Behind the CETRA Scene: Interview with a Swedish Translator, Tess Whitty

Name: Tess Whitty

Location: Park City, UT, USA

swedish translation, tess whitty

What languages do you work with?  What are some of the intricacies or challenges of the particular language you work with?

I translate, proofread and edit from English into Swedish, specializing in IT, software, business communication and consumer electronics. During my 9 years of translating and editing Swedish translations from English I have noticed that many people have trouble with the right format for numbers, currencies and diactric marks. When translating into Swedish from English I usually have to change the sentence structure to make it flow more naturally in Swedish.

What are some of your most interesting projects? Why?

Recently I have had the honor of helping PhD students in Sweden translate their questionnaires and research proposals. The subjects have covered peace and conflict resolution and green economics, both very fascinating. I have also become a Certified English into Swedish translator for the U.S. Department of State this year and have had some very interesting, legally oriented projects through them.

What is the best part about being a translator? What do you love about it?

I love the creativity and that I usually learn something new from each project. Being a freelance translator is great for me and my family and the flexibility is priceless. The translator community is also very friendly and helpful and I really enjoy socializing with other linguists.

How did you know you were “ready” to be a translator?

The fact is that I did not know for the longest time. In school I loved writing, reading and studying other languages and cultures, but the career as translator was not on my radar at that time. Instead I received a degree in International Marketing and became a product marketing manager for a telecommunications company in Sweden. It was not until I moved to the US with my husband and our two year-old son (and pregnant with our daughter!) that I started looking into other career opportunities, especially something that I could do from home. Since I was already bilingual I started researching translation as a career and became a member of different translation associations and translation portals. After receiving my first job I have never looked back and plan on working as a translator for the rest of my life. As a translator I can apply my passion for linguistics and writing, and I love the fact that it is a job where I am constantly learning and developing. I do not have a formal degree in translation, but have taken classes whenever I have had the opportunity, and have learned a lot from attending translation conferences. Next year my family and I are going to live in Sweden for a year, and I plan on taking some writing classes then, too.

What is the most difficult part about your job?

Freelance translators need to have discipline and good skills in organization and time management.  We need to be able to judge how long a project will take, including research and proofreading, and to tell whether a job is within our area of expertise. Working under deadline pressure can be difficult, but it has become easier as time has passed and I have gotten to know my capabilities and narrow my areas of expertise.

Can you translate a sentence for us? Your favorite quote? Your favorite word?

My favorite Swedish word is “lagom,” which is hard to translate. It means “not too much or too little, but just right” and it is used in all sorts of situations in Sweden. There is a saying called “lagom är bäst,” which means that “lagom” is best. Do not use/do too much or too little. Another example is the name of a margarine in Sweden, called “Lätt och Lagom,” which means “Light and just right.”

I have many favorite quotes, but here is one on success:

“Det finns bara en slags framgång, att kunna leva sitt liv på sitt eget sätt”

”There is only one kind of success, to be able to live your life in your own way”