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Get to Know Us | Translation Service

7 August 2022

On International Translation Day, we interviewed Hannes Snellman’s very own translators. Lawyer-Linguist Outi Talola, who heads the team, together with Legal Translators Irene Hytönen and Lotta Tuure are the invisible ghostwriters who, day in day out, make sure that our messages are delivered to the clients in a due and clear manner and who are there to guarantee the good quality of our communication.

Today is International Translation Day. Can you tell us why this day is important for translation professionals?

Translators very rarely take centre stage in any organisation, and the important work done by them “behind the scenes” often goes unnoticed. International Translation Day provides an opportunity to recognise and pay tribute to the work done by translators, which, when put into the larger context, plays an important part in bringing nations together, facilitating dialogue, and contributing to the development and strengthening of world peace and security.

Outi, you started working at Hannes in 2007. Has the translation work remained the same, or have there been any changes?

My role as a legal translator of a law firm has most definitely changed a lot over the years. While translating itself has not changed that much, the pace in which things are done has become increasingly hectic. When ten years ago, I usually had just one translation on my desk at a time, I now juggle with several different texts at the same time. Social media has brought a whole new dimension into our work, as news and blog articles need to be published swiftly and efficiently. That has certainly increased the time pressure. The very essence of the work has, however, remained the same. Translation is about the interplay between languages: producing an accurate and idiomatic version of a text in another language. This is probably the reason why I work as a translator. I love the challenge of expressing things in another language in a clear and efficient, yet interesting, manner.

Irene, what is included in your team’s “normal” working day?

I hate to sound like a cliché, but honestly, there is no such thing as a normal working day in our line of work. Our work consists of translation, proofreading, and language training, but our work tasks are usually characterised by urgency and strict deadlines, so most days are pretty hectic and require adapting to constantly changing situations. The only thing that stays the same day in and day out is our team work and the fact that we love working with the English language. No matter how hectic it gets, we are always excited to tackle any language-related issues and to delve into new aspects of the English language.

Please describe your teammates — reveal something surprising that is not commonly known.

Lotta is a combination of a grammar wizard and a visualist. She has an amazing ability to spot a single missing comma or an extra space in a text in a matter of seconds. This makes her one of a kind. Visuality is not something that is usually associated with translators, and Lotta’s presence has brought a whole new aspect into our everyday work. Irene, for her part, is our walking pharmacy. A year ago, when most people had not even heard of hand sanitizers, Irene was the one who always pulled out a collection of different hand sanitizers out of her bag. If that is not funny enough, what makes it even funnier is the fact that while other people are choosing between the ethanol scent and the bioethanol scent, Irene’s collection covers just about everything from gingerbread to pumpkin pie. And being the kind person she is, she always brings these lovely scented hand sanitizers to me and Lotta as well, which is not at all a bad thing considering the amounts of hand sanitizers consumed these days. I bet we are the best smelling translation team in town – thanks to Irene and her scented hand sanitizers.

Outi and Lotta are both amazing colleagues and always fun to work with. I know both of them rather well by now, so there are many interesting and surprising facts I could share about them, but I will stick to two.

The most surprising thing about Outi is that she can eat massive amounts of sugar in one sitting. She can easily go through five large donuts or a bag of gummy bears in about 10 minutes without so much as even blinking. One time she even melted a pound of chocolate and drank it. I have tried many times to keep up with her, but to no avail, as she is simply in a league of her own. Lotta, for her part, is a walking jukebox who remembers basically every song from her childhood. Moreover, she has a way of bringing them up in almost any conversation, for instance, if we are talking about the weather, she might say, “Oh, this rain reminds me of a song we used to sing in the first grade”, and then proceed to sing the song. This is a very delightful quality, as she has taught us many songs that have become our favourites.

Outi and Irene are both great people to work with. We all share a similar sense of humour, which makes work fun even when there is immense pressure to get things done. As our team is relatively small, we have become a fairly close-knit group over the years, and I would say we know each other pretty well by now.

Outi always has a bag handy for whatever situation may arise. Her desk hides everything from a Louis Vuitton to a crumpled-up plastic bag, and the best part is that she will let you borrow one (or all of them) whenever you find yourself with too many things to hold and nothing to hold them in. No matter the circumstance, Irene can always name an episode of the Simpsons that fits the situation. You could tell her that you woke up under your bed, had ice cream for breakfast, and rode a unicorn to work, and she’ll go “Oh, the same thing happened to what’s-her-face in episode so-and-so of the Simpsons.”

Lotta, what is the best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is that I get to be as nit-picky and pedantic as I am by nature; when it comes to language and writing, the devil really does lie in the details. As I thrive in routine, another thing I enjoy is the fact that the basic elements of the work always stay the same regardless of the topic or schedule of the project I am working on.

What is your favourite English language phenomenon?

This is a tricky one since I feel quite strongly about all aspects of the English language. But if I had to choose just one, it would have to be the flow of the Anglo-American writing. This is something that Finnish lawyers often seem to forget. While legal issues are complex, the legal language does not need to be complex. My personal challenge is to express things as simply and effortlessly as possible, and I always do my best to avoid unnecessary legalese. My rule of thumb is that if the text does not flow like music, it must be rephrased. And this rule applies both at the sentence level and the text level.

I am a big fan of the Oxford comma, which is also known as the serial comma. I will never stop being amazed by how one single comma, or the omission of it, can make such a big difference.

As a lover of rules, my favourite thing about the English language (or any other language, for that matter) would have to be punctuation. This must be the most boring answer imaginable, but I just thoroughly enjoy the way a single comma can make all the difference. “Let’s eat grandma!” means something entirely different than “Let’s eat, grandma!” I am also very passionate about the correct use of the hyphen, en dash, and em dash.


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