Interpretation between the Nordic languages is a matter of course today within Nordic co-operation. However, it is no more than thirty years since, after much deliberation, the Nordic Council’s annual sessions began using simultaneous interpreters. Marjatta Liljeström, Head of the Nordic Interpretation and Translation unit, drew attention to this point at a conference in London at the end of last week.
It was during the anniversary Session in Helsinki in 1977, as much as 25 years after the Nordic Council was founded, that the Finnish speaking members were given the opportunity to follow the debate in their mother tongue. The Finnish Delegation had initiated the process a couple of years earlier. Amongst those who had signed the initiative back then was MP Erkki Tuomioja, this year’s President of the Nordic Council.
“It was several years before further progress was made. At the beginning interpretation only took place during the Nordic Council’s annual Sessions and the language combination was limited to Finnish-Scandinavian-Finnish,” said Liljeström at the conference. Simultaneous interpretation has, however, slowly become a natural and integrated part of Nordic co-operation – today there is interpretation at a great number of meetings and between many languages. In addition to the Nordic Council Sessions other joint meetings such as committee meetings and party group meetings have interpretation as required. Interpretation is used to a great extent also at the Nordic Council of Ministers ministerial meetings, meetings of senior officials, conferences and other events.
Interpretation is done chiefly within the Nordic languages, i.e. Finnish, Icelandic and the Scandinavian languages. However, interpretation to Russian and not least English has, over time, become more usual as a result of closer co-operation with the Baltic States, Russia and the EU. The theme for the conference in London, organized from 6 – 8 March, was interpretation and translation of Nordic languages. The conference was partly financed by the Nordic Cultural Fund and the Nordic foreign ministries.
The Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers have had a joint interpretation and translation unit in Copenhagen since 1999. The unit employs four full-time members of staff and a large number of interpreters and translators on freelance basis.