“Ugh, translation: bo-o-o-o-ring!”
Approaching the end of university, I "knew" that there were only three things you could do with a languages degree: teaching, the diplomatic service, or international business. I also "knew," with that comforting certainty that ignorance brings, that translation had to be incredibly boring: replacing one word in one language with its equivalent in another, moving onto the next word, replacing that one, moving on, and on and on until going-home time.
So, international business, then. Into the light-grey suit and into marketing, product development, personnel—and into not using my languages at all. Everything, but everything, happened in English. After three years, I was desperate to get back into languages, desperate enough tentatively to tackle the terrible tedium of the T-word. I answered an advertisement from the Bank for International Settlements, which was looking for an experienced translator. Despite having no experience at all, I made it through to the final shortlist of two, and was invited to Switzerland for a test. I didn't get the job, but, quite suddenly, that couple of hours of trying to wrestle a difficult banking text into elegant English told me exactly what I wanted to do as a career. One might say that my Road to Damascus was the Aeschenplatz in Basel, if only—heaven forfend!—it didn't sound so pretentious.
With a new determination, I pursued various other advertisements, and then a vacancy for a translator opened up at my employer at the time, a tractor manufacturer. A company with a very hands-on approach to training for all the staff, with the result that if you need a translator of agricultural texts, you have here one who has actually driven a tractor, actually turned over some furrows, although not, it must be admitted, very straight ones........
Applied for the vacancy, was refused. Went home, and in that day's mail was a firm offer for a translator post with BP Chemicals. With that extra leverage, I was able to twist the tractor manufacturer's arm into giving me the job. I was on my way.
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