Saturday, 13 June 2015

Lost in translation

Husband leaves tomorrow morning for a week in Japan. He is going to investigate laser machines but the trip strangely seems to include a rather large amount of sightseeing. You might not think this is very interesting but it has been a testing time for me. You might not know it, but Japan was my place, not his, and I always had it on my list of things to do that I would show him around there one day. As soon as I heard he was going, I was adamant we could all go. Opportunity of a lifetime. Wrong. Four days of upset and arguments and it is not happening. All is reconciled now; my time will come. But it did make me think about an awful lot of everything and for a while it became a symbol of everything I've had to give up since children came along. It's only today that it occurs to me that it might just be linked to my next big unveiling of news. Sometimes you need a big shove to realise what you really want and to try to go after it.

Another thing you might not know about me is that a long long time ago I went to university and studied French, German and Swedish. It took me a long while to find a job using just one of my languages, and then I stopped because of the babies. And for a long time, along with the old wild nights out and the less saggy body, I told myself it was all just part of the past and that I was better off this way. The children would be my ultimate reward and I could get all the fulfilment I needed from framing some bits of felt or from organising a PTA fair.

Last year when we were getting the kitchen done and the only tap that we loved on Pinterest had to be imported from Sweden, I dusted off my 25-year-old Swedish, relearning to tell my past participles from my definite articles and translated every last word of the assembly instructions into English. I'm not convinced Charlie ever needed to look at my translation to fit the tap but it set my heart on fire. It coincided with an old university friend getting in touch on Facebook and asking if I'd ever thought about translation. A little filing cabinet in my head had its first memo put away into it.

Last Christmas, on a night out, two friends drunkenly rounded on me and told me I was wasted and that I would be much happier if I got a proper job. I spent a lot of time justifying myself to myself - but I think the second memo went into the filing cabinet.

Then recently the cabinet was flung open... I answered an urgent call on Facebook from the International Feltmakers Association for someone to translate an interview with a French felter and designer for their members' magazine. How lovely to combine two of my favourite things... the joy of writing down for all those British readers that the designer had worked for Yves Saint-Laurent and spent evenings alone in the studio on all fours picking up offcuts of sumptuous fabrics that she still had in her box of scraps - a woman after my own heart. Then a week in France and some children who tested the definition of my ultimate reward to the limits and the damage was done, the dam had come crashing down and on my return I found myself googling translation.

I'm now halfway through my application for a part-time MA in Translation at the University of Bristol (I did one for Portsmouth distance learning too just in case). I've done my test translations in French and in, gulp, German pulled out of my head after a gap of 20 years, and although I keep rereading and amending them on a daily basis, I'm getting quietly proud of them. Next I have to write a 1500-2000 word essay complete with quoted references on why a good translator needs to have a good knowledge of the target language. It's daunting but it's a good buzz. There is a huge chunk of my brain that has been lying dormant for years. And I'm really pleased to say it's started jumping up and down and shouting "Hello!" and I'm very happy to see it again.

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