This time, I sat down to chat with Junie Haller, who is part of the Danish translator team at STP. Junie started as a junior translator in our Whiteley office three years ago and received ITI’s Best newcomer award in 2017. After 2.5 years, she and her boyfriend (an STP colleague) relocated to southern Sweden to be closer to his family and to Junie’s native Denmark.
Which languages do you speak, Junie?
I speak Danish, obviously, and English and German. I haven’t used German actively for a while, but I have lived in Germany on a few occasions and I translate from German as well.
Now that I’m living in Skåne, where the local dialect is a bit closer to Danish than standard Swedish, I try to make communication with Swedish-speakers easier by replacing Danish words with Swedish ones. I would like to learn Swedish, it would make everything easier. Especially when I call people on the phone, because as things stand I need to switch to English, which does feel silly.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wanted to be a ton of things! I remember wanting to be a marine biologist, then I found out how scientifically minded you needed to be. Then I wanted to be a movie director, then an architect, and, later, an Egyptologist. I’d always been good at languages, they came naturally to me. When I was about 15, I became really interested in German.
What was your first job?
For a few months, I was a waitress and a kitchen worker at a café in my home town. It was, at the time, the only café in town. We served simple food: sandwiches and nachos. We had all sorts of people coming in: regulars, families with kids, teenagers. It was the only place to go in town.
It was quite a small town?
Quite a few people at STP are from smaller places.
Yes, I’ve noticed that, too! I had a theory about that: if you grew up feeling like you had to go somewhere to study or to work, you’re more prone to travelling more later on as well.
How did you end up working in the translation industry?
My degree was in German language, literature and culture. So it wasn’t strictly translation, though that was always part of it. After I had I finished my degree, I was looking for work and came across an ad from STP. I thought that was something I could see myself doing, I’d been interested in translation as a career before. I was happy to discover I really enjoyed the work!
What differences are there between working at the office and working from home?
The main difference is of course that when you work from home you don’t have direct contact with your colleagues. But I do like peace and quiet, and I certainly don’t miss the commute! I can sleep for an hour longer now, since I commuted to Whiteley from Portsmouth.
I’m still in just as much contact with my team even now as we have our team chat. And of course my boyfriend also works for STP, so I have at least one colleague here – and cats, too!
What’s the most important quality for a good translator?
I think one of the most important things is something that one of my university professors told me: to be able to translate well, you need to have a good grasp of your own language, the language you translate into. Someone asked him how you do that – he just shrugged.
I think you have to be immersed in your source and target languages. I suppose that’s the difference between a machine and a good human translator. The text should read as if it hasn’t been translated. You get that from really engaging with the language you’re translating into and keeping up with how it changes.
Any advice for new people starting out in the industry?
Don’t despair! At the beginning it’s tough when there’s so much to learn: tools, workflows and so on. But just persevere and be open to learning new things. Don’t give up!
Machine translation – friend or foe?
Definitely a friend. I’ve never actually worked without it! It’s been a natural part of the way I work from the very beginning. The engines are getting better now and I feel like I’m getting better at post-editing machine-translated output as well.
The more you’re able to embrace machine translation as a tool and make it work for you, the better. You shouldn’t get too relaxed, though! You have to avoid falling in the trap of under-editing the output.
If you could do any other job for a week, what would it be?
I think I would be a gardener, actually. Now that it’s spring and things are becoming greener, I think I’d enjoy a week of getting my hands dirty. It’d be nice to have a non-sedentary job in the fresh air for a week!
If you could wake up and be fluent in a new language, which one would it be?
That’s a tough one because I immediately think of Swedish! But I think I should go for something harder to learn.
In school, I did Russian for a bit but I wasn’t able to continue as there weren’t enough people to go on with the classes. I’d love to be able to revisit that! But if I could speak Swedish fluently, that would be very helpful in my day-to-day life.
What’s your favourite word?
One of my favourite Danish words is “krasbørstig”. It’s an older word that means something along the lines of “fierce”, “vicious” or “crusty”. I think people use it far too little!
Do you have any hidden talents?
When I was a kid, I used to do gymnastics. I was quite good at it, too! I wasn’t as physically active as a teenager, but I could still do a cartwheel, much to the surprise to my PE teacher at the time.
It’s fika time. Tea or coffee?
I’m definitely a tea drinker. I mostly drink green tea without milk, but I’d put milk or a milk substitute into strong black tea. But I’m really sensitive to caffeine, so I don’t drink much coffee or black tea, and only in the morning.
Who do you most admire, and why?
My mum. She’s just mentally and emotionally incredibly strong. She is the mother hen taking care of all of us. She has this incredible inner strength!
How do you unwind at the end of a long day?
I really like to go for walks. I often go for a walk after dinner. It sort of switches my brain off. It’s exercise, but not high intensity. You just put one foot in front of the other, and you get away from screens. And gin and tonic on Fridays!
Where is your favourite place to be?
Probably my parents’ summer house by the beach in Denmark. I’ve always loved going there: you get away from everything: there’s no stress, no screens. I have a lot of good memories from that area from when I was a kid. I always look forward to going there and I never really want to leave.
Describe STP in three words
Welcoming, competent, chill.