This will be the first of a series of blogs based on Cross Border Translation’s founder’s answers to interview questions we put to him on his story, translation in general, and academic translations in particular. I found out a lot in one hour of online interviewing with Mr. Joel van Valkenhoef.

Q.: What got you interested in the field of translation?

 A: Translation was quite a logical choice for me, because I was bi-lingual. My two native languages are Dutch and English, both of which I’ve been speaking since I was able to speak. I don’t remember ever learning one while I was speaking the other; they were both there from the start. In addition to that, I’ve always enjoyed writing and translating. I would play around by translating English songs into Dutch in my head or out loud whether I was singing or not. I was happy to help people out when they needed help translating stuff. So, I would say the skill of translating came quite easily to me.

Q.: How many languages do you speak and which ones fluently?

 Like I said, I started out bilingual in my national language, Dutch, plus English. Then at university I learned Spanish, quite an intensive training of 2 years, learning the language, the grammar, the vocabulary. Later, I spent a year living in Spain, so I’m quite good at Spanish.

I had German in high school for 2 years, but I learned more in our frequent visits to the German branch of my family, through past relationships, and by the fact of Germany’s proximity to the Netherlands and the similarities of the languages, so I’m quite proficient in spoken German, but don’t check my spelling.

Apart from that I spent some time living in Rumania, so my Rumanian is at a pretty decent basic conversational level. As is French, which I studied in high school.

Then I speak very basic Thai and Russian. Now, however, I’m focusing on improving my Rumanian and learning Russian. I even bought a Cyrillic keyboard.

Let me summarize here, Joel. You speak English and Dutch fluently, Spanish and German very well, then Rumanian and French conversationally, and very basic Russian and Thai. Impressive, I must say. Cross Border Translation is in good hands, I can see.

Written by: Brent Adams