How I became a translator - share your story
Thread poster: Babelworth
Congo, Democratic Republic
Local time: 13:32
English to French
Dec 19, 2011

When I was young I wanted to become an airline pilot and writer. 15 years ago, when I graduated from high school, I took English classes at the the U.S. Embassy’s language school in Kinshasa so that I could be able to study piloting in the U.S.
But, knowing that US visas were difficult to obtain and that I needed time to gather the money necessary for my project (a fortune), I decide to go to college meanwhile and study engineering. I was studying both in parallel, English as a Foreign Language and Engineering.

At the language school, I made a lot of friends. One day during a cultural exchange lessons, a classmate, an Indian young lady was scheduled for a presentation before the class. She decided she’d share with us some food from her country; it was also her birthday so she brought an Indian cake made of corn and cashew nuts. The other classmates and the teacher took their slices of the cake that she presented us, but instead if eating, they spent minutes poking at it with their forks until one had the “bright idea” to “go and share it with other students in the corridor”… all of them, the teacher included went to throw it in the corridors trash bins … the truth was that here people believe that Indians are "witches" and that they eat weird things. It was so “obvious” the Indian lady was very upset but could only hardly hide her shame and disappointment.

I had already eaten my cake, but to save the day, I took the remaining from the tray and ate it and congratulated the Indian woman on her culinary skills, I even did not need to lie, that cake was delicious.

To shorten a long story ... She introduced me to her husband who worked in a local company that employed principally Indian executives and I became friend with the couple.

I spent four years at the engineering school and three years at the language school and I graduated from both institutions during the same year… I had long since given up my dream of becoming a pilot and started looking for a job as engineer in the oil field.

One day my Indian friends told me that the man’s company was in need of someone who could speak English to teach French to their executives from India. They recommended me and I started teaching. One day the company asked me to translate a contract because their usual translator was not available. I translated the contract with a pen and a large paper format Larousse bilingual dictionary, their secretary typed my translation afterwards on the company’s computer, they required me not to leave the premises saying that the contract was top secret… and I dare not tell you how much they paid me...

They liked my style and started assigning me other translations ... I also worked as an engineer for a while but I stopped since, and came back to full-time translation when I realized that the only thing I enjoy doing is translation, I love it and cannot imagine myself doing something else… I have since expended my client’s base and gone international. While I was translating my first document, I could not imagine it was a paid job, I could have done it for free.

Thanks for sharing your story too.

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How I became a translator - share your story

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