Nordic Translation Industry Forum 2019 – Nimdzi Conference Report


This conference report was written by Sarah Hickey.

This year, the ninth Nordic Translation Industry Forum (NTIF) was hosted in Gothenburg, Sweden, from November 24 to 26. Over 170 attendees from more than 26 countries traveled to the largest non-capital city in the Nordics to exchange ideas and engage in lively debate and friendly competition. Nimdzi Insights was among the mingling crowd too.

The NTIF format

Nine years ago, Anne-Marie Colliander-Lind and Cecilia Enbäck saw a need for a conference where language industry professionals from the Nordics could come together. What was intended as a one-off event has proven so successful that it has run every year since, and there is no end in sight.

This year’s NTIF conference kicked off with optional master classes (e.g. for sales) the day before the first official day of the conference. In the evening, conference attendees from around the globe were welcomed with a champagne reception and warm hugs from their international colleagues, while a pianist softly tickled the ivories in the background.

The two main conference days were divided into a variety of segments. While day one had one mixed track, day two was split into two tracks: one with a focus on translation and localization and one on interpreting.

The crowd

Among the crowd at NTIF one could find:

  • Language services providers (LSPs) from the Nordics
  • Independent translators and interpreters
  • Government representatives
  • Members of translator and interpreter associations
  • International companies interested in the Nordic language services market

Day 1: Keynote, mixed sessions and the conference dinner

The first day of the conference started with presentations from each of the NTIF sponsors. After lunch, Anne-Marie and Cecilia officially opened the conference with some practical information, an overview of what was to come and a special shoutout to attendees who were #thunberging to the conference (i.e. following in the footsteps of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg by not traveling to the conference by plane). Giving those who had to take the plane a slight case of #flygskam (Swedish for “flight shame”)…

Opening Keynote: The digital generation shift

The opening keynote by Nicholas Fernholm addressed “The digital generation shift.” He pointed out that, in the current world climate, facts matter less than values and ideologies. He advised businesses to embrace people’s desire to associate themselves with shared values and named Nike’s campaign with NFL player Colin Kaepernick as a successful example.

Nicholas explained that shared values are particularly important for millennials who are looking for personal fulfilment. He referenced a recent poll in which millennials stated that they would want to work for Tesla, even if payment was low and the hours were long, “because they want to save the world.” 

He concluded that millennials have the potential to be the most powerful group of employees yet if businesses make an effort to understand their motivations, stating: “If you give us meaning, we will give you our lives.”

Day 1 presentation highlights

Day one had one presentation track, covering topics such as digitalization and automation, globalization, and engaging customers.

Henrik Sundberg from GLOBALscandinavia talked about automation. He recommends that, in any business, someone needs to be in charge of automation, but that the whole team needs to be involved. He reminded the audience that “automation is about people.”

Trond Samstad from Samtext analyzed why translations don’t work. He sees the main challenge rooted in translators being trained to be true to the source text, rather than creating a translation that is fit for the target audience. He considers being aware of the cultural context key and advises that transcreation and copy adaption are the solution. Trond is certainly not the only person seeing things in this way – we recently talked to Giulia Tarditi of Monese about how they have developed a translation-free environment for localizing their product.

Matthew Ogden, The Bearded Wit, closed day one speaking to the audience about the power of storytelling. From the beginnings when humans first gathered around the fire to the modern business world, “it’s the story that people relate to.” In current times where the average attention span is eight seconds, businesses should employ especially strong messaging to draw people in.

Day one finished with the conference dinner in a beautiful old building in the heart of Gothenburg. Attendees dined under sparkling chandeliers before shaking and twirling on the dance floor until the early morning hours.

Day 2: Two tracks and a Brain Ring

The second day of the conference featured two tracks. One focused on interpreting while the other focused on translation and localization. 

George Drummond from the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) opened the day by talking about the challenges the interpreters at the Nuremberg Trials faced at the end of WWII. It was the first time that simultaneous interpreting was being used because the trials had to be held in four languages (those of the allies and German for the accused). There were hundreds of Nazi criminals to be tried, so consecutive interpreting would have taken far too long. While there is great admiration for these interpreting pioneers within the community, it was not all glamor and glory. George spoke about the challenging conditions and vicarious trauma – a topic Nimdzi explores here.

Focus on interpreting

While Carolina Kühnemann from Translator Scandinavia and Gaëtan Chrétiennot from Six Continents talked about “NMT: from Not My Type and Need More Time to Now My Turn!” in the translation track, Nimdzi Insights’ Chief Interpreting Researcher, Sarah Hickey, opened the interpreting track. During her presentation on “Interpreting across the globe – No one size fits all,” Sarah spoke about how different interpreting markets are run and on the key aspects that influence the interpreting market. She concluded that there is a centralization Goldilocks Zone, that government contracts should use a panel of providers, and that the interpreting industry needs PR and lobbying, sales training, and a better technological infrastructure. To read the full report based on Sarah’s presentation, head here.

Up next in the interpreting track were Sergio Llorian from VoiceBoxer and Judy Jenner from Twin Translations, who talked about the current state of interpreting technology. Equipped with boxing gloves (literally), the two delivered a knockout discussion and concluded that now is the time to shape interpreting technology to our needs “because it is coming.”

Matthias Schain from Semantix analyzed Swedish public tenders in the interpreting market. He believes tenders need to address functional demands and encourage competition. To achieve this, he recommends a flexible order of providers in public contracts that is reviewed annually.

Closing the interpreting track were Jonas Ahlstedt and Peter Haglund from Swedish provider Transvoice. As the demand in the Swedish interpreting market is very volatile – with peaks at 10am and 2pm every day – Transvoice proposes a digital solution that uses interactive AI bots powered by human interpreters. Jonas and Peter further recommend assigning interpreters to specific assignments to ensure that the right interpreter is at the right place.

Brain Ring and closing keynote

The second day finished with a Brain Ring moderated by Konstantin Dranch. Three CEOs – Katja Virtanen from Delingua, Henrik Sundberg from GLOBALscandinavia, and Lea Backhurst from Summa Linguae Technologies – were brought on stage where they were asked challenging questions. The audience got to vote on the best answer. Topics covered were, for example:

  • How to ensure gender diversity in the workplace
  • What to do when the best sales representative leaves and takes clients with him/her
  • Do you have a retirement plan? Who will be your successor?
  • The most valued project managers threatening to leave unless they get a raise
  • How to deal with romance in the workplace

Lea from Summa Linguae Technologies won the Brain Ring and the audience had a great time voting, commenting, and posing more questions via an online tool.

The closing keynote was delivered by Thomas Hylland Eriksen. He spoke about the linguistic and cultural challenges translators and interpreters face every day. Ranging from untranslatable cultural terms, like the Swedish “Fika” (a culturally significant coffee and pastry ritual), to a minefield of misunderstandings that can lead to mishaps like when “Made in Turkey” is being translated as the animal, rather than the country…

Key takeaways

Technology continues to be the conversation driver in our industry and it was no different at NTIF. Digitalization and automation seemed to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and speakers tried to provide answers to questions such as:

  • How to adapt your business to an increasingly digital world
  • How to best implement automation
  • What are the latest trends in translation and interpreting technology

But one cannot talk about technology without considering the human factor. All speakers addressed the human challenges that lie within digitalization, automation, and technology. Topics included how to reach customers in a digital world, employee globalization, and using technology to remove monotonous tasks to truly harvest the value of human input.

While a lot has happened in the Nordic market over the past year – with turbulent public tenders and a shift in leadership in certain market sectors – the language industry is as alive and vibrant as ever. Britta Agaard from Semantix put it best when she spoke about “Nordic values and friendly competition.”

We at Nimdzi certainly can’t wait for next year’s NTIF, which is set to take place from November 16th to 22nd, 2020. The place is yet to be decided but it will be “somewhere in the Nordics” as stated on the NTIF website. So save the date and see y’all there!

This conference report was researched and written by Sarah Hickey. If you wish to find out more about what went down at the LocWorld41 event, please reach out to Sarah at [email protected].

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