Roughly a year and a half ago, Dagy decided to take a few Greek lessons, with no goal in mind except wanting to be able to order her Greek coffee in Greek when in Greece (a country she adores and likes to visit). Also, an EU interpreter friend had recommended looking into a new language before taking the accreditation test for freelance conference interpreters, as this might impress the jury (it sure did!). Read on to learn about Dagy's Greek learning adventure.
|Αλεξάνδρα and Ντάγκι in class.|
Initially, I had no intention of going beyond the very basics. I struggled to learn the alphabet and threw a fit or two until I finally got those lower case, upper case and handwritten letters straight. At some point, my ambition kicked in and on New Year’s Eve, I decided on a very ambitious long-term project: reaching a level of Greek that would allow me to interpret from Greek into German at the European Union by early 2017. That’s four years down the road. It might sound like a daunting task, but it’s certainly doable. “Adding” new languages is the new normal for interpreters, both freelance and staff, at the institutions of the European Union, where I am a freelance conference interpreter. After all, relay interpreting can be frustrating. It's a process that's frequently used in conference interpreting sessions for languages of lesser diffusion, say, if there's no Greek->German interpreter available, speeches are interpreted into English and then into German, resulting in a delay for all parties. And since all of us have learned languages in the past, why not add another? I know a lot of interpreters who have added languages and it takes them about four years on average. This project will certainly require a high level of self-discipline and dedication, both of which I have in abundance (probably because I was a serious athlete in my previous life). Even though I have a lot of other things on my plate (running our business, translating, interpreting, serving as the Secretary General of my professional association UNIVERSITAS Austria, working out, reading books etc.), I think I can do it.
Now, how am I doing it? For the time being, I am still a slightly advanced beginner. I've taken two summer courses and one full semester course, all of them at beginner level, since no others were offered. While it’s a small group, not everybody is learning at the same pace and I felt I needed to take it to the next level if I was to get past Πού μένεις; (where do you live?) and Τι κάνεις; (how are you?) soon. So I asked the excellent teacher, Athens-born Alexandra (Αλεξάνδρα in Greek), to give me private lessons. Together, we will focus on what interpreters need most: understanding complex speeches. That will involve a lot of listening comprehension exercises, numbers and tons of vocabulary, after we get past the grammar basics, that is. In addition, I listen to Greek talk radio every day as well as to EU plenary sessions and committee meetings to hear high-level Greek. Unlike just six months ago, I do understand a few words here and there. The great part about starting out with a new language is the fantastic progress you see at the beginning. I’m also looking into taking an intensive course at a language school in Athens that comes highly recommended by a fellow EU interpreter who learned her Greek there. I also purchased a few comic books in Athens last September and hope to be able to read them soon. I sometimes venture to Greek news sites to practice my reading skills (albeit without understanding).
Wish me luck! My significant other, Tommy, said that he’s we willing to buy a small summer house on a Greek island if I pass the EU accreditation exam for Greek in 2017. We are so on!