“Follow your heart.” “Do what you love and never work a day in your life.” Inevitably, you will stumble across such a meme or person reciting iterations of those phrases in an attempt to inspire you to fulfill your destiny. Perhaps a well-meaning school counselor once posed the rhetorical question, “What would you do for a living if you were a millionaire?” thereafter allowing a brief, dramatic, and thought-provoking pause, to finish with a pointed finger and an emphatic, “That, is what you should do.”
So what did my teen self think living as a millionaire would turn her into? In a nutshell, an awesome, independent, humanitarian, multi-tasking, polyglot superheroine. My list of possibilities included being a teacher, a psychotherapist, a UN interpreter, an entrepreneur, and a special agent in law enforcement. I never thought I could feasibly marry all of those professions to carve out the career I’m so proud of today.
On the one hand, the peculiarities of any given person’s day-to-day life have intrigued me since I can remember. In fact, in college I majored in psychology because I wanted to learn what made people tick and hopefully guide them in a positive direction. As a child, I can remember playing detective to try and piece together people’s actions and behaviors. As an adult, my husband implores me to give up brain cell-killing reality TV and jokes that I need to stop watching murder mysteries lest I’m plotting to get rid of him. The truth is, I can’t unplug, because I find people’s choices, ranging from the mundane to the life-altering, to be utterly engrossing. I’m a continuous learner and I take such opportunities to learn from other people’s experiences.
On the other hand, having grown up bilingual and bicultural in the sister cities of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México led me to my fascination with anything language-related, from the acquisition of multiple languages to its application in the real world. I was among the many first-generation Americans to participate in the common practice of interpreting for adult family members as a child. Thereafter, I worked on my “home-cooked Spanish,” as a Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey classmate of mine once so eloquently put it. It is only fitting then that I ended up studying and translating Spanish and French from grade school and well into graduate school. Even now, I take any opportunity to pick up both useful and useless words and phrases in all sorts of languages. “Cockroach” in Russian; “A beer, please,” in Portuguese; and “I’m having a blast,” in Haitian Creole come to mind. I have been further inspired by U.S. Ambassador to France, Craig R. Stapleton’s words, “Learning a language is a gesture of interest, it really is a fundamental way to reach out to someone and say, I care about you.”
My company’s name is “A Lingua Franca,” which means a vehicular language used to make communication possible between people who do not share a native language. My role is to be that driver who connects both clients and language professionals to the best service and opportunities for growth possible.
For instance, when I wear a recruiter’s hat, a resume for me takes the shape of a small piece of somebody’s puzzle which brings out the investigator in me. It is then up to me to decide whether that person’s black and white experiences on paper deem them qualified for whatever particular post I’m recruiting for in that moment. Yet it is not until I talk to the job-seeker or really get to know the translator, perhaps through a furnished mini-autobiography, that I realize how much I didn’t know about the person which may be highly relevant in determining proper job placement. At this point, the aspiring psychologist in me applies those experiences to the broader picture and the academically-trained translator and interpreter in me provides counsel to the language professional. Getting to know the linguistic idiosyncrasies of fellow translators such as the fact that they may “collect the book “Snow White and the 7 dwarfs” in different languages from different countries, and extract the names of the seven dwarfs from them” is just a bonus which further satiates my child-like curiosity and confirms my love for the human-language connection.
Call me an optimistic or a hopeless career-romantic, but looking back at my journey, I can honestly say that I have indeed let my ticker guide me. The caveat is that even when you do, you don’t really know you’re “never working” until you can appreciate, in the full sense of the word, what you do and what led you to it.