Anyone who has gone through eight years of a Finnish secondary school in the fifties, parsing Finnish syntax, memorizing rules of German grammar, and studying Swedish, French and Latin, would have to agree that while the school neglected the conversational skills, it did a pretty good job of preparing one for a career in translating.
But like many translators, I stumbled into the profession by accident. Having worked a number of years in hardware and paint business, I started an import/export business in the same field. This led into acquiring a computer for business, learning some database programming and Basic, and translating data sheets and user manuals for equipment I exported to Finland (spray equipment, construction machinery).
After a few years of ups and downs in the business, at a time when the Finnish markka was taking a bad beating, a translator acquaintance recommended me to Microsoft for an editing job in Swedish. This led to localizing a database program (R:Base, which Microsoft was marketing abroad for Microrim), also in Swedish, and a ten year succession of contract jobs with Microsoft.
Through contacts at Microsoft International Publications, at that time teeming with in-house and freelance translators, I started getting translating assignments from various agencies. By the end of 1997, when most of Microsoft localization and in-house manual production had migrated to Ireland or to outside vendors, I had enough translating work to become a full-time translator.
Most of my translating experience is in computer hardware and software, although I have successfully done various electronics and machinery translations along with topics of a general nature. As a permanent resident in the U.S. since 1966, I'm well acquainted with the American idiom, to the point where I can do the New York Times cross word puzzles* Monday through Saturday (they get more difficult as the week goes on). Even so, there's nothing like expressing oneself in the mother tongue, which is the reason I prefer assignments from English to Finnish.
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Business trainee through Scandinavian-American Foundation in the U.S. 1961–1963