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Sirpa Seppälä

Sirpa Kristiina Seppälä
Born April 3, 1962, Helsinki

Bachelor of Arts, 1996 (Western and Southern Slavic Languages and Cultures), University of Helsinki
Travel guide foundation course 1994, Käpylä Night School
Conference interpretation trainer course 2004, University of Helsinki Centre for Continuing Education, European Commission interpretation service SCIC.

Several short interpretation courses organised by various organisations
Several courses for travel industry professionals organised by various organisations in Finland and the Czech Republic

Language industry entrepreneur 2004– Sirpukka
Worked as a freelancer in different positions in the language industry 1990–2004

Board member of Helsinki Tourist Guides 1995–1996
Board member of the Finn-Czech Society 2004–2014
Member of the MaPa project

Photo: Kimmo Eskola
Written by Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta
Translated by
Matthew Billington

Language Industry is all about Variety

It was already during her student days that Sirpa Seppälä began working at the Seurasaari Foundation. She helped organise events and make brochures, and maintain the foundations contacts with Czechoslovakia.

– Through the Seurasaari Foundation, I came to utilise my language skills in the travel industry. Between 1990 and 1993 I worked as a museum guide in Tamminiemi Villa, the official residence of the former President of Finland Urho Kekkonen. In addition to guiding visitors in Finnish, I used English, German and, when necessary, Czech. I completed a course to become a travel guide in 1994. Soon after I began working as a tourist guide in Helsinki using Czech, as they were in need of someone who could speak the language. Ever since, the Czech language has been responsible for a large portion of my income.

Seppälä worked as a freelancer for over ten years before she started her own business. Five of those years she had spent as a travel guide in Prague. She came to realise that she did not need the stability that fixed hours and permanent employment brought. She had also seen how an academic business was run in her family, and the prospect of starting her own did not frighten her.

– After ‘practising’ a few years, I saw that it was perfectly possible to make it as a language industry entrepreneur in Finland. Not once have I regretted my decision. This is clearly my thing.

Every year at the University of Helsinki, the departments of the Faculty of Arts organise working life orientation courses, where alumni share their experiences with the students of their field; Sirpa Seppälä has been a frequent guest speaker at the working life course of the Department of Modern Languages.

– I always emphasise to the students that there should be enough variety in their repertoire. It is difficult to make it as an entrepreneur if you only have one language and only one field. My languages are Czech, Slovak and English, and previously Dutch. One strong mainstream language and a selection of less spoken ones is a good combination when working with languages.

Seppälä does pretty much anything language-related through her business: she interprets, translates and teaches. Travel-related work is also remains part of the package. In addition to tours in Finland, such as at Suomenlinna or Parliament House, she also travels with Finnish tourists abroad, mainly to the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but also to Germany and Iceland.

– Translation takes perhaps the least of my time. There are not that many requests to translate Czech and Slovak texts, and the work usually comes from those countries, so I have to settle for local wages. Fortunately, I have a strong grasp of English. I do enjoy translating, but of all the language related tasks it is the least to my liking. My strength is definitely interpreting.

Working as a travel guide has many sides to it. Bechyně, Czech Republic in 2012.


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