Go Back

Erja Tenhonen-Lightfoot

Erja Aulikki Tenhonen-Lightfoot
Born 8.12.1960, Tohmajärvi

Näyttötutkintomestari (Course for those working with competence-based qualifications) 2011, Hame University of Applied Sciences
Conference interpreter 1997, University of Turku
Licentiate (applied linguistics) 1993, University of Vaasa
Master of Arts (translation and interpreting) 1988, University of Joensuu

University teacher of interpretation 2011–, University of Helsinki
Part-time teacher of interpreting and translation 1997–2011, University of Helsinki
Chief examiner of competence-based qualifications for community interpreters 2010–, Amiedu/ Tampere Adult Education Centre
Lecturer of interpretation 2003–06, University of Helsinki/ Palmenia
Coordinator of the project Passiivisuomi 1995–96, University of Helsinki/ Vantaa Institute for Continuing Education
Project researcher in applied linguistics 1990–92, Academy of Finland/ University of Vaasa

Entrepreneur 2002–, Sanas interpreting services
Freelance legal interpreter in district courts and courts of appeal 2002–
Entrepreneur and coordinating interpreter 1998–2002, Cross Border Communications Oy
Freelance conference interpreter in every organ of the EU

Photo: Johanna Hirvonen
Written by Tomas Sjöblom
Translated by Matthew Billington

Mechanical aids in interpreting

There's been much talk recently about machine translation and interpreting. Erja Tenhonen-Lightfoot thinks the new technologies could be practical in certain uses.

“The more a situation follows a fixed format and content, the better machine interpreting could work. Take weather reports: they always follow the same pattern. In Canada, they've been using machine translation on weather reports for more than twenty years.”

The more informal and less pattern bound the context, the worse the fit for machine translation and interpreting Ms Tenhonen-Lightfoot finds.

“Such situations often lead to quite comical and absurd results and major misunderstandings. You get misunderstandings even with human translators and interpreters, not to speak of machines. Still, I'm not totally opposed to machine interpreting. I think you could well let machines handle the ‘boring and routine’ jobs and leave the more challenging and enjoyable jobs to humans.”

Ms Tenhonen-Lightfoot thinks tools for machine translation and interpreting could be useful aids. There are already automatic speech to text literation systems.

“The International Criminal Court in the Hague is already using a system that converts speech spoken into microphones into text on a screen in the interpreting booths. So there are many potential uses. There are many risks, but machine interpreting aids could also promise many benefits.”

A simultaneous interpreter's station at the European Court of Justice. There's been discussion in the EU about whether to adopt a literation system such as that used by the International Criminal Court. Source: Wikimedia Commons / Stefan64. Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0.


Go Back