My linguistic journey
Whether you've come through my about page or you're simply browsing my blog, welcome to my journey with languages. Previously, part of this story was on the 'about' page of my website.
After some thought, I decided that perhaps that was not the right place for it.
If you are a potential client, a fellow lingthusiast, or simply a curioso, and you want to know a little bit more about me, you've come to the right place. Travel with me and hopefully, you'll find what you're looking for along the way.
My journey began in Limassol, Cyprus, my birthplace. Raised in Cyprus, and later in Greece, a native speaker of Greek Cypriot and standard Greek, I’ve started learning foreign languages at the age of 5 and haven’t stopped since. My first foreign language was English.
During High School, I added a second one, French. I obtained a C1 certificate from L'Institut français de Thessalonique at 19 while studying for my first degree. The school modules that secured me a place at university were Modern Greek, Ancient Greek, Latin, History, Creative Writing, English and Biology.
So, from the small town of Pyrgos, situated near Ancient Olympia, I got on a 10-hour train journey to the second biggest city of Greece, Thessaloniki, to enrol at Aristotle University for a BA in English Language and Philology.
During year 3, I received a fund as part of the Erasmus exchange programme. I left Greece for a semester at Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic where I took intensive Czech language lessons. The university hired me to teach Greek as a foreign language to its students. At the end of the semester, I was offered an internship as EFL teacher at Tišnov Grammar High School outside Brno.
Back on a plane, I left Brno for SOAS, London, where I spent summer 2009 learning about endangered language documentation during the 3L International Summer School on Language Documentation and Description.
Subsequently, I returned to Thessaloniki to graduate. My thesis was a joint fieldwork study that focused on the analysis and documentation of the Smyrnaic dialect as spoken in the village of Vathylakos, north of Thessaloniki. Those were exciting times!
My first translation project was assigned to me in 2009. It was a letter raising awareness about the destruction of Vijećnica, the National University Library of Sarajevo. The letter was translated into various languages, including Greek, and then sent to libraries, schools, universities and ministries around the world asking for donations and books to re-establish the library's lost collections. At that point, I began to realise the power of words which pushed me towards further studies in translation.
It's 2010 and after graduation, I found myself on a plane back to London again, following an offer from the University of Surrey to attend their MA in Business Translation with Interpreting. Language learning was particularly encouraged at Surrey, so I took a year of Chinese and Norwegian.
I became a student Member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting. My postgraduate thesis was a comparative study of bilingual financial agreements as signed between the EU, Greece and the International Monetary Fund.
In summer 2011, following a short course in Audio-visual Translation, Video Game Localisation and Audio Description at Imperial College London, I secured my first job as QA Localisation Tester for video games before graduation day! It was hard work and it often involved spending entire weekends in the office before important release dates.
Since then, I have been working in the language industry as Freelance Translator, Public Service Interpreter, QA Localisation Tester, Web Editor, EFL Teacher, Teacher of Greek, Translation Project Manager and Translation Consultant for translation companies and publishers.
Linguistic journeys never end. As Cavafy puts it, it is not about the destination, but the journey.
A career in languages requires commitment and continuous professional development. As technologies and the world around us advance, so should we.
"And so what?" I hear you ask. While I cannot say I have mastered all 8 languages I've studied at a native-like level, I can say with certainty that I understand how languages behave, develop and relate to each other. I know about language acquisition and I can help you produce sounds with your mouth you thought you couldn't do before. Being a linguist does not mean speaking perfectly 500 languages, but knowing about them.
Besides, being a professional translator means you translate into your mother tongue out of languages you have mastered at 100%. It also means there are limits to what you can do and saying "No" to jobs or requests that do not fit your skills and expertise. But most importantly, it means having the required self-awareness that will help you make the right choices.
Contrary to the current climate towards languages in the UK and across the pond, language studies should not be deemed as useful or not based on the economic value they add or not to your life. They have far more than that to offer. They generate channels of communication that link countries, cultures, people, ideas and perceptions. And that is, essentially, the reply to your "so what question".
And you? Where has your journey with languages taken you?
Leave me a comment.
Vasiliki is a translator, interpreter, transcreator, blogger, consultant and director of Greek to Me Translations Ltd. She works with English and Greek and specialises in legal, creative, and psychometrics. She is a Chartered Linguist, member of CIoL, ITI and PEM and she is registered with the Greek Consulate as a certified translator and interpreter. She holds a BA in English and Masters in Business Translation and Interpreting. She is a Steering Group Member of the CIOL Translating Division and CIOL Business, Professions and Government Division. She is an Associate Lecturer in Legal Translation at London Metropolitan University, a public speaker and writer for industry magazines. Her mission is to help you achieve your goals through the power of words. You can follow her on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.