Spreading the language love (3) by Tess Whitty: our first guest post!

One of the New Year’s Resolutions I recently suggested for small-business owners was to get involved in educational outreach. Tess Whitty has done just that and has written a marvellous guest post (our first ever!) describing her experience. Here it is.

School Outreach – spreading the love of languages and translation

I grew up in a bilingual country (Finland), speaking the minority language (Swedish), so I had to start learning a second language (Finnish) in third grade, and a third language (English) in fifth grade. In high school I also studied French and German, but I never thought about becoming a translator, not until moving to the US, having small children and looking for a better way to combine family and career. During my time here in the US, raising school aged children, I have become acutely aware of the minimal language education the children get in American schools.

I love my job and I love languages and want to share my enthusiasm by sharing information about the great careers you can have when you know more than one language well. American Translators Association has started an initiative to educate schools about career opportunities in translation and interpreting. To encourage us to participate in this initiative, ATA has started a competition in which one person can win the registration fee for the annual conference by educating children in schools about language careers. You can find presentation material and tips on the ATA website.

Now that my son is in 6th grade I decided it was high time to take action. One of his classes is called “world languages,” and in that class students learn a little about French, Spanish and Chinese. After this introductory year they can choose one language to study in depth. I asked if I could come and talk about careers in translation and interpretation. The teacher was very enthusiastic about this idea.

The class was very interested in learning more about benefits of learning other languages and I was happy to teach them the difference between interpreting and translation. I also talked about how one can become a translator or interpreter and what one needs to be good at in order to become one. The students were surprised how many places and professions use foreign languages. By providing examples of bad translations and having them sample Swedish candy and cookies, I was able to keep a class of twenty-five 12 year olds interested for a whole hour. It would not surprise me if I also persuaded at least a few to further investigate a career in translation and interpreting.

Author Biography:

Photo of Tess WhittyTess Whitty has eight years of experience as a freelance translator from English into Swedish with her company Swedish Translation Services. She specializes in software localization, marketing and business communications. She has a M.A. in Business Communications and PR from Belgium and a M.Sc. in Economics from Finland.

Before working as a translator she worked for a Telecommunications company in Sweden as a Product Marketing Manager.  She is the language chair for the upcoming ATA English-Swedish certification program and is a member of American Translators Association, several local translation chapters and The Swedish Association of Professional Translators.  She has previously served as the president for the Swedish School in Salt Lake City for five years.  This school was funded by the Swedish government and provided complementary Swedish education to children with Swedish parents. During this time she also taught Swedish to teenagers and adults.

She runs a very successful freelance translation business, and works with both agencies and direct clients. Her background in marketing has given her valuable knowledge and experience in marketing her own business, and she is now ready to share this knowledge with other freelancers.

Tess’s website

Tess’s blog

By Marian Dougan

5 Responses

  1. Nice initiative, Tess. As for myself, my old high school French teacher in Canada once asked me to speak to her class about living in France. The students asked lots of good questions about living abroad and speaking a foreign language and I hope to have encouraged a few of them to keep up their French.

    Any Swedish cookies left?

    Thank you Tess and Marian 🙂

  2. Interesting post, Tess. Just wanted to add my experience here in London. My 2 children (Ellie, 15 and James 12) go to single sex schools, which is quite common in our area. In James’ school, the French department is extremely active (French days, plays, the teaching is fantastic etc.) and when I offered to help by doing an assembly once on France and Corsica and once on languages in general, the school loved the idea and the boys were very receptive and enthusiastic. On the other hand, at my daughter’s school, languages come second, if not third. It is a very passive teaching and nothing is ever organised outside the lessons AND when I offered to do an assembly or even to help with running a lunchtime club, they never accepted my (free) offer. I tried “spreading my love of languages” and found two different reactions.

    1. Hi Natalie,
      Thanks for your comment! How interesting that the focus on languages can differ so much within the same school district. Good luck being a good advocate!

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