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Off topic: What is the turning point in your life that led you to learn different languages and translation?
Thread poster: RafaLee
Local time: 10:55
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 30, 2003

What is the turning point in your life that has directed you to learn different languages and translation?

In my case, had Ricky Martin not released his "Maria" videoclip in 1998, I would not have learned a number of languages now.

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Henry Dotterer
Local time: 20:55
'Go to Japan' poster Aug 30, 2003

For some reason, a rather unremarkable "go to Japan"' poster on the wall at school caught my eye. Two weeks later I had a job, an apartment and a ticket to Tokyo (eventually leading me to this field.)

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Sylvain Leray  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:55
Member (2003)
German to French
My first stay in Germany Aug 30, 2003

At the age of 15, I went to Germany and spent two weeks in Hamburg (it was a school exchange). Then I knew that I wanted to live in Germany (I did it 6 years later) and to study German to become a translator.

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Luca Tutino  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:55
Member (2002)
English to Italian
+ ...
A job in a multinational company abroad Aug 30, 2003

At the time I could not speak English at all, and in a few weeks I learned enough of the language to get the position (as Italian Editor in my study field).

Enthousiasm and youth made the miracle, and sustained quite a brilliant interview.

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Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:55
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
It happened in two times Aug 30, 2003

First, at the age of ten, my family had to quit our country for political reasons. That made me travel, learn other languages and discover other cultures.

And quite recently I discovered the world of translation, nearly by chance, because I moved to another country and didn't want to keep teaching.
I had the impression that I had lost 20 years of my life.
But it's corrected now

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Thomas Magnuson
Local time: 17:55
English to Japanese
+ ...
One day in Whistler, B.C. Aug 30, 2003

...I'd skipped school to go skiing, & came across this big well, non-Japanese guy guiding around a group of tourists in (what I suppose was) fluent Japanese...

Back in the day when the language was supposed to be "impossible to master," it blew my Jr. High mind.

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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:55
Flemish to English
+ ...
No turning point Aug 30, 2003

I grew up in a multilingual city and country and had to choose a career.
As a youngster, I had no clear idea what to choose. The tuition fee of the T&I school was half the price of the tuition fee at the university. I had the choice between languages and law.
At all the T&I-schools a promising career as an interpreter at international institutions is "used as bate" to lure youngsters into these schools. Out of the 2000 youngsters, who start at several schools all over Europe about 100 obtain an interpreter degree.
Often admission personnel at such schools forgets to mention that at international institutions competition is though, that psychotechnical tests determine whether the rest of your exam (translation part) will be corrected or not.
They also don't mention that 8 minutes of consecutive interpreting determine the rest of an interpreter's career.
International institutions do not always prefer linguists: example: at the European Court of Justice all translators are people with a legal background.
In the business-world, it all about figures and top jobs go to well spoken people with a strong quantitative education, who learned languages by living in the country of operation of their company.
Yeah, I am fluent in a few languages, but where does this get me outside the service to the business world, which translation and interpretation is?
Through experience, I found out where my heart is, but I can not turn back the clock now. Whether I will translate until I retire, I do not know. But who wants to translate forever?

[Edited at 2003-08-30 14:48]

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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:55
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Failed aircrew medical Aug 30, 2003

I failed a medical for aircrew in the Royal Air Force (slight deafness in one ear). I was working as an engine fitter at the time and wasn't too happy with it. Saw an invitation in Orders to apply for learning Russian or Chinese, chose the former. Started Russian course in March 1952, and I've been at it ever since.

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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:25
English to Tamil
+ ...
I failed in 2 subjects in my final year of the engineering degree Aug 30, 2003

It was July 1969 and the results of my final year exams were out. I failed in 2 subjects. I was just sitting dejectedly at home. My father suggested that I learn German at the local Goethe Institute to divert my mind away from pessimistic thoughts till the next engineering exams in November. The German class was interesting and I was amazed at my own eagerness for the language. As such German is my first love. I never looked back afterwards. Even though I finished my engineering course and worked as a graduate electrical engineer for 23 years, I continued with my language activities, learnt French afterwards and then Italian. Along with my engineering job, I was doing freelance translations on the side. At present I have taken voluntary retirement from my engineering post and am a full-time freelancer for the past 10 years.

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Patricia Posadas  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:55
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not really a choice Aug 30, 2003

As a child I was sent to a French school in Spain, and my mother often spoke in French to us too because she had grown up and attended school in Brussels for 12 years. Then I became a teacher of French as a second language but the demand for French was going down in my town and people wanted to learn English, a language I had just studied as a second language at school. I was given one year to improve my English and be able to teach it, so I went to London and spent a wonderful time learning English every hour of the day, even in my dreams!

Some years later I started studying something else at University and when I said I taught English as a second language some lecturers started asking me to translate into English their CVs, their research papers, to be an interpreter at meetings they organised, to welcome and accompany guest professors, to voiceover videocassettes, etc.

I had been a teacher for 10 years, had a baby and a very young child and wanted some more time for my family than my full-time job at the language school allowed me. I managed to get some part-time translation and research job from my university and stopped teaching. Gradually I got more and more translation jobs, always into English and French. Then, as children grew up (they will be 12 and 13 this year)I decided to take on more and more freelance work and to stop translating into English, which among other things took me too long. I still do for a couple of professors who insist that I brought them good luck with their papers being accepted for publication when they were starting in the international arena, but now I have my work reviewed by a native speaker without them knowing

I am so happy that both languages and translation made their way into my life! It has become much more than a job, it's sort of a way of life, and I love it!

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Sheila Hardie  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:55
Catalan to English
+ ...
learning to count in German - and buying bread:-) Aug 30, 2003

Probably when my dad taught me how to count up to 100 in German when I was 5. That summer we went on holiday to Austria and I remember buying a loaf bread in German and getting a sweet from the woman behind the counter as a reward for trying to speak her language:-) I think it must have been that sweet that did it:lol:


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Antonella Andreella  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:55
German to Italian
+ ...
A long time ago Aug 30, 2003

When I was about 6/7 years old I took this decision:)))
Every now and then some colleagues of my father, who was working for a German company, came to our home and they obviously spoke German... it goes without saying I wasn't able to understand one single word of what they were saying and I felt like an idiot.
Then I said to myself: " Well, Antonella, you'd better learn foreign languages otherwise you won't be able to understand a lot of people in your life"


[Edited at 2003-08-30 16:11]

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Pablo Cañamares  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:55
Russian to Spanish
+ ...
Computing Aug 30, 2003

Well, three years ago I was 18 and I was about to finish secondary school.

I had been thinking about studying computing (yes, computing... but I am now recovered)

But one day I thought: ok, I can't spend 8 hours a day in front of a computer playing games. (I recognise my addiction to videogames)

So, if you won't spend them playing, will you spend them... working??? No shit!

I was left stranded.

Needless to say, I had to make up my mind ASAP, so I began to read the reports about different degrees stored in my school's library. I began by reading those that might be of interest to me.

One day I came across one labeled "Licenciado en traducción e interpretación".

In that moment, I reached illumination.

The paper spoke not only about subjects and the like, also some people spoke about it, and said how much they enjoyed the reading, knowing other cultures...

The school orienter took a lot of interest in me, and I finally decided to travel 700km and study in Barcelona...
An eye-opening, horizon-widener experience.

As an anecdote, the day I finally decided I was having dinner and explained evertything to my parents.

The asked: So, as you explained before, it's that degree about reading and talking with people, isn't it?

I answered affirmatively, my parents smiled to each other and said:

My son, reading and talking... we think you took the right choice for you.

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Pamela Peralta  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:55
English to Spanish
+ ...
fate Aug 30, 2003

I was thinking about your question, and it wasn’t hard to find that turning point. The decision was made for me by my parents who decided to send me to U.S., and away from the dangers of terrorism in 1989. At that time I only knew how to say 2 words in English: "Hello" and "thank you', if that much. That was 13 years ago. I remember the exact moments when I learnt the word "ugly", "mischievous" etc., etc., etc. That’s how much I love words that I would remember the exact moment they came to my life. Then I remember this girl Kendra, teaching me how to pronounce "vacation", I would pronounce it with the" B" instead of "V", and the enjoyment of learning it, back then I didn’t have the remotest idea that 10 years later I would become a translator. I love what I do, and I don’t see myself doing anything else. I often wonder what I would had become hadn’t I been shipped to the U.S. The saying: the Lord works in mysterious ways comes to mind

Pamela Peralta

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invguy  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:55
English to Bulgarian
No specific 'turning point' Aug 31, 2003

In my case it was rather a matter of tradition. My father, a surgeon, spoke German and Italian, my mother was a teacher in French, having received her education in a French catholic college and later - a university language degree. There were always those foreign-language magazines and books at home, so I simply couldn't afford NOT to know what's written in there...

But actually, I got my 'serious' language education at school. Firstly, studying Russian was obligatory then (for political reasons), from the age of 10 until the end of secondary (high) school - starting from the basics, and all the way up to classic and contemporary Russian literature and poetry. If one was serious about it, one could speak fluent Russian at the age of 19. I hope I was Oops, forgot: obligatory in uni, too, regardless of what else you were studying. The good thing was, the Russian you studied there was primarily retated to the terminology of your major profile.

In the meantime I went to a local high school specialized in the English language. It was my parents' idea but I didn't actually resist - it was the time of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and I had just found my grandma's guitar amidst the trash in the old village house... so HOW COULD I possibly resist to that???

The study in that school took an extra year but it was worth it for the language knowledge it provided - we had some British and American teachers, too, and the overall tuition standards were pretty high. There again, I had to study a second Western language, and I chose German... can't remember any more why, maybe because of my eternal obsession with anything and everything technical

But it wasn't until I started working that I really discovered the land of translation. I had an engineering degree, however the job I found was in the technical information and foreign relations department of a fairly large machinebuilding company (3000+ employees then). The volume of incoming and outgoing communication in different languages (mostly ENG/RUS/GER, both written and spoken) was significant, so I had to catch up on-the-fly and learn every day. Six+ years - and never a dull moment It was then that I started doing paid translations on the side (in addition to those I was doing 8 hours a day), and it was a pretty good source of extra income for someone in his 20s and still single

Some years earlier, while still a uni student, I had my first opportunities to travel abroad... and found out I was teased when I couldn't make anything out of what people were saying... being able to communicate in English, German, Russian and French was obviously not enough. The solution? Conversation guides (because it's quick), then some books (to find out what exactly were the grammar rules behind those ready-made phrases) etc. Czech, Romanian, Serbian, Polish... I even got to study Hungarian at one point... and was very disappointed that I couldn't learn it by juxtaposing to some other, more familiar language, like I was used to do) But of course, this is far beyond the professional sphere. All I can manage in these languages now is say hi, order a beer, or ask about the way to my hotel - and (hopefully) understand the answer... (except for Italian, which I have happened to use a lot more frequently)

Altogether, I think the extensive (and focused) language practice - following a profound language study, albeit not at uni level - is what has ultimately allowed me to call myself a translator. And, as this practice has always been (more or less) technology-related, I consider myself a specialized translator, and rarely go beyond the boundaries of my specialization (however relative they might be) and my main language pairs. That is, I wouldn't call myself a Translator (capital T), able to handle *any* language problem - yet I'm confident enough in my 'lowercase t' statute

Else, I'm happy to make use of all the language knowledge that I have - for my own use, and for my own pleasure... it is a true wealth, indeed. You can only feel it when you have it; and I think most of you guys would agree with me on that.

Well, that's it from me. Good topic, RafaLee - thanks!

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