Finland as a pioneer in the interpretation of sign languages

Neljä piirrettyä kättä heiluu eri suuntiin. Taustalla puhekuplia.

Interpreting Enables Linguistic Rights to be Realized

Finland is a pioneer both in the training of interpreters and in the fact that the hearing impaired, the visually impaired and the speech impaired are guaranteed by law a subjective right to an interpreter. Interpretation services promotes the encounter of diversity and the inclusion of people with special linguistic support, as well as the realization of the right to self-determination and linguistic rights in society nationally and internationally.

The use and development of technology for the needs of interpreters and clients is constantly increasing, which is why it is so important that we invest our efforts in it.

Interpretation is needed in all areas of human life: at work, in private life, in studies, in hobbies and in social participation. The aim of the interpreter’s activities is to enable communication and to promote linguistic accessibility, equality and self-determination in everyday interaction situations.

The Interpreting Service is Based on Law

The interpretation service is based on laws that guarantee the right to interpretation for the hearing impaired. Interpretation services enable the realization of linguistic rights and linguistic accessibility, as well as equal participation in the activities of society. The role of interpreters is to enable the interaction between the hearing, deaf, hard of hearing and deafblind in all kinds of encounters, both nationally and internationally.

The interpreter’s degree is knowledge-based. The education is based on four key areas of expertise:

  1. the professional skills of the interpreter,
  2. interpreting skills and working language skills,
  3. interaction skills
  4. cultural and operating environment expertise.

In addition to these, multimodal interaction competence, technology competence and international competence are Humak’s cross-cutting competence objectives in Bachelor’s degree Interpreting.

Multimodal interaction skills expanding communication

Multimodal interaction competence is based on an understanding of the diverse nature of interaction. In interaction, meanings are conveyed through both linguistic and non-linguistic means, such as gestures, gaze, and images.

In Humak’s Interpreting bachelor’s degree, technological competence means both the management of tools and applications and an understanding of how digitalisation affects the interpreter’s work environments in ever-changing ways.

International cooperation

Examples of international cooperation:

  • Our international master’s program in sign language and interpreting, Eumasli (European Master in Sign Language Interpreting), has been implemented together with Heriot-Watt University (Scotland) and the University of Applied Sciences Magdeburg-Stendal (Germany) since 2009.
  • Humak coordinates the Google-funded international Visual Sign News project (2016-2019), which developed a new type of visual news service for the deaf who are illiterate and do not speak the sign language of their own country. The project made it possible to bring news coverage to the deaf who were not reached by traditional news channels. The content and meanings of the news were conveyed to the viewers in a variety of ways, through several means of communication and interaction. The project served as a unique operating environment for both the project staff and the students who completed their internship in the project.

We train language accessibility experts

Our interpreting and linguistic degree produces interpreters who are experts in interpretation, translation, human interaction and linguistic accessibility. Our graduates are experts who can act as interpreters for deaf people of different ages and for sign language clients in a variety of multilingual and multicultural operating environments.

During the studies, there is an opportunity to qualify as an interpreter for other client groups as well, such as the hard of hearing, the deaf and the deafblind. Humak is the only educational institution in Finland that trains deaf interpreters and interpreters of Finnish-Swedish sign language.

Training Deaf Interpreters

Deaf interpreters are trained for international assignments, deafblind interpreting and translators. The expertise of deaf interpreters is particularly valuable now that the EU Accessibility Directive is in force. The aim should be to make digital public sector texts also available in sign language. Deaf translators play a significant role in this translation work.

Humak has been training deaf interpreters since 1998. This uniqueness in the Finnish field of education has opened up opportunities for international cooperation for us. In 2015-2018, we were implementing the Erasmus + project Developing Deaf Interpreting, which focused on the training of deaf interpreters in Europe. The project was the first international project focusing on deaf interpreters.

Reviving Finnish-Swedish Sign Language

Finnish-Swedish sign language is a very endangered language. Humak has implemented two projects in 2015-2020, which are part of the work to revive Finnish-Swedish sign language. In the Lev i vårt språk (Livs I) training project (2015-2017), language expert training was planned and implemented, and teaching materials were collected. In the follow-up project (Livs II, in 2018-2020), Finnish-Swedish sign language interpreter training was planned and implemented.

Examples of Cooperation Projects

Humak’s Interpretation and Linguistic Accessibility training contributes to the promotion of linguistic accessibility in the field of languages. This is reflected in the project activities as well as in the various study and internship environments related to degree studies, in which cooperation is established with many actors who enable the linguistic accessibility of sign languages.

  1. For several years, the plays of the National Theatre have been interpreted into Finnish sign language as student work.
  2. In the Read Hour campaign organized with the Children and Youth Foundation at the Helsinki Central Library in Oodi, interpreting students interpreted not only into Finnish sign language but also Finnish-Swedish sign language.
  3. In cooperation with the Association of the Deaf, Helsinki Cultural Center Stoa and Humak, an annual HELSign event is organized, where deaf and hearing artists meet and offer sign language speakers a cultural event in their own mother tongue and get the general population and the sign language community to talk to each other.

All this and much more is being done in Interpretation and Linguistic Accessibility Training at Humak. The sign languages ​​and interpretation of our skills, as well as linguistic accessibility, are an integral part of our daily lives.