct ornithological theme. We examine the potential of voice recognition for LSPs. And we show you why Advent is the pinnacle of Danish hygge – with two essential festive recipes thrown in for good measure.

Special Appeal

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Nordic linguists: Translators without Borders needs you

Are you a professional translator of Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian or Swedish? Would you like to use your skills to make a difference in the world?

Translators without Borders (TWB) has an urgent need for volunteer translators of the Nordic languages – as well as Estonian, Lithuanian and Latvian – to help improve local understanding of the European refugee crisis in several Nordic and Baltic countries.

Together with UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, TWB is working to raise awareness and improve communication between refugees and local communities. Part of the project involves creating an information website in each of the languages listed above – and this is where you can help.

TWB’s immediate need is to translate 5,000 words of website content per language. And in the coming months, when the next phase of the project begins, there is likely to be a further 8,500 words of translation needed in each language.

The content can be broken down into smaller chunks. So even if your availability is limited, you can still help by taking on a page or two. As long-standing sponsors, we at STP will be looking to help TWB in whatever way we can – and we would similarly urge you to give as much time as you can spare to their admirable cause.

For more information, and to register your interest, please visit http://translatorswithoutborders.org/translators/

Staff Spotlight

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Q&A: Bjarke Søballe Andersen, Account Linguist

Which languages can you speak, Bjarke?

Danish is my mother tongue, I speak fluent English and I understand Norwegian and Swedish. My wife’s family is from Vietnam, so I also have a small Vietnamese vocabulary. My go-to phrase basically means “Thanks, but I’m full.” My mother-in-law likes to keep us well fed.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

My passion as a child was birdwatching, and I used to dream of somehow turning it into a job. As it happens, there aren’t many roles in the field of ornithology.

Your job title is Account Linguist (AL). What does that mean?

An AL is a project-managing translator. As an AL, you devote your time to one or two larger clients – usually those needing continuous localisation – and you become an expert in their specific workflows and linguistic preferences.

As a client, having an AL team handle your work means you get a dedicated group of people who know what you need and are able to deal with very short turnaround times. And as an AL it means your workload is nice and varied, since you handle all aspects of each translation job from start to finish.

What’s the most important quality for a good AL?

Adaptability. Our workloads fluctuate from day to day, so you must be able to make plans and decisions quickly. But you also have to be good at changing those plans and swapping things around at short notice. It makes for a dynamic atmosphere, and it helps if you enjoy an element of unpredictability in your work.

If you could have another job for just one day, what would it be?

I read about a man who goes to train stations around London and gets his trained owl to scare away pigeons. I’d like to try that. I’m not a fan of keeping animals captive, as is the case with this owl, but it’s much kinder than using poison or guns.

What would your linguistic superpower be?

An ability to understand acronyms without having to look them up. Or better still, to have mind control and make people stop using them altogether. You could call it an Acronym Avoidance Mechanism, or AAM for short.

How do you unwind after a busy day?

I get out the Duplo and build things with my son. I find it fun and very relaxing.

Music while working – motivating or distracting?

It depends on the task. When it’s late afternoon and deadlines are approaching, I put on something energetic like Chemical Brothers or Graveyard, the Swedish hard rockers. I can’t listen to anything with Danish lyrics while translating into Danish, though. I’d end up with lyrics scattered everywhere, and nobody wants that.

It’s fika time. Tea or coffee?

Nothing against tea, but it’s always coffee for me. I need that caffeine hit these days.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I play guitar in a band called Dans & Lær (Dance & Learn). We make music that teaches you to recognise the sounds of birds while you dance. We’ve released three albums based on this concept and are working on a fourth.

Does having such a creative outlet help you in your daily work?

Playing in a bird-inspired band is quite a departure from my day job. But I do think it makes me retain focus when working. Playing music gives the brain a nice rinse, I find.

What’s your favourite word?

Ba. It’s the Vietnamese word for dad, and it’s what my son mainly calls me. Soppy, I know, but I’ll happily live with that.

Name one thing you couldn’t live without

My life would be much more difficult if I didn’t have Google Maps on my phone. I have a terrible sense of direction.

Where is your favourite place to be?

My parents’ holiday home near the west coast of Jutland in Denmark. I don’t get to go there often, but it’s pure bliss.

Who do you most admire, and why?

I admire my in-laws immensely. They had to flee Vietnam when the communists took power in the late 70s. It was a dangerous journey through the jungle to a refugee camp in Thailand, and from there my father-in-law managed to get his entire family – parents, six siblings, their partners and children – on a plane to England.

My in-laws are living proof of what you can achieve as a family of refugees. They worked hard and have brought up four daughters who have all excelled in their fields of study and work. One is a consultant in a specialist cancer hospital, one is a dentist, one is a broadcaster and one is a paralegal.

They’re all lovely people, too. And the cherry on top is that they’re all food fanatics and excellent cooks. The only real downside of marrying into this family is that I end up eating way too much far too often.

Any advice for new translators?

Let go of the idea of the perfect translation. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder, and what sounds just right to you will never be seen as perfect by everyone who reads your work. If you don’t make people stop and think “This sounds really awkward” or “Has this been translated from another language?” then you’ve done a good job.

Describe STP in three words

Skilful, sensible and sympathetic.

Industry Issues

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We need to talk about voice recognition

By Ryan Bury, English translator

Whether you’re chatting with Siri, Cortana or Alexa, modern technology invariably gives users the chance to – quite literally – find their voice. And it’s no different in the language services industry.

Automatic speech recognition (ASR) has been around for over half a century under various guises, and flexing your vocal cords to ‘write’ a text is nothing new. But where does the potential of this particular productivity tool fit within the strategy of a translation company?

The numbers game

There’s no doubt that under the right circumstances, ASR can dramatically boost that magical words/day figure, with anecdotal evidence at a recent ITI workshop suggesting that 10,000 words per day wasn’t out of reach.

Naturally, even a fraction of this increase would be music to the ears of company bosses, with enormous potential for gains both in terms of output and, of course, profit.

Health concerns have also played a major role in the increased popularity of ASR technology, with the avoidance of tens of thousands of keyboard taps per day a particular plus point for translators and their handiwork.

Indeed, various such ergonomic solutions have made everyday life much more comfortable for employees of companies such as STP. However, is the process of actually integrating this tool trickier than it might appear?

Striking the balance

For a translation company that already uses a plethora of tools, ASR must find a valuable and supportive place within the existing production process.

If translators have translation memory content and/or machine translation suggestions as a starting point, they need to be able to weave ASR into their workflow seamlessly to truly benefit from its productivity-boosting potential. And it mustn’t hinder any gains that would otherwise have been made through traditional TM leverage or MTPE.

With this in mind, the adoption of ASR – or even ASRPE, ASRMTPE, or any other such Scrabble-worthy acronym that might emerge – is no small balancing act.

Remote control?

A translation company must also consider the logistics of introducing ASR into its toolkit and ask whether it can truly prosper in an office-based environment.

Background noise can prove distracting not only for the translator, but also for the tool itself. So is it possible to have several voices translating at once and still retain the productivity benefits on offer?

Then there’s the old cliché of the introverted translator. For those who work best when fully immersed in a text, and with minimal outside distractions, the switch to the infamous anti-concentration fiend that is a noisy workspace could be a troublesome one.

These days, of course, remote working is becoming ever more common, and linking these two phenomena could well pay dividends. As a remote worker myself, I can safely say that – notwithstanding the occasional dog bark – it is generally much easier to make a home environment suitable for ASR than it would be in an open-plan setting.

Evidently, there are a great number of issues to consider for any LSP with regard to voice recognition, but those productivity-related whispers may ultimately prove impossible to silence.

Nordic Focus

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Advent in Denmark: A lesson in hygge

By Junie Haller, Danish translator

December is here, the old year is drawing to a close and – in Scandinavia at least – the days are getting shorter and darker.

In Denmark, this in itself is as good an excuse as any to partake in a bit of hygge: the supposed national pastime with the allegedly untranslatable name. The word hygge has been defined as everything from ‘cosiness’ to ‘the art of living well,’ and the concept has become something of a cultural export in the past couple of years.

Hygge means different things to different people. But there are a few recurring characteristics that most Danes would agree are essential or archetypical components of a genuine hygge session.

Hygge is often a social affair: a time-out from the hectic pace of everyday life, shared with friends or family. More often than not it involves food and drink – particularly of the delectable or indulgent variety. Some would even claim that there can be no hygge without something to nibble on.

Another sure-fire way (pun only somewhat intended) to amp up the hygge factor is to light a few candles. Even Danes who aren’t fans of this particular form of mood lighting will at least be familiar with the notion and probably have a candlelight connoisseur or two among their acquaintances.

With these three essential components in mind, the Advent celebration – observed on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas – is one that lends itself particularly well to some good old-fashioned hygge.

At the heart of it all is the lighting of the four candles on the Advent wreath. It starts on the first Sunday of Advent, with one more candle lit on each subsequent Sunday until just before Christmas, when all four of them shine away and bathe the room in their warm glow.

Wreaths come in many shapes and sizes, the traditional one being woven with evergreens and hung from the ceiling with red ribbons. Today, however, some forego the wreath altogether and stick to tasteful arrangements of square candles and perhaps a sprig of holly or fir.

Adherents of the famed Scandinavian ‘minimalist chic,’ meanwhile, may opt for a simple yet stylish designer candelabrum. No matter the arrangement, the candles remain the essential and immutable component of the Advent celebration.

But there can be no Advent hygge – or indeed any hygge at all – without something delicious to eat. In my family, and in many others, the Danish yuletide treats known as æbleskiver have been a fixture of Advent and other festive get-togethers for generations.

The treat itself, a fluffier, sphere-shaped cousin of the crêpe, has undergone a makeover or two through the years. Few people today prepare them with the apple slices that gave them their name. But they are still cooked in a traditional, designated æbleskiver pan – one of the rare pieces of cookware that only come out of the cupboard for a limited time each year. Æbleskiver are eaten with sugar and preserves. And they are washed down, of course, with a warming cup of gløgg: the Scandinavian version of mulled wine.

Thus we make it through the dark month of December: surrounded by our nearest and dearest, with a bite of something sweet to eat in one hand and a nice warm drink in the other. And all in the warm glow of the Advent candles that illuminate the midwinter darkness, reminding us of the brighter days that await us in the new year.

How to make æbleskiver

  • 300g wheat flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 eggs
  • 400ml buttermilk
  • Butter or oil for frying

Method

  1. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Separate the yolks and whites of the eggs. Retain both.
  3. Stir the egg yolks and buttermilk together in a smaller bowl.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the larger bowl and stir well.
  5. Whip the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff.
  6. Fold the whipped egg whites in the batter carefully.
  7. Fry in the æbleskiver pan with a little butter/oil.
  8. When the batter starts letting go of the sides of the indentation in the pan, flip the æbleskiver and heat until they’re cooked through.
  9. Serve with icing sugar and jam – and gløgg, of course!

Expert tip

Use a knitting needle to flip the æbleskiver. It can be tricky, but you’ll get the hang of it before the batch is done. And don’t worry – even if they’re not perfectly round spheres, they’ll still taste great! If you don’t have an æbleskiver pan, you could try a blini pan. The batter also makes delicious waffles.

Junie’s gløgg

  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 100ml port
  • 50ml blackcurrant cordial
  • 50-100g sugar
  • 50g almonds
  • 75g raisins
  • Zest of 1-2 clementines or 1 orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • Small piece of fresh, peeled ginger

Method

  1. Place the spices in a tea bag.
  2. Pour half of the wine into a large saucepan and add 50ml sugar, along with the almonds, raisins, zest and the bag of spices.
  3. Cover and heat until nearly boiling. Remove from stove.
  4. Leave to stand for 30 mins, then add the rest of the red wine.
  5. Reheat the gløgg until nearly boiling. Add more sugar to taste.
  6. Add the port and serve hot.

Feedback

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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