My Career, My Valentine

                                                          In honor of the upcoming Valentine’s Day celebration let’s take a moment to examine how we interpreters and translators can continue to stay deeply in love with our professions.  

As a staffer at a busy courthouse and a moonlighting translator, you would think that by the time I have any free moment I’d want to gel and stare into space just to get my thoughts together. I mean, who in their right mind voluntarily takes a weekend to attend seminars all day when they could take distance learning from the comfort of their own homes to get the required continuing education units? I’ll tell you who:  language professionals. There’s something that we have in our hard-wiring, perhaps our very genetic makeup that seems to make it impossible to pass up any chance to learn! Even after the most grueling day, my colleagues and I are just waiting for quittin’ time when, out of nowhere, somebody mentions a term. The room lights up with intelligent, energetic discourse and we suddenly find that once again, our love for the profession has been reignited. All that said, it can still be very easy to fall into a rut and forget to fan the flames of this love if we are in an isolated environment or have pretty much the same routine terminology come up day after day.

“As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.” — Socrates

Even after some 15 years in the profession, and over half my life knowing a second language, instead of feeling like I am even close to completing my learning, I realize there is still infinite knowledge that I need to obtain. This will come in the form of experience, naturally, but it is also my responsibility to actively seek out learning opportunities. Ancient philosophy has taught us that the more we know, the more we realize how much we don’t know. Applied to the profession of interpreting and translation, the fascinating worlds we work in are only as interesting as we make them by absorbing what we are transferring between languages and finding something interesting to delve into a little deeper.

“You learn something every day if you pay attention.”  —Ray LeBlond

How can we take a routine and shake it up a little, and continue to love what we do? One way is to pay closer attention to what we’re doing and what’s happening around us. Maybe there’s a word or phrase for which we can find a different rendition. Perhaps it’s a matter of really taking that one term in a translation and spending just ten extra minutes researching a little deeper. It may even be actively reading a publication that relates to our work in some fashion, taking a particularly difficult sentence and trying to untangle it to put it in another language. There are opportunities all around us!  Even simpler than all this is the realization that we’ve chosen a profession that doesn’t have to end when we go home for the day. We live surrounded by at least one language (hopefully two!) every day of our lives, and that’s fertile ground for our learning. Even listening to how our kids speak “teenager” is an opportunity to think of how we would express that in another language. It can be quite an interesting and fun task, and it’s just one reminder of why we love what we do.

“Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” —Abigail Adams

It can be very easy to rest on our accreditations and forget that we must continue to learn all the time, and not just when we’ve got continuing education to submit to the powers that be. Conferences and seminars are my preference for continued growth. They’re such an excellent way to not only connect with other professionals, but also to discover new topics or different ways of handling tasks. It’s an environment where we are surrounded by like-minded individuals and the air can become alive with the electricity of brain power from everyday people. I have yet to attend a conference or seminar professionally where I felt anything but awe when I realized how many people have the same passions, the same struggles and the same thirst for knowledge that I do! To top it all off, during breaks at interpreter events it’s easy to walk around a room and get to know people from all language pairs, making new friends you’ll probably see at a future event. If you’re in a remote area where conferences and seminars are hard to come by, even taking on a distance learning course among a few colleagues can be invigorating! The more we can do our best to enjoy continuing education, the more likely we will be to keep seeking out great opportunities, or maybe even start saving up for the big national conference of our favorite professional organization!  I guarantee you’ll love what you do even more when you commit to great educational events.

 You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give. —Winston Churchill

Volunteerism is yet another way to keep the spark alive in our love for our work. Although participation at in-person events is one of the biggest commitments we can make as volunteers, there are countless ways to get involved now that we are in the computer age. Your favorite professional organization or chapter most undoubtedly has a newsletter, a website, a blog or some other social media where your two cents can really count. Even if you can’t take on a big role in one of these endeavors, your sense of commitment to the career can become even deeper by lending a willing hand. If you have the opportunity to attend a conference or seminar, contact the organizers and see if they need some helpers, and I bet that event will become more meaningful. Even something as simple as a mentoring relationship is a win-win for new and seasoned interpreters alike, because both learn and contribute to the others’ learning. In short, this is our profession, one that we love very much, and our proven ability to excel when we work alone is boundless when we have the opportunity to work together.

 “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.”—Hebbel

Whether you call it love, passion or simply enjoying your career, I think we can all agree that having a true calling and affinity for this profession is rewarded every day. For some, staying involved and actively seeking out opportunities for growth is easy, for others it may require more effort. No matter where we find ourselves on our career path, taking the time to really look at what we do to keep that passion alive is worth the time, and should be a commitment we all make. This year, I think I’ll make my career my Valentine.

4 thoughts on “My Career, My Valentine”

  1. Gio says:

    I blame my passion for languages on my father, and my passion for human contact on my mother. My dad would immediately change the focus of a discussion if a word was used in a new or incorrect way. “Where’s the dictionary” was a common thing to hear in my house. And my mom always had the house full of people: neighbors’ kids, relatives, friends. A family is bound by more than blood, seemed to be her stand on the issue. Common interests, different points of view, a willingness to learn and share were traits that would make any one eligible to join hers.

    That’s how come I love participating in our professional events.

  2. Jennifer De La Cruz says:

    I love it! In a sense, the passion for what we do can be as beautiful as it is burdensome when we can’t shut off the interpreter/translator brain! Gotta lay at least a little blame! I bet being raised in a household where education and learning is constantly expected is a common thread for many of us!

  3. Very interesting post! Indeed Learning new things gives us a feeling of accomplishment which, in turn, boosts our confidence in our own capabilities; you’ll also feel more ready to take on challenges and explore new business ventures.

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