Icebreaker 9, November 2012

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

Living happily ever after an acquisition is no different from being married. Once the honeymoon is over, the same rules apply: Commit to it. Woo the new partner. Expect surprises. Assume nothing. Provide constant care. And communicate, communicate, communicate.

Company news

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In for a penny, in for a pound

The dust had hardly settled after STP joined forces with Tranflex in the spring when we came across another great acquisition opportunity. Simply English International is a UK-based team of passionate professionals working on translation projects into English from a variety of world languages, predominantly from French and German. As a supplier to other LSPs, their niche in the market was very similar to that of STP’s and we felt that, being a UK company, it was a logical extension for STP to utilise our knowledge of this sector and help our clients by offering them more comprehensive translation services into English as well.

The goodwill and asset purchase of Simply English International (SEI) was completed at the end of October 2012. The new staff bring invaluable project management and English expertise to the STP business portfolio, with the former owner Rachel Stockley taking on the role of a Key Account Manager.

The foundations of SEI were laid all the way back in Dubai, where Rachel, working as a marketing consultant, discovered a gap in the market for good English editors and decided to fill it by providing such services to her clients. Returning to the UK in 2009, she increased her offering to include translation into English and the work grew at such a pace that she quickly found herself working 15–18 hours a day, seven days a week and often being called in the early hours of the morning from Hong Kong or New York. She was incredibly motivated to make the company a success and to keep up with her clients’ requirements, but eventually the workload began to take its toll on her personal life and finally made her seek a partner to facilitate the company’s future development.

Rachel sees the into-English market continuing to grow at a rapid pace for the foreseeable future, fuelled by the breakdown of national and communication barriers over the last decade. English is undoubtedly the lingua franca of international business, meaning that our industry can expect the need for into-English translation to increase in line with increasing globalisation. At present, the majority of STP’s into-English work involves translation from European languages, and mainly the Nordics, but with Rachel and her team now part of the company we are confidently building up our resources to meet more demand for translation from the Asian languages, in particular Japanese and Chinese. The website of SEI has now been adapted and rebranded as www.stpenglish.com.

Staff News

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Finn Power

When Aino Äijö joined STP in January 2012, we sought the help of YouTube in trying to demonstrate the pronunciation of her name to online colleagues – for obvious reasons. Nowadays we are all experts, of course.

Aino graduated from the University of Turku with a BA in French Translation and Interpretation, with English and Swedish as her other foreign languages. She is currently writing her Master’s thesis on terminology, alongside her full-time translation work. Even before moving to the UK, Aino enjoyed living abroad; she had worked for nine months in French-speaking Switzerland, lived in Sweden for two months and studied for nine months in France. She had also been a translation trainee at the European Parliament in Luxembourg and liked it a lot, but was hoping to find a job that offered a greater variety of text types and subject matters. STP’s advertisement for a Finnish translator position in August 2011 ticked all her boxes and she was glad to be employed by a smaller company after the larger institutions she had worked at before.

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Laura Räsänen also came to STP in January 2012. She has an MA from the University of Turku in French and Italian Translation, and completed further studies in business administration in Finland and France as well as holding a catering degree and working in the field for a number of years. She loves French and Italian literature, art and films, and complements these with hobbies such as aerobics, martial arts and hiking.

Laura has been a translator trainee both at the European Commission and European Parliament. She has lived in several European countries either for work or studies – Switzerland, Italy, Luxembourg and Latvia – and is experienced in translating from English, French and Italian into Finnish. Before STP, Laura gained in-house translation experience at another European LSP mainly focusing on European Union documents. In addition to that, she has also worked as a self-employed translator translating EU-related texts.

Industry issues

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I know what you did last summer

European universities are reaching out to the translation industry in their efforts to modernise their course content and to match it to the needs of their students’ future employers. The European Master’s in Translation model has inspired other projects promoting cooperation between translator trainers and the translation industry, including AGORA, which is a cross-border placement scheme for translation students currently involving 10 European universities and a handful of LSPs. The project aims to build a database that caters for both the supply and demand, as well as developing a reporting system to ensure that adequate feedback flows between all parties. It is a worthy example of the academic and commercial worlds working together to achieve results in an area that all parties acknowledge to be a great way forward but few manage to make the most of.

STP’s head office in Whiteley hosted four translator interns this summer; three of them were cross-border placements with interns from non-UK universities. The fourth trainee, Siân Mackie from the University of Edinburgh completed her internship in September and describes the experience as both interesting and helpful: “I had recently graduated with an MA in Scandinavian Studies with a distinction in spoken Norwegian and had also studied for a year at the University of Bergen in Norway. Before I came to STP, I had done the occasional piece of freelance translation, but I had never had the opportunity to use CAT tools or bounce ideas off a strong group of other translators sitting in the same room. When I heard that my test translation had been successful, I jumped at the chance to come down to Whiteley. Everyone at STP was welcoming and helpful, and it has been very interesting to get such a range of different translations to try, from technical to legal, from musician biographies to equestrian equipment, and from all three Scandinavian languages. The PMs did their best to ease me into the pace here, and I never felt panicked. I learned something new every day, and would certainly recommend an internship with STP to other Nordic language students.”
Nordic focus

Nordic focus

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The magic word

The little adverb “please” has come to symbolise politeness in English requests to the extent that it might come as a surprise to some that it can also be used to express annoyance or impatience (Oh, please, do we have to hear that again?). Another potentially shocking piece of trivia is that our Nordic languages don’t really have a word for “please” at all.

The politeness principle is probably universal across all cultures even though its practical expression in the application of good manners or etiquette varies a lot. Even without the help of “please”, the Nordic languages manage to convey politeness in requests with phrases such as “be so good” or “be so kind” and “thank you” as well as with the conditional mood of verbs. The tone of voice and body language also play their part. It should be noted, though, that cultures do differ in how they define politeness and how important its role is in the culture, in comparison to, say, openness or honesty. There is a general, albeit purely non-scientific, Nordic consensus that our cultures tend to admire the latter at the expense of the former…

Elizabeth Peterson’s fascinating study “It’s Just Different” at the University of Helsinki in 2009 mapped the emotions and observations of 68 native Finnish speakers regarding the Finnish and English languages (http://blogs.helsinki.fi/hes-eng/volumes/volume-5/%E2%80%9Cit%E2%80%99s-just-different%E2%80%9D-emotions-and-observations-about-finnish-and-english-elizabeth-peterson/). Many of those interviewed seemed to have a sense of inferiority and inadequacy in the area of politeness when comparing their Finnish speech to its English counterpart. The main reason perceived was the use of “please”, or the lack thereof. Some speakers mentioned what they felt was an increased penchant for politeness in their Finnish after having lived abroad. A 38-year-old woman who had lived in the United States for several years said that she constantly tried to find words like “please” when speaking in Finnish, even though she knew they did not really exist.

Many of us Nordic parents with Anglo-Saxon spouses have battled with the same feelings. Any disagreements over how to apply the politeness principle usually come to a head when raising bilingual and bicultural children. Have any of us not cringed at the British or American in-laws trying to coax the magic word out of our children? While the disapproving grandparent purses their lips, the child glowers at you, totally bewildered at discovering that there actually are real magic words in their world and you had failed to disclose this information to them.

Our Swedish translator Helena tells a great story of her resourceful daughter whom her English dad was trying to teach to say “please”. The family was sitting in a park, with Helena and her husband both enjoying a smoothie. The little girl wanted some of her dad’s smoothie, but he would not give her any “unless she said please”. No manner of crying would melt his heart. After a while, Helena saw her daughter calm down and sit back to do some serious thinking. Finally, she turned to her mother and, speaking in Swedish, asked her if she could have some of daddy’s smoothie! Since you don’t need to use magic words in Swedish, Helena was more than happy to give her some.

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