Localization is Much More than Translation

Conversation with Teddy Bengtsson, of RoundTable Studio in Jerez, Spain discussing the business benefits of professional translation and localization services for your target markets.

In this episode of Interlinks we talk to Teddy Bengtsson, the founder and director of RoundTable studio based in Jérez de la Frontera, in the Andalusia Region of southern Spain.

RoundTable Studio specializes in language services for Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese, which include translation, localization, and audio production services among others.

RTS has two production centers – Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Porto Alegre, Brazil as well as the project management unit in Spain for extended time zone coverage.

Teddy himself is Swedish, and he set up RTS in Spain almost 14 years ago now in 2011. Prior to that Teddy held several corporate roles with companies such as Oracle, Microsoft, and the Aldus Corporation and as well as Spain and his native Sweden, he has lived and worked in several other countries including Argentina, Scotland, and Ireland.

Maybe that his why he is holding what appears to be a pint of Guinness in his LinkedIn profile picture!

Click here for transcript

Patrick Daly:

Hello, this is Patrick Daly and welcome to Interlinks. Interlinks is a program abour connections, international business supply chains and globalization, and the effects these have had on our life, our work and our travel in recent times.

Today on the show, we’ll be talking to Teddy Bengtsson, the founder and director of RoundTable Studio based in Jerez de la Frontera in the Andalusia region of Southern Spain. So RoundTable Studio specializes in language services for Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese, which include translation, localization, audio production services among others. Teddy himself is Swedish and he set up RTS in Spain almost 14 years ago now in 2011, I think that’s right. Prior to that, Teddy had served several corporate roles with companies such as Oracle, Microsoft, and the Aldus Corporation, and as well as in Spain and in his native Sweden, he’s also lived and worked in several other countries, including Argentina, Scotland, and Ireland. And maybe that is why he is holding what appears to be a pint of Guinness in his LinkedIn profile picture. So welcome Teddy, and thank you very much for being here with us today.

Teddy Bengtsson:

Thank you, Patrick, a pleasure to be here with you.

Patrick Daly:

Is that actually a pint of Guinness you’re holding?

Teddy Bengtsson:

It is actually a pint of Guinness. Yeah, I like to refer to myself as an honorary celt after spending pretty much 10 years in Scotland and 10 years in Ireland. And of course when in Ireland, you have to do what the Irish do, right?

Patrick Daly:

Yes, of course.

Teddy Bengtsson:

Drink a pint of Guinness.

Patrick Daly:

Yes, of course. Yes, of course. There were a few taken over the weekend as we trounced France in the Sixth Nations.

Teddy Bengtsson:

I can imagine.

Patrick Daly:

… Here in Dublin. So to kick off, Teddy, could you tell me a little bit about your career and how a Swede came to be running a language and localization services company in the south of Spain?

Teddy Bengtsson:

As they say, it’s a long story, and I could probably keep on going for a couple of hours here, but I’ll spare you that. Yeah, so I am originally from Sweden, we grew up there and I studied languages, but not sort of with any particular focus on translation or whatever. I actually wanted to become a journalist when I was younger, but very tricky to get into those kind of studies and in Sweden very few places available every year to study that. So I started working instead and got into working in a ski shop and various things. That was a bit of a hobby of mine at that time, alpine skiing. And then I found myself in Edinburgh, in Scotland. I visited a friend of mine, met some people there and kind of got stuck in Edinburgh. This was before, nevermind pre Brexit, it was pre-EU.

Patrick Daly:

Oh, we’re talking 1970s type?

Teddy Bengtsson:

Yeah, we’re talking about at least early eighties, and of course then you need a work permit to work in the UK in those days, maybe you still do.

Patrick Daly:

Yeah, you probably do again, I don’t know.

Teddy Bengtsson:

Yeah. So anyway, so I found myself doing lots of things. Worked as a courier, I worked behind a bar. Of course, everyone needs to work behind a bar at some point in life. I think that’s a great learning experience. And yeah, just did various bits and pieces. And then one of the things I did as a bit of a side thing was to do some English to Swedish translations, and I was actually also registered as a Swedish teacher with Berlitz the old Berlitz language schools in Edinburgh. And there, they contacted me once and said that they had this guy wanting a weeks intensive course in Swedish. So I signed up for that. And as it turns out, he was a German guy who had been hired to set up the localization team for a company called Aldus who had their European headquarters in Edinburgh, probably best known products from Aldus is the PageMaker which kind of still hangs around there.

So yeah, we had the course, he followed me up the week later, asked if I’d be interested in applying for a job as a Swedish project leader in the localization team. So I said, “Yeah, that sounds cool.” So yeah, that’s how I got into localization. That was back in 1987 so it’s been a while. Yeah, so I spent a number of years with them then I got an opportunity to move over to Microsoft in Dublin, so moved over to Ireland, got close to the Guinness, and spent a few years in Microsoft.

And also then joined Oracle looking after, I kind of combined their vendor management team to look out for their suppliers of language services for their translation and localization needs with their internal quality assurance, language quality assurance team. So yeah, I took over that role, built that up in Oracle in Dublin, kind of for about a seven-year period up to 2003 when I got a crazy idea into my head to start up a company in Argentina selling language services, and services that I had kind of been used to buying for larger organizations with a very, very simple concept. I wanted to create the kind of company that I would like to buy services from. Very simple. But yeah, so I went down to Argentina, set up the company there and took off. And yeah, things have been going well. Of course things always happen, few issues here and there, but we’re still around, we’ll be celebrating our 20th anniversary this year.

Patrick Daly:

And what is localization exactly, and who needs that kind of service? What kind of work does it entail?

Teddy Bengtsson:

Well, localization is effectively a term that was coined by the software industry to represent the translation of the software products. It wasn’t called translation because there was additional work that needed to be done apart from just translation in a traditional sense, since technology is of course very closely involved, there was always needs to adapt the local version of the software to this situation in the target markets. So it’s not only about translation, which is of course just to render a text into in a different language, but there are also many other things to consider for localization.

Patrick Daly:

And is localization today, is it the preserve of wealthy corporates or is it a service that SMEs do use or should avail of? I mention this because I was in Spain a couple of years ago and I was talking to a cooperative, a wine producing cooperative, and they wanted to export to English-speaking countries, and they had produced a leaflet and it had been translated very awkwardly from Spanish. There were lots of literal translations and it was really, really poor and it would actually do them more harm than good to put that out there. So are those types of companies using these types of services, should they, what’s your take on that?

Teddy Bengtsson:

Oh, of course. It’s a kind of big topic, but I’ll try to give you an idea about it. Certainly I think it is important for any company who goes to the trouble of translating or localizing its product or its service to do it right. That’s something I always try to convey when talking to industry people or whatever. Translation is cheap, it only gets expensive when it’s done wrong.

Patrick Daly:

Yes, it can be expensive in reputational terms, can’t it?

Teddy Bengtsson:

Yeah, exactly, exactly. Because you have so many things to think about when you translate your content into a different language because you spend a lot of time typically on creating the content in the first place in whatever that language that might be, if it’s in English or of course could be any language. But you usually spend a lot of time, a lot of effort getting that right. And effectively the same thing needs to be done when you translate it. Of course the source is there, so a lot of the groundwork has been done, so it’s not necessarily as complicated or as time-consuming, but still it needs to be done correctly and it needs to be done by professional people. It happens all too often that companies say, “Oh, so and so is originally from Germany so they can translate into German,” not really recognizing the fact that translation is something that should be done by professionals. It’s not as easy as it seems.

Patrick Daly:

No, it isn’t. And some people have a naive approach… Well, various levels of naivety, some believing that you can literally translate word for word, which is an extreme naivety, but others even who appreciate that you can’t do that sometimes miss the nuances and the cultural references that sometimes are important. Yeah, I guess depending on what the job is, right? Whether it’s a manual, a leaflet, is it a brochure?

Teddy Bengtsson:

these days as well, you have the technology of created additional options in terms of using machine translation, the Google Translates or whatever it might be, which of course again sounds like a very simple and cost-effective proposition. But again, something that everyone needs to recognize that although it is a very useful tool that can be very convenient, it is not a solution per se. It is something that, okay, you can use machine translation, but then you need to edit it, to post-edit the work to have it reach a quality that is right for the intended purpose. Of course if the intended purpose is simply to help someone to understand what something is all about without really giving any significance to sort of accuracy, correctness, appropriateness, all of those kind of good things, then it’s fine, you can use it for that. But if it is going to be used in any way commercially, then it needs to be reviewed and checked and corrected by a professional linguist.

Patrick Daly:

And are your clients, are they companies outside the Spanish and Portuguese speaking worlds who are looking to do business there, or are they companies from those language regions looking to do business elsewhere or are they both?

Teddy Bengtsson:

The vast majority of our clients are sort of international companies, typically most often with the source material in English, who is wanting to reach the Latin American audience in particular. That’s kind of what we specialize in. You mentioned there of course, I am based in Spain, but again, we set up the company in Argentina that is still sort of the hub for our production activities in Buenos Aires in Argentina. We also have a production office in Brazil. And I’m being the remote worker even before the recent times with remote working and hybrid work and all you name it, I spent about 10 years in Buenos Aires after setting up the company there, but then came back to Europe because I’m Swedish, my wife is Irish so we just needed to be a little bit closer to our families. Argentina is a great place, but a very, very long way away from most other places apart from Latin America.

Patrick Daly:

It is, it is.

Teddy Bengtsson:

But yeah, so our customers are mainly companies who are active in the Latin American market or reaching out to that particular region.

Speaker 1:

93.9 Dublin South FM.

Patrick Daly:

What’s the sales process? How do you acquire and how do you retain clients?

Teddy Bengtsson:

That’s a good question. I mean, we kind of have taken a little bit of a different approach to sales and marketing than most other companies. Again, it kind of stems back from what I said before about wanting to create the kind of company that I’d like to buy services from, having been used to buying these services. And whenever I went to visit a potential new supplier during my days on the client side of the business, I always wanted to see an organization that was focused on production because that’s where I wanted to spend my money. So we’ve taken a slightly unusual approach in that we have never had a sales organization session. I’m sort of doing sales, I guess, as a part-time activity, but effectively we try to grow our business by doing a great job for our clients, building a reputation in the industry and working, I guess you can call it a little bit more indirectly with sales than directly.

Patrick Daly:

Interesting. So at this juncture, 2023, looking into 2024, we’ve come out the back of COVID and lots of disruption and now this war in Europe, and there’s all sorts of instability out there. So what are the major business issues and challenges that your particular business and your sector are facing now looking into the near term future?

Teddy Bengtsson:

I mean, in some ways it was quite interesting actually before the whole COVID thing started, we had kind of in the company already applied sort of a hybrid work scenario for our employees since we had our main production hub in Buenos Aires, which is a big city, and it is a real challenge for people to get around and to organize their sort of private lives around work. And whether it’s commutes or whatever it might be, it is quite complicated. And since translation, what we do is something quite… What should we call it? It is kind of quite easy to deal with from working remotely. We can do it quite well.

So we already had a good few years before the pandemic started, we actually gave our employees the possibility of working from home up to two days a week. So when it happened, it was kind of easier for us to adapt than many others since we already had this in place, we had the systems in place internally to support that type of a work model, and people were used to it already. So it wasn’t such a great shock to us as it was for many other companies.

Patrick Daly:

And you kind of alluded to this earlier, what do you see as the role of technology automation and AI in the translation and localization business, and how will it affect the types of work that the humans will do in this type of space?

Teddy Bengtsson:

For sure. I mean, we are seeing technology advance very, very quickly and for sure it is going to happen. It’s already having, and it’s had for a number of years, a great impact on what we do and how we work. I mentioned machine translation before, it is something that, again, we’ve been quite fortunate in that way since we started working with machine translation sort of very shortly after we started business, we started with machine translation back in 2004 simply because we had a client who had a very serious machine translation program internally. So we worked with them in terms of setting the engines up and preparing them to put them into production and that type of thing. So we’re kind of lucky to get into that space very early.

So yes, we have a good sound knowledge and experience in working with the machine translation technology. And again, it’s one of those things where you have to have define how you’re going to do it. I think there are companies out there who use machine translation and then post-edit it and call it translation and don’t suggest that they are using machine translation. But in our case, I mean, we offer machine translation post-editing as a service. So we kind of open with how we process their material quite simply. And in certain cases, it’s very feasible, it’s a good solution. But again, it has to be with a full understanding that that is how we’re processing the material.

Patrick Daly:

What about the topic of language learning and language acquisition within corporates? Is the attitude for international corporates that, listen, English is the international language and everybody who’s the manager has to learn that, or are they being a bit more sophisticated about it? And is that an area that you guys get involved in or that you have an opinion on?

Teddy Bengtsson:

Yeah, I mean, of course, I mean it is very common in many companies that English is kind of the lingua franca that is being used within the organization. And in fact, even in our company where we had all our activities, all our production in Bueno Aires to start with and subsequently in Brazil, we’ve always used English as our company language because we are working in this particular business with language, we need to be in contact with customers on an ongoing basis. So it’s kind of logical for us to work with English as sort of a normal communications language internally as well as externally.

But yes, to go back to your question there, I think yes, for sure it is important that you have sort of a way to communicate efficiently within the organization. But I think there is also a strong focus these days on the realization that there are other languages out there and in order to be successful in foreign markets, you need to translate your information or localize your products. Because there is plenty of research out there that is confirming that buyers of services or products in a particular language market, that they are far more likely to buy a product if it is available with information in their own language and their native language. So I think companies are realizing in order to be successful in foreign markets, they need to customize their products for those particular markets to be gaining optimal success.

Patrick Daly:

And what do you think is the future of this sector? Where are things going?

Teddy Bengtsson:

Well, I think as we said before, AI and the technology solutions will continue to have a great impact, and it’s probably going to go more and more rapidly as we assume forward. But at the same time, we are generating much more information all the time. So I think it’s just a question of, I guess you can call it, we need to adapt in terms of the services we provide and how we provide them. I think there will continue to be a definite need for humans to interact in that process. And so it’s just a question of adapting to how technology advances to optimize your processes and figure out how can you make this as efficient as we possibly can. It will, and it already is, it’s leading to us being more productive and kind of just be able to do more, produce more with the same amount of effort, but maybe by working differently.

Patrick Daly:

Interesting. So in the last few minutes, I might just change tack and maybe just ask you a few questions about yourself and your life outside of work. So when you’re not working, what kind of things do you like to do in terms of hobbies and other interests and so on?

Teddy Bengtsson:

Okay. I’ve always had a sort of bit of a interest in sports or whatever. And I’ve been doing a lot of sports from tennis, squash, football, volleyball, fencing, you name it.

Patrick Daly:

Do you still ski?

Teddy Bengtsson:

These are all very kind of active sports. And these days, the only thing I really do in terms of a sports hobby is I still go skiing at least once a year or something like that. But otherwise, I get out on the golf course, that’s about the extent of my sporting activity these days.

Patrick Daly:

Have you skied in Sierra Nevada?

Teddy Bengtsson:

Oh yeah, we usually go up sort of for a long weekend or a week every year in the winter season. It’s such a… I don’t know, you feel kind of very spoiled when you’re in the southern Spain and you can jump into the car and you can go from being on the beach to being on the ski slope in about three hours or something like that, less if you’re closer to the Sierra Nevada side, but still quite remarkable.

Patrick Daly:

Yeah, yeah, no, I’ve been telling some of my skiing buddies here that you can do that, and they kind of don’t really believe me but it’s true.

Teddy Bengtsson:

It’s true, it’s true.

Patrick Daly:

So why did you pick Jerez, or I guess in the English speaking world, this is Jerez or where Sherry comes from. So why did you pick that place and what are the advantages and disadvantages of that location?

Teddy Bengtsson:

All right, yeah, it’s a bit of a story to it, actually. As I said, we’ve been in Bueno Aires for almost 10 years, and the plan was always for my wife and myself, to go back to Europe at some point since we have family here, et cetera. But we weren’t quite ready for an Irish or a Swedish climate, so we kind of thought Spain might be a good idea. And since we also got used to talking Spanish when we were in Buenos Aires, so we got on quite well with the language. So we thought, yeah, Spain could be a good idea, good weather, good food, good wine, not so bad.

But then we were in that strange situation of not having a fixed destination, we could go anywhere. We just decided on Spain, but could be anywhere. So we embarked on what I typically refer to as a process of elimination. And we started off by eliminating Madrid and Barcelona. Great cities, love them both, but after 10 years in Buenos Aires, it kind of felt we’ve done our big city living. Then we disqualified the northern part of Spain again, beautiful territory, beautiful part of the country there, but the climate is too Irish.

Patrick Daly:

Yeah, I lived there for 10 years myself. I know exactly what it’s like.

Teddy Bengtsson:

So you know what it’s like, and you know the Irish climate as well, right? And then we disqualified the whole sort of coastal stretch kind of between Valencia and Malaga because we wanted to experience Spain, Spain proper. And of course, the whole coastal stretch there is very influenced by tourism. And yeah, we just kind of wanted the sort of a real Spanish experience. And then we were largely guided by finding schools that we thought were suitable for our kids. And yeah, we explored a little bit around visited schools or whatever, and eventually we found a school that we liked in Jerez de la Frontera. And at the time, they only had a place available for one of our two sons, and we were visiting another location when I received a message saying that this school in Jerez which we liked, a place that opened up for our other son as well. And we just took that as a sign and decided there and then that’s it, decision made.

Patrick Daly:

And that part of Spain is very Spanish in that kind of stereotypical way, isn’t it? The music and food, the architecture, the whole thing, yeah?

Teddy Bengtsson:

That’s it. Yeah, I mean, it’s really famous for three things. It’s famous for the Sherry wine, of course, as you mentioned before, horses, the famous dancing horses, the riding school in Vienna actually came out as an idea from the school here in Cádiz, and Flamenco music being the third one.

Patrick Daly:

Exactly, exactly. So where can people find out more about RTS and the services that you provide?

Teddy Bengtsson:

You can find that out either via me or you can find me on LinkedIn, that’s very easy, I’m available there. Or you can find information also on our website, which is roundtablestudio.net, that’s where you find sort of some basic information about the company and our services.

Patrick Daly:

Excellent. Well, many thanks, Teddy, for being here with us today. It’s been an absolute pleasure to chat with you again.

Teddy Bengtsson:

Really, really nice talking to you, Patrick.

Patrick Daly:

Thanks also to our listeners for tuning in again today and be aware that if you enjoyed this episode, you can find a full series of over well over 100 episodes at this stage on Interlink’s Spotify, Apple Podcast, Acast, and other major platforms. So until next time, keep well and stay safe.

Subscribe On:

Subscribe On:

Patrick Daly Interlinks Podcast

Interlinks is a programme about the connections, relationships and supply chains, that underpin the globalisation of our modern world.

In each programme, we interview people from around the world including entrepreneurs, executives, academics, diplomats and politicians to get their unique perspective on globalisation as it has affected them both personally and professionally.

There is a little bit of history, a dash of economics, a sprinkling of business and an overlay of personal experience both from me and from my interviewees from around the world.

Localization is Much More than Translation
21st Century Warehousing: Strategy and Operation

Download Your Free Book

21st Century Warehousing: Strategy and Operation  

Lets Talk

Send an Email. All fields with an * are required.