I studied languages at school so I know how hard it is to learn a different language and become fluent, (I’m using the word ‘fluent’ loosely in my case) so being a translator it is no mean feat!
After almost 13 years of learning English literature, history and grammar, I arrived in London and couldn’t understand a thing. None of my English teachers in Italy spoke like your typical black cab driver, and no one was really interested in talking about Shakespeare or Chaucer! I could just about string a few sentences together. After a few months, a miracle occurred and I got a job in a bar in the West End. My understanding of English was still really poor (there was no understanding at all really) however I had a trial shift and they hired me.
It was a bar with three floors and it was loud and very busy. I was lucky that the bar was full of tourists. We didn’t really understand one other but the customers would accept any drink I would pour them. Rarely the ones they’d asked for! But is that really what matters? It is the experience that counts! I am sure my Manager at the time kept me on as he found my struggle entertaining. He once asked me to go upstairs to the Ladies’ and get a mop. Now I understood this as “go upstairs and find the lady with the mop”. Upstairs I went, a bit confused as I knew the cleaner was a man, but nonetheless kept searching. I spent half an hour looking for this lady who didn’t exist! I knew then that if I didn’t get sack that day my job would be safe forever. And do you know, the Manager kept me on.
Languages are so important. One misunderstanding and you find yourself looking for a woman who doesn’t exist! Happy International Translation Day everyone!