We all claim to be thankful for what we have in life, especially those of us who are self-employed, love what we do and work internationally (albeit it virtually, for the most part) every day.
But just how much do we truly appreciate the position we’re in?
This week TransTeach has had cause to focus once again on its good fortune and to remember that we all need to use the gifts we’ve been given, to give back…
Most of us who translate or use languages in our work every day have been privileged enough to travel to those countries where the languages we use are spoken. In fact, many of us have lived there. What’s more, we’ve often travelled to a multitude of other places in the world where they don’t speak any of the languages we do. It’s often in our blood. Sort of a “Have passion for languages, Will travel” kind of a thing.
Aside from my language business, I run a charity with my partner called “My Mother’s Love” (www.mymotherslove.co.uk). The charity aims to raise awareness among children and young adults of environmental and social issues, in a unique and innovative way. At first sight, the link between this venture and working in the translation industry may not be all that evident. But there most definitely is one and I become more and more aware of it every day.
As linguists or translators, we often take for granted the level of cultural awareness that we possess. We partake in intercultural activities without stopping to give things a second thought. It’s what we ‘do’. We work to overcome language and cultural barriers and boundaries, after all. As a result, the world is a particularly small place for us. Interacting with individuals living on the other side of the globe is our bread and butter and we often possess geographical knowledge that extends beyond the norm, without even realising it.
In a week’s time our charity will be achieving one of its ultimate objectives, for the very first time. We’ll be taking a group of young people who’ve stuck by us through thick and thin to the Caribbean. The trip will involve environmental and conservation activities as well as visits to foster cross-cultural and intergenerational development. These young people haven’t had the opportunity to see as much of the world as many of us have. The reasons why don’t really matter. Being around them as our departure approaches has given rise to situations that make me appreciate how lucky I am to have travelled the world and to continue to do so, for the purposes of my work, every day .
Whether it be an interested parent who admits that they had thought the Caribbean and Spain were ‘pretty much the same thing’ or questions about what clothes to take, what food we’ll eat and how much things will cost, the effect is always the same: I gain a heightened awareness of the level of cultural and linguistic education that I have been fortunate enough to attain. A university degree (whether in languages or another subject) and worldwide travel are not a given in life. They are, in fact, a very special gift that I have been lucky enough to receive. There are many who will never know what it is to feel calm and comfortable living in the midst of very different cultures and speaking foreign tongues.
I’ve taught and worked with children and young people in many parts of the world. However, our upcoming trip will be a first for me. We’ll be taking young people with the same linguistic and cultural background I have to visit a place the likes of which they’ve only ever seen on television before. The heat, the landscape, the flora and fauna and even the accent of the locals will be unchartered territory for them. Nerves are undoubtedly starting to kick in; but there’s also a palpable excitement, the fear and anticipation of the unknown, a desire to see more of our great big planet and to take advantage of what may well be the trip of a lifetime.
Throughout our time away, I’m looking forward to seeing things from a different perspective, through different eyes – those of the young people I’ll be with. I like to think I’m never complacent about journeying to new places and absorbing the sights, sounds, smells and tastes. However, it can be all too easy to come to see such experiences as a normal part of life, particularly in my line of work, when in fact, for the majority of people in the world, they really aren’t.
Every single day during our trip I shall be remembering to be thankful for the gifts life has bestowed upon me, none more so than my abilities as a linguist and the experiences that has afforded me. Perhaps, if only for a few minutes, you might also do the same after reading this. We should all appreciate what we have in life as often as we can. This is another opportunity to do exactly that.
If you found this post helpful and have your own suggestions as to why we should we thankful for our life as linguists, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.