Seitsemän kuukautta myöhemmin / Seven months later…

It is now 7 months since I took the YKI test and the last few days have shown me that my Finnish learning journey is far from over.

I am a Doctoral student (tohtoriopiskelija) and I need to apply for funding. My supervisor recommended the Karjalaisen Kulttuurin Edistämissäätiö (Karelian Cultural Fund) as a place to apply. One problem. The application and all supporting documents had to be in Finnish.

Doing this application (which I have just sent) really brought home to me the difference between being able to use Finnish in everyday life, which is what the YKI test should test you on, and trying to write an academic text in Finnish and translate all my wooly theoretical ideas from English to Finnish.

The first thing I tried was to just copy and paste everything from my english language Research Plan (RP) into Google translate (GT) in big chunks. DO NOT DO THIS! GT will just mangle the text beyond all recognition! GT is fine for translating individual words and simple sentences but it doesn’t usually get the case endings right. A better online tool to use is Wiki Sanakirja as this gives you all the inflections (in the table labelled taivutus). However you can only translate one word at a time so for a 6 -page research plan that would take forever! And translating word by word, even if you get all the endings right probably means you lose a lot of the ‘sense’ of the text. (disclaimer: I am -obviously- not a translator so just guessing here! If any translators are reading this please comment on this below!)

After its GT scrambling I gave the text to M to read. He couldn’t make any sense of it and after many anguished cries of “Mitä sinä haluat sanoo?!” (“What do you want to say?”) we had to give up on his helping me. We tried not looking at the messed up GTed text and me explaining my ideas in simple language which he then translated. This was also very slow and frustrating because, even though M’s English is very good, he didn’t understand my ideas about mental borders, memories, postmemory etc as I expressed them in English and, frankly, I think he thought my whole research idea and theoretical basis was nonsense! With M we managed to correct maybe 2/6 pages.

Alone the next day I went back to basics and just wrote in Finnish in my own words, ie not trying to translate from the English version of my RP at all. This worked better but I was aware I was now using very simple sentences and probably losing the nuances of my argument and reasoning.

Today, I was saved. I went to see my supervisor Kimmo who is very familiar with my research and who re-wrote and corrected my 6 page text and was nice enough not to say what a mess or how ‘dumbed down’ it was. I have now sent my application and am happy to have a decent Finnish version of my RP for future applications.

Lesson learnt: Academic Finnish is a whole new ball game compared with the (relative) simplicity of everyday Finnish!



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