See also: Swedish Translation
1. Grammar and Spelling
1. Gender: Nouns consis t of two genders:
There are two types of definite articles:
- Preceeding def. article: den, det, de - den stora bilen (the big car); det stora huset (the big house); de stora bilarna (the big cars)
- Following def. article singular after vowel: flicka/flickan (girl/the girl); äpple/äpplet (apple/the apple)
- Singular after consonant: bil/bilen (car/the car); hus/huset (house/the house)
3. Plural: flickor/flickorna (girls/the girls); pojkar/pojkarna (boys/the boys); skor/skorna (shoes/the shoes); äpplen/äpplena (apples/the apples); hus/husen (houses/the houses); lärare/lärarna (teachers/the teachers)
4. Double consonants: M and n are doubled between vowels: ett hem/hemmet (a home/the home); en vän/vännen (a friend/the friend)
5. Foreign characters: Q/W/Z only appear in names and borrowed words from other languages.
Ü only appears in German names (generally not mentioned when saying the alphabet).
Accents only appear in names and words stemming from other languages, i.e. French - idé.
6. Capitalisation: Only names/places/institutions are spelled with capitals, otherwise lower case.
Section Two - Punctuation
Swedish rules are similar to English with some exceptions:
1. Quotation marks: Quotation marks are: "I'm so tired," he said, "I just want to go home" = "Jag är så trött", sa han. "Jag vill bara gå hem."
2. Semi-colons: A Semi-colon is used instead of a full stop if sentences are closely linked/related: Han kommer varje dag; hon bara varannan. (He comes every day; she only comes every other day.)
3. Colons: A Colon comes before quotation; explanation or counting out and numerical:
Talaren sade: Länge leve brudparet! (The speaker said: Long live the bride and groom!)
Pris: 13:75 (*price)/1 krona 1:-
map scales - 1:20 000
Karl XII:s död (Karl the 12th's death)
4. Apostrophes: Names ending -s, -z and -x have no genitive ending. For clarification apostrophe can be used: Lars bil/Lars' bil; Dickens roman/Dickens' roman
5. Bullet points: Bullet points all end in commas, bar the last one, which has a full stop.
Section Three - Measurements
To measure distance, either km or Swedish miles (mil) are used (a Swedish mile = 10 km)
Decimals written with a comma, i.e. 0,3
Space between numbers from one thousand, i.e. 1 000
Dates: 990517 or 17.05.(19)99 (official/commercially); day-to-day 17/5-99.
Section Four - Hyphenation
To split joined words like bil-skola, the rule that a maximum of two consonants can be next to each other is lifted, i.e. dammoln would become damm-moln
In non-linked words, the consonant goes to the second part: bi-lar, rum -met; the exception is where the sj-sound occurs. This sound cannot be split: marschera, männi-ska, but if spelt with ssj: rys-sja, mis-sion
ck and x go with the first part: myck-et, ex-ercis
Exceptions exist for the above for clarification and divisions are permitted according to syllable: bi-lar/bil-ar; fö-delse/föd-else
Section Five - Miscellaneous Peculiarities
"Dear Sir/Madam" has no equivalent address; only where there is the name of the person addressed. Generally the person's first name will be used as opposed to the formal Mr/Mrs/Ms (Herr/Fru) and start 'Käre (man)/Kära (woman)...'
Section Six - Geographic Distribution
Swedish is the most widely spoken of the Scandinavian languages which constitute a branch of the Germanic languages, in turn a part of the Indo- European family. There are approximately 9 million speakers of Swedish. In addition to the 8 million people of Sweden, about 300,000 speakers live on the south western and southern coasts of Finland.
Swedish is closely related to Norwegian and Danish. Historically it is closer to Danish, but the years of Swedish hegemony over Norway (1814-1905) brought the two languages closer together. A Swedish person today has more difficulty understanding Danish than Norwegian. During the Middle Ages Swedish borrowed many words from German, while the 18th century witnessed a large infusion of words from the French. In the 19th and 20th centuries English has become by far the largest source of foreign borrowings.
Swedish is spoken/used in the following countries:
Source: http://www.worldlanguage.com/Languages/Swedish - Copyright © Kenneth Katzner, The Languages of the World, Published by Routledge.
Section Seven - Character Set
[ ] = Alt key codes
By McElroy Translation,
Austin, Texas 78701 USA
quotes [at] mcelroytranslation . com
McElroy is continuing this series of interviews that highlight some of the characteristics of languages used in doing business globally. This month, we look at Swedish.
What are some pitfalls to avoid, specific to this language, a client should be aware of when translating into this language?
A translator translating from English to Swedish should be careful to use the right prepositions in Swedish. Typically, prepositions are among the hardest things to get right for non-native speakers, which is why it is important that only translators with Swedish as their native tongue should translate into Swedish. Just to give one example: In English, we say ”In the operating theater,” but in Sweden we say ”På operationssalen,” which back-translates to “ON the operating theater.”
On top of that, only native Swedes will always know whether a particular Swedish word is an “en”- or an “ett”-word, i.e., what gender the word has. This is probably the only thing that is even harder than the prepositions to get right for non-native speakers. Take “bread” for example (“bröd”)—it HAS to be “ett bröd” (”a bread”) and “brödet” (“the bread”)—it canNOT be “en bröd.” In other words, “bröd” is an “ett”-word, but ask a Swede why, and he/she most likely cannot tell you, as there is no clear rule, you just have to “know.”
It is also important to realize that English uses words in a more elaborate fashion than Swedish, i.e., if you translate too literally, this will create an unnecessarily word-rich text, paradoxically confusing things instead of clarifying them.
Also, do not be too generous with the little word “please,” as this word in Swedish may create a sort of formal attitude or tone instead of the intended informal one. For example: “Please contact Customer Service in case of any problems or questions.” If we use the literally corresponding phrase in Swedish “Vänligen kontakta...,” this may actually sound condescending, or, if using the still more old-fashioned “Var god kontakta...,” downright unfriendly. The best solution is simply to omit it altogether: “Kontakta...”
A very important issue that has emerged over the last few years, as English has continued its conquest of the world and its penetration into Swedish, is a phenomenon called “Särskrivning”—which literally means “Split writing (of compound words).” What this term refers to is the unfortunate practice of some Swedish translators and other writers alike, to “split up” Swedish compound words, thereby “emulating” an English format, but inadvertently rendering a phrase with a whole new meaning. At best, this can look and sound ludicrous, but in the worst case scenario, the changed meaning can actually have profound effects on the text.
One example: “Smoke free (area)”—this should be “Rökfritt (utrymme)”—i.e., No smoking here, please! However, in Särskrivning, this is written as “Rök fritt” with a space inserted between the two words that correspond to “Smoke free,” and now the phrase suddenly means the exact opposite—i.e., Please go ahead and smoke all you want here!!
Another rather amusing example: “Swedish general agent for Chinese company” should be translated as “Svensk generalagent [no space!] för Kinaföretag,” but the following phrase in Särskrivning, “Svensk general agent för Kinaföretag” back-translates to “Swedish general is secret agent for Chinese company.” So Särskrivning, although often producing really funny-sounding results, is really no laughing matter when it comes to getting the message across correctly. There is a lot that can really be “lost in translation.” There are even several organizations working against the introduction of this unfortunate practice into the Swedish language.
What are characteristics of this language that are unique or different from English and/or other languages?
As already mentioned above, we have the genders “en” and “ett”—each word has to be one or the other, and this affects many grammatical issues, inflections, treatments of associated adjectives, etc. Only a few “borrowed” words, i.e., words that have recently been introduced into the Swedish language from other languages, can actually be both, such as “graft,” “test,” and “cement.”
In Swedish, sentences mostly begin with the main statement instead of the secondary one, so that when translating from English into Swedish, in many cases sentences need to be restructured.
Example: When translating the following sentence, you really would have a hard time producing correct Swedish unless you first change the order of the text before and after the comma:
“Being the humble man that he was, Mr. Smith offered to drive her to the airport.”
”Herr Smith erbjöd sig att köra henne till flygplatsen, som den anspråkslösa man han var.”
Another type of sentence construction that may cause a “Swenglish” effect is, for example:
“Waterproof speaker tower that raises and lowers by pressing on its top.” To an English—speaking person there is no doubt that a person is pressing on the waterproof speaker tower top—but, if you are not careful, in Swedish, a literal translation may imply that the tower itself is performing the action, i.e., pressing on itself from the top: i.e., wrongly translated: "Ett vattentätt högtalartorn som kommer upp och sänker sig genom att trycka ovanpå." Correct translation: "Ett vattentätt högtalartorn som kommer upp och sänker sig ner genom att man trycker ovanpå." Thus, in Swedish, you have to point out that there is another subject—contrary to English, this cannot be implied by the mere sentence structure.
Then there are of course the Swedish letters: å, ä, ö. Contrary to what many non-Swedish people seem to think, these are definite letters, which means that we have three extra letters in the Swedish alphabet that do not exist in English. Using them incorrectly or omitting them in favor of their look-alikes, a, a, o, will result in significant errors. Example: “tåla” means “to endure,” but “tala” means “to speak”; “råtta" means “rat,” but “ratta” means “to turn the steering wheel”; and “röst” means “voice,” but “rost” means “rust.”
We already mentioned compound words—yes, we have many, and they can be very long—but as already described above, they MUST remain as compound words, or significant meaning changes/mistranslations will result. This means that “skull base fracture” must be translated as “skallbasfraktur,” not as “skalle bas fraktur” which is totally meaningless in context.
How do these characteristics make it important to use properly qualified, professional translators?
At the same time as language in general is becoming ever more impoverished, losing depth and color, the Swedish language is also becoming less stringent, often incorporating errors that after a while can become “accepted” if we do not remain vigilant—such as the previously described Särskrivning and translations that are too literal, resulting in Swenglish. The examples above make it clear that it is really necessary to use Swedish natives when translating texts from English into Swedish.
However, just having Swedish as one's native tongue is not enough. As professional Swedish translators, often with specific subject—matter expertise over and above our linguistic expertise, we mostly work with highly stringent texts and issues; for example User and Operator Manuals for sensitive medical equipment, patent documentation, legal texts such as business contracts. A professional translator not only knows the source language extremely well, but even more important, knows what errors such pitfalls as those already discussed can cause in the target translation. The truly professional Swedish translator is not done with his/her translation before having taken a critical look from all angles, and making sure that the translation actually does not even sound like a translation at all, but as if written in Swedish to begin with.
Most professional translators today must be experts not just in their own languages, but also in the respective subject—matter areas at hand—this is essential and crucial, and is what sets the professional translator apart from the amateur. Swedish is no different than other languages, in that each separate area has its own very specific terminology, such as the medical, dental, pharmaceutical, legal, entertainment industries, etc. No one translator can know all the specific terminology in all these areas! Therefore, a professional Swedish translator will have specific subject matter areas of expertise, and will openly and honestly DECLINE translation work in other areas. The true professional is willing to admit what he/she does NOT know, as this is just as important for avoiding crucial mistakes.
Finally, the professional Swedish translator (especially if having additional experience as a journalist, writer, etc.), ideally is also a driven stylist in his/her own language, capable of adopting, at each instance, the appropriate style for the intended target audience. For this to be possible, the professional translator must have a thorough knowledge and feel for idiomatic expressions. Only then can a text about the same subject matter be rendered differently and appropriately for both physicians and patients, for example.
Do you know examples where translation or localization mistakes have occurred with this language, such as problems with text expansion, date/time formats, counting errors, character encoding, etc., or mistakes with the translation itself? Perhaps you’ve been asked to review a translation that did not seem to be the work of a properly qualified, professional translator.
Numerical format must be rendered correctly. In Swedish we use a comma, not a period.
For example, a volume in a user manual for a medical device was given as 1,500 ml (i.e., one thousand five hundred milliliters) in the English text. The translator had kept the comma in the Swedish text, this now meant one and a half milliliters, i.e., one thousand times less than intended! Luckily the editor, a professional Swedish translator, caught it and corrected it.
Another example illustrates the importance of not going outside your area of expertise:
In another user manual for a medical device (extremely sensitive neurological equipment used to treat hydrocephalus) a laser level was to be used in order to facilitate the regulation of the pressure in the brain. The translator, whose background was completely non-medical, translated laser level as “lasernivå,” i.e., "the level of the laser," not understanding the nature of this instrument.
Referring back to the previous question, a professional translator also knows better than to accept editing assignments outside his/her area of expertise: Example: I had translated an Instructions for Use about an intravascular device. There was mention of “intimal damage,” i.e., damage to the innermost layer of the artery. The editor, who was hired by the medical company manufacturing the devices as an “in-country reviewer” raised merry h-l about the resulting correct translation of “intima”—and thought I had referred to “intimate” details, which was deemed inappropriate and out of context. The issue was of course straightened out, but the client was a bit shaken at first, thinking they had really received a very bad translation. Not having the necessary medical background (and not bothering to look up the word in a medical dictionary!!), the editor simply could not evaluate the translation properly, which also meant that he/she was also incapable of catching any real errors.
Relate an example or two where you found a website page or form difficult to use because it was poorly localized into your language/locale. How might a business lose money, prestige or incur legal risk due to this bad translation?
First of all, a company’s credibility and trustworthiness is severely damaged when the public is first met with a poorly translated website. It makes the company in question look amateurish and less than serious. The customer’s instant reaction might very well be that, if they are getting all of that wrong, what else might they be getting wrong?
Secondly, poor translations can create unnecessary misunderstandings—which in itself can create unnecessary work for each party involved.
The worst cases are obviously machine translations. Whereas it seems that some companies put their faith and their fate into these, I have yet to see even one that was actually intelligible. They are often very funny, but never work out. For example, it seems that the software can never figure out when several English words need to be combined into one compound word—the result is a completely changed meaning in Swedish, as already described above. Then, as one word can have several meanings, the computer seems to always manage to pick the wrong one!
Sometimes, when researching a piece of medical equipment, for example, manufactured by a multinational corporation with the same website produced in several languages, I have often had to go back to the English website instead of using the Swedish one, as the Swedish has obviously been translated by an amateur. When I see this, I know I cannot trust any of the information on that website and need to go back to the English source—hardly the intention of the company in question, who most likely paid many hundreds of dollars for the translation.
If possible, provide one example of a particular phrase or concept that only a properly qualified, professional translator would be able to correctly communicate.
"Intima" (of an artery) must be translated as “intima” (which is Latin really), not “intimate.”
For "reconstitute" amateurs invariably choose “rekonstruera” (“reconstruct”) instead of the correct “rekonstituera.”
"Recovery" (in-vitro diagnostics) is not “återhämtning” as in patients recovering after an illness, but must be translated as “påvisning” (“detection”) or “utbyte” (“yield”). Only a professional translator will know this.
We do not have a word for "device" in Swedish, so in most cases, you must be knowledgeable enough to know what “device” refers to, and hence what the proper Swedish term is.
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