Tag Archives: Finnish

Health care glossaries for those who work with refugees

These downloadable glossaries are from year 1993, but might be useful in some situations. The languages are Finnish and one of these: Albanian, Serbocroatian, Vietnamese, Somali, French, Arabic, Persian, Kurdish (Sorani), Swedish, English and Russian. They have been published by the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

Terveyssanastoja eri kielillä turvapaikanhakijoiden ja pakolaisten kanssa työskenteleville: http://stm.fi/turvapaikanhakijoiden-palvelut

Not all nurses are “sairaanhoitaja” – a template problem!

A client asked me to correct my SPC translation about “the nurse / healthcare professional who is taking the x-ray” so that it includes the template term for nurse, “sairaanhoitaja”.

OK, I changed it but the problem is that not all nurses are “sairaanhoitaja” (“Level One Nurse”), some are e.g. ”lähihoitaja” (Level Two Nurse) or “terveydenhoitaja” (Public Health Nurse) or others,  and in this case (taking x-rays), I think the correct term is  “röntgenhoitaja” (a radiographer).

Not all Finnish nurses are allowed to use the title “sairaanhoitaja”.  Dear Fimea, wouldn’t it be better to change the template word “sairaanhoitaja” to mere “hoitaja” (a nurse, a carer)? That would save me time when working on these translations.

“To take” is not always “ottaa” in Finnish

Sometimes it is better to translate “take” (a tablet / a medicine etc.) by the word that actually means “use” in Finnish.  In EMA templates these two verbs go often as a pair:

(PIL, section 3:)

How to <take> <use> X  / Miten X:ää <otetaan> <käytetään>

Always <take> <use> this medicine exactly as … / <Ota> <Käytä> tätä lääkettä juuri siten kuin…

If you<take> <use>  more X than you should / Jos <otat> <käytät> enemmän X:ää kuin sinun pitäisi

If you forget to <take> <use>  X / Jos unohdat <ottaa> <käyttää> X:ää

If  you stop <taking> <using> X / Jos lopetat X:n <oton> <käytön>

However, translating “use” -> “käyttää”, “take” ->  “ottaa” automatically is not wise.

Here is a example:

ORIGINAL TEXT: The XYZ tablets are sometimes taken with another medicine, called ABC.

If you translate it literally into Finnish, the result is ” XYZ-tabletteja otetaan toisinaan toisen lääkkeen, ABC:n, kanssa.”

However, in Finnish,  “otetaan” in this context implies questions: when and why it is taken, who takes it? The verb “ottaa” in this phrase gives the impression that someone can just pluck these tablets every now and then, when they wish and if they wish.

When you change the verb, the meaning becomes much clearer:

XYZ-tabletteja käytetään toisinaan toisen lääkkeen, ABC:n, kanssa.

Now the phrase implies that the use of ZYZ is prescribed and supervised by the doctor, taking of it is more or less regular, and the course lasts at least for some days.

Another example:  the phrase “You should not breast-feed while you are taking this medicine” translated as “Älä imetä ottaessasi tätä lääkettä” may imply the thought that one should not breast-feed at the moment when one is just swallowing the tablet (but two minutes or half an hour after having taken the tablet, one could continue with breast-feeding?). It is better to say “Älä imetä käyttäessäsi tätä lääkettä.” The word “käyttäessäsi” implies the entire treatment course –  several weeks or months perhaps.

In the templates, this mistake of too direct a translation has been avoided at least in the PL section 2:  “If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, think you may be pregnant or are planning to have a baby, ask your <doctor> or <pharmacist> for advice before taking this medicine.” The Finnish template has “Jos olet raskaana tai imetät, epäilet olevasi raskaana tai jos suunnittelet lapsen hankkimista, kysy <lääkäriltä> tai <apteekista> neuvoa ennen tämän lääkkeen käyttöä.


Why “naisia” instead of the template word “naisten” (women)?

I made a SPC update (decentralized procedure) including some sentences in section 4.6, Fertility, pregnancy and lactation (Hedelmällisyys, raskaus ja imetys). Some of the phrases must be taken directly from  Appendix I, “Pregnancy and Lactation” (Raskaus ja imetys). There was a phrase  “Women of childbearing potential should be advised to avoid becoming pregnant during treatment“. I had translated it as follows: “Naisia, jotka voivat tulla raskaaksi, on neuvottava välttämään raskaaksi tulemista hoidon aikana.” ( the parts that can be taken directly from Appendix I are in italics here).

After delivery, I got a question from the translation agency:  Why did I write “naisia” and not “naisten” as in the template. Was there a grammatical reason for that?

Yes, the reason is grammatical. Finnish nouns can have hundreds or thousands different forms. The reason for this change is the change of the verb structure in the sentence.

The template phrase ( Pregnancy, [3], third phrase) is as follows (only relevant parts copied here):

  • Women of childbearing potential have to use effective contraception during treatment.
  • Naisten, jotka voivat tulla raskaaksi, on käytettävä tehokasta ehkäisyä hoidon aikana.

In Finnish, the verb structure “have to use” (on käytettävä) requires a different case form in the preceding noun than the verb structure “should be advised to avoid” (on neuvottava välttämään).

The plural basic (nominative) form of “nainen” (woman) is “naiset” (women).  Case endings are used in Finnish to replace the preposions of the Indo-European languages (at, on, in, with, from, for, etc). So, the plural form of “women” can be anything of the following: naiset (nominative), naisten/naisien (genitive, two alternative forms are possible), naisia (partitive), naisina (essive), naisiksi (translative), naisissa (inessive), naisista (elative), naisiin (illative), naisilla (adessive), naisilta (ablative), naisille (allative). In addition, there are three other cases but I list them here as they are of minor importance (practically not used with the word “woman”). And there is one more case that is common, accusative, but it always looks like either a) nominative, b) partitive, so there is no separate form for it.

And this was only the plural. The corresponding singular forms for the word “nainen” (nominative for a woman) are nainen, naisen, naista, naisena, naiseksi, naisessa, naisesta, naiseen, naisella, naiselta, naiselle. When comparing these with the plural forms, one can see that the plural marker in Finnish often is the letter in the middle of the word. The plural marker in the nominative is, however, -t in the end of the word.

Besides, many other endings can be attached to nouns to give further meanings to the word.  E. g.  “also” (-kin) can be added as follows: (singular) nainenkin (also a woman), naisenkin (genitive, also of a woman), naistakin, naisenakin, naiseksikin, naisessakin, naisestakin, naiseenkin, naisellakin, naiseltakin, naisellekin. The corresponding plurals are naisetkin, naistenkin/naisienkin, naisiakin, naisinakin, naisiksikin, naisissakin, naisistakin, naisiinkin, naisillakin, naisiltakin, naisillekin.

Why did I create this blog?

I am a medical and technical translator working from English and French into my native tongue, Finnish. A great deal of my work consists of translating and editing of pharmaceutical texts (SPCs, labels, PLs) where I must stick to the wordings of EMA (European Medicines Agency) templates. Unfortunately I spend too many hours answering the questions of my clients –  questions that could be avoided if the Finnish templates were better…!  This blog is an attempt to create discussion about these templates, the language of pharmaceutical texts  and the Finnish language in general and, hopefully, to  improve the quality of the templates.