I'll begin with a confession.
I don't like the term "add". Yes, I understand the verb is used, in this case, to describe bolstering one's language combination but to me it conjures up images of simple arithmetic or casually grabbing something from a shop shelf.
Indeed I wrote "add" in italics and inverted commas in the first draft of my opening blog post. To my mind, this term does not do justice to the linguistic feat that is learning a language to a level from which one can interpret.
However, I needed to get over myself and, once I reconciled myself to the fact that "add" is common parlance in interpreting circles, I had to acknowledge that my language combination of English A, French C and Italian C would guarantee little regular work with the EU. In short, a third C would be vital.
I cannot speak for other colleagues but I found this realisation rather dispiriting. I've just spent the last X years studying languages 1 & 2 - not to mention training to be an interpreter, working full-time and trying to secure the odd day in the booth - and now you tell me I must begin learning language 3? Are you joking? What do you mean I should have already started?
The process for me was as follows:
Deal with the term "add" (it's just semantics after all) - CHECK
Accept that adding another language is essential to be competitive on the market - CHECK
Choose which language to add - Hmm...
Why I chose Portuguese
There are several criteria to consider when it comes to deciding which language you should add. I believe you should ask yourself the following questions about the language:
- How similar is it to the existing languages I have in my combination?
- How easy is it to learn/how long could it take?
- How common is it in the booth, i.e. do many other colleagues work with it?
I opted for Portuguese predominantly out of passion rather than in response to any of the three questions above, though naturally they did have an impact on my decision. Adding a language in the majority of cases is a lengthy process and can become a bit of a slog. It's safe to assume you are already working and have other commitments - not least maintaining the existing languages in your combination - yet you resolve to find the time and money to begin working on another language.
Whether you like it or not, there will be days when you can't be bothered, when it feels you'll never get there. This is why it's even more important to learn a language you enjoy, one spoken in countries you like to visit or whose culture interests you. I decided on Portuguese because I went on several family holidays there when I was younger and loved the place. I chose Portuguese because it's part of the same language family as French and Italian and that gave me a real lift when I realised I could read so much of it from day one. Portuguese got the nod because realistically this whole process will take at least three years and the language will continue to be a part of my personal and professional life. Therefore I must enjoy learning it.
Passion was key. I am passionate about Portugal, Portuguese cuisine, the language and the country's football culture. The senior colleague at the institutions may well be right when he tells you there is a shortage of Croatian in the English booth but that statement reflects the supply of interpreters on that given day. Consider this: how long will it take you to learn Croatian to the required level and come that time will it still be so heavily in demand?
Learn a language that interests and excites you. Consider the career implications but remember above all that this is something that will be with you day in, day out.