Tonight, we’re off to Barcelona for a few days. I’m very intrigued as to whether I’ll be able to retrieve enough of my Spanish to communicate with the locals. I studied it for 8 years, but since I’ve been in England, I haven’t read or spoken it, so "rusty" is a bit of an understatement. I’ve often thought that I really should take it up again; I studied its grammar in minute detail, I used to speak it reasonably well (I grew up 40 km from the Spanish border) and towards the end of my studies, I routinely translated Llorca, García Marquéz and Allende for my homework. I even remember reading Un Viejo Que Leia Novelas De Amor by Lúis Sepúlveda in Spanish (and loving it).
In terms of career development, it would be very interesting for me to be able to translate from two languages instead of one (for obvious reasons). However, I don’t believe you can separate a language from the culture to which it belongs. I feel extremely confident in translating from English because I’m completely intimate with British culture; if I tried to translate from Spanish after having studied it long enough to get back to a good level, I would miss lots of cultural references and nuances. Therefore, I would have to live and study in Spain for at least a few months to be able to take and hopefully pass a translation diploma in Spanish, which is a very exciting prospect.
But then would I be able to cope with three languages? I started learning English at 11, Spanish and Latin at 13 and German at 15. I remember that one of the reasons why I didn’t like German was that I just couldn’t cope with so many different vocabularies and that they kept interfering with each other. I wouldn’t want my English or French to suffer, however lots of translators seem to be working from two languages. How do they manage to keep up with three languages and cultures?
This is something I really need to think about. Ideally, I’d love to have feedback from people who do work with three languages. Anyone out there?