I just received a letter from another Polyglot that I had come into contact by a fantastic language learning site out there – how-to-learn-any-language.com . After asking his permission, I’ve pasted the letter and my response here in the hope that it might be of assistance to other frustrated language lovers.
| Dear Stuart, I take the liberty of dropping you a line for a piece of advice as a younger fellow-polyglot. What I really find terrific about your professional profile, besides your impressive linguistic achievements, is your ability to connect with people and situations, to be the right man in the right place, and basically to make a living out of a passion we all share. I lack this spontaneous talent, so I thought that perhaps you’d spare me a couple of tips to get me started in some way.
I love languages more than anything else, and I feel that they love me back, so to speak. I have been working on and off as a freelance translator for publishing houses, but I’m currently facing unexpected challenges, and I would like to find new ways to draw on my gift to fight back. Pursuing my career in humanities as a university researcher in Europe is getting harder and harder every day due to a severe lack of funding, no matter how qualified you are. I feel I’m wasting my time and my skills queuing in front of doors that won’t open, and if by chance I could manage to merge my passion for languages with a real job with real wages I wouldn’t even think twice…
Can you give me a general idea how you started out, what kind of business needs you were the answer for, what kind of service a language expert may offer, and drop me a hint? University life kind of atrophied my practical 6th sense, but I’m sick of this game and I’m ready to get back on the track.
You can’t imagine what a difference a few expedient suggestions could make…
I thank you heartily in advance!
Keep up the good work,
| Hi Francesco, Thank you for your email. I’ve mentioned a few times through various interviews or clips that my grandfather used to teach me that if you do something you love doing, people will pay you good money to do it. … Well.. that’s kinda true, but there’s a catch! You have to do it in a way that it brings value to other people.
No matter what way you cut it, there are very real limitations to the extent that your average polyglot can go. If they’re not working as a teacher, translator, interpreter, most are gobbled up as spooks, never to see the light of day on the corporate side of the rainbow.
There IS money however in finding ways for companies human resources to work more effectively for them, or in improving the relationship that they have with their customers, or in giving them market insights that they or their normal marketing teams might be overlooking. This is where language, the ability to communicate with people – from grass roots levels to CEO / Presidential comes in.
Don’t sell yourself as a ‘language expert’. That means nothing to the corporate world. They would much rather hire a ‘cross-regional corporate communications agent’, or a ‘Business Development Specialist’ that can go in on the ground and find out what’s really going on ‘on the ground’ and translate it into a workable solution that can be quantified. Quantifying a financial value for the work you do is very important.
My advice to you would be to find out what business networks are running in your area – Chambers of Commerce, Rotary, HR Associations etc. Try and start building a network of decision makers – CEO / Director level and listen to the issues that they’re facing. As they’re speaking, try and figure out whether you have anything that could be of value to them. Go home and sit and work out how you could ‘package’ your skill-set and your network of people in a way that could help them.
It might be working with the management team in helping them understand the cultures of the people they’re working with, or it might be to get on the ground and build communication networks or just understanding of how to get the most out of working with the ‘foreign’ management.
If you’re in a market where this isn’t relevant, maybe you might think of moving somewhere where your value is appreciated more.
It comes down to one thing – you need to bring a Return On Investment to any relationship you have – whether it be with family, friends, students or clients. I’ve found that if I can do this by digging into my own experience, networks, knowledge or skills and sharing it when appropriate, it is very Karmic. Eventually it comes back to benefit me in one shape or other.