Military Interpreters in Finnish Crisis Management Operations

Pekka Snellman
University of Tampere
pekka.snellman _arvaa_

Military interpreters in Finnish crisis management operations have very varying backgrounds and training. Some are professional translators and immigrants with no previous military training, while others are bilinguals, ethnic Finns and non-commissioned officers in the reserve.

This presentation is based on a work in progress for an MA thesis at the University of Tampere. The research data consists of interviews with 14 persons who have served as military interpreters.

The presentation focuses on the opinions of a number of interviewees with no earlier professional experience as interpreters. How have their views of interpreting and the interpreter’s profession changed during their service as military interpreters? In what ways does the non-professionals’ perspectives on the interpreter’s role and agency differ from that of the interviewees with earlier professional interpretation experience?

Key concepts in the theoretical framework of this presentation are translators’ agency and translation culture. Kinnunen and Koskinen (2010) define translators’ agency, in short, as the “willingness and ability to act”. Baker (2010) has recognized the agency of interpreters as a significant factor in the context of armed conflicts. The concept of translation culture, coined by Prunè (1997), is used here to identify norms, conventions, expectations and values common to the military interpreters.


Keywords: military interpreter, agency, translation culture



Baker, Mona 2010. Interpreters and Translators in the War Zone. Narrated and Narrators.The Translator. In: Studies in Intercultural Communication Vol. 16 (2): Translation and Violent Conflict, 197–222.

Kinnunen, Tuija and Koskinen, Kaisa 2010. Introduction. Tuija Kinnunen & Kaisa Koskinen (eds.), Translators’ Agency. Tampere Studies in Language, Translation and Culture. Series B 4. Tampere: Tampere University Press, 4–10.

Prunè, Erich 1997. Translationskultur. (Versuch einer konstruktiven Kritik des translatorischen Handelns.) TextconText 11 = NF 1, 99–127.


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