Finland as a Trailblazer in Sign Language Interpretation

Open UAS Interpretation Courses
Neljä piirrettyä kättä heiluu eri suuntiin. Taustalla puhekuplia.

Interpreting Enables Linguistic Rights

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 enable linguistic rights and accessibility as well as equal participation in society. The interpreter enables equality and equal opportunities in everyday interaction.

The interpreter 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, technology use and development for the needs of interpreters and customers, multimodal interaction competence, and international competence are Humak’s competence areas.

Interpretation technical competence refers to various equipment and application skills as well as to the understanding of digitization affecting the working environment of an interpreter constantly.

International Cooperation

Since 2009, we have cooperated with the Heriot-Watt University (Scotland) and the University of Applied Sciences Magdeburg-Stendal (Germany) in the international master’s programme Eumasli (European Master in Sign Language Interpreting).

In the years 2016-2019 we coordinated the Google-funded international Visual Sign News Project which developed a visual news service for the deaf who cannot read and do not speak the sign language of their own country.

We Train Experts of Linguistic Accessibility

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. The latter are trained for example to international assignments, for deafblind interpretation and as translators.

Humak has also worked on reviving the endangered Finland-Swedish Sign Language and thus we have trained interpreters proficient in said language.

National Network

The key competence area of sign language interpreting is in close cooperation with Diak, which also educates interpreters in Finland. This is apparent for example from their shared Finnish-language master’s degree programme.

We work with other organisations to develop and promote linguistic accessibility. We develop the field with our projects and through various studying and internship environments related to our degree studies. Our partners have included for example the National Theatre, the Children and Youth Foundation and the Helsinki Cultural Center Stoa.

One of the owners of Suomen Humanistinen Ammattikorkeakoulu Oy (Humak) is the Association of the Deaf. Our headmaster’s office and the Helsinki RDI-centre work in the same building with a central organisational partner of the field which enables has to have daily contact with the communities and culture of the deaf to further our understanding and competence.