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1. Post-edition at Unbabel
At Unbabel we have a unique approach to translation: each text submitted by a customer is translated by our Machine Translation system, and then corrected by our community of editors in an online platform. By editing the output of the software, the editors ensure the quality of the translations and confirm that the message is accurate (i.e., has the same meaning as the original), fluent (i.e., can be easily understood and sounds natural) and is in line with the style requested by the clients (i.e. respects their register and terminology). In order to help editors do the best job possible, we provide various types of information:
- Customer instructions, which include the identification of the client and his requests to personalize the translation, such as the register that must be used to address the recipient of the message. Following these instructions is vital to deliver translations that match the client’s expectations.
- Glossaries, which correspond to specific vocabulary and expressions used by the client, and that must be respected by the editors.
- Translation Memories, which correspond to stored segments (expressions, sentences or paragraphs) that have previously been translated and accepted for customer usage. They are useful for ensuring consistency across translations.
We also have Smartcheck, which is an application that checks the grammar, morphology, orthography and style of the translations while being edited. By using a large set of rules, Smartcheck flags words or groups of words that may present some kind of issue.
Finally, in order to deliver the best possible translation, we also provide these guidelines about your language specifications. Please, read them carefully and always follow these instructions in your editions.
2.1.1. Tense, mood, aspect, person (for verbs)
Verbs do not inflect for person or number in modern standard Swedish. They inflect for the present and past tense, and imperative, subjunctive, and indicative mood. Other tenses are formed by combinations of auxiliary verbs with infinitives or a special form of the participle called the "supine".
In total, there are six spoken active-voice forms for each verb: infinitive, imperative, present, preterite/past, supine, and past participle.
The only subjunctive form widely used in everyday speech is ‘vore’, the past subjunctive of ‘vara’ ("to be"). It is used as one way of expressing the conditional ("would be", "were"), but is optional. Except for this form, subjunctive forms are considered archaic.
Verbs may also take the passive voice. The passive voice for any verb tense is formed by appending a -s to the tense. For verbs ending in -r, the -r is first removed before the -s is added. Verbs ending in -er often lose the -e- as well, other than in very formal style: ‘stärker’ ("strengthens") becomes ‘stärks’ or ‘stärkes’ ("is strengthened"). Exceptions are monosyllabic verbs and verbs where the root ends in -s. Swedish uses the passive voice more frequently than English. It is also used most frequently in formal texts.
Source text: The plan is explained to the audience.
✘ Planen förklarar för publiken.
✓ Planen förklaras för publiken.
2.1.2. Gender and number (nouns and adjectives)
The Swedish language has two genders: common (n-words) and neuter (t-words). These affect the noun's definite forms and cohering adjectives.
en grön banan
ett grönt tak
bananen är grön
taket är grönt
den är grön
det är grönt
Source text: The banana is green.
✘ Bananet är grönt.
✓ Bananen är grön.
Sometimes it can be difficult to know what gender a certain noun has because both forms are accepted, though often in different contexts. For example:
- en or ett individ,
- en or ett brons,
- en or ett test (prov).
When in doubt, consult the Swedish dictionary .
2.1.3. Case (nouns and prepositions)
There are only two cases in Swedish: “nominative” and “genitive”, which are similar to English. The genitive case is the form of the word that indicates who is the owner of the noun. In Swedish, an “s” is added to the possessor (note: if the noun already ends in a ”s”, there is no change). The nominative case is used for everything else.
Source text: Rasmus sweater
✘ Rasmus' tröja
✓ Rasmus tröja
A determiner, called “bestämmare”, is a word, phrase, or affix that occurs together with a noun or noun phrase and serves to express the reference of that noun or noun phrase in the context. That is, a determiner may indicate whether the noun is referring to a definite or indefinite element of a class, to a closer or more distant element, to an element belonging to a specified person or thing, to a particular number or quantity, etc.
Note: ‘de’ as a determiner always remains the same, i.e. never dem (see Pronouns’ section below.), even as part of an object.
Source text: She listens only to the records praised by her favorite reviewer.
✘ Hon lyssnar bara på dem skivor som hennes favoritrecensent hyllat.
✓ Hon lyssnar bara på de skivor som hennes favoritrecensent hyllat.
Prepositions are units that link nouns, pronouns and phrases to other units in a sentence.
Prepositions usually describe the position of something, the time when something happens and the way in which something is done (e.g. i, under, på). They can also build grammatical functions like ’Jag skrattar åt dig’.
Source text: I'm laughing at you
✘ Jag skrattar på dig
✓ Jag skrattar åt dig
Regular verbs in Swedish are formed according to the following pattern:
ska..., vill...., måste..., får..., kan..., borde..., brukar..., att...
- Most common mistakes
Incorrect conjugation of verbs.
Source text: How have you done all this?
✘ Hur har ni hunnit gjort allt detta?
✓ Hur har ni hunnit göra allt detta?
Below, the infinitive article ‘att’ is missing, which is a common mistake.
Source text: We will play a song by Ebba Grön.
✘ Vi kommer spela en låt av Ebba Grön
✓ Vi kommer att spela en låt av Ebba Grön
- Differences from English to Swedish
The English -ing form can be translated into Swedish in many different ways depending on clause element and context:
The hunter is sitting on a chair reading a magazine.
Jägaren sitter på en stol och läser en tidning.
Subordinate clause (time)
On arriving at the office, she found her client was already waiting.
Då hon kom till kontoret väntade hennes klient redan.
Subordinate clause (relative)
She is interested in all matters relating to horses.
Hon är intresserad av allt som har att göra med hästar.
Subordinate clause (causal/concessive)
Being a jockey she had to be thin.
Då (emedan) hon är jockey behövde hon vara smal.
Subordinate clause (with att)
Excuse my changing the subject.
Ursäkta att jag byter samtalsämne.
This was a surprising win for her.
Det här var en överraskande seger för henne.
He hates reading and writing.
Han hatar att läsa och skriva.
Horse racing is exciting.
Hästkapplöpning är spännande.
Source text: She is interested in everything related to horses.
✘ Hon är intresserad av allt relaterande till hästar.
✓ Hon är intresserad av allt som har med hästar att göra.
In multiword abbreviations, we use either hard whitespaces or periods, but never both at the same time (e.g. o.s.v. or o s v). However, note that the Language Council of Sweden prefers the use of periods.
Source text: e.g. (for example)
✓ t.ex. (till exempel)
We translate etc. as o.s.v.; i.e. as d.v.s., and e.g. as t.ex.
In the Swedish language, we mainly use capital letter in the beginning of sentences and in proper names, as places, personal names, book titles and political parties and kings (hans Majestät).
Source text: We went to the movies
✘ Vi gick på Bio
✓ Vi gick på bio
English headlines often capitalize the initial letter of every word while in Swedish only the first letter of the first word is capitalized.
The days of the week, the months, languages, nationalities, cardinal points, holidays, disciplines etc. also differ between the two languages. In all of these cases Swedish does not use capitalization.
Source text: We will go fishing on Sunday.
✘ På Söndag ska vi fiska.
✓ På söndag ska vi fiska.
In Swedish, we can make a compound word of practically any words. To not use compound words in Swedish is a common mistake. There are some exceptions like ‘till slut’, ‘för sent’, etc.
Source text: The brown-haired girl
✘ Den brun håriga flickan
✓ Den brunhåriga flickan
Traditionally, Swedish compounds are written as one word or possibly, but rarely, hyphenated.
In Swedish, we use diacritics on the letters å, ä, ö, and also in words like ‘café’ and ‘idé’.
Otherwise, diacritics are not commonly used.
Source text: Café
3.5. Foreign words
If the sentence contains a foreign word that should be kept untranslated, we may connect it using a hyphen. Foreign words should be translated if the foreign version is not accepted to use.
Source text: Unbabel form
Regarding numerals format (written in numbers or words), you must always respect the source text: if they are written as digits in the source text, this should be maintained in the translation; on the other hand, if they are written as words, they should be translated to the target language.
In Swedish, we divide large numbers using space, like 2 000, 20 000, 200 000, 2 000 000.
Source text: 20,000
✓ 20 000
Swedish uses a comma to indicate a decimal place (e.g. 2,10 and 3,10).
Full stop like in the English language is not used, unless it indicates, for example, software versions (e.g. version 2.1, version 2.3) or in table of contents (e.g. 2.1 Användning av maskinen, 3.1 Rengöring av maskinen).
Source text: 2.1 children per household
✘ 2.1 barn per hushåll
✓ 2,1 barn per hushåll
Please note that the English number ‘billions’ is translated to ‘miljarder’ in Swedish.
Source text: 200 billions
✘ 200 Biljoner
✓ 200 Miljarder
In Swedish, all symbols should be preceded by a whitespace (e.g. 5 %, 5 °C), because the symbol is considered a word.
4.1. How to use punctuation marks
- Comma | ,
The comma is used in many contexts and languages, mainly for separating parts of a sentence (such as clauses), and items in lists, particularly when there are three or more items listed.
Source text: She bought milk, butter and cheese.
✓ Hon köpte mjölk, smör och ost.
Use commas sparingly. Too many commas can make a text stuttering and disrupt the rhythm of it, while too few commas can make it difficult to interpret.
- Colon | :
A colon precedes an explanation or an enumeration or list.
Source text: We are four brothers: Sven, Göran, Lukas and Per.
✓ Vi är fyra bröder: Sven, Göran, Lukas och Per.
- Semicolon | ;
The semicolon is a punctuation mark that separates major sentence elements. A semicolon can be used between two closely related independent clauses.
Source text: Amanda was very tired; a quarter later she went to bed.
✓ Amanda var mycket trött; en kvart senare gick hon och lade sig.
- Period | .
The period is mostly used to mark the end of a sentence (other than a question or exclamation mark).
Source text: I’m going home.
✓ Jag går hem.
- Exclamation mark | !
The exclamation mark is usually used after an interjection or an exclamation to indicate strong feelings, high volume (shouting), or to show emphasis.
Source text: Beware of the wolf!
✓ Akta dig för vargen!
- Question mark | ?
The question mark is placed at the end of a question.
Source text: How are you?
✓ Hur mår du?
- Hyphen | -
The hyphen (-) is used to join words in compounds, and to separate syllables of a single word in line breakings (e.g. Ethernet-kabeln, icke-påverkad). It can also be used to replace a part of a word that is implicit in the context.
Source text: Sundays and holidays
✓ sön- och helgdagar
- Em dash | –
The em dash is used in several ways:
- in places where a set of parentheses or a colon might otherwise be used.
- to show an abrupt change in thought or where a full stop (period) is too strong and a comma too weak (e.g. Det gäller alla – både dig och mig).
- on a new line to set off direct speech and separate multiple speakers.
Source text: Pär said:
- Get the kids as fast as possible!
✓ Pär sa:
– Hämta barnen så snabbt som möjligt!
- Quotation marks | " "
Quote marks are used in pairs (an opening quotation mark and a closing quotation mark) in various writing systems to set off direct speech, a quotation, or a phrase.
Source text: Pär said, "Get the kids as fast as possible!"
✓ Pär sa: "Hämta barnen så snabbt som möjligt!"
- Brackets | ( )
A bracket is typically used in matched pairs within text to set apart or interject other text.
Source text: (When a parenthesis is needed within a parenthesis, we use square brackets, [like this], as internal brackets.)
✓ (Uppstår behovet av en parentes inuti en parentes använder man klamrar, [som här], som inre parenteser.)
4.2. Punctuation in greetings and closings
For greetings, we use the exclamation mark: Hej Josh!
The following line starts with a capital letter.
There are no special rules for punctuation in closings, mostly period or exclamation mark is used.
5.1. Grammatical and Lexical Registers
Register refers to the level of formality used in the text. It shows how our clients address their customers and contributes to the voice of the brand itself. Register may vary depending on the company, the brand, the service they offer, the customers, and the target language.
We make a first main distinction between grammatical and lexical register: the first one regards the use of pronouns and verb person (for the languages to which this morphological feature is applied), while the latter is related to lexical choices, since some words and expressions also have a degree of formality or colloquialism.
Both these registers are also divided into formal and informal, as shown below.
5.2. Formal Register
In Swedish, the formal register is rarely used, but it does occur in scientific contexts and other more formal situations. This register has specific characteristics:
- the choice of sophisticated words (e.g. ‘eftersöka’ instead of the less formal ‘söka efter’);
- the use of longer sentences and complex structures;
- the use of the passive voice (Han undersökte hur egennamn hanterats i översättningarna).
Greetings and closings also differ in both registers, especially in letters and emails where, in formal writing, the greeting may be Bäste Jan! and the closing may be Med vänlig hälsning.
The English word ‘you’ or ‘your’ should never be translated with ‘ni’ or ‘er’; instead the informal ‘du’ or ‘dig’ should be used.
Source text: With the genetic modification of primates, the genetic modification of humans appears to be closer than ever.
✘ Med GM av apor, kan vi snart köra GM på människor.
✓ Med den genetiska modifieringen av primater, tycks den genetiska modifieringen av människor vara närmare än någonsin.
Source text: Dear Mr Anders, we would like to invite you to today's exhibition.
✘ Käre herr Anders, vi vill inbjuda er till dagens utställning.
✓ Hej Anders, vi vill inbjuda dig till dagens utställning.
5.3. Informal Register
In the Swedish language, the informal register is most frequently used. Even when authorities contact a private person, they most often use informal greetings and closings.
For greetings, the simple word Hej works in almost all situations. Translate English greetings like ‘Hey’, ‘Hello’ and similar with ‘Hej’. Mails are usually closed with ‘mvh’ (med vänliga hälsningar).
Colloquial contractions like ‘sen’, ‘nån’, ‘sa’ and ‘la’ instead of ‘sedan’, ‘någon’, ‘sade’ and ‘lade’ are accepted (without apostrophes) in very informal texts.
Source text: Just like that! You put the mascara back in the super practical small pocket and you are ready to hit the road!
✘ Lägg därefter vänligen tillbaka mascaran i dess lilla, extremt funktionella kammare och du är förberedd för kvällens festiviteter.
✓ Sådär! Du lägger bara tillbaka mascaran i den superpraktiska lilla fickan och du är redo för din utekväll!
6. Localization challenges
6.1. Proper nouns
Proper nouns refer to unique entities, such as persons, places, organizations, brands, events, etc. As foreign proper nouns are concerned, languages may adopt different rules regarding whether they should be translated or kept in the original language. When editing a text, you should follow your languages rules for all different types of proper nouns listed below. However, please note that if there is a glossary provided by the client that includes these types of units, you should always apply the glossary items.
In Swedish, a person’s name is normally neither translated nor adapted to the person’s gender. The same applies to celebrities. However, if a character is internationally known and has an official equivalent in Swedish, the name should be replaced.
Source text: Donald Duck
✘ Donald Duck
✓ Kalle Anka
Names for cities and countries should be translated if there is a Swedish equivalent available.
Source text: Germany
Source text: Czech Republic
✘ Czech Republic
Source text: Prague
Likewise, names of monuments are not translated, unless a Swedish equivalent name is available.
Organizations are best left untranslated, unless a recognised Swedish equivalent name is available.
6.1.4. Brands and products
Names of brands and products are left untranslated. If the brand or product is unknown in Sweden, and it is important for the reader to understand it, it can be explained or replaced either by a hypernym (e.g. ‘blöjor’ instead of ‘Pampers’) or a Swedish equivalent.
6.1.5. Other entities
Entities such as art, events, festivals and theatre plays are mostly left untranslated.
6.2. Acronyms and initials
Acronyms should be translated only if a Swedish equivalent is available. If no Swedish acronym is available, keep the acronym and, if necessary, spell out the whole name of the acronym or add a short explanation in parentheses.
Source text: UN
✘ UN (United Nations)
✓ FN (Förenta Nationerna)
6.3. Date format
In Sweden, the ISO 8601 standard is followed in most written Swedish, but older forms remain. Dates are generally and officially written in the format of YYYY-MM-DD (e.g. 2001-08-31 for 31 August 2001) or using the full format (31 augusti 2001).
6.4. Time format
While English uses a 12-hour clock, with am/pm modifiers, in Swedish, time is written using the 24-hour format, with colons or full stops separating the hours from the minutes (e.g. 23:59); seconds, on the other hand, can be kept or left out (e.g. 23:59:00). Initial zeros are mostly used in time notation (e.g. 04:00 is more common than 4:00).
Source text: 10:59 p.m.
✘ 10:59 p.m.
Measures should always keep the format of the source text and should never be converted. You should only translate them when they have an equivalent term in your language.
Sweden uses the metric system. But leave measure abbreviations not used in Swedish, for example ‘ft.’ and ‘in.’. Measures’ abbreviations are usually followed by a period.
Source text: 20 ft.
✘ 6,09 meters
✓ 20 ft.
Currency values should be left as they are in the source text, just translate the currency. When spelled out, currency is not capitalized in Swedish.
Source text: 100 euros
✘ 100 Euros
✓ 100 euro
Currency symbols (€, $, £, etc.) occur after the number and are always preceded by a hard whitespace.
Source text: $100
✓ 100 $
Currency initials (USD, GBP, RUB, INR, DKK, NOK, etc.) should not be translated, just preceded by a hard whitespace and placed after the number.
Source text: USD 100
✓ 100 USD
7. Tricky cases
Using the wrong pronoun (such as ‘han’, ‘hon’, ‘den’) could cause more confusion. Take a look at this classic example:
1. Patrik kysser sin fru.
2. Patrik kysser hans fru.
In English, both sentences can be translate to "Patrik is kissing his wife". In Swedish, however, you make a distinction between "his own wife" (= sin), and "someone else's wife" (=hans).
If we swap ‘sin’ and ‘hans’ for names, it might get more clear:
1. Patrik kysser Patriks (sin) fru.
2. Patrik kysser Henriks (hans) fru.
In other words, if ‘Patrik’ is the subject of the sentence, and he is also the "owner" of the object, then we express that ownership by using ‘sin’ instead of ‘hans’.
8. Most frequent errors
- Compounds (särskrivning)
Traditionally, Swedish compounds are written as one word or possibly, but rarely, hyphenated.
Särskrivning is the phenomenon where the components of the compound are written separately, as in the English language. It may inadvertently changes the meaning and the pronunciation. Some classic examples:
✘ Rök fritt (Smoke freely, as in "Feel free to smoke")
✓ Rökfritt (Non-smoking [area])
✘ Brun hårig sjuk sköterska (Brown hairy sick caregiver)
✓ Brunhårig sjuksköterska (Brunette nurse)
✘ Kyckling lever (Chicken is alive)
✓ Kycklinglever (Chicken liver)
- Overly literal translations
It is a very common fault that the translation follows the English text word by word. Mostly, it is necessary to rewrite the translation at least a little in order for the text to be fluent and natural in Swedish.
Source text: … and love is a commitment of the will to the true good of other persons.
✘ … och kärlek är att engagera viljan i andra personers sanna välbefinnande
✓ … och kärlek är att hänge sig till det uppriktigt goda hos andra personer
- Inaccurate use of ‘de’ and ‘dem’
The pronouns ‘de’ (‘they’) and ‘dem’ (‘them’) are pronounced the same way (dom) in Swedish and, hence, it can be difficult to establish when to use which one in writing. Here are some rules:
- Always ‘de’ as a definite article or a subject: De nya stolarna köpte de i Malmö.
- Use ‘dem’ when it is an object or after a preposition: Dem älskar jag; jag tänker bara på dem.
- The definite article is always ‘de’, even as a part of an object: Jag älskar de nya stolarna.
However, the choice between the two is free in constructions with ‘som’, where they are an object or after a preposition, especially when ‘som’ is the subject in the following subordinate clause: Jag älskar de/dem som lagar stolar; jag tänker på de/dem som samlar stolar.
There are a few helpful rules:
- where you write ‘du’ or ‘vi’, you should write ‘de’;
- when we write ‘dig’ or ‘oss’ it should be ‘dem’;
- ‘dom’ is never used in written language.
Source text: The new chairs they bought in Malmö
✘ De nya stolarna köpte dem i Malmö
✓ De nya stolarna köpte de i Malmö
Source text: I love the new chairs
✘ Jag älskar dom nya stolarna
✓ Jag älskar de nya stolarna
9. Useful online resources
English verb conjugator
English grammar guide