Icebreaker 28, June 2018

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Welcome to the June 2018 issue of STP newsletter, the Icebreaker

In this edition of the Icebreaker, we discuss the action we are taking on the UK’s Brexit process and celebrate the effort STP staff made by organising a local beach clean. We get to know Maria Daskalova, one of our Project Coordinators and a keen yoga practitioner. We learn more about how machine translation can be utilised productively in our work and get a glimpse into the next Nordic catch phrase and why it’s the next hygge.

Company News

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Facing the challenges of Brexit

As a language service provider operating in the international market, STP is following the UK’s Brexit negotiations closely. On 11 May, the Whiteley office was visited by George Hollingbery, the local Member of Parliament for Meon Valley and Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister.

Managing Director Anu Carnegie-Brown, Learning and Development Manager Raisa McNab, and Executive Chairman Jesper Sandberg all sat down with Mr Hollingbery to discuss how to best secure the translation industry’s continued presence in the UK after the UK leaves the European Union.

In addition to the clients and suppliers that STP has in the EU and around the world, the company employs 80 staff members in the UK, many of whom are linguists from the Nordic countries. While the language services industry can often be almost invisible, the work performed by linguists who are often from outside of the country is crucial to maintaining trade links with Europe and the rest of the world.

Using Mr Hollingbery’s advice, STP will work hard to lobby the UK government over the next year and beyond. Our objective is to achieve exemption legislation for EU translators in the UK so that their employers do not have to pay work visa or employer sponsorship fees, as these professionals perform jobs that must be done by people who are not native English-speaking UK citizens.

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Whiteley office takes on plastic waste

One sunny Thursday evening in May, a group of STP employees got together after work and headed to a beach near the head office in Whiteley, Hampshire. They were armed with bin bags and gloves – and a picnic dinner. When they first arrived, the beach looked surprisingly clean, but they soon realised there were a lot of small pieces of plastic that they had not noticed at first.

One of the volunteers, Project Coordinator Emma Tamlyn, noted that “this was a tangible reminder of our reliance on and blasé attitude towards single-use plastics and their disposal”.

Emma is one of STP’s Green Champions. Last year, a number of staff members from each STP office – and even from our remote teams – volunteered to monitor and improve STP’s environmental efforts. Previous green activities have involved company-wide vegetarian and vegan lunch days and a single-use plastics challenge last June. It should be added that the beach clean was not STP’s first, with the Varna team having already arranged one the previous year.

Even if you’re not up for organising an event with litterpickers and bin bags, Emma suggests taking part in the simple challenge doing the rounds on social media: next time you visit a beach, pick up at least three pieces of litter – or #takethreeforthesea – before you leave (or step things up a notch and do a #2minutebeachclean).

 

Staff Spotlight

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Q&A with Maria Daskalova, Project Manager

Which languages do you speak, Maria?

I speak Bulgarian, English, Spanish, Russian and a little bit of German.

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

When I was little and people asked me what I wanted to do, I would say I wanted to marry my dad! As a teenager, I decided to study English as I had a passion for foreign languages and I was never interested in science subjects, like maths and chemistry.

How did you end up working in the translation industry?

I graduated with a BA in English studies from the University of Plovdiv, then I did an MA in Translation and Intercultural Communication. Since I was passionate about languages, I studied something I liked and I was good at. After finishing university, I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher, but that I wanted to go into translation instead. I got a project management internship and after that I knew I had found my place in the universe! This was with the NGO Translators without Borders. I stayed on for a while after my internship and then became a Translation Liaison Consultant and also did some freelance work as a translator before applying for a PM position at STP. It was only after I had applied for the job that I saw that STP was a Translators without Borders sponsor, which made me even more interested in the job!

What does it mean to be a project manager (PM)?

First of all, I think it means having to be a superhero: you have to multitask, be devoted to your work, do the impossible to make a project succeed. You almost have to believe in magic, every day you have to try and do everything to keep both your clients and the freelance and in-house translators happy. You also have to be thick-skinned: each day, you need to be able to filter out things that are unhelpful or even negative, to extract the useful info from the information overload you deal with.

What is your favourite part of being a PM?

I think the fact that I get to “e-meet” new people every day, that I get to communicate with people from different cultures and countries. I find this aspect very motivating and stimulating.

As a Bulgarian working for a largely Nordic translation company, have you noticed any cultural differences between you and your colleagues?

At first, I thought that the Nordic people were a little cold! But then I discovered their humour and warmth and enjoy chatting to them if I get a chance.

If you could have a professional superpower, what would it be?

I would like to learn a skill by simply touching a piece of information about it. For example, you would open a course on project management, touch the screen and you would suddenly know all about it.

If you could do any other job for a week, what would it be?

I would like to fly an aeroplane! Though I think I would have to fly it by myself, because no one would take the risk of flying with a novice! It would be very different from who I am and what I do normally.

If you could wake up and be fluent in a new language, what would it be?

Maybe an Asian language, like Korean or Japanese. They are so different and spoken so far away. I know so little about them, and the writing system is different. Or Arabic!

Do you have any hidden talents?

I like to experiment with cooking different things. I also practise yoga; I have been doing yoga for seven years now. I am also a swing dancer, but there isn’t really any swing dancing in Varna unfortunately. I also recently became a volunteer for the René May foundation.

It’s fika time. Tea or coffee?

I actually prefer a drink called Inka, which is largely chicory and has no caffeine in it.

Who do you most admire, and why?

I admire people who do good for others and don’t expect anything in return.

Machine translation – friend or foe?

I think it’s both. Machine translation facilitates the work of human translators. But as the engines are getting better and better, the industry is going to change a lot!

Any advice for new PMs starting out in the industry?

I would say that they need to make sure that this is something that they want to do before getting into it. Once they’ve started, they should be patient and not be afraid to ask colleagues for help. You never stop learning as a PM.

How do you unwind at the end of a long day?

I pour myself a glass of wine, I make a nice salad for dinner and relax with a TV series.

Where is your favourite place to be?

I think it would be a faraway cottage in the mountains, near a forest. It would be on top of an immense rock at the edge of the world, far away from people and noise.

What would be your dream travel destination?

I would enjoy travelling anywhere if I had the people I love with me to share the experience with.

Describe STP in three words!

Devoted, serious, open (to change)!

 

Industry Issues

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Making the most of Machine Translation

By Raisa McNab, Learning and Development Manager at STP

It’s pretty much twenty years I’ve been in this industry, from when I first started a degree in translation, naively thinking I would and could be a professional translator, to spending the best part of the past ten years doing production management, business and IT development and training.

In that time, machine translation (MT) has gone from:

“Not there” to

“Yeah right, ha ha, never going to happen” to

“Oh, this client’s doing it, but it’s pretty awful” to

“Maybe we should consider doing it?” to

“Doing it, and it’s not that bad” to

“Actually, it’s just another productivity tool”.

These days, we see a lot of MT at STP. Our excellent Technology team develop and maintain a host of MT engines for our internal use. We get MT output from clients and end-clients, and it ranges in quality and type from pure Google Translate to highly customised account-specific engines. What has been interesting is that companies have almost exclusively wanted a product which is full human quality.

If you ask me, the bottom line with MT is that when it’s used correctly, it allows us to translate more content faster, and within the same budget than before MT. And that’s great, it means that our target languages aren’t particularly threatened by English, as companies continue to see the value in producing content in their customers’ native tongues. For someone with a degree in Finnish translation, that’s a nice thought – there are only 5.5 million of us Finns after all!

What has become abundantly clear in the past few years of STP ramping up our use and development of MT is that our linguists’ MT post-editing skills are at the core of our ability to produce that full human quality. And that requires training.

This spring, we were certified to ISO 18587 on machine translation post-editing. This is a new ISO standard that has been developed to address the requirements for post-editing skills and training, rather than the technical development or implementation of MT engines. It’s not a particularly onerous standard to meet, provided that you are running a legitimate operation.

What the standard does do, though, is put the onus on the language service provider (LSP) to provide appropriate, robust training which ensures that the linguists working on MT output know how MT works, how post-editing is different to editing translation memory matches, how to give feedback and improve the engines efficiently, and how post-editing is best approached. And I think that’s the least we owe our translators.

And what being certified to the standard does is that it tells not only the outside world but also our clients and translators that we as a company know what we’re doing with MTPE. It tells them that our linguists are trained and know what they’re doing with MTPE, and that, essentially, it’s safe to trust your MT in our hands – what comes out the other end is another great STP translation.

I am sometimes a bit jealous of our translators who have made my old dream a reality, especially when it comes to figuring out how to use technology in the translation process. That said, I realised a long time ago that I would have at best been a mediocre translator, so I’m glad I found my calling on the business side of things. I certainly wouldn’t want to move to another industry, that’s for sure!

Raisa McNab is STP’s Learning and Development Manager and the ATC’s Lead on Standards. She holds an MA in Translation from the University of Turku in Finland.

 

Nordic Focus

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It’ll be all right at the end…

By Max Naylor, Translator at STP

You’ve heard of cosy hygge (the Danish “art of cosiness”), maybe you’ve come across the Swedish perfectly adequate phenomenon of lagom (“just right”) and perhaps even tough old sisu: Finnish grit and stiff upper lip. Now it’s time for Icelanders to take the stage with their own mantra for life: þetta reddast (pronounced something like “thehta rettast”). Literally it translates as “it’ll sort itself out”, although a more colloquial translation would simply be “no worries”.

These two words encapsulate a key feature of the Icelandic psyche in one succinct phrase. Icelanders are (in)famous for their reluctance to plan too far into the future. This national personality trait is rooted in the physical environment Icelanders inhabit. In Iceland, your best-laid plans often just don’t pan out as expected due to some unforeseen circumstance, usually weather-related.

Þetta reddast also embodies a particular kind of Icelandic optimism and hard work that has been attributed to all manner of feats, including the 1986 meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavík. Another more recent example from 2014 is the rebuilding of a road bridge in southern Iceland that had been wiped out by a flash flood in just one week.

This means that Icelanders are generally fairly recalcitrant when it comes to planning things too far in advance. A reluctance to be bound by arrangements set in stone makes sense when you don’t even know what the weather will be like in five minutes’ time.

Another example of this from Icelandic history is Síldarævintýrið, or the “Herring Rush”, which swept across many Icelandic fishing villages in the 1960s. A glut of herring led to fisheries and processing plants being established almost overnight, only to close down a few years later once stocks had been exhausted.

What we can learn from the þetta reddast mentality is not to take life too seriously. The future is impossible to plan out precisely, as Icelanders’ centuries of poverty and struggle have taught them. The other thing to remember is this: if you’re planning on taking your next holiday in Iceland, be flexible! That Northern Lights trip you’ve got booked might not work out as planned, or your geyser excursion might be cancelled due to a freak snowstorm (or failure to erupt). Do as the Icelanders do, and go with the flow!

 

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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