Thursday, April 07, 2005

Cunning linguist

Your friend and mine, Greavsie, has recently considered starting his own business due to general career malaise, a condition which *seems* particularly widespread these days, though I'm not sure whether it's just because I'm at an age where it has started to become an issue for me and my "peers".

The syndrome seems to manifest itself as follows:

That's where Greavsie is right now. That's where I've been for some time, without making any real progress towards my "goal".

Aided and abetted by Greavsie's ponderings, my thoughts have returned to a possible option for me. I've said it before and I'll say it again - the only area where I've achieved anything more than mediocrity is French. I've got a First Class Honours degree in it. I've lived in France and Belgium and been taken for a native in both countries. In fact, in Belgium I was taken as a native of France, whilst my ex-Frog was assumed to be Belgian. Franco-Belgian relations being as they are, he was none too pleased with this assumption... heh heh heh.

I think that when people are classified as being "good at languages", this is often symptomatic of their being "good at imitating", i.e. you haven't lost that childlike quality of absorbing what's around you and repeating it. To speak a foreign language convincingly, you not only say the foreign words, but you say them in the way that the native speaker says them, with Gallic shrugs, gesticulations and pouting as appropriate, and punctuate your conversations with the little phrases they use, like "dis donc", "hop!", "oh là là", "ben oui" and so on.

I'm an imitator. I imitate everything around me - including the various bleeps emanating from office machinery at work, much to the concern of my work colleagues at times. This quality of mine has allowed me to excel at languages and languages have become my fascination.

Evidently, the most obvious (if a little clichéd) job for a linguist is translation (in my case French to English - you should always translate into your mother tongue) and it's something I've been considering more and more seriously as time has gone by for my potential "freelance" business. I've investigated a number of correspondence courses which would groom me for the Institute of Linguists' Diploma in Translation (DipTrans) and I've even done a sample translation which was provided as part of the application pack for one of the courses, which I completed in a couple of hours with no real problems.

But, as is usually the case with me, I'm plagued by self-doubt. Why would someone commission *me* to translate for them when I'm not "naturally" bilingual? There must be so many people whose lives have allowed them to learn more than one language "naturally" from a very early age (as per petite anglaise's daughter "Tadpole", and Alda). I just wonder how I could compete with people like this.

It costs a fair bit of money both to do the course and to enter the exam. Is this a useful investment in my future?

I know, you guys don't necessarily have the answer. It's something I have to work out for myself...

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