My Journey (Part I)

13 08 2012

Well, what can I say? I did not become a translator by choice; I truly believe that it was my calling. As I tell my story, you’ll see that I have veered away from translation time and time again, but it has always found its way back into my life.

I am Brazilian and I first decided to learn a second language when I was 7. My parents took us on a holiday to Mexico and there were kids from all nationalities in our hotel. I remember being really curious as to what they were saying and desperately wanting to interact with them. I asked my mom what language would I have to speak if I wanted to communicate with as many of them as possible and she said: “English”. There and then I decided that I would speak English.

It took my mother two years to allow me to start taking English lessons and when she finally did I was hooked for ever. I can safely say that I have been an English student since.

By the age of 13 I had gone through all levels of English classes available in my school and in my town, so the school offered me a part-time job teaching English in their computer lab to keep me interested. Indeed, that kept me very interested for a while. I loved teaching, loved the challenge of having to explain things and try to find ways for people to be motivated by language and, of course, loved having a bit of pocket-money. I also got involved with AFS, which is an NGO with a very interesting mission (I will try to write a post about that as well, because this is an organization worth talking about). With AFS I had the opportunity to meet and talk to exchange students from all over the world, and had my first experiences with translation.

Nonetheless, by the age 15 I felt there was nothing else I could learn on my own, and if I wanted to speak English properly I would have to live in an English-speaking country.

That is exactly what I did (after two years of trying to convince my parents and finally succeeding) and in January 2000 I moved to Australia for a year. Australia would deserve a whole chapter if I were to describe the amazing experience I had, but the most relevant aspect of this experience for my future career as a translator was meeting a very special teacher. Ms. McCutcheon was my English and Drama teacher. When I decided to take PES (Public Examination Subject) English – which was the hardest level of English in year 12 in  the Australian education system at the time -, she advised me strongly against it. She said it was hard even for native speakers and I would probably fail. I told her that if she was willing to help me, I was willing to put in the effort. Boy, did she make me put in the effort! Every essay that my classmates had to write once and submit to her, I would have to write at least three times. I would always have two deadlines before everyone, when she’d correct and go through my whole essays with me. Looking back, I cannot thank her enough. Between drama classes, “hardcore” English and a very intense exchange student life I managed to come second in my English class at the final exams and win a Conscientious Effort Award. More importantly, I came home from Australia with near-native English and the grammar and structural foundations for my future profession (although I did not know it then).

Another legacy of my Australian experience was my love for and awe of nature. I decided to become a marine biologist and study life in this amazing planet. And, no, I did not even consider becoming a translator!

(Read more about My Journey in Part II and Part III).

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