Why Languages? Why Translation Services?
August is Women in Translation Month. Here is my story.
As for “Why Languages?”, my answer has always been “because I am not good at math”. As for “Why Translation Services”, well, that is a bit more complicated.
I grew up in what is the Czech Republic today. The population of the entire country is about 10 million. A postage-stamp size of a country if you ask me. It also means that if you want to communicate internationally, you need to learn other languages.
The school system started me off with Russian, just like everyone else at the time. I liked it. Russian and Czech are both Slavic languages and even though they use different alphabets (Latin for Czech vs. Cyrillic for Russian), the grammar and even some words are close.
Fate decided my next language for me. One day, when I was in about 4th grade, a red balloon caught in our fence. My parents went to get it. It had a note attached that informed us that children in Germany released these Red Cross balloons and the child whose balloon would travel the farthest would win a bicycle.
We mailed the note from the balloon back and crossed our fingers. Our balloon belonged to a girl named Ute and as it turned out, she won the contest! And that was the beginning of a friendship between our two families which prompted my studying German so we could, in fact, communicate.
I did not add English until high school but immediately loved it the most of all the languages. In retrospect, I think it was because even early on my teacher had us work on translating short pieces of literature and learn by comparing our translation with that of a professional translator (who actually translated the subject of the exercise).
I remember being amazed at the creativity involved.
Halfway through high school, I was still stuck between wanting to become an archeologist or working in international trade. Both potentially involved travel which, for a girl from a socialist country, already looked like a dream.
At the beginning of our senior year, our counselor had us research schools and majors more in-depth. I listed translation, among others, as it still involved in languages and travel.
The counselor told me “you will never make it” which piqued my interest. “Why?” I asked.
“Because there is a rigorous entrance exam and they only take about every tenth person who takes it. No one from our school ever made it in.”
Now I was really hooked. I went and read everything I could about the program. I made an appointment with a couple of university professors and asked them what to read before the exams.
It wasn’t enough to study for the entrance exams, though. I needed to ace the final high school tests as well.
I do not think I did all that well. In the end, it was all just a blur. But I got in. And loved every minute of both my undergraduate and graduate programs.
From Translator to an LSP Owner
And I have loved every day of working in this business and providing translation services.
What is it they say? If you love what you do you have never worked a day in your life. That’s me, right there. I have never worked a day in another field.
I started as a freelance translator and interpreter, but shortly after graduating, my best friend and I started our own business in Prague. After moving to Texas a few years later, I started my current business, Teneo Linguistics Company.
I am so very grateful for being able to work in translation. It is a people-oriented, personal business. There is nothing more personal than feeling the joy of helping someone hear and understand and be heard and understood. And this is the answer to “Why Translation Services?”.
Translators are facilitators of communication and they are educated, talented, beautiful people who care about what they do. We are privileged to be working with hundreds of them, all around the world.
Our industry is rapidly evolving. Mankind is generating more data needing translation than ever before. And it is exciting to see how we can pick up the translation slack with the help of technology that gets better every day.
We use technology in everything we do: standard translation, localization, machine translation, and post-editing. It also allows us to use the tools of the trade to expand into other areas of service, like Translation 360, so that our clients could get greater peace of mind around translation services.
As for me, I have not done any translating in years. My current hat is that of an owner of a Language Services Provider firm, a partner to our clients, and a boss to a number of awesome employees. Removing obstacles from their way so they could grow and shine is what I do.
But I do it all in the context of the best industry ever – the language services industry – and I would not trade it for the world.