Icebreaker 6, October 2011

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Welcome to the sixth issue of ‘Icebreaker’, the STP newsletter.

Striving for excellence, inspiring improvement and supporting efforts that seek to establish and share best practices have been our focus over the past year. Here is a brief look at some of the items on our agenda.

Company news

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Better off

It is not only doctors and lawyers who acknowledge that their graduation day is but the first milestone in a life-long pursuit of improvement – the translation industry recognises the importance of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) as well. The ITI defines CPD as ‘the systematic maintenance, improvement and broadening of knowledge and skills, and the development of personal qualities necessary for the execution of professional duties throughout your working life’. Some of the professional bodies measure the hours a translator spends on such activity, others count points whilst yet others prefer to look at the learning outcomes of CPD rather than the time allocated for it. Despite the differences in the recommended methods, the emphasis is on the professional seeking new knowledge at all times. There seems to be a consensus on the key areas such efforts should focus on: the translator’s source and target language skills, subject knowledge, business skills, technology skills (including software and the Internet) and personal development (including an active presence in the professional community). None of the translation associations set strict levels or standards for CPD activities nor dictate any compulsory industry events for it: CPD is essentially personal to each individual translator and thus voluntary, though increasingly many organisations do include it in the qualification criteria for their memberships or quality standards.

At STP, the translators’ and project managers’ CPD is ensured through various on-going tasks, formal training, feedback and keeping in touch with the source and target cultures and colleagues. The translators keep a record of their CPD activities and it is reviewed at the end of each calendar year.

All new staff at STP are provided with an information pack that details the company’s documentation and procedures and introduces the main tools essential for their tasks. This is linked to a week-long induction period with the Production & Quality Manager which eases the new translators and project managers into their new roles. Further training in the use of established and emerging translation tools, other applications, specific subject areas and linguistic issues is provided at frequent tutorials and workshops. All senior staff are encouraged to contribute to these training sessions and share best practices across team borders. Both in-house and freelance translators are given frequent feedback on their translation work and asked to review the changes introduced in their translations by the revisers. We publish a regular supplier newsletter and maintain an online help feature providing valuable support to translators and project managers in their use of tools and applications.

STP encourages staff to keep in touch with their source and target cultures as well as the languages. We support language learning efforts and subscribe to a number of English and Nordic newspapers and magazines for the staff to read during their breaks or take home in the evenings. There is also a library trolley where staff can donate and circulate their own books, magazines and films in a range of languages.

Staff News

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Quintessentially English

Amy Cottrell was awarded a language degree in German and Spanish from the University of Exeter in 2007 and embarked on a distance learning translation course with City University London. After a couple of years in administrative jobs, Amy decided it was time to streamline her career and she took the Masters in Translation Studies course at Portsmouth University, graduating from there in 2010. During her MA studies, Amy taught a beginners’ German class at the university and she was also involved in teaching English in Spain during her BA course. She remains in contact with her tutors at the University of Portsmouth and attends events and conferences held there; in December she will take part in a seminar to discuss her job with current students.

Amy started at STP by doing an internship in the Project Management team. The internship gave her a great insight into the translation industry and an opportunity to grow into the role of a project coordinator. Having completely changed her mind about what she previously thought about translating vs PM’ing, Amy is now definitely focusing her career on translation project management – a preference that has taken her a bit by surprise! She is pleased with the way the role builds on her previous work experience in administration while the added language dimension keeps her interest fresh.

After a year at STP, Amy has decided it’s time to start learning a new language and she will embark on a 6-month beginners’ course in Swedish, starting in November. As Amy enjoys visiting new places and has not yet been to any of the Scandinavian countries, she has decided to make sure to visit them as soon as possible!

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Peter Dann has worked in a variety of roles in the localisation industry since 1997. After starting out as a translator at Eurotext in Dublin, he moved into translation and project management, before returning to the UK to take up the position as General Manager of a translation company. For the last 10 years he has been the Vendor Manager at SDL, planning and preparing translation resources as well as guiding and coordinating them.

Peter joined STP as a Senior Project Manager in September 2011 and is looking forward to being more involved in the day-to-day operations of the business. He studied French and Spanish translation at Bournemouth University and has since become a proficient Catalan speaker as well; having a translator for a wife certainly helps! As well as being a devoted dad and husband, Peter has a little time left for his other object of affection – fast cars.

Industry issues

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Lateral support

Translators without Borders, a non-profit organisation focused on spreading knowledge through humanitarian translations, unveiled its initial round of sponsors at Localization World Barcelona in June 2011. STP’s name was announced amongst a number of other industry leaders pledging their support to this work.

The decision taken by STP’s Executive Chairman Jesper Sandberg was based on his encounters at the AMTA conference in Denver in October 2010, where he heard and met users of translation services in less commercial settings than those STP usually deals with. “To be reminded of how diplomats and intelligence agencies rely on translations when making life-or-death decisions, or how refugees end up living in a vacuum due to the lack of appropriate interpreters, really puts our daily commercial realities into a humanitarian perspective,” he says.

STP is pleased to be involved in sustaining and growing Translators without Borders, which has recently made great progress in the development of a technology platform with Proz.com, including a new fully automated Translation Center for NGOs. As a result, TWB is able to provide free translations to hundreds of non-profit organisations by automatically linking volunteers to projects that need translation. All work for Translators without Borders is currently done by volunteers.

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STP is also supporting the further development of translation industry standards as a sponsor of the GALA Standards Initiative. With this effort, the Globalization and Localization Association aims to provide the translation community with resources to make better use of the current hundred or so standards applicable to the translation and localisation industry, improve standards development and be involved in enabling standards to meet evolving business needs. The GALA Standards Coordinator intends to join relevant standards committees and participate in them actively, bringing regular reports to the translation community and supplying feedback from them to the committees. The initiative relies on financial contributions from the industry for achieving its goals and delivering real benefit to the localisation community.

Nordic focus

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Some like it hot

Every language professional knows the fun and struggle of dealing with culture-specific notions and phenomena. How to describe the concept correctly? How to convey its place and meaning in the source culture? Unlike in literary translation, a replacement is often not an option when translating in the commercial world.

The sauna is firmly rooted in Finnish culture, and though its bathing practices are well-known all over the world, the concept and associations have not crossed borders as effortlessly as the physical elements. For a Finn, the sauna is inviolable. It is a natural, family-centred activity with no room for indecencies or gimmicky paraphernalia. We consider it a treat for the body and the soul.

The word sauna is an ancient Finnish word, but the sauna itself is an integral part of modern Finnish society. Historically, Finns have made the most of the sauna over the centuries. Different versions of sweat baths have of course been known all over the world, but the Nordic way of life where even peasants enjoyed a weekly sauna did stand out during the periods when frequent bathing was not a common phenomenon in Europe. When people moved house, building a sauna was often the first task on the list: you could live in it, wash in it, cook food on the stove and even give birth in a fairly sterile environment.

Today, the sauna plays an equally important part in the private and even public lives of the Finnish people. It is estimated that in a country with 5.3 million people, there are currently around two million saunas. In moderation, sauna bathing is considered suitable for everyone from small babies and pregnant women to chronically ill elderly people and the fittest of athletes. Taken to the extreme, as in the now infamous annual Sauna World Championship Contest, it can of course be lethal. But taking a sauna was never meant to be an extreme sport!

The act of taking a sauna begins by washing and then sitting in the heat of typically 80 or 90 degrees Celsius. Water is thrown onto the hot stones of a special stove, and this produces steam to increase the humidity and heat inside the room. The process introduces a host of terms that usually need to be explained rather than translated. The stove or heater (Finnish kiuas) can be electric or wood-burning. The electric models can be ‘always ready’ (just open the lid to release heat) or have steamer functions. There are wood-burning versions without a chimney, which fill the sauna room with fragrant wood smoke. The sauna steam has a special name (löyly), and then there are the leafy birch branches you use to gently beat yourself with (called vihta in Western Finland and vasta in Eastern Finland). When the sauna starts to feel too hot, relief can be found by jumping in a lake or swimming pool. In winter, it is quite common to either roll in the snow or swim in a hole cut in the ice (avanto). If you ever visit Finland, you are sure to be invited to enjoy a sauna experience and have the added pleasure of your host earnestly trying to explain all these concepts in their best English.

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