Translation, migration, and democracy

Translation, migration, and democracy: Managing multilingual access to information in the greater Helsinki area and in Tallinn

This project analyzes the policies and practices guiding the translation of information targeted at migrant populations in the major cities of the Greater Helsinki Area (Helsinki, Espoo, and Vantaa) and the city of Tallinn in Estonia, as well as the dissemination of translated information for migrant workers in selected companies and institutions of higher learning in these regions. 

The project combines the theories and methodologies of functionalist and sociological translation studies and critical approaches to linguistics. Multilingualism constitutes a challenge to democracy: the language barrier prevents many migrants from having the opportunity to be involved in social, cultural, and political life and to operate as members of their local communities and the society as a whole. 

Translation policy is an important tool to promote the integration of migrants. Today, translated information is readily available on websites and social media. However, the COVID-19 crisis has shown that all migrants do not use the information or have access to it. The exact reasons why the information does not reach all the end users are not known. This brings to the fore the need to do a thorough analysis of the guiding principles, implementation, and effectiveness of current translation policies and practices in migration contexts. 

We approach translation as a practice of governmentality and power production that allows the participation of migrants but can lead to inadvertent inequalities and discriminations. We analyze the texts providing the foundations for current translation policies, a sample of translated texts, and the online environments in which the translations are disseminated. In addition, we interview persons who take part in the different phases of design, implementation, and consumption of translation policies and practices. 

The goal is to propose solutions in cooperation with the stakeholders in order to improve the quality of translation policies and practices.

Funding and duration of the project

The project “Translation, migration, and democracy: Managing multilingual access to information in the greater Helsinki area and in Tallinn” has received funding from the Kone Foundation in its 2021 call for proposals. In this round, Kone Foundation received a total of 6,319 applications, of which 342 were funded.

The awarded grant was part of the new funding programme “Is Democracy Eroding?” under the theme of “Language, Power and Democracy”.

This project has a duration of three years and will be implemented between 2022-2025.

University of Helsinki

Simo K. Määttä (Project Leader)
Tuija Kinnunen

Päivi Kuusi

Tallinn University

Tanya Escudero (Partner)

Work, wellbeing and communication in the globalising and digitalising world (WoWeC)

Work, wellbeing and communication in the globalising and digitalising world (WoWeC)

The COVID 19 pandemic has brought to the fore significant societal challenges that concern individuals, as well as the public and private sector. These challenges point to underlying issues which have become more relevant and need to be tackled to ensure the wellbeing of our communities.

On the one hand, the changing nature of work raises questions about which work is deemed essential and valuable and how class, gender, mobility opportunities and educational background, skills and competencies feed into the new ways of working and how the new opportunities could best benefit the economy and livelihoods. Furthermore, while work has become increasingly digitalised in recent decades, the COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated this trend by normalising various types of remote working as well as platform mediated work. These new ways of working might be liberating for some, but at the same time, they reveal inequalities between different groups of different employment statuses and about equal accessibility to technological tools.

On the other hand, recent events have highlighted the deficiencies in the inclusion of particularly vulnerable groups such as migrants or ethnolinguistic minorities within a multicultural and multilingual society. Moreover, the current crisis has shown that their exclusion or the absence of effective communication between them and public and private institutions has repercussions for society as a whole. In this regard, the inclusion of migrant communities in the labour market and in their workplace is particularly relevant, as frequently, and this is especially the case for the so-called “new migrants”, their work is the strongest – and sometimes the only– bond to their host country.

This interdisciplinary working cluster will bring together the competencies of sociologists, geographers, educational, policy, migration, communication and other researchers to map the new challenges and opportunities at the workplace and in society in relation to the population’s wellbeing. It will pay particular attention to the effects of the accelerated digitalisation of work, and to aspects of equality and inclusion of vulnerable communities. For that purpose, our cluster will work, among others, on the following topics:

● Inequalities, well-being and skills in the digitalisation of work
● Intercultural communication
● Challenges to workplace learning
● Migrant inclusion and equality

Funding and duration of the project

The cluster Work, wellbeing and communication in the globalising and digitalising world (WoWeC) has been funded by Tallinn University Research Fund with 100.000 euro. It has a duration of two years and will be implemented between April 2022 and March 2024.

Katri-Liis Lepik

Tanya Escudero
Eeva Kesküla
Krista Loogma
Anastassia Zabrodskaja
Kadi Liik

Improving communication with migrants for crisis preparedness: lessons learned from COVID-19

Improving communication with migrants for crisis preparedness: lessons learned from COVID-19

Migrants are one of the vulnerable groups most negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis at various levels (unemployment, economic instability, etc.). Those who do not speak the language of the host country face bigger challenges and higher risks in the face of emergency situations, such as the current pandemic, for linguistic diversity has not been systematically integrated into crisis planning.

This project aims at developing an appropriate communication plan, based on effective translation practices and policies, which can provide a quick response to the current crisis and future emergency situations in disseminating relevant information among migrant communities. It also seeks to strengthen cooperation between the states of the Baltic Sea Region to deal with cross-border emergencies and use the knowledge generated by this cooperation to tackle problems at the local/state level.

For that purpose, we will first analyse the information provided during the COVID-19 crisis by stakeholders from different sectors (governmental institutions, companies, universities, NGOs and media) in Estonia, Finland and Latvia ─ states with different migration patterns, translation policies and linguistic compositions─, with the focus on the methods, quality, timeliness, accessibility and languages information provided to those with poor skills in the official languages. This first analysis in the three states involved will enable us to carry out a cross-national comparative study to identify a series of good practices which serve as the basis to suggest new strategies in translation policies.

The resulting guidelines for communicating essential multilingual information to migrants will not only contribute to a faster recovery from the current crisis, but could also be adapted and scaled to address future emergency situations in the Baltic Sea Region.

Funding and duration of the project

The project “Improving communication with migrants for crisis preparedness: lessons learned from COVID-19” is funded by the Council of the Baltic Sea States (Grant Agreement No. PSF2021/8). CBSS Project Support Facility 2021 call is dedicated to innovative solutions for strengthening resilience and inclusiveness in the Baltic Sea Region during a period of crisis.

This project will be implemented between 1 October 2021 and 30 September 2022.

Team Tallinn University

Tanya Escudero (Project Leader)
Jekaterina Maadla
Mari-Liis Jakobson
Ivan Polynin

University of Helsinki

Simo K. Määttä (Principal Investigator)
Tuija Kinnunen
Svetlana Probirskaja
Linda Rolig

Creative Ideas (Riga)

Alise Vitola (Principal Investigator)
Sanita Putniņa

Ideology in translation. Political discourse on migration in the media

Ideology in translation. Political discourse on migration in the media

In recent decades, migration has become one of the main social concerns, and subject to policies around the world, and society’s reactions to this phenomenon are frequently influenced by the way in which migrant communities are depicted. Because of the major role that the media plays in shaping public opinion, numerous studies have been devoted to analysing this type of discourse, mainly from a monolingual perspective.

However, information circulating in the media is very often collected from foreign sources and mediated through translation, which acts as a filter for the target reader. This fact, traditionally neglected in communication studies, has received increasing attention from translation scholars in recent years.

This project aims at studying the role played by the translator’s ideology in translated news about migration, particularly the discourse on migration coming from political spheres. By studying a corpus of translated news published in Mexico and Spain, and also the readers’ discussion following these messages, we will understand not only how the translators intervene by using different translation strategies, but what is the effect of this mediation on their audience.

The final objectives are to develop a series of effective methods to study ideology in journalistic translation which can be applied to other media and languages, as well as to understand the new narratives created as a result of the translation process, examine their construction, and reflect on the influence these ideologies may have on attitudes towards migration.

The scientific results of this study can support national and transnational institutions to formulate new policies or apply solutions that help tackle challenging issues related to migration, arising from the ideological mediation of texts, and provide objective information to citizens.

Funding and duration of the project

The project “Ideology in translation. Political discourse on migration in the media” is funded by the Estonian Research Council and the Mobilitas Pluss programme (Grant Agreement No. MOBJD674). 

This project will be implemented between 14 December 2020 and 13 December 2022.


Tanya Escudero (Principal Investigator)
Daniele Monticelli (Supervisor)

On the Translation of Verse Form. Shakespeare’s Sonnets into Spanish

On the Translation of Verse Form. Shakespeare’s Sonnets into Spanish

This work deals with the translation of the poetic form from a corpus of 69 Spanish translations of Shakespeare’s Sonnets published between 1877 (when the first translation appeared) and 2018. The study primarily addresses three aspects of this subject.

Firstly, the metatranslational discourse in translatorial prefaces on issues concerning the translation of form, which are generally based on the recurrence of certain topoi, or ‘translation memes’ (Chesterman 1996; 1997). Then, it reveals the features of the translation of the outer form, or macrostructure, of the sonnets, taking as a point of departure Holmes’ classification of the ‘metapoem’ forms, as well as the mechanisms of repetition in the translated poems (mainly anaphora, parallelism and alliteration).

And, lastly, it provides a rationale on the translation process of formal poetry based on translation as recreation and built upon the interpretation of the results obtained in the previous chapters and the discourse on poetry translation found in scholarly papers. The issues to be addressed, then, can be summarised in three basic questions regarding the translation of poetic form: What do the translators say? What do they do? How do they do it?

Funding and duration of the project

The doctoral project “On the Translation of Verse Form. Shakespeare’s Sonnets into Spanish” was funded by the University of Vigo (Doctoral Fellowship), the European Regional Development Fund and the Republic of Estonia (Dora Plus scholarship for visiting doctoral students).

This project was developed between April 2016 and December 2020.


Tanya Escudero
Anxo Fernández Ocampo (supervisor)