Unparalleled success as a translator – with a Macintosh


by Charles Ek

Assistant Administrator

Nordic Division


I am a freelance translator working from the Scandinavian languages (Danish, Norwegian and Swedish) into English. My specialty is legal translation – I previously practiced law for five years. I also have substantial experience in the areas of commercial insurance and environmental matters. I started my translation business five years ago, in 2009.

My involvement with Macintosh computers predates that event by some twenty-five years. I cannot claim to be the first purchaser of a Macintosh when it arrived in 1984, but I was among the very early ones. Since that time, I have exclusively used Macintosh computers for both my personal use and eventually for my legal practice and my translation business. I have used Windows-based machines in the past, but only when required by an employer to do so.

When I first contemplated starting a translation business, I quickly faced a choice: Stay with what I liked, or switch to what I was told I had to have to be successful. Luckily, I had advice from the poet Robert Frost in his poem “The Road Not Taken”, which I commend to everyone, regardless of whether you’re choosing an operating system or a career path.

My choice was made enormously easier by the availability of a native Macintosh version of OmegaT, an open source computer-assisted translation tool. I will leave it to another time or another writer to plumb the depths of this application’s usefulness for translators. Let me just say it plainly:

In five years, there has not been one day I have regretted not having another CAT tool available on my computer.

Admittedly, my work as a legal translator is well suited to OmegaT. I work primarily with Microsoft Office documents or files that can be converted more or less easily to the various other formats that OmegaT now handles in stride, after some very early issues. (More on the “less easily” part in a moment.) I know that other CAT tools are possibly better suited for specific situations. I work as the sole translator on a project more than ninety percent of the time, so I rarely have to share anything other than a finished translation. If the need arises, I can import and export TMX-formatted translation memories. I have happily washed my hands of any demands to produce so-called “unclean” files, and it hasn’t put any noticeable dent in my revenues or profits over the last five years.

I quit making glossaries a very long time ago, even though OmegaT handles them nicely. Whenever I find an online glossary or other resource that will be helpful, I simply copy it (where legal!) to my desktop machine. The Macintosh operating system includes an amazing application called Spotlight, which rapidly searches the entire hard drive at my command. It takes moments to know whether I have some file showing either the meaning of a term or at least its use in context. Accessing that content then requires a couple of mouse clicks.

Ah, what’s that you say? Yes, I’m aware that I could be running many other CAT tools and other Windows-based applications with the aid of Parallels (or some other arrangement) that would allow me to run such software on my Macs. But I don’t feel the need, my experience has borne that out, and there are technical and financial burdens with such arrangements that I choose to avoid.

Surely I have lost jobs because of my intransigence, you say. Well, yes, but the losses have been virtually painless, and not nearly as frequent as those unfamiliar with Macintosh capabilities would have you believe. Time after time, a project manager has realized (or knew all along) that the end user of the translation really could not care less how it was produced, except to the extent that affected the cost.

Apart from OmegaT, what applications are open regularly on my machines? Almost from the start, I felt compelled to abandon OpenOffice.org and NeoOffice, two fine office suites, in favor of Microsoft Office for Mac (I currently use the 2008 package.) There were too many formatting problems switching back and forth with files, something that rightly irritated my customers when it happened. I realize that things may have changed on that front, so do not take this as the last word on the subject!

After spending a few years trying different ways to convert electronic and scanned PDF files to Word documents (for use in OmegaT), I have mostly settled on Abbyy FineReader Pro for Mac. This usually does a good job. When things go badly, as occasionally happens with files with tiny print, non-editable images inserted and/or other horrors, you can hear me wailing across this continent and the adjoining oceans. That’s why there is prior agreement on an hourly surcharge for translating such entertainments, or I walk away.

My browser is Apple’s Safari, which time and again proves capable of running Web-based applications deemed necessary by someone I do business with. (I was once told I was the first person to complete the U.S. government’s security clearance application with Safari.) My timesheet application for hourly billing is the Web-based Paymo 3, which I use infrequently but happily. My accounting application is Quicken 2007, which has survived despite some near-death experiences with abandonment by its publisher. My invoices are done online via ProZ.com, and I love that approach for its simplicity and reliability when billing and tracking payments (and chasing amounts outstanding …) My e-mail application is Apple’s Mail, which does a great job for me except when I will be away from my office for more than a day. There is no good way to set up an out-of-office autoreply. Shocking, but true.

For those times when I am literally in the woods, my contacts, bookmarks and calendar are seamlessly synched via Apple’s iCloud service for my desktop iMac, MacBook Pro laptop, iPhone and iPad. I bought my first iPhone the day I lost a job because I had to leave my computer to go to a doctor’s appointment and a request to confirm my availability arrived five minutes later. My favorite iPhone story came a month later. I was out in the woods in the pre-dawn darkness of the first day of turkey hunting season. A translation agency contacted me via e-mail, and I quoted and got the job before the sun came over the horizon. Why is this my favorite story? Because the agency was located in … Turkey.

As for the miscellany: I use three offline dictionary applications that suffer slightly from not having all the features of their Windows counterparts. Skype now runs like a champ, after a few years of my avoiding its midlife Mac crises by refusing to update it until they got it right. (Microsoft acquired the company along the way and eventually forced everyone to update, which nearly required dental work to repair damage from clenching my teeth while I installed the update.) I’ve done a limited amount of subtitling with ExpressScribe, which has mostly worked quite well. I do not discuss security protection publicly, for reasons that are apparent. Suffice it to say that I sleep quite well.

You will notice a dearth of references to Adobe products. I would say more, but I know what legal fees can amount to. My regular PDF reader is Apple’s Preview, and I use the excellent independently-published GraphicConverter for any heavy lifting in converting and exporting graphic files. If the need arises, I can easily make annotations on highlighted text in PDF files using Preview. A click on the highlighted portion opens a text box that appears to the left of the document.

So, after five years I know – and now you do – the outcome to the choice I made when two roads diverged.

Exit smiling.


Macintosh environment with Windows tools – user experiences


Tapani Ronni

Nordic Division Administrator
I have been a committed Windows user since version 3.1. While Macs had a certain allure, their price was always a prohibitive factor. However, Apple displays started to look more and more attractive over time.
At the end of 2012, my trusted Lenovo laptop and the attached Samsung display started to show signs of age despite some updates I had done. Around the same time I wandered into an Apple store and fell in love with their new 27-inch Thunderbolt displays. They were simply the best I had ever seen. They were also the most expensive – around 1,000 dollars each.
I did some research and found out that I could still run all my old favorite software on a Macintosh OSX environment. So I bit the bullet and forked over around 2,000 dollars for an iMac with 32 gigabytes of RAM. It is an integrated system where the hardware is located inside a 27-inch Thunderbolt display. If you need to read and write CD-ROM discs or watch movies from DVD discs, you can buy a separate Superdrive that connects to iMac with an USB cord. I have one but have had little use for it. Later I also bought an extra Thunderbolt display which I hooked up to the first one with a Thunderbolt cable.
My first job was to install Parallels software. Parallels is a virtualization environment that allows you to run Windows (7 or 8) on top of the OSX. Since I had maxed out my available RAM memory, I was able to allocate 16 gigabytes of it to Windows 8. The installation went very smoothly and soon I had a Windows 8 happily running in a virtual box – for all intents and purposes Windows 8 is running in a normal PC. People seem to generally hate the Tiles in Windows 8. I don’t use them either, I click the Tile called Desktop to get to the familiar Windows 7-like environment.
The next step was to install Microsoft Office 2010 and my CAT tools (Trados Studio 2011 and MemoQ Pro). This also worked out without any issues. So far all my Windows applications have worked fine.
I have now been working with the iMac environment for almost two years. There are some positive and negative factors to consider.
Overall, I am happy as a clam. The hardware quality of Apple products is excellent. I have had very few problems with any hardware. I use my own Kinesis split keyboard for ergonomic reasons, and an Evolution vertical mouse. The Thunderbolt displays are superb and easy for my eyes. The resolution I use is 2560 x 1440 pixels. The display also has an integrated camera and microphone, and decent speakers. I can either use one display for Windows and one for OSX, or extend the Windows desktop to two screens. That has been a great solution for many translation projects when I have to keep several documents open at the same time. I can also put my Internet browser into the right side display so I can do online searches without cluttering up my main display.
There are three possible ways to run the Windows desktop in Parallels: Coherence, Full Screen, and Modality. In Coherence mode, Mac OS X Dock, Windows taskbar, and any applications are running on one desktop. In Full Screen mode, Windows 8 takes the whole screen and Parallels and OSX are hidden from view. In Modality mode, you can keep Windows 8 desktop in one window while still seeing the OSX desktop and you can access OSX software.
I haven’t had time or interest to really explore these options in detail. In practice, I use Full Screen mode, since I have no need for Apple software.
The virtual environment allows me to take “snapshots” of my Windows environment that I can revert to in case of problems. In practice I haven’t been using them.
A minor bonus of virtualization is that if only Windows needs to be updated, I can reboot it inside OSX without having to reboot the entire iMac.
What are the drawbacks then? I have to keep up with both Windows and OSX updates. If I have to reboot I have to remember to tell the Windows that it needs to connect to my external hard drive.
Also, in Full Screen mode I sometimes unintentionally activate hidden Parallels menus when I try to use Trados or Word icons in the upper left corner. This is a minor annoyance that I can live with.
The iMac I have only has three USB ports available. I could use one more, but it hasn’t been a big deal.
Even if you’re running Windows 8 in a virtual environment, it’s still possible to get malware (viruses etc.) infection from the Internet. I have been using Windows Firewall and Windows Security and have had no worse problems than occasional tracking cookies. Of course it pays to be paranoid about links and think twice before downloading any software from the Internet.
Overall I have been a happy user of this hybrid Mac-Windows combination. Two years later my hardware setup shows no signs of age whatsoever so I can focus on translating.

Direct clients


There has been a lot of discussion on forums and conferences lately about direct clients and how to get them. There are a lot of tips on how to get clients when you translate into US English in the US, but I am wondering how you go about getting direct clients if you translate into another language, i.e. one of the Nordic languages. Do you contact companies in that particular Scandinavian country. What are your experiences? I hope this can start an interesting discussion.

Alliance for Sweden

We talked about how to translate “Alliansregeringen” at the workshop. The general consensus as I understood it was to call it a coalition government as alliance (for example “alliance government”) sounded odd.
However, I couldn’t actually recall seeing it referred to as a “coalition government” on the Swedish government’s website and therefore checked it when I got back.
I see that the Swedish government is referred to as “The Alliance for Sweden Government” on the Government’s website and on those of the political parties participating in government. In other contexts (for example, the BBC), it’s referred to as “centre-right coalition government”. However, I haven’t yet been able to find the word “coalition” used on the Swedish government’s website or those of the political parties (it may be there but I haven’t found it).
The logic behind this is that the four parties that now make up the government formed “The Alliance for Sweden” before the election when these parties were in opposition and used this name during the election campaign. I haven’t seen any explicit reason for this choice of language but I can imagine that the four governmental parties might wish to stress the depth and longevity of their collaboration. A coalition is a broad term, which can cover everything from long-term collaboration between political parties to the more “shotgun marriage”-type of situation when two parties work together awkwardly just to make up a majority.  
For us as translators then, “centre-right coalition government” is fine in general contexts when referring to the Swedish government but “The Alliance for Sweden” should be used in official contexts or
as the official name of the government.
David Kendall
Anglia AB

Scandinavian Radio Listening


We translators all agree on the critical importance of reading text in our working languages in order to keep our skills fresh and learn new vocabulary.  However, along with reading comprehension, a good dash of oral comprehension skills never hurts.  While language instruction tapes definitely have their place in that regard, “real world” oral exposure to our languages of interest is even better yet.  You can gain such exposure by conversing with native speakers or, alternatively, you can simply tune in to your favorite Scandinavian radio station. 

How do I do that? you may be asking yourself.  The foreign-language stations operating in my community are all in Spanish, and I can’t afford the cost of a plane ticket to Sweden or Denmark where my languages are being transmitted.

 Not to worry.  Thanks to the Internet, live access to Scandinavian radio stations is just a couple mouse clicks away.  The links providing access to these stations are available courtesy of the website “listenlive.eu:  European radio stations streaming live on the Internet.”

 Just for fun, I decided to investigate the web page listing radio stations in Sweden, home to a few still living relatives on my mother’s side of the family.  Accordingly I found and bookmarked the URL http://www.listenlive.eu/sweden.html.  The page turned out to contain 93 entries for Swedish stations, with certain standard information covering each.  First came the name of the radio station.  A click on the link for each name produced a page with text providing station background information, news features, program descriptions and even “Lyssna igen” links to certain previously recorded broadcasts.  Next in the station listing came the location.  A number of stations had their home in Stockholm, though many other cities boasted representation, including Malmö, not far from where my Swedish relatives live.  (One station was available on the Internet only.)  Third, a choice of two or three “kbps” links appeared from which one could choose when selecting a station to listen to.*  Last, under the heading of “Format/Comments,”  one could look over the genres of the stations, which between them covered categories such as “news/features,” “classical/cultural,” “Swedish pop,” and “regional programme,” among others.

 In the course of selecting stations to try out, I noticed an interesting phenomenon.  It is not uncommon for “Swedish pop” or “regional programme” stations to play songs in English as well as Swedish.  A click on the Malmö-based “Gamla Godingar” oldies station produced a similar result.  I heard a number of familiar rock tunes that had been popular in the U.S. from the 1960s to the 1980s.  The station even played a song by Janice Joplin.  I surmise that the English-language hits may be meant to appeal to young to middle-aged listeners who, since the end of World War II, have increasingly learned English through the public schools.

 All these familiar tunes were fine and well, I thought, but what about getting exposure to Swedish?  Apart from the Swedish-language announcements occurring between English-language songs, I found two stations that are especially strong in this area.  One, the Stockholm-based “Sveriges Radio P1,”  falls into the “news/features”  category.  While not airing much music — at least during the times I tuned in — it is nonetheless an ideal place for  hearing Swedish-language interviews of book authors and other important personages, as well as dramatic performances.  As a typical example of the latter, I listened in on a brief segment of the “Radioteatern” program featuring an episode from the play “Lolita” — also in Swedish, of course.

 Another station ideal for Swedish listening exposure proved to be “Sveriges Radio P2,”  also based in Stockholm.  Though billed as a “classical/cultural”  station and boasting its share of unsung stringed instrumental pieces, it turns out this station has at least some music not strictly in the classical category.  The “Live Världens Liv Program,” airing weekly on Sunday evenings from 8 – 9:30 p.m. Stockholm time, regularly features folk and traditional music, sung to Swedish lyrics.  When listening to the latest segment of this, I was treated to a previously recorded folk festival that had taken place last summer in  Småland.  The music group performing on that occasion was the Ulrika Gunnarsson Trio.

 In the midst of all this oral Swedish exposure, I admittedly found oral comprehension a bit of a challenge, possibly due to the fact that my ears aren’t as accustomed to oral Swedish as they are to Spanish.  However, I look forward to honing my comprehension skills on future listening occasions.

 Those working with languages other than Swedish can rest assured that other Scandinavian countries also enjoy radio representation at this site.  The country listings on the home page (http://www.listenlive.eu/) include Denmark, Iceland, and Norway, as well as many other European countries.

 *I determined which listening link worked best on my Windows XP-based laptop mainly by trial and error.  When successful in my link selection, I nonetheless found that patience paid off since, even with my DSL connection, I often had to wait a few seconds to hear sound as the station’s streaming audio file completed its download.

Cindy Coan [cjcoan@dakotacom.net]

Finnish Translators Rise in Concert to Protect Language Research Institute


 by Jill G. Timbers

            On October 13, 2008, the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat published the news that Finland’s Ministry of Education had recommended drastic cuts for the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland. The Institute’s name in Finnish is Kotimaisten Kielten Tutkimuskeskus, or Kotus. The Productivity Programme of Finland’s Ministry of Finance called for Kotus to reduce its staff by a third by 2015. The Ministerial Committee on Economic Policy would discuss and, presumably, finalize the slash in funding on November 25, 2008.

            Kotus, the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland, began operating in March 1976. It is an independent institution under Finland’s Ministry of Education. It is the only body of experts outside the universities which focuses expressly on the domestic languages of Finland: the official languages (Finnish and Swedish) and the official minority languages  (the Saami languages, the Romani language, and Finnish Sign Language). Kotus produces and maintains dictionaries, tracks linguistic developments, makes available on the Internet the Comprehensive Grammar of the Finnish Language (Iso Suomen Kielioppi), maintains language archives, and provides writing classes, free language consultation and many other services related to the languages of Finland. Kotus also participates actively in international projects. Language institutions throughout Europe have drawn inspiration from this Finnish model. Finnish translators rely heavily on Kotus and its services and products.

            As the news spread, 42 professors of Finnish, Swedish, Sami, the Nordic languages, and the Finno-Ugric languages submitted a formal appeal to the government in early November to halt the planned cuts. They argued that the spending cuts would threaten national culture.

            On November 6, journalist and publisher Niklas Herlin published an editorial in the online journal Uusi Suomi. He points out the historical irony. In the early 1900s, “the young builders of young, impoverished Finland understood that a young country needs its identity. A country needs its language and good care taken of its languages….The humanists creating young, independent Finland understood that  you can’t build an economically prosperous, socially functioning nation without a culture of its own.” The Finnish language was a central part of the struggle for Finland’s independence – how can decision-makers in the prosperous country that resulted choose now to set it aside?

            Translators reacted to word of the required personnel cuts with disbelief. Discussion buzzed. Voices raged and despaired. Tiina Ohinmaa, translator and translator educator, lamented, “Language is a medium of thought, and a people with a poor command of their own language thinks more weakly. How else could Finland have succeeded in the Pisa comparisons and such, if our language had not been carefully tended, not only in schools but also in the media and in literature published here, both domestic and translated? Can the Finnish State afford to look down its nose at its own citizens by allowing to crumble the most important foundation and resource for their identity, their own mother tongue? For translators into Finnish as for many others who use language as a profession, Kotus provides irreplaceable services, if we want to hang on to some degree of quality. If these services are reduced as proposed, it will mean the deliberate decision to put the Finnish language out to pasture and allow it to lie fallow and overgrown in public discourse, newspaper texts, and Finnish translations.”

            Artist Professor Kersti Juva submitted a letter to Helsingin Sanomat on behalf of the translator community. She wrote, “One’s mother tongue is a medium of thought, the foundation of all culture, interaction and society… Finland and the Finns would do well to take a lesson from the healthy self-esteem of the French and recognize that we must defend our own language against the ever-increasing influence of the English language and Anglo-American culture. In this battle, Kotus is our fortress and purveyor of arms…Kotus needs more resources, not cuts.”

            Translators flooded legislators with e-mails and letters. Translator Tiina Kinnunen founded a  Facebook group called “Keep KOTUS Viable”. (I did have to laugh when she announced the group and said it was called “simply” “Säilyttäkää KOTUS elinkelpoisena” – definitely a copy and paste, for the non-Finn.) The group drew over 1000 new members in its first 24 hours. 

            The Finnish Association of Translators and Interpreters, SKTL, prepared an official position statement to submit to the Ministry of Education. Other cultural organizations and language professionals joined forces with the translators. Newspapers paid increasing attention, and the public wrote in overwhelmingly in favor of stopping the proposed cuts. Politicians took stands. The radio devoted time to the story.

            The date set for the Ministry to meet and finalize the proposed cuts was Tuesday November 25. A translator delegation scheduled an appointment to deliver a formal resolution to the Ministry on Thursday, November 20. That date had to be rescheduled because Finland’s Minister of Education, Sari Sarkomaa, wanted to be present in person to receive the translator delegation.

            On November 24, 2008 representatives of the Finnish Association of Translators and Interpreters delivered the formal resolution to Minister of Education Sarkomaa. It was signed by fourteen stakeholder groups, including the Finnish Literature Society, the Union of Journalists in Finland, and the Finnish Union of University Researchers and Teachers. The resolution criticized the government’s Productivity Programme and argued against the proposed cuts affecting the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland. In the same visit, a delegation from Kotus itself delivered a petition in defense of the Institute. Available online for less than a week at that time, the petition had already gathered 9300 signatures.

            The next day, on November 25, 2009, the Ministerial Committee on Economic Policy decided at its meeting that the Productivity Programme and its proposed reductions should be tabled pending further deliberations. Helsingin Sanomat ran an editorial applauding the decision to rethink the matter. The editorial called the “Productivity Programme” a travesty and its title, “Orwellian newspeak”. Since then, Minister Sarkomaa has been replaced. The Ministry of Education has formed a task force with representatives from Kotus to evaluate the situation, and discussions continue.

            Swift and concerted efforts by the translator community halted what seemed foreordained. While current economic circumstances may make some funding cuts necessary, translators and those who make their living using the Finnish language have made very clear that cuts will have significant long-term effects. Thanks to their efforts, the workforce of the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland will not be reduced blindly or mechanically. Hopefully, any reduction in funding will be minimal, and its application will reflect considered shared deliberation among stakeholders.

            You can read and even sign the petition, the Appeal for the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland. It appears in Finnish, Swedish and English at



            At this writing, the petition has gathered 12082 signatures.


Links related to the effort to preserve Kotus from funding cuts

1. Home page for the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland:


2. The petition itself:


3. Professors: Spending Cuts Threaten National Culture


4. Finland’s Sarkomaa draws flak over Kotus cut plans:


5. Niklas Herlin’s editorial, in Finnish:


6. Scathing editorial in Helsingin Sanomat, in Finnish:




7. Report in Turun Sanomat, in Finnish: