Experiences of the first two years by Ari Penttilä. The full text (in Finnish) is available in the SKTL’s latest issue of their newsletter.
The latest Act and Decree on Authorized Translators entered into force at the beginning of 2008. So far, two examinations have been arranged according to the new system: one in December 2008 and one in November 2009. The first examination tested candidates in translation from foreign languages into domestic languages (Finnish, Swedish, Sami) or between domestic languages. Altogether 85 candidates took the examination in 13 language pairs. In all, 23 candidates passed the examination.
In the second examination, the direction was from domestic languages into foreign languages or between two domestic languages. Altogether 107 candidates took the examination in 25 language pairs. In all, 16 examinations were approved.
The revision of the examination system had a number of goals, including the following:
1. The principal goal of the reform was to ensure the availability of high-quality, legally valid translations in the official languages of the European Union, in languages spoken by immigrants living in Finland, and in the principal languages outside Europe.
2. The test situation should correspond to the translator’s normal working environment. In other words, the use of a computer and the Internet must be possible. In addition, the examination was supplemented with a new segment: a test measuring candidates’ knowledge of the authorized translator’s professional practices and the relevant legislation. This testing is done by means of a multiple-choice questionnaire.
3. The monitoring of authorized translators was to be made more effective. To this end, the authorized translator’s right is renewed every five years. This renewal does not mean that translators would have to pass another test; instead, they need to demonstrate that they have worked as translators or have otherwise maintained their professional skills.
How has the new system then met these goals? The most obvious change has taken place in terms of the physical arrangements for the examination. Candidates work on computers equipped with an Internet link. For the arrangers of the examination, this has meant new challenges, especially in cases when the target language is not written in Latin characters and the keyboard settings require special arrangements. In the main, however, the arrangements have been successful, thanks to the personnel of the universities that have provided the premises and equipment for the examinations. The new test segment measuring candidates’ knowledge of professional practices has also shown that candidates differ widely as concerns their familiarity with the various aspects of authorized translators’ work.
Organizing the authorized translator’s examination is naturally only one component in the more extensive issue of ensuring the availability of legally valid translations. Additional education (including translator training) would also be needed within a wider range of languages. Similarly, it will take some time before we have gathered enough experience of the more stringent monitoring system.
The feature that has aroused the most curiosity after the Act entered into force is the option of applying for the authorized translator’s right by virtue of university-level translator education, without a separate examination. The Examination Board has received numerous inquiries about this issue. However, since the preconditions for this option are relatively strict, so far very few people have been granted the authorized translator’s right on the basis of education only. The primary route for gaining the right is still to pass the separate examination.