Attending the Swedish Association of Professional Translators annual conference 2012 – Cultural differences and insights
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As a Swedish translator I have been a member of the Swedish Association of Professional Translators (SFOE) for many years, but had not yet made it to the annual conference. This year, however, I had the honor of giving a presentation on websites for translators and participating in a panel discussion on quality assurance, while representing the American Translators Association’s (ATA) certification program. The conference was held May 4-6 in Gävle, Sweden a picturesque small town on a river, home of the Swedish Gevalia coffee. During my 9 years as a professional translator, I have only participated in translation conferences in the US before and experienced a bit of a culture shock during the SFÖ-conference, despite being Swedish myself.

The most significant difference was the type of speakers. ATA uses mostly other freelance translators as speakers, with a few additional honorary speakers. The SFÖ-conference consisted of mostly invited distinguished speakers, who not necessarily have anything to do with translation, such as comedians and communicators, even though their topics were interested to translators, such as … This made me feel quite nervous for my own presentation. The stage was huge, with spotlights shining on me, and I was not able to hide behind a sturdy podium. Despite my nervousness my presentation went well and I was even asked to do more training for SFÖ during my upcoming year in Sweden.

The panel discussion together with Helena Englund Hjalmarsson from Språkkonsulterna, Anne Katrin Welp from AKW Consulting, and Cecilia Enbäck från Translator Scandinavia gave me many insights into the Swedish equivalent to the certification program and how clients and agencies work to guarantee highest possible quality of translations  and translators.

I always return from conferences with many new contacts and ideas, and this conference was no different. What I found most curious though was that not many people exchanged business cards. Perhaps this is also a cultural difference between the Americans and Swedes. The highlight of the conference was definitely the banquet on Saturday, where everyone dressed up nicely and we got to sit down to a three course dinner served on linen table cloths and nice silver ware. This also felt different from the US, where people dress casually as much as possible and the conference dinner is a buffet- type event where you usually stand and mingle. A nice touch was also the small gifts each presenter received as a token of appreciation.

SFO annual conference banquet

I am very pleased with the SFÖ-conference and I look forward to meeting many of the people from the conference again during the following year, which I will be spending in Sweden with my family, to truly immerse us all in the Swedish language and culture again.

Swedish Translation Services is a company owned by Tess Whitty, a freelance translator (English-Swedish), proofreader, editor, copy writer, localizer and entrepreneur.


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