Plain language and translation – guest post from expert in plain language
Interview with Swedish translator – part 1
November 7, 2011
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November 26, 2011
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I have had the fortune of getting to know a plain language expert in Sweden, who is bilingual and also works with translation. I actually met her through Twitter, so never underestimate social media. Ingrid Herbert has a BA in Swedish Language Consultancy and works for Språkkonsulterna as a language consultant and translator. Her work there includes plain language, writing for the web, social media strategies, teaching, editing and proofreading. She is also on the Board of Ess (the Association of Swedish Language Consultants). Ingrid grew up in both the UK and in Sweden. Here is her post.

No two days are ever the same for me. One day I could be editing an English business proposition written by a Swede, the next I’ll be preparing a lesson in plain language for the web, and the third I’ll be writing language guidelines for a Swedish agency. In the middle of this I could suddenly be sent a text for urgent translation, and would have to find a way to fit it into my schedule.

I work for the largest plain language company in Sweden

I have been working as a plain Swedish consultant for two years. I found the Swedish language consultant university course by chance and was thrilled – it involved a bit of journalism, a bit of teaching and a bit of translating, but mainly language “nerdery” in general. Just the course for me! After graduating I freelanced for a few months before I was employed by Språkkonsulterna, a private plain language company in Stockholm. Språkkonsulterna is the largest plain language company in Sweden, and I feel privileged to work with some of the most experienced plain Swedish practitioners. If I ever get stuck or need a second opinion, there’s always someone to ask for advice. At the same time, the company only has six employees, meaning that we all have a large chunk of responsibility to develop the business. All of us also get to write for the company’s monthly newsletter and blog.

Plain language and translation is a great combination

Translation isn’t a huge part of my job, but when I do get the chance to translate my plain language training is of great help. I have been trained to spot inconsistent language usage and can instantly decide which form to use in the translation. I will also add humble comments on certain choices I have made, and I always understand that my finished translation may not be final. As I have solid grammatical knowledge I can always use grammar to explain why something is incorrect or corresponds. True, this is rarely necessary, but knowing that I am able to gives me confidence.

…but I can get frustrated with unclear original documents when translating

However, plain language work is a bit too similar to translating. In fact, I often explain it as translating officialise into Swedish. This means that I occasionally, but not often, take my translations too far. I can edit out fuzzy wordings and redundant information on the fly. It is frustrating to stay completely true to the original when it is obvious how much better the translation will be if I tidy it up a bit! But I am aware that this is (usually) not a part of translating, so I always tell myself to avoid going too plain when my client has not asked for it.

Variation is the spice of life

I am happy I am able to do both translation and plain language work. I love the variation and it would be a bit boring to come to work and do only editing or only translations every day. Both areas are creative and have similarities as well as differences, so I always have a fresh challenge to look forward to.

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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  2. Thanks for writing, Ingrid. You have an enviable career!