Keeping Up With Languages

After much thinking, deliberating, hesitating and mmm-ing, I have decided to stop offering translation from Spanish.

People who do not speak a second language struggle to understand that the knowledge of a language is not for life. Languages are living things. If you don’t look after them, they will wither away and die from your memory. Even your mother tongue can fade away when you live abroad. Yes, really. “Use it or lose it”, as the expression goes. Consequently, translators cannot afford to rest on their laurels with a few outdated dictionaries under their elbow to do the work.

As languages evolve, linguists have to keep up with them by reading about all sorts, watching (recent) films and TV, and listening to the radio in their working language not only to keep it fresh in their memory but also to be aware of any new vocabulary and newly coined colloquialisms as well as cultural connotations that constantly develop. (Think about how the internet and mobile phones have introduced whole lists of new words in the past 20 years.) This is on top of reading up on specialist areas to stay in the know of current activities, market trends, new jargon, etc. in the industries we specialise in, not to mention following what is happening in the world of translation itself.

While all this work is by no means unpleasant, it is nevertheless very time-consuming and doubling the work for the sake of a second language can be overwhelming. Besides, French-to-English and English-to-French keep me nicely busy as it is and I have little demand for translation from Spanish, so all the CPD enumerated above feels like a disproportionate investment of my time and effort. And indeed, apart from visiting Barcelona last year, I have hardly worked at my Spanish in the past few years due to lack of time and incentive. So rather than feel guilty for not doing my homework, I have simply decided to stop Spanish altogether, for my own comfort and sanity but also because I prefer to focus on quality rather than quantity.

I may still be willing to do the odd small job from Spanish into English or French as a favour, but I no longer advertise it and will now concentrate on my primary language pairs. Entonces, ¡hasta luego, español!

Park Güell, Barcelona

Park Güell, Barcelona

2 thoughts on “Keeping Up With Languages

  1. I know exactly what you mean. My sister has lived in Switzerland for about forty years and her English is appalling (sorry sis). She makes terrible grammar mistakes and has a limited vocabulary.
    Although I studied French and German at university, I actually translate from Spanish because it’s the language I learned later in life and am best at. My German is still okayish, but my French is virtually non-existent as I haven’t kept it up at all. Sometimes I can see people’s eyes light up when I say I have a degree in French because they assume I’ll be brilliant at it or offer translations from it, but sadly some thirty years later that’s just not the case.

    Liked by 1 person

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