Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Translation and Localization Management Solutions

If you have researched translation for multilingual websites and mobile apps, you’ve seen a wide range of solutions for translating and updating multilingual digital media. These are packaged as translation "platforms" or "proxies" or, more recently, "localization management solutions." Some are developed by startups focusing specifically on websites and mobile apps, while others are proprietary tools that have been developed by language service providers. In this article, we will refer to these as "automated solutions."

In general, automated solutions establish a cloud-based framework to translate a website or app and, in some cases, for continuing translation updates on an ongoing basis. After the initial translation project, the client can use the interface to make updates, which trigger micro-translation projects for translators to fulfill almost in real time. Translators log in directly to the tool to translate the client’s changes. The leading platforms can handle an impressive array of file formats, even converting them on the fly. Many also provide the translators with an interface that "mirrors" the look of the source application or website. This helps the translators see the content in context and compensate for text expansion or contraction during translation (some languages use more characters than others, which impacts the "look" of the project).

When an automated solution claims that it provides a seamless alternative to what they characterize as tedious "manual" processes, be skeptical. Translation project managers are already skilled in managing digital content, and industry-standard localization project management is NOT limited to cutting and pasting content to and from Excel worksheets. The translation industry has embraced content management technologies on pace with the field of technical communication in general. In fact, automated platforms offer many of the functionalities of translation tools that have been in use since the 1990s. Although we use the term "hands-on" processes to distinguish them from automated solutions, they are still a far cry from "manual."

What tools are already in use?

Like professional technical writers, professional translators use tools for structuring content, ensuring consistency of style and terminology, and performing quality assurance. Market leaders like MemoQ and SDL Studio (and a host of competitors) have been developing and refining their products for decades. Increasingly sophisticated CAT (computer aided translation) tools are available as both desktop applications and cloud-based collaborative platforms. Competition between brands is intense, but a certain amount of compatibility has developed between them. The industry standard XLIFF file (XML Localization Interchange File Format) allows for translation files to be shared between different tools, with only occasional issues caused by variations in implementation. Nowadays, being able to use these tools has become necessary for a successful translation career. Practically every reputable freelance technical translator and every professional language service partner or agency has expertise with one or more CAT tools.

CAT tools break content down into segments and present them in a two-column source-target interface. The tools provide termbase management, controlled authoring, style guidance, and QA functionality. Translation memories (TMs) make pre-translated segments available for re-use across media platforms and over a lifetime of updates. Automated solutions have adopted these capabilities as well, albeit with varying levels of quality and degrees of success.

From the translator’s point of view, years of subject matter expertise is codified in their own personal termbases and CAT toolcustomizations, in addition to investments in training time and licensing fees. Translators prefer to use their own tools (or combination of tools), and in-demand translators can be choosy in declining projects that require them to learn new tools. When quality is paramount (and it usually is), businesses should avoid automated solutions that very few translators are willing or able to use.

Why is localization engineering necessary?

In a sense, the purpose of CAT tools has always been "automated localization engineering" for digital content. Most file formats have become so commonplace that we hardly even consider them "digital" anymore. Twenty years ago, translation looked very different than it does today. Today, a translator can import a Word document or an InDesign file into a CAT tool, view the text without the distraction of markup/tags, translate it, and export a target document with the formatting intact. SDL Studio, for example, currently supports 70 different file types.

For mobile apps, websites, technical drawings, and elearning modules, separating content from code is rarely as simple. Putting the application or module back together again after translation can also pose challenges, especially when multiple languages are involved. When code is mistaken for content and vice versa, problems occur. Recoding can be required to create a usable deliverable.

As digital technologies multiply, technical translators face these problems:

CAT tools are compatible with many file formats. However, they are not compatible with ALL file formats.

Even if the file formats are compatible, the export and import functions for the client’s authoring platforms will vary in quality.

Authoring standards for the source content itself can also vary in quality. Custom coding, shortcuts, and workarounds can all interfere with the CAT tool’s ability to read and manage the content.

When choosing a localization strategy, a client should not assume that "automating" the process is going to be more cost-effective. Instead, they should ask these questions:
  • How localization-friendly is the website or app?
  • What is the expected frequency of changes and updates?
  • What in-house resources can I devote to localization engineering?

Regardless of whether you will use automated or hands-on solutions, the best way to reduce the costs of localization engineering is to follow best practices for internationalization from the start.

Internationalization best practices

What is the first step toward localization-friendly content for apps and websites? 
  • Protect the code. Keeping the content separate from the code makes it easier to isolate the content for translation.
  • Don’t hard-code dates, times, measurements, or currencies.
  • Don’t concatenate strings to form sentences. Remember that grammar and word order vary across languages.
  • Don’t embed text in graphics.
  • Support different character sets by using Unicode.
  • If certain features won’t be used internationally, make them easily disabled options.
  • Store strings in resource files.If an app or website is not already internationalized, recoding will be necessary to accommodate the needs of a global audience. Some automated solutions promise to take the internationalization step out of the equation by creating a proxy site or replica to serve as the source for the localized sites.

Source: TCWorld 

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Finland is renowned for mobile phones, design and Moomins

Finland | Finnish language translation services

Finland is called 'the land of the thousand lakes', as inland lakes and rivers make up 10% of the country. The large areas of forest cover almost two thirds of the land mass. Only 6% of Finland is arable.
Finland has a population of 5.5 million, around a million of whom live in the area in and around the capital city, Helsinki.
A significant Swedish-speaking minority lives in Finland, so Finnish and Swedish are both official languages.
Finland is a republic. The president, who is directly elected by the people, has real power over foreign affairs, EU policy and major military decisions. In all other matters, the parliament is the the country's highest authority.
Finland is a member of the EU, and its currency is the euro. The country is not a member of NATO.
The forestry, technology and metal industries are Finland's most important revenue sources. 
GDP per capita is EUR 28,700 (2013).
Total area: 338,430 km2
Land area: 303,890 km2
Lakes and rivers: 34,540 km2
Arable land and horticulture: 22,672 km2
Forests: 227,690 km2
Largest lake: Saimaa 1,377 km2
Highest point: Mount Haltia 1,324 m
Mainland coast line: 6,308 km
Average temperature in Helsinki (1961-1990): January -6.9° C, July 16.6° C
Precipitation in Helsinki (2005): 648 mm
Population (2016): 5,503,297
Population of Helsinki (2016): 1,138,502 including suburbs (1)
National day: 6 December (Independence Day)
Form of government: Republic
Parliament: Eduskunta (200 seats)
EU membership: Since 1 January 1995
NATO membership: No
Head of state (since March 2012): President Sauli Niinistö    
Head of government (since June 2019): Prime Minister Antti Rinne
Currency: Euro
Official website:
Official language: Finnish and Swedish
1) Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen, and Vantaa

Source: Norden 

Sunday, 25 August 2019

The Guardian: Clumsy and Insensitive Translations Can Ruin the Enjoyment of a Foreign-language Film

This year, however, subtitles have been attracting more attention than usual. In January, Alfonso Cuarón condemned Netflix’s decision to add Castilian-Spanish subs to his film Roma as “parochial, ignorant and offensive to Spaniards”, who presumably couldn’t be trusted to understand the Mexican accent. Two days later, the Castilian subtitles were removed.

But criticism of Roma’s subtitles didn’t stop there. In February, the ATAA (Association des Traducteurs/Adaptateurs de l’Audiovisuel) pointed out that the film’s French subtitles were full of grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and mistranslations. The ATAA’s chairperson, Ian Burley, who has been subtitling French, Belgian and Italian movies for more than 30 years, also took a look at Roma’s English subtitles, and found them riddled with stylistic inconsistencies, sloppy synchronisation and clumsy line breaks or punctuation, all of which are liable to distract or discombobulate the viewer. And in the riot scene, a woman’s desperate exhortation of “Vamos!” (“Come on!”) to a dying man whose head she is cradling is clumsily translated as “Let’s go!” – as though she thinks he is dawdling.

Concerned not just by the problems with Roma, well publicised because of the Oscar-winning film’s high profile, but by a more general decline in subtitling standards, AVTE (AudioVisual Translators Europe) is collaborating with its member associations (including the British Subtitlers’ Association, Subtle) in a call for film-makers to cooperate more closely with professional subtitlers, reminding them that subtitling is a craft – an art, even – that ought not to be left to amateurs or automatic translation software.

Nowadays, clients provide translators with digital copies of the film, usually (but not always) with a transcript of the dialogue. Sometimes when the film reaches the subtitler, it has already been “spotted” by a subtitling lab, although the younger generation of subtitlers often do their own “spotting” – the technical process that fixes the entry and exit point for each subtitle and provides the character count for optimum legibility. “In a perfect world,” says Burley, “a subtitle will never go over a change of shot, but that is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid in today’s films, which are often more rapidly edited than older movies.”
The art of translation requires more than just fluency in several languages, and there is a lot more to it than simply translating the dialogue. “The subtitler must decide what to prioritise at any given moment, in order to best serve the interests of the film,” says David Buchanan, a freelance translator specialising in French to English subtitling, and a member of Subtle. “For instance, legibility. Is the subtitle clearly laid out? Does the text flow in a clear and logical way? Is the subtitle on screen long enough for the viewer to read it properly?”

Jacqueline Ball, a freelance translator specialising in German to English subtitling, says: “With subtitling, unlike text translation, you often have to make very difficult choices regarding what you can retain due to reading speed (which, on average, is 15 to 17 characters a second for adult viewers), how many characters fit on a line (usually between 37 and 42) and the number of lines – which, in foreign-language subtitling, as opposed to hard-of-hearing subtitling, is always limited to two.”
It’s also important for subtitles to take into account the characters’ ages, social class, personalities and moods, as well as the historical period in which a film is set. 

A knowledge of the plot is essential; when space is tight, you can’t cut dialogue about a gun if someone is going to be firing it in the third act. Other elements that must be taken into account are the rhythm of the language, as well as subtext. “The screenwriter has engineered all sorts of implications and resonances that work at a deeper level,” says Buchanan. “So a subtitler needs to be aware of the film’s underlying themes, symbolism, stakes and so on.”

Linguistic variations in syntax, formality and grammatical gender pose their own problems. Ball cites the use of “Sie”, the polite German form of “you”, and the less formal “du”. “Germans will often ask each other, ‘Sollen wir uns duzen?’ [‘Shall we use the du form?’] which, of course, cannot be rendered literally into English. Usually you get round it by saying something like, ‘Shall we use first names?’”

Read more The Guardian 

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Lexical Distance Among the Languages of Europe

Nordic Translation services languages
This chart shows the lexical distance — that is, the degree of overall vocabulary divergence — among the major languages of Europe.

This chart shows the lexical distance — that is, the degree of overall vocabulary divergence — among the major languages of Europe.

The size of each circle represents the number of speakers for that language. Circles of the same color belong to the same language group. All the groups except for Finno-Ugric (in yellow) are in turn members of the Indo-European language family.

English is a member of the Germanic group (blue) within the Indo-European family. But thanks to 1066, William of Normandy, and all that, about 75% of the modern English vocabulary comes from French and Latin (ie the Romance languages, in orange) rather than Germanic sources. As a result, English (a Germanic language) and French (a Romance language) are actually closer to each other in lexical terms than Romanian (a Romance language) and French.

So why is English still considered a Germanic language? 
Two reasons. First, the most frequently used 80% of English words come from Germanic sources, not Latinate sources. Those famous Anglo-Saxon monosyllables live on! Second, the syntax of English, although much simplified from its Old English origins, remains recognizably Germanic. The Norman conquest added French vocabulary to the language, and through pidginization, it arguably stripped out some Germanic grammar, but it did not ADD French grammar.

The original research data for the chart comes from K. Tyshchenko (1999), Metatheory of Linguistics. (Published in Ukrainian.)

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Finnish (Suomi) is a Finnic Language Spoken by About 5 Million People

translate in to Finnish language
Credit: Baltic Media

Finns often run into questions like “Is Finnish like Swedish?” or “Does everyone in Finland speak Russian?” A simple answer to both questions is no. 
Both Swedish (one of the two official languages of Finland) and Russian belong to the Indo-European group of languages, while Finnish is a Finno-Ugric language. The latter group also includes Hungarian, Estonian, Sámi (spoken by the indigenous people of northern Finland, Sweden and Norway and northwestern Russia) and several lesser-known languages spoken in areas of Russia. 
The Finno-Ugric languages share enough common lexical and grammatical features to prove a common origin. Although these languages have developed separately for thousands of years, it can be seen that common features include:
1) absence of gender (the same Finnish pronoun, “hän,” denotes both “he” and “she”)
2) absence of articles (a and the in English)3) long words due to the structure of the language4) numerous grammatical cases5) personal possession expressed with suffixes6) postpositions in addition to prepositions7) no equivalent of the verb “to have”

There are various speculative theories about the time and place of the origin of the so-called Proto-Finno-Ugrian language. According to the most common theory, Hungarian and Finnish are separated by a mere 6,000 years of separate development.
How long Finnish-speakers have populated Finland is a question that has always interested Finnish scholars. Nowadays it is thought that speakers of a Finno-Ugric language have been living in the area of present-day Finland since at least 3000 BC. 
During the following millennia, contacts proliferated between the speakers of the Finno-Ugric language and speakers of neighbouring Indo-European languages (e.g. Baltic, Germanic and Slavic dialects). Numerous loan words borrowed by Finnish, Estonian and the other Baltic Finnic languages (Karelian, Lude, Vepsian, Vote and Livonian) demonstrate the existence of contacts between the people speaking Finnic languages and people speaking Indo-European languages. 
Not only vocabulary has been borrowed, but also many grammatical features. 
Most loans in present-day Finnish have come from the Germanic and Scandinavian languages, especially from Swedish.

 Read more: This is Finland 

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Digitalisation in the Nordic Region—The European and Global Contexts

The Nordic countries are often positioned as digital front-runners in both the European and global contexts. In the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index, Denmark, Sweden Finland and the Netherlands (in that order) top the list in terms of the overall ranking, as well as performing well on individual indicators (see Figure 1).
Digitalisation in the Nordic Region—The European and Global Contexts
Figure 1

Norway also performs well on the indicators, despite not being formally included in the ranking.
 The ranking is based on five aspects:
1) connectivity (fixed broadband, mobile broadband, speed and affordability);
2) human capital (digital skills);
3) use of the Internet (content, communication and transactions);
4) integration of digital technology (business digitisation and e-commerce); and
5) digital public services (e-government) (European Commission, 2017c).

We find that Nordic countries also rank highest in the tables for each of these aspects. Finland leads the way on human capital and digital public services, Denmark on integration of digital technology and Norway on Internet use.

Alongside the agenda at the European scale, work has also occurred to map the state of play with respect to digitalisation in the Nordic–Baltic Region (Wernberg and Andersson, 2016). To date, two reports have been released that map indicators across the Nordic–Baltic states, with the most recent having a particular focus on cities (see Baltic Wernberg and Andersson, 2016).

The Nordic countries perform well in the Nordic–Baltic context. Again, however, there is substantial variation in performance based on different indicators. For example, there are quite large gaps between the countries when it comes to the use of e-procurement in firms or private R&D expenditure in science and technology, whereas rather small gaps exist when it comes to fixed broadband penetration and startups in ICT across the Nordic–Baltic countries (Wernberg and Andersson, 2016).

Another report based on the Boston Consulting Group’s E-Intensity Index4 includes Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden among nine European ‘digital front-runners’5 (Alm et al., 2016).6 The report highlights the higher share of e-GDP 7 in these countries (8% on average) compared with what it terms the ‘EU Big 5’8 (where e-GDP is 5.1% on average). Accordingly, the research suggests that these countries stand to make the greatest gains from further digital advancement, particularly full realisation of the European digital single market and further digitalisation in emerging fields (e.g., IoT, advanced robotics, big data analysis and augmented/virtual reality). At the same time, the authors argue that these countries have more to lose if Europe fails to keep up with the rest of the world. They are highly critical of European action on digitalisation, suggesting that ‘the window of opportunity is closing fast’ for Europe to position itself as a global leader in this space (Alm et al., 2016: 19).

The report estimates that, based on the current pace of development, even the front-runner nations in Europe will be behind China, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan by 2025 (Alm et al., 2016). It suggests that the front-runners should work together to share good practice (all are strong in different areas) and take a leadership role. This includes both ideological leadership—to address the concerns of more pessimistic nations—and practical leadership to target the currently broad EU strategy (Alm et al., 2016).
Nordic cities are also front-runners when it comes to various smart technology solutions, including the management of urban systems and environments. Nordic cities have been early adopters of ICT infrastructure in cities, and of knowledge expansion through the implementation of 'smart city' solutions. This builds on a long tradition of developing infrastructure to support the digitalisation of public services. For example, Finland was the first country to declare that broadband access was a legal right for every citizen and Sweden ranks fourth in the world in the percentage of fixed broadband subscriptions on fibre-optic networks (Borges et al., 2017).

Sweden is among the most successful countries in developing community based broadband initiatives, so-called “local fibre networks. The Swedish Local Fibre Alliance has supported local governments and communities to plan and launch municipally owned and managed networks (ENRD, 2017). The Swedish government is committed to providing expanded high-speed Internet to rural areas and Stockholm is expected to be the first city in the world with a 5G network in 2020 (Borges et al., 2017; NyTeknik, 2018).

In terms of the provision of public services, recent research found that the Nordic cities were the most digitally advanced in Europe, independent of city size (ESPON, 2017). The study also showed that there is a generally high confidence level regarding the readiness of cities to respond to digital transition and seize the opportunities of digitalisation.

Read full report here  

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Translation and Global Marketing Missteps: Don’t let Global Content Missteps Trip You Up

By Rebecca Ray*

Companies still learn the hard way that almost all the content they publish – or that is created by their customers and prospects – is global.

Whether or not content is translated or intended for a specific audience, all viewers have access to it and make their opinions heard at the global level – especially if they have negative feelings. 
As content plays a larger strategic role in business success, organizations are looking for ways to do a better job to world-proof the words, images, and audio that project their brand. 
In this article, we describe the challenge of global content missteps, provide examples, and offer advice on how to avoid becoming a bad localization meme.
Firms generally recognize that content has value in supporting their brand worldwide and attracting and retaining customers. However, executives tend to over-invest in the creation of the original material while scrimping on the localized versions upon which they often depend for a hefty portion of their revenue. 

This disproportionate spending frequently results in a lack of oversight during the design phase, which can lead to embarrassing, if not disastrous, results in terms of PR. Worse yet, the missteps can cause a reduction in overall brand value and market cap numbers over the short term, as well as adversely impact the career path for C-level executives.
All organizations want to avoid being the poster child of global marketing missteps. Yet, examples unfortunately appear all too often:  

H&M’s catalog miscalculation

Regardless of one’s opinion of its appropriateness, you have to wonder how the original product and accompanying marketing content for a T-shirt ad in January 2018 survived internal review at fast-fashion retailer H&M. 
Even if its home base in Sweden was not offended by the product, H&M only had to ask personnel in top markets such as the United States, Germany, France, or the United Kingdom what they thought before proceeding with the design idea. 
As a result, H&M lost clothing line collaborators such as Weeknd and faced a high level of backlash from U.S. customers.

Image 1: H&M advertises a product without thinking through its global implications
Source: H&M online offering in the United Kingdom

United Airlines’ damage control goes awry

Asia has always been a strategic market for United – long before the rise of China – so one would expect that its corporate behavior is followed closely. However, the company’s crisis response team failed to take that into account when news broke about an outsourced security team dragging a passenger off one of its planes under rather violent circumstances. It turned into an international incident as hundreds of millions (not thousands) of people commented on Weibo, with some even cutting up their United frequent flyer cards. Calls for boycotts spread throughout Asia – especially worrying since China is the second-largest market in the world for aviation and still growing. The company briefly lost almost US$1 billion due to the incident.

Yelp’s obliviousness in the face of Turkish history

When the review forum Yelp announced via Twitter last year that it was entering the Turkish market, it rather oddly chose the image of a church for a country that is overwhelmingly Muslim – comparable to using a mosque graphic for an announcement targeted at North Americans. That being said, the church image didn’t match what most Turks see in their country, as the construction of Christian Orthodox churches doesn’t resemble the humble wood building depicted in the image. But even more bothersome to many Turks was the mention of the Trojan Horse used to hide Greek soldiers for an ambush during the war for Troy.

Image 2: Yelp selects a tone-deaf image to enter the Turkish market

Global content requires governance beyond translation sign-off

The companies in the examples cited are certainly not the only global brands that have stumbled over global messaging and content. Yet it’s impossible for even the most global-savvy person or team to recognize all possible cross-cultural reactions to a particular message, image, or video. So, what is a company to do?

Read more: TCWorld  

*Rebecca Ray is a senior analyst at market research firm Common Sense Advisory (CSA Research). 

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Summer School of Latvian Language and Baltic Culture 2019

Latvian language summer school. Latvian Language and more 2019 Summer School of Latvian Language and Baltic Culture | Baltic Media Language Training Centre in cooperation with Liepāja University in Latvia
Latvian language summer school. Photo Baltic Media

Latvian Language and more 2019

Summer School of Latvian Language and Baltic Culture | Baltic Media Language Training Centre in cooperation with Liepāja University in Latvia

Travel and study together with your family or friends, invest in your self-development and spend a fabulous time with your beloved ones.

August 16 – August 25, 2019

The leading Nordic-Baltic language service company Baltic Media, in cooperation with the University of Liepāja, offers an intensive Latvian language and culture program in the mesmerizing city of Liepāja, located on Latvia’s beautiful Baltic Sea coast.

Liepāja is a fantastic place to learn Latvian as it has everything from a beautiful seaside to market stalls offering fresh local produce to the Great Amber Concert Hall, a new architectural landmark of the city:

Latvian language summer school. Latvian Language and more 2019 Summer School of Latvian Language and Baltic Culture | Baltic Media Language Training Centre in cooperation with Liepāja University in Latvia

This intensive Latvian language and culture program provides:
  • ·       solid instruction in learning the Latvian language (24 academic hours) at two levels – beginners (A1) and pre-intermediate (B1);
  • ·       specially designed course materials;
  • ·       cultural activities, including tours of the city and movie séances at an outdoor cinema featuring Latvian movies;
  • ·       1 day trip to a B&B with amber hunting along the sea coast and yoga on the beach.

·       450 EUR includes tuition, course materials, coffee and snacks, cultural activities, tours, and 1 day stay at a B&B (yoga instruction included).
·       199 EUR for person for those who want to participate only in the cultural activities (without tuition costs).
·       430 EUR early bird special price if you enroll by May 30.

For more information, please e-mail us at

Ten Amazing Days

We encourage you to pack your travel bag, bring along your friends, and spend 10 amazing days discovering the beauty of the Latvian language as well as the unique culture and nature of Latvia’s beautiful sea coast.
It will be your best summer ever.

Accommodation is not included in the rate. Please book your hotel or guest house yourself. Liepāja has a wide choice of accommodation for all budgets.

Hotels and Guest Houses in Liepāja

How to get to Liepāja

Latvian language summer school.
Windsurfing Liepāja beach 2018. Photo: Baltic Media
Latvian language summer school.
Coffeeshop Boulangerie in Liepāja. Photo: Baltic Media

August 16 - August 25, 2019 Liepāja, Latvia
Latvian Language and more 2019
More information coming soon.

Please contact us:

Riga Office

World Trade Center
Elizabetes iela 2
LV-1010, Riga, Latvija
+371 67 224 395
+371 26 404 054
371 67 224 982

Visit our homepage: 

About Liepāja University

Liepāja University is one of the oldest higher educational establishments in Kurzeme region (Latvia) with large experience and academic traditions. It is located in the heart of Liepaja city - a city with long and diverse history, unique architecture and atmosphere, and mostly - the wonderful sea and the beach.
  • Liepaja University is an accredited state higher educational establishment, which implements study programmes at all three study levels: basic studies, Master and Doctorate studies.
  • Every year about 30 study programmes are implemented.
  • Full-time and part-time studies.
  • The number of elected teaching staff members - 74, among them more than 64,8% - Doctors of Sciences; 35,1 % professors and associate professors.
  • About 2000 students.
  • LiepU has its own anthem, coat of arms, logo and a banner.
  • More than 20 thousand graduates

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Swedish Lucia for Dummies

Swedish Lucia – the origins

The Lucia tradition can be traced back both to the martyr St Lucia of Syracuse (died in 304) and to the Swedish legend of Lucia as Adam’s first wife. It is said that she consorted with the Devil and that her children were invisible infernals. The name may be associated with both lux (light) and Lucifer (Satan), and its origins are difficult to determine. The present custom appears to be a blend of traditions.
In the old almanac, Lucia Night was the longest of the year. It was a dangerous night when supernatural beings were abroad and all animals could speak. By morning, the livestock needed extra feed. People, too, needed extra nourishment and were urged to eat seven or nine hearty breakfasts. The last person to rise that morning was nicknamed ‘Lusse the Louse’ and often given a playful beating round the legs with birch twigs. In agrarian Sweden, young people used to dress up as Lucia figures (lussegubbar) that night and wander from house to house singing songs and scrounging for food and schnapps.
The first recorded appearance of a white-clad Lucia in Sweden was in a country house in 1764. The custom did not become universally popular in Swedish society until the 1900s, when schools and local associations in particular began promoting it. The old lussegubbar custom virtually disappeared with urban migration, and white-clad Lucias with their singing processions were considered a more acceptable, controlled form of celebration than the youthful carousals of the past. Stockholm proclaimed its first Lucia in 1927. The custom whereby Lucia serves coffee and buns (lussekatter) dates back to the 1880s.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Nordic Entrepreneurial Environment

The Nordics. Credit: Twitter
By Tine Thygesen, The Entrepreneur Europe

For a small place tucked away in the furthermost corner of Europe, with only 25 million inhabitants, the Nordic region is punching above its weight when it comes to entrepreneurship. In the last few months alone, Spotify has IPOed with a market cap of $26 billion, iZettle has been sold to PayPal for $2.2 billion and Tradeshift has achieved unicorn status.

Other notable Nordic successes include Skype, King, Rovio, Unity, Just Eat, Endomondo, Bluetooth, Lego, Klarna, Trustpilot, Kiloo (Subway Surfers), Too Good To Go and Bang & Olufsen.
A recent analysis shows that Nordic businesses raised just over $1 billion in venture capital during the first half of 2017, with Sweden receiving the lion's share of the funds in the amount of $634.2 million.

The mere 25 million people in the Nordics are split into five countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland) with five separate languages, forcing its citizens to be highly versed in English and foreign languages to make themselves understood broadly. Practically all citizens speak two languages, and many speak several. It also forces young companies to be "born-global" as their home markets are insufficient for major success. As such, many companies (also from outside the region) use these small countries with their homogeneous populations as a learning lab, a place to test new products and concepts relatively inexpensively, before the most promising ones are rolled out onto larger markets, typically the U.K., U.S., and Germany.

The region enjoys a (relative to other countries) high level of equality that ensures taking advantage of the 50-plus percent of the population that is female, homosexual etc., whose talents are underutilized in countries with high inequality.

In the future, one of the region's major opportunities may very well lie in its intrinsic concern for the environment, as the planet will need more and more solutions to combat climate change as global warming continues to worsen.

In recent years, the region has topped in global happiness ratings done by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (in 2018 the top four were Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland), which frees the population up from worrying about basic human conditions (health care is free and unemployment benefits available) enabling them to turn their energy into more fruitful labors, such as building companies and being productive at work.

All things combined, the Nordic region is a testament to the fact that many economic models, not just the ultra-capitalistic, can spur innovation and high-growth companies.

At first glance, one could be forgiven for thinking that the economic social democratic model of the Nordic countries, where tax rates are high and the state provides for citizens in need, would discourage entrepreneurship as a risky venture. After all, the need for personal financial success is less in a society with a solid economic safety net. In that way, the Nordic region refutes the myth that necessity is the mother of invention.

Actually, corporate tax rates in the Nordics are comparable to the rest of Europe, and some of the countries, such as Denmark, have a liberal labor market where it's easy to lay off staff. That is not to say that the region's entrepreneurs are not challenged by the legislative environment that taxes warrants and capital gains highly, but perhaps this is partially offset by the region is among the least corrupt in the world, with effective structures of governance including a highly digitized public sector. In addition, the region enjoys a high overall digital literacy across the population. In 2010, Finland was the first country in the world to declare broadband a legal right.

Without a doubt, much of the region's ability to create (for which the Scandinavians even have a special word, "skaberkraft," meaning "the power to create) stems from the high level of education. Education is not only free, but residents are paid a grant while undergoing higher education. The free education leads to a general education level that is among the highest in the world, providing entrepreneurs with an abundance of qualified labor in most fields.

Read more: Entrepreneur