In Finland, the paths to qualifications as a language specialist are third-level education and vocational training. An interest in languages and cultures and broad general knowledge are essential.
Neither translator nor interpreter are statutorily protected titles; anyone can practise these professions. Therefore, not all professionals hold a qualification in those fields. Education nevertheless builds a strong professional foundation for those who do.
Aspiring translators, interpreters and other language specialists have many different options when it comes to their education. Read more about them below!
Translation sciences in universities
Universities around the country offer master’s programmes in translation: the University of Helsinki, the University of Tampere, the University of Turku and the University of Eastern Finland’s Joensuu campus. Some introductory courses are available at the bachelor’s level, but most of the skills are achieved officially in master’s studies. Universities also offer courses on interpretation as part of the programmes.
Students can specialize in subfields of translations. Those include law and administration, technology and economy, audio-visual media, literature, terminology, and technical communication. Recently machine translation and artificial neural networks have gained popularity, especially as research subjects.
Authorized translator status
Some official documents, particularly across borders, require translation by a translator who holds an authorization in that specific language pair. Different legal proceedings and authorities may require the use of authorized translators. Translators earn authorized translator status in Finland by passing an exam and applying for authorization from the Finnish National Agency for Education. In the exam, translators demonstrate their knowledge of the relevant legislation and professional skills and their ability to translate two texts in their chosen language pair, of which one must be a language of Finland (Finnish, Swedish or one of the Sámi languages).
A translator can apply for and receive authorization if
- they have passed the authorized translation exam, or
- they hold a third-level degree that includes at least 60 ETCS of translation studies and 6 ETCS of studies in authorized translations, or
- they hold official translator’s status earned before the current system was implemented in 2008,
and otherwise fulfil the prerequisites laid down in the Act (1231/2007) and Decree (1232/2007) on Authorized Translators.
Most formal training in interpretation takes place in universities, including universities of applied sciences. Some specialized degrees require a competence-based qualification. Read more about them below.
Public service interpreters earn their qualifications from universities. Institutions that offer translation programmes also offer interpreting courses in the languages they have available. The Diaconia University of Applied Sciences (Diak) focuses on non-European languages. Diak also offers a qualification in public service interpreting. Courses cover areas of conference, public service, and court interpreting. Students learn to interpret both consecutively and simultaneously.
Sign language interpreting
Sign language interpreters are trained in universities of applied science in Helsinki and Kuopio: the Humak University of Applied Sciences (Humak) and Diaconia University of Applied Sciences (Diak). The qualification takes four years. The goal is for the students to acquire a strong working proficiency in Finnish and Finnish Sign Language as well as knowledge of the different language cultures.
Vocational qualification in public service interpreting
The vocational qualification in public service interpreting is a competence-based qualification intended for practising interpreters. People who are interested in working as interpreters and have a strong command of spoken and written Finnish and another working language can also apply for the qualification.
The qualification consists of five compulsory and one elective modules. The full qualification is 150 ETCS.
Specialized vocational qualification in court interpreting
The specialized vocational qualification in court interpreting (oikeustulkkauksen erikoistumiskoulutus) is a joint project of four universities. Univerity of Tampere, University of Helsinki, Humak University of Applied Sciences and Diaconia University of Applied Sciences. The qualification first saw light in 2018.
The qualification consists of 40 ETCSs and is designed as an additional qualification for professional interpreters with an existing diploma. People who take the exam are qualified to apply for inclusion in the register of court interpreters. The qualification is subject to tuition fees.
Other qualifications for language specialists
Language specialists come from a variety of backgrounds and one of the things that usually most connect them is their qualification. In Finnish universities one can graduate from a plethora of programmes. Studies consist of topics such as philology, language learning and teaching, applied linguistics, literature and discourse studies.
As demand for competent language professionals increases, universities have also started to offer more specialized degrees, such as MA programmes in technical communication.
What is unique about general linguistic degrees is that they offer a great deal of freedom for the students. This is very typical in many humanities fields in Finland. In most cases in universities, students in languages start together, get to know the basics of many different disciplines, and start specializing in their master’s. This gives all students, including the ones deciding on translation, the opportunity to try and broaden their horizon professionally.
You can read more about different career paths of language specialists here.