It was a strange experience, getting to meet and then discuss the future with my trainer, especially since it turns out he is not going to be my trainer but more of a mentor and, to a certain extent, employer. I think things must be done in a completely different way here in Germany. He arrived just after midday and spent the first half hour talking with the old couple in their sitting room, discussing how their week had been; what was happening in the village; their health; their children. He spoke with them not as someone who had saved their home and who deserved their everlasting gratitude, but as a friend and neighbor. He spoke with them as if they were all part of the same family and had spent the best part of their lives together. It was fascinating to watch and listen to and I learned a great deal about how people in a strong position, or a position of power, should handle others; I gained an insight, a first impression, of the man himself.
We left the house together and drove into the nearby village to a tea-house near the cathedral (Stiftskirche) where he ordered Darjeeling Second Flush to drink and asked whether I wished something to eat. While we waited for the tea, which took a surprisingly long time to be served, he introduced himself and then asked about me, my plans, my ambitions, my experience. I outlined quickly what I wished to learn, the career I planned to follow as a translator, and a little bit about my writing ambitions. Initially we conversed in German, then he suddenly switched to French to talk about the different forms of translation and the various career chances available. Then he spoke in English about the level of understanding of languages and concentration needed to translate in a flowing manner while someone was talking so that conversation wasn’t broken by awkward pauses as one side or the other waited for the translator to catch up. In each language he posed questions, expecting me to answer in the language he had used. Then he tested me, telling me to translate what he was saying as he spoke, something I have never done before and which I can hardly call successful. However, this didn’t seem to bother him too much and he explained why. The year I was due to spend with him had been planned as an introduction to translating, that is, I would have no qualification at the end of this time but a mass of experience and, as he carefully pointed out, a head start over anyone else following the same career course. Once I had all of this behind me I would be well prepared to begin an official course at a higher college or university, a course which takes three years to complete and involves learning everything from text through conference to specialist translation. If I proved myself, if I gained the two Diplomas offered at the end of German translator courses, I could go on to gain a Bachelor degree and then, if my grades were good enough, an MA.
I must admit that I hadn’t thought that far ahead. I had imagined it would be relatively easy to gain experience as a translator; that there would be a few tests and a certificate; that anyone with a command of two or three languages could simply sign up and complete a course in a short period of time before finding work in an international company. What he outlined for me came as something of a shock and he must have read my feelings from my reactions because he immediately began to put me at ease. My Dad, he told me, wanted me to get the best possible education but, at the same time, not go into anything unprepared. The year or so I am to spend in Germany is to give me an insight into business practices, translating and give me a chance to explore Europe and the working practices of European companies as opposed to American ones. Once I have completed this year I should be more than prepared for the next step into the translators world, and have also completed the examinations necessary to gain a place in an European college. As an example he told me that the SDI in Munich requires foreign students to have successfully completed the Deutsche Sprachprüfung II or have a language diploma from the Goethe Institute to show that they have a good understanding of the German language. In order to gain the first of these two courses, I would have to complete a German as Foreign Language course, which means attending lectures for a week or so – in Munich – and then completing an online test.
To recap, because it all seems very strange to me: I need to attend a course which allows me to attend another course which would then allow me, if I’m accepted, to attend the main course. This, or so the plan is, is part of what I have to do during this coming year.
The probability of rain. You can read this several ways: it never rains but it pours, especially when you want to do something and discover that there are a few hurdles which need to be overcome first; real life weather. I now have both of these in my mind: the first because of the new information I now have about what could be my future; the second because the radio weather forecast this morning pointedly stated that the probability of rain today was one hundred percent.
Love & Kisses, Viki.