Vigdís International Centre for Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding

The Vigdís International Centre for Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding (or Vigdís World Language Centre, for short) has been established in April 2017, based on an agreement between UNESCO and the government of Iceland. The primary purpose of the Centre is to raise awareness of the importance of languages as one of mankind’s most precious cultural assets.

The World Language Centre will be an information centre for languages and culture with facilities for research and dissemination. It has an exhibition space and an auditorium. In the first years, it will focus on the language situation of the West Nordic region. In cooperation with other institutes, international scholars and those interested in languages, such a centre will be a significant contribution towards preserving and strengthening linguistic diversity.

The World Language Centre regards it an honour to develop and continue the pioneering work that Vigdís Finnbogadóttir has carried out as the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Languages.

The Vigdís International Centre for Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding is a UNESCO Category 2 Centre. It counts with an international advisory board that provides advice for preparing and developing the activities of the Vigdís International Centre of Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding.

The Centre, in cooperation with other institutions in Iceland, now hosts one of world’s largest collections of bi­ and multilingual dictionaries; a donation from Infoterm, based on the legacy of Eugen Wüster (one of the fathers of terminology as a field).

The Vigdís World Language Centre is a part of The Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute of Foreign Languages at the University of Iceland.

The Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute of Foreign Languages

The Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute of Foreign Languages is a research institute working within the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Iceland. The Institute is a research centre for scholars who teach modern languages and cultures, the classical languages and translation studies.

Since 1st October 2001 the Institute has had the honour of bearing the name of Ms. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, former President of Iceland, 1980-1996. Ms. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir has been a powerful spokesperson for the importance of language proficiency, both in one’s own native tongue as well as in other languages, and she has made a vital contribution to this field in her career as a teacher, as President of Iceland, and as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations.

The institute organizes yearly a seminar to celebrate the international mother language day; this year (2018) the Vigdís World Language Centre took the lead in organizing the:

International Mother language day symposium 21. 2. 2018:

Dictionaries: Multilingualism, Translations and Terminology 2018

 

A new dictionary series promotes integration and cultural exchange

Husein Muhammed

The Finnish Institute for the Languages of Finland (Kotus) is preparing a new dictionary series for speakers of mainly migrant languages.

The dictionary includes some 30 000 Finnish entries with their equivalents in other languages. In addition to the basic Finnish vocabulary, the dictionary includes words, phrases and institutions relevant to immigration and integration issues, for instance “Maahanmuuttovirasto” (Finnish Immigration Authority), “oleskelulupa” (residence permit) and “kotoutumiskoulutus” (integration training).

The dictionary goes well beyond only providing Finnish entries with their equivalents in each of the target languages. The dictionary provides information on which parts of speech the entry belongs to as well as on how the word is inflected. Vast majority of entries include also examples, often more than one.

The main targeted group of users of the dictionary series are migrants who have settled in Finland and want to learn the Finnish language and culture. Special attention has been paid to words and phrases essential in dealing with different authorities, be they from the Finnish Immigration Authority, social office, municipal health center or NewCo Helsinki advising new start-ups.

Aamu substantiivi KS
subax, aroor

aamu sarastaa
waagu wuu soo beryayaa
tänä aamuna paistoi aurinko
saaka qorrax baa jirtey
lähden aamulla
aroortii baan baxayaa
eilen aamulla satoi
shalay subax roob baa da’ay
hän ajaa parran joka aamu
subax walba garka wuu iska xiiraa
tavataanko heti aamusta?
isla subaxa horeba ma kulannaa?


But traditional Finnish culture has not been neglected either. The dictionary includes also entries like “sauna” (traditional Finnish bath) and other words related to sauna, for instance “kiuas” (sauna stove) and “löyly” (sauna steam or pressure).

The dictionary’s aimed groups include not only beginners of the Finnish language, but also, among others, interpreters and translators as well as second generation migrants who want to maintain their native language. The dictionary can also be helpful in culture exchange via, for example, helping to translate literature between Finnish and the other languages of the dictionary series.

The project began with translating the dictionary into the Somali language. The second language in the row is Kurdish, more specifically Kurmanji or Northern Kurdish. But translating the dictionary into other languages has also been planned. The main criteria for choosing target languages is that the language has a substantial amount of speakers, mainly migrants, in Finland but no good dictionaries are available in Finnish and the language in question.

The Finnish entries are usually simply provided with their equivalents in the target language, but not all entries have exact equivalents. Then the entries are given various definitions in the target language.

The dictionary series is theoretically one-sided, i.e. only Finnish words are provided as entries in an alphabetical order, but not the words of the other language of the dictionary. However, thanks to the new technology, one can also search words of the other language and find them if the word is given as an equivalent of one or more Finnish words in the dictionary. Thus, the dictionary is quite useful for searching both Finnish words and words of the other language of the dictionary.

Currently, Finnish-Somali dictionary is partly available with Finnish entries alphabetically from the beginning of the letter A until “röykkiö” (heap, huddle). The Kurdish dictionary, too, will soon be partly available on the Internet, in the first phase likely from the beginning of the A to “möyhentää” (to fluff).

Users can search for words not only beginning but also including or ending in a certain letter or syllable.

The dictionary can be used free of charge on: http://kaino.kotus.fi/somali/?p=main


Husein Muhammed is a lawyer, translator and journalist, who has worked in many institutions related to migration, refugees and human rights. Currently he also works as an editor of the Kurdish dictionary at The Finnish Institute for the Languages of Finland (Kotus) and with a report about Nordic-Kurdish literature for Culture for All / Norden2020. He has written a book Yhtä erilaiset – islam ja suomalainen kulttuuri (Teos 2011) about islam and Finnish culture and many articles and columns to different newspapers and magazines.