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Marjut Vehkanen

Marjut Helena Vehkanen
Born February 2, 1947, Kuopio

PhD 2015 (public defence of thesis 24 October 2015), University of Helsinki (Finnish language)
Doctoral dissertation Kieliopista kommunikaatioon. Suomi toisena ja vieraana kielenä -oppikirjat vuosina 1866–1953 (‘From grammar to communication. Textbooks for Finnish as a second and foreign language in the years 1866–1953’)
Master of Arts 1973, University of Tampere (Finnish Language, Finnish History)

Studies in Germany and Hungary:
Goethe University Frankfurt, 1971–73
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest 1975–77
Secretary General 2007–15, CIMO, Unit for Finnish Culture and Language

Editor in chief of the newspaper Aikuisten yliopisto 2000-07
Planner, project manager, training manager and deputy director 1994–2007, University of Helsinki, Vantaa Institute for Continuing Education (Luxembourg, European Parliament 1995, language training for translators; EU Commission training for interpreters 1997–98, 2004–05; continuing education for teachers of Finnish as a second language, 1994–2002)
Teacher of Finnish as a second language 1991–94, University of Helsinki Language Centre
Director and teacher of Helsinki Finnish language and culture summer courses, and teacher of a Finnish as a second language summer course for Nordic teachers and public officials 1990–96, Ministry for Education
Lecturer in Finnish Language and culture 1983–87, Moscow State University
Comprehensive and upper-secondary school teacher in Finland 1979–83
Foreign affairs Secretary 1973–74, OAJ (Trade Union of Education in Finland)

Awards and honours:
OJA Bronze Medal with silver sprig, 1996
OJA Bronze Medal, 1995
Honorary member of Suomi toisena kielenä -opettajat ry (‘Association of teachers of Finnish as a second language’) 2015

Positions of responsibility:
Board member 1993-96, chairman 1993–96, Ulkomaanlehtoriyhdistys ry (‘Association of foreign lecturers’).
Deputy board member 1993–1996, Yliopistolehtoriliitto ry (‘Union of University Lecturers’)
Deputy member of the Higher Education Council of the Trade Union of Education in Finland (OAJ) 1998–2004
Board member 1998–2004, Parent Council of the Finnish Russian School
Member of the Board of Directors 1999–2004, Finnish-Russian School
Deputy board member of the Finnish Institute in the Middle East 2004–15
President 2013–25, past president 2015–16, Inner Wheel Finland

Photo: Sasa Tkalcan
Written by Marjut Vehkanen (Kaija Hartikainen, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Special Training for Conference Interpreters

When Finland joined the European Union in 1995, Finnish became an official language recognised in all member states. The Union’s administration needed both translators and interpreters. Their training was undertaken with the support of the European Commission and the Ministry of Education.

Before Finland’s terms as President of the Council of the European Union, two special training programmes for conference interpreters were organised. The training lasted over two years. We who organised the training at the Institute for Continuing Education thought it was a dream come true: the budget was sufficient, the best teachers from the University volunteered, and the students were elite interpreters for the European Union, taking Finnish language and culture as their fifth or sixth language and moving to Finland to start their studies of our language from scratch. The students spent 4 weeks in Finland and 2 weeks interpreting at the European Commission. This pattern continued all through their training.

In the first training programme organised between 1997 and 1998, there were over 20 professionals from various language backgrounds interpreting Finnish into their native tongue. The second special training of conference interpreters concentrated on training experts on new official European languages (for example Hungarian, Czech, Polish and Estonian).

With these training programmes, The University of Helsinki significantly improved the status of the Finnish language within the European Union. The seven stylish interpretation booths that are still used to train interpreters in Lecture Hall 1 of the Metsätalo building are a concrete reminder of those days. The booths are of course named after the seven brothers who appear in the novel of that title by Aleksis Kivi.

Before I was involved in the training of conference interpreters, some of my work included being a teacher of Finnish as a second and foreign language in Finland and abroad. Moreover, I had led continuing education for teachers of Finnish as a second language programme. These experiences gave me the confidence and courage to take on the long-term and high-budget training of interpreters.

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