English Today is a seminar evening brought to you by NEaT and the Finnbrit Society for translators, editors, teachers and anyone working with English or simply interested in the English language. For our first English Today evening, we focus on the actual language that professionals working with English encounter and present a range of professional perspectives on it. Topics range from the challenges that arise in translation to observations on how English works and how it is used.
Please RSVP by 4 September, and indicate whether you would like to join us afterward at Il Birrificio to meet other professionals and discuss the presentations. The price for NEaT and Finnbrit members is 30 euros, and 40 euros for non-members, not including the meetup at Il Birrificio. Sign up early, as seating is limited.
15:00 Keynote speech: David Hackston
On Translation from Finnish to English
David Hackston will explore the difficulties of the process of translating Katja Kettu’s Kätilö, a work set in Northern Lapland and largely in Lappish dialect. The talk will touch on the difficulties of writing and translating historical fiction. Questions from the audience will be most welcome at the end of the session.
16:00 Coffee and light refreshments – a short time to network with other professionals
16:30 Niina Hynninen
The (ir)relevance of English as a lingua franca for language practitioners
17:00 Elizabeth Peterson
What we can learn from “Bad English”
17:30 Sanna-Kaisa Tanskanen
OMG! (: English in the social media
18:15 Wrap up and final questions
19:00 Optional final dinner and drinks at Birrifico
David Hackston is a British translator of Finnish and Swedish literature and drama. He graduated from University College London in 1999 with a degree in Scandinavian Studies and now lives in Helsinki where he works as a freelance translator. Notable publications include The Dedalus Book of Finnish Fantasy, Maria Peura’s coming-of-age novel At the Edge of Light, Johanna Sinisalo’s eco-thriller Birdbrain and two crime novels by the late Matti Joensuu. David has recently completed translations of Riku Korhonen’s latest novel Sleep Close to Me and the first two crime novels by Kati Hiekkapelto. He is currently working on a translation of Katja Kettu’s wartime epic The Midwife. His drama translations include three plays by Heini Junkkaala, most recently Play it, Billy! (2012) about the life and times of jazz pianist Billy Tipton. David was a regular contributor to Books from Finland until its discontinuation in 2015. In 2007 he was awarded the Finnish State Prize for Translation. David is also a professional countertenor and is currently studying early music and performance practice at Helsinki Metropolia University. He is a founding member of the English Vocal Consort of Helsinki.
Niina Hynninen is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Helsinki. Her presentation focuses on recent developments in the research on English as a lingua franca (ELF), and the ways the research can be used to inform language practitioners. The current status of English as a global lingua franca means that more and more non-native speakers of English use the language in settings where native speakers are in a minority, or may not be present at all. ELF researchers are investigating on-going changes in English prompted by this use, including questions of language regulation, or the ways that language users monitor and intervene in their own or each other’s language. Such investigations inform us about what counts as acceptable and ‘good’ English in ELF settings. Investigations of local language-regulatory practices may not be directly applicable to, for instance, editing services that need to ensure quality according to language standards that are in use in a particular scientific journal, but what is central is that we become more aware of the changing circumstances of English use, and the inevitable consequences that this brings with it.
Elizabeth Peterson is a descriptive sociolinguist at the University of Helsinki, which she will explain in her talk. Her presentation will describe how, in many locations around the world, English has taken on a role even beyond that of a lingua franca. For many English-speaking communities, norms of use exist that are distinct from what occurs in traditional, norm-providing “native” settings. Such use of English is known as the indigenization, localization, or even “glocalization” of English. An interesting point is that English in such settings often comes from a bottom-up, rather than a top-down perspective. In addition, it is very often the case that features are used which, from a prescriptivist point of view, are “wrong.” From a descriptive point of view, however, such features are simply following the rules of natural language. This presentation discusses the use of English in a few key settings, describing social phenomena relating to the use of English, and also a few “common sense” linguistic features.
Sanna-Kaisa Tanskanen, Professor of English in the Department of Modern Languages, University of Helsinki, can’t help being fascinated by how language is used in new digital environments. Her talk is about English used in social media contexts. Native and non-native speakers of English use the language to communicate with each other by posting messages on discussion forums, sharing information on blogs, Facebook and Twitter, and uploading videos on YouTube and images on Instagram. These new contexts have forced and enabled language users to be innovative: for example, when you have to say what you have to say in 140 characters, as on Twitter, you learn to be brief. The abbreviations, acronyms and emoticons of micro-blogging sites or SMS messages are some of the features that characterise English in the social media. In addition to these, the presentation looks at the other ways in which people use language in order to interact and collaborate on social media sites.