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Language facts: Swedish

Swedish (or Svenska) is the mother tongue of idioma's top management and one of the Scandinavian languages, a branch of the Germanic languages - North Germanic, or East Scandinavian in particular. 

Viking heritage and God bless Guttenberg

Swedish is the official language of Sweden and due to six centuries of Swedish supremacy also one of the two (and equal) official languages of Finland. Until World War II, it was also spoken in parts of Estonia and Latvia. Swedish is an official EU as well as a Nordic Council language, spoken by approximately 9 million people in Sweden and by around 300,000 people in Finland. 

Similar to e.g. Czech and Slovak, Swedish is mutually intelligible with Danish as well as Norwegian, but only to some extent. This is actually a Viking period heritage, as these languages have a common predecessor, the Old Norse, generally spoken in Scandinavia by Germanic tribes. New classifications in fact label Swedish together with Norwegian and Danish as one branch of Continental Scandinavian languages. It was not until the invention of printing and the Reformation movement for what is now known as modern Swedish that the language emerged. King of Sweden Gustav Vasa wanted to have the Bible translated into his native language, and indeed, in 1541 the Gustav Vasa Bible was introduced, representing the first full Swedish Bible translation, common in use for almost four centuries, until 1917.

Swedish language influence and translation specifics

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Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte became
 King of Sweden as Karl XIV Johan
in 1818  and reigned till 1846.
Source: DollarPhotoClub

Over the years, Swedish language has taken over many loan words from other languages. A number of French expressions were introduced in the early 19th century when the Royal House of Sweden took in a French marshal, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, from the Napoleon reign. He took over the throne in 1818, but never managed to learn proper Swedish during his 26-year reigh, instead communicating in  the international French language.
Now, in more modern times with the influx of computers and the digital age, the vocabulary has expanded with many English words – often replacing or anglicizing old-style traditional Swedish words for better or worse.

In translation, documents in Swedish tend to address the reader directly and in the informal style instead of the more common passive voice as used in English language, or the polite "Sie" form in German.


Swedish uses the Latin alphabet and has in addition to English three extra letters … X Y Z Å Ä Ö. Interesting to note is that sorting follows this order, and e.g. the "Ö" entries are not included under "O", nor the "Å" and "Ä" under "A" as one does in e.g. German.

The vowel "Ö" is often perceived as very typical for Swedish by non-Scandinavians, mainly those familiar with distinctive patterns of product names in IKEA catalogues :) Other companies have elected to drop the distinctive letters, for example SKANSKA, by converting the "Å" in "Skånska" to a standard "A" in their internationalization efforts.Interestingly, the consonant "Z" is used in foreign words only.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Å Ä Ö 

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z å ä ö

Language facts: Czech

With our production center based in Prague, Czech is after English and Japanese one of the most used "in-house" languages at idioma. 

More popular as appears 

Czech is a West Slavic language with about 12 million native speakers. "Čeština" (= Czech), is the name derived from a Slavic tribe of Czechs that inhabited Central Bohemia in former days. Today it is the official and main language in the Czech Republic and spoken by Czechs worldwide (especially by immigrants in the USA, Canada, and Ukraine). Czech is similar to and mutually intelligible with Slovak, due to mutual history and decades of being a common republic: Czechoslovakia. Even today, many books or films distributed in Slovakia come with Czech, rather than Slovak translation or dubbing. 

Various internationally significant artworks in literature and music (especially opera) were originally written in Czech – Dvořák's Rusalka, the works of Alois Jirásek, Bohumil Hrabal and many more.

Since the integration of the Czech Republic into the European Union, Czech has also become an official EU language.

"Strč prst skrz krk!" (stick a finger through a neck)

Czech is considered one of the hardest languages for foreigners to actively master, due to overcomplicated grammar, as well as tricky pronunciation. Some words, for instance, do not have vowels, such as zmrzl (froze solid), ztvrdl (hardened), scvrkl (shrunk), vlk (wolf), krk (neck), prst (finger) or smrt (death) and more. There are actually tongue-twisters based on consonant-only words, such as "strč prst skrz krk", frequently used by Czech wives late in the evening to check their husbands' alcohol intake.  :)

Czech also features the consonant ř, a phoneme that is said to be unique to the Czech language and that is problematic to articulate even to some native Czechs. 


A Á B C Č D Ď E É Ě F G H Ch I Í J K L M N Ň O Ó P Q R Ř S Š T Ť U Ú Ů V W X Y Ý Z Ž a á b c č d ď e é ě f g h ch i í j k l m n ň o ó p q r ř s š t ť u ú ů v w x y ý z ž

Quality in translation is not only a matter of presenting a correct translation free from spelling mistakes and other linguistic errors. It is also about using correct terminology from glossaries, making sure text in the document is unified and that rules and customs for the language have been respected.

Quality can suffer in many ways. Short deadlines, for example, affect the outcome of quality in translation especially with large volume projects. How can we speed up delivery without compromising the quality of translation? This became our mission years ago.

Check record volumes in record time

An obvious solution is to check documents more than once, however, when humans check text, they have limited capacity, get tired and make mistakes. We wanted to find a different, complementary and automatic solution, so we could check more languages and bigger volumes in less time. It should detect mistakes like wrong numbers, untranslated text, misspelled words, unification issues, etc. So we put many brains together and with the help of our in-house programmers we developed a unique QA (Quality Assurance) concept that checks bilingual files for errors in record time. The main tool is CrossCheck™, a cornerstone in a comprehensive concept forming a framework of quality that all translations must adhere to. 

Quality assurance at a whole new level

CrossCheck™ departs from the need to develop glossaries, e.g. from existing translated bilingual data such as PDF files, website text, etc., and prepare language-dependent style guides for translators and verifiers working on projects. 

CrossCheck™ checks documents according to detailed client-specific criteria and resources that can include client glossaries and customized style sheets. This way, we create a standard that everyone must respect to enable us to produce unified and consistent translations with a clearly defined level of quality. If glossaries and style guides do not exist, we will be happy to help prepare them, and we also assist with client preferences, such as forbidden words and other issues. These contents prepared for the QA concept are automatically integrated in our production system. This QA concept has taken quality assurance to a new level, especially thanks to inclusion of morphology and locale settings. With CrossCheck™, terminology and language rules become compulsory ingredients in the translation and verification process. 

FREE QA for everyone!

idioma’s QA service is, however, not limited only to the projects we translate. We also offer it as an aid to our clients and anyone else wanting to assure the quality level in translated documents. 

Visit today to test it yourself.

For more information about the QA service, please contact your project manager.

06idioma started out on a small scale in 1980. The company was set up by a Swedish entrepreneur, Joel Brynte. Our first office space consisted of two modest rooms in then Sweden Center in Tokyo, Japan. I recall we were a core of 7-8 people, mostly translators. Our first clients were in the AV industry, which at the time was taking off with export of all kinds of VCRs, tape recorders, Walkmen, etc. All products needed manuals, promotional material, etc. and the main export markets at the time were the United States and West Europe. This has of course changed. Now the entire world is the market for Japan’s consumer products.

Typewriters and one very lonely fax

04But at the time, things were different. There was no Internet, there were no mobile phones, and fax machines were just around the corner. 35 years ago, translation was done on typewriters writing on tracing paper – we had a few machines in the office, while freelance translators in those days had to invest in expensive electric typewriters that cost more than what you pay for a decent laptop today. Some of the better typewriters had a correction feature where you could easily “lift off” a typo with correction tape, although it was time consuming. When electronic typewriters saw the light of day, it was actually possible to type a full line on a green display, you could then correct typos easily by stepping back, then print the full line by hitting Enter. What a productivity boost!

I think we got our first fax, a Ricoh G3 unit about a year or so later. It was as big as a fridge, had heavy paper rolls and sticky toner you literally had to pour into a container in the machine. Handling toner was a dirty job. That first fax sat unproductive for a very long time in the beginning. Since hardly anyone else had a fax, we had almost no one to communicate with. When we finally did receive faxes, the black toner somehow got glued to the paper more or less in the right place, later when the received fax documents got too old, the toner tended to fall off making the documents close to illegible.

Who needs internet when you have motorcycles!

05Because there was no Internet or other easy ways of communication, to serve clients better we created our own motorcycle messenger service. This sped up deliveries and instead of waiting for a letter in the mail, clients in the metropolitan area of Tokyo and Yokohama could now get deliveries within a few hours. Like our sales people, the messengers also had pagers, small units you could call with a phone. They would beep, and the paged person would then look for a public phone and call back.

We continued to expand from day one, the office still in Sweden Center in the Roppongi district of Tokyo got bigger, translation volumes increased and the need for more languages also increased. In the 80’s, technology also started to take off. To help communication, we witnessed the advent of computers. We invested in bulky CPM computers with green CRT monitors, but no hard disk drives. Translation was done using the WordStar word processor application (the spellchecking feature was a godsend!), data was saved on floppy disks, and soon it became possible to use acoustic couplers to send data over telephone lines, but the line had to be noise-free.

An acoustic coupler – everyone had to 
be quiet for transmission to succeed

By the mid 80’s, idioma was indeed a very hi-tech operation and with an acute need for more translators. That’s when we set up our first office in Europe, but that’s a story for another time.

Our Tokyo staff had lunch together on their last day of work at Toranomon before the New year and here's a little photo report! 

After lunch we were very close to the famous Atago Shrine

So we had a visit to thank you for a good 2014 and wish a prosperous New year. 


Atago Shrine, on top of Atago Mountain - the tallest mountain in Tokyo, has one of the most steepest Tokyo stairs. 


You can actually see the steepness of the stairs so you can also imagine that the climb was quite tiring after lunch.


You may not believe it but these stairs have been climbed on horseback 3 times. There are also stairs made for women and children which are not that steep.


The Shrine is in the middle of metropolitan area so you can witness the contrast between Shrine and the city.


There are many little shrines in Atago area, as well as unique Japanese yard with shrine in water.


Fortune papers are tied all around to wish good luck (O-mikuji). It's kind of like a horoscope, or better said like throwing a coin into a wishing well or fountain. The tradition was supposely started by Ryogen (warrior monk). 


There are even small wooden fortune plaques (Ema) where people write their wishes and hang them for good luck. It can vary from wanting to pass a test, to get married, to have a healthy child, etc. . 


For us, it says "All the best in 2015!" :)

Language facts: Japanese

Federico Fellini said, that a different language was a different vision to life. While we cover over 70 languages at idioma, we can only agree with that statement. Each language has its history, specifics and flavors and we're here to inform you about it regularly in the Language facts.

Did you know Japanese uses four "alphabets"?

Japanese (Nihongo in Japanese) is spoken by around 127 million people in Japan, plus a couple of million people outside of Japan. It is of course the official language of Japan, but it is even an official language of Angaur (island nation of Palau). Japanese is not directly related to any other language even though it does share a lot of characters with Chinese. It uses four writing systems: kanji, hiragana, katakana and romaji. Hiragana is syllabic and is used for simple words, conjugations, particles and children's literature. Katakana is used to write foreign words. Kanji is based on the Chinese writing system and has about 2000 basic signs, but there are thousands more. Romaji is a Romanization of Japanese words, basically relying on the letters in the Roman, or Latin, alphabet, used e.g. for company names, logotypes and text entry of Japanese text into computers. 

Japanese translation specifics

Japanese has borrowed many words from the Indo-European languages, primarily English, and even made up terms that a native English speaker would never understand, especially in the line of business we are in: Technical Translation. The Japanese term for such "borrowed" words, especially from english, is Gairaigo (外来語).

Would you ever guess that ハフコン [hafukon] is a reference to 'half-concealed' wipers", while リモコン [rimokon] means 'remote control'? Or that ペンション (pension) should actually be translated as a 'a guest house'? Because Katakana can be very ambiguous, sometimes it is hard to determine how to translate a given term. "Hose" and "Hawse" for example are both written as ホース in Japanese.

There are many, many more where translators have been pulling their hairs for days, even weeks. Combining this with other peculiarities of the Japanese language – such as where the subject in sentences is often omitted – makes translating Japanese text into other languages a true undertaking.

Japanese alphabet:

Hiragana (ひらがな)

あいうえおかきくけこさしすせそたちつてとなにぬねのはひふへほまみむめもやゆよらりるれろわをん がぎぐげござじずぜぞだぢづでどばびぶべぼぱぴぷぺぽぁぃぅぇぉっゃゅょ、。 

Katakana (カタカナ)

アイウエオカキクケコサシスセソタチツテトナニヌネノハヒフヘホマミムメモヤユヨラリルレロワヲン ガギグゲゴザジズゼゾダヂヅデドバビブベボパピプペポァィゥェォッャュョー 

Kanji examples

自動, 計算, 費用, 納期, 即時, 提示, 天気, 管理, 健康, 旅行, 料理, 鍋

Romaji examples

We love Japanese!

Celebrating Lucia in Sweden

Tomorrow in Sweden we celebrate Lucia. Together with advent, this is a popular celebration and the harbinger of yuletide and the Christmas holidays. Held every year on December 13th, Lucia celebrations start early in the morning, very early for some, and continues throughout the day until late evening.

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Traditional Swedish Lussekatter

Girls with cookies and crown of lights

If you visit Sweden on this very date, you are bound to witness Lucia processions throughout the day. Each procession is led by a young girl with a crown of lights; they used to be candles, but for practical reasons electric ones are more popular. The procession then includes Lucia girls and boy attendants. Their number vary but each one carries a candle or light in their hands. The name Lucia originates from the Latin lux or lucis and means “the light one”. They are the bearers of light, and this is possibly one reason why Lucia is so popular – in deep winter daylight is scarce, in the north of Sweden people have daylight for only around four hours every day, sometimes less.

The Lucia girls and boys are dressed in white and sing Christmas songs for everyone watching, including the Santa Lucia, which originates from Italy. They also bring Lussekatter ("Lucia buns" often made with saffron) and other traditional cookies with them for everyone to enjoy.

Lucia everywhere

At home, those with children will often have a mini procession in the morning to wake up dad and others. In schools, there are usually processions with volunteer pupils, and most companies, eldercare centers, hospitals and other public facilities arrange Lucia processions to put everyone in a festive mood. Some processions turn into concerts in churches and other public venues.

At idioma in Gothenburg, there is also an annual Lucia procession, however, this year because Lucia is on a Saturday, the procession was instead held on December 10, and the people there are now in a festive Christmas let's better get back to our translation and localization business :)


As a multinational company, we encounter with many different winter traditions as well as multicultural approaches to Christmas. While our Prague office went off the chain this year and has been decorated in a very festive Christmasy way since the beginning of Advent, our colleagues in Tokyo are preparing for the Japanese New Years celebrations instead, having a white cake and the traditional KFC bucket for Christmas dinner... Wait - what??

KFC, illumination and Mariah Carey

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Traditional Japanese Christmas cake
(source: Dollar Photo Club)

Since the 1970s, it has been a tradition for Japanese people to indulge in  KFC during Christmas, no matter how surprising and weird  it may sound to Europeans or Americans. Foreigners back in those day couldn't get their Christmas roast chicken so they went to KFC. The chain saw this as a good marketing opportunity and indeed, eating a fried-chicken-bucket has been a traditional thing since then in Japan. In fact, the Japanese version of Christmas seems a bit like a concentrate of all the western glitz and glamor multiplied by 10 :) You hear Mariah Carey everywhere and of course Wham!'s Last Christmas is an eternal hit. On Tatsuro Yamashita – Christmas Eve – the majority of Japanese people annually buy and eat a cake with fruit and icing. Also illumination is a big thing during Christmas in Japan.

Interestingly, Christmas is a season for couples in Japan, not families as in Europe or the States.  Couples  get together during Christmas, exchange presents and eat at expensive restaurants. It's not a good time for being single on Christmas in Japan – many singles feel sad because couples are together virtually everywhere (this yearly pleasure of single people is reserved for Valentine's day on the other side of the world). There are even social gatherings for single people looking for a partner during the Christmas season. On the other hand, New Years is the time for family gatherings in Japan.

Fishes in bath tubs, lead pouring and angels everywhere

ixmas decoration
idioma Prague office - 
Christmas decoration making

On the other side of the globe in Prague, central Europe, the Christmas radio set list matches with Japan, however that's pretty much the end of resemblance. Czech Christmas traditions are tightly bound to religion and Christian customs, however due to cultural impact after the fall of communism several before unknown elements have been adopted. The decoration of the idioma Prague office is self-evident in this regard with a Christmas tree decorated with straw adornments and angels, the Advent wrath, pine branches with hanging chocolates and Christmas socks, local special Christmas incense sticks called "Frantisek", bells over the front door and pieces of cinnamon all around the place.

In the Czech republic, Christmas is a purely family event. It is literally the one time of the year when all members of the family should gather for a common Christmas dinner, exchange gifts, settle conflicts and enjoy each others' presence. Because of this, Christmas is also the busiest time of the year in the majority of Czech kitchens. 

Christmas pastry as well as traditional Christmas dishes are rather complicated and usually prepared several weeks in advance. Traditional Czech Christmas Eve dinner usually consists of a cabbage soup, potato salad and baked or fried fish (carp being the prime choice). Interestingly, it is still a preference and also strong-lived custom in Czech families to buy the fish alive and keep it in the bath tub until the feast comes. The kids love it. Poor fish. At the right moment, the fish is ritually killed (usually by the head of the family – the father, although a lot of fathers opt for the less brutal alternative and go out and buy ready-to-eat  fish filets or even fish fingers).

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Poor Czech Christmas carp
(source: Dollar Photo Club)

Another remarkable Czech custom, and also fathers' responsibility, is the lead pouring. The head of the family pours liquid lead into cold water to create a solid shape to recognize. The imagination is very important here, as it is said that the lead shape predicts the family future. We decided better not to risk this tradition inside our office :)

So that's how winter and Christmas work in Japan and Czech Republic. For fascinating winter tradition in Sweden, wait for our next blog. Until then, you can admire these delicious Czech Christmas sweets!

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It was raining on Wednesday and pretty cold. Nonetheless, the 24th JTF Translation Festival in Tokyo turned out to be a successful event with many inspirational panel discussions and presentations revealing new perspectives on the translation industry.

A miserable day for translators in rainy Tokyo :)

We set everything up at our idioma booth early in the morning, and then welcomed visitors throughout the day until 5 pm when the festival ended. It was really nice to see our existing clients visiting us, and we also met many new people and had constructive discussions about our cooperation and future translation projects.  

idioma booth at 24th JTF Translation Festival in Tokyo

The topic we introduced at the 24th JTF Translation show was the improved Stream online estimator and idioma's document alignment service iSync. Along with other smart language services we provide, all are based on a combination of online solutions, in-house software development and most importantly: human professional translators, reviewers  and project managers.

Presentation of Stream – online translation estimates service

This year's show was noteworthy because many participants were discussing machine translation (MT) as one of the possible future scenarios for the translation and localization industry. While considering machine translation a promising field as an aid in the translation process, we believe it should be an aid to human, professional translators who will be "editing" text instead of translating. Machine translation sure does have a lot of potential, and we look forward to how it will affect the way we work and our translation services.

Streamstream transparent – our popular online ordering system – has evolved into a new and improved processing tool. The service currently supports 70+ languages in over 5,000 combinations. Stream runs 24/7 and can be reached by any device with an Internet connection. Whether you are in your office, meeting clients, or travelling and need to manage translation projects, Stream is the ideal solution for you. Use its clear 3-step process to easily upload files, receive instant estimates with clear deadlines, and then place orders. 

Timezones work for us!

Moreover, you can order translation project during your day via Stream and let our European production center take care of it overnight. Our shift-based coordination system and 24/7 availability make Stream the best choice for overseas clients in different time zones.

New features

Stream has now been improved with these convenient features:

  1. Advanced Options feature has been added to allow inclusion of translation memories, glossaries, references, etc. that are relevant to your project.
  2. Express translation (our speedy 4-hour translation service) also supports the Advanced Options feature including uploading of reference material. This will assure consistency in translation with other text content. This service has no minimum charges!
  3. Any language to any other language. Thanks to a large supplier network, Stream goes beyond standard language combinations to offer more than 5,000 different combinations to choose from. No matter whether you need to translate from Tagalog to Kazakh or Danish to Japanese, Stream can help you and provide a price and delivery term any time of day.
  4. Full TM support allows you to upload e.g. a Trados project and get an estimate with turn-around and a detailed price breakdown for different fuzzy match categories. These new features are just the tip of the iceberg. Feel free to try out our improved Stream. It makes ordering translation a lot easier for you and it works any time of day. If there is something you think should be added or changed, we will be happy to listen and then implement it. 

Streamline your translation today with Stream!

Hmmm, what to do on November 26th 2014...? How about going to Tokyo to the 24th JTF Translation Festival?! The country's biggest annual show for translators and translation vendors takes place in Japan and idioma will, of course, participate, as it does every year.


Break the Paradigm, Shape the Future

With Tokyo hosting the Olympic Games in 2020, the festival is likely to unknowingly face the "dawn of the new translation era until 2020". idioma will present its innovative portfolio focusing on online translation services with trendsetting potential (Stream, CrossCheck, Ask, iSync and more) that might also shape the future of translation services in general.

Stream - Putting Translation Orders Online

Our top asset to boast at the festival is our flagship service - Stream. It provides free online translation estimates and 24/7 ordering, with no minimum fees and delivery within 4 business hours. With new handy features including full translation memory support and fuzzy matching, over 5000 possible (and exotic) language pairs and an API that supports integration with CMS systems, Stream is the future of ordering and purchasing translation projects. We have developed Stream to support fast turn-around of ad-hoc mini orders, as well as demanding translation projects.
So come and see us yourself...or wait for the Festival to finish to see none can rock harder than translators! (will provide the footage) :)

Time flies, no matter how much we try to outwit it. As it happens, because of all the intense translation, amazing project management and innovative online translation and localization tools development, we almost missed that the Czech office of idioma® is already 20 years old! :)

To celebrate such an important event, we decided to launch our very first idioma blog at Our idioma blog represents a platform to inform you about the field of translation localization as well as to bring useful information and guidelines. And, of course, to give you a little peak behind the curtains and show more about us at idioma®...

...for example, what's our secret at idioma® that we look so cool and fresh even after 20 years... :)


idioma group2013

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