a small step forward

This past Friday night, I had yet another typical night-in au village. Not sure where the inspiration came from, but on this evening, I decided to finally take the small step forward and to explore becoming a translator.
After all, the title of this blog is Asian Polyglot, which implies that I know many languages, so it should make sense for me to utilize such skills. I had been following language/translation blogs for a little while, but there was always one thing holding me back – I can’t write in Chinese and French the way I write in English. And the better my writing becomes in English, the bigger this gap grows and the more intimidated I became.

However, after reading more carefully in relevant articles, I learned that professional/serious translators only translate documents into their mother tongue, or in my case, the language that I am most comfortable with. The reason is that no matter how fluent you become in another language, there are still certain syntax that is difficult to grasp. I have many French friends who speak English very fluently, but when they write to me, while I understand perfectly what they are trying to convey, the writing is still very… Frenchy.

Of course the exception to the rule is if you moved to another country and became more fluent in a language other than your mother tongue.

Another attractive element to being a serious translator is that they often only translate documents in their specialties, because to do a good job capturing the text, one need to understand it. This makes perfect sense. The other day, a Cameroonian girl who is working in fisheries asked me to translate the summary of her thesis. I read it, and said, “no way”. I barely understand those terms in English, much less French. However, I’d be happy to take on the task of translating documents in the subject of finance, economics, and other business related topics.

Once this idea was in my head, I searched for ways that I can actually carry it out. One of my favorite language blogs suggested that one should offer to translate for free or at inexpensive rate to gain experience. It just so happened that recently I discovered a charming French blog that’s really trendy and cute; however, its English translation was Google Translate and well, we all know machine translation is a disaster.

I wrote and offered to translate her blog and naturally she gladly accepted the proposition. However, she already has someone translating her new entries, so I would only need to do the archives. Nevertheless, that is over 2 years worth of writing! I am really excited about this! I love her blog. It’s all about fashion, interior design, Paris, etc. It’s the side of me that I’ve neglected since being in Cameroon, and reading her blog reminds me of how life used to be. A healthy dose of nostalgia never hurts anyone.

So, there is my practice for French-English translation. Just earlier today, I learned that Wokai, a microfinance group working in China that I’ve been following for years needs translation volunteers for Chinese-English work. PERFECT. Naturally, I signed up. We shall see how that works out!

I am excited about this new adventure. I most likely will not do this as a full-time job since I still intend on getting a graduate degree in economics and international public policy, and go on saving the world, etc. etc. blah blah blah. But hey, this would make a perfectly fun side-job. This resembles my piano-teaching job that lasted 5 years between high school and university! Stay tuned!

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