Katarzyna Slobodzian-Taylor specialises in medical and pharmaceutical translations. In her native Polish, she discusses her journey as a professional linguist; read the original Polish version, published in The Linguist Vol/56 No/2
As a child, I quickly discovered languages could give me access to a completely new world that was normally out of limits to other people. I was curious about new things, and growing up in Poland as the country was transitioning from an inward-looking communist regime to a Western-inspired young democracy was a great opportunity to experience a different way of thinking and living. I recall getting fixated on an article about Harrods I found in my English textbook at the time, when all you could afford in post-Soviet Poland was a pair of Adibas or Fuma – cheap knock-offs of the popular Western brands.
Mesmerised by the foreignness and encouraged by my progress, in high school I chose French as my second foreign language, ignoring the suggestion that Russian was a much easier option. Studying English at university was an obvious choice. Then, on the spur of the moment, I added Dutch to my Master’s programme, despite having no prior knowledge of Dutch culture or links with the Netherlands. Little did I know how this decision would impact my adult life.
After graduation, I received a scholarship from the Dutch Language Union for its summer school in Zeist, where one day in the library I met my Indonesian husband. Fast forward a few years, I found myself living in West Java, desperately trying to learn Indonesian to survive in what was a completely new reality to me. On our return to the UK, I was offered a translation traineeship at the European Parliament in Luxembourg which, above all, reminded me how vital it is to keep up with your native language if you live away from your home country. During my six-month role, I worked at the Polish Unit, translating from English, Dutch and French into Polish, and for the first time in my professional career, I had the luxury of focusing solely on my language skills.
Last year marked the 10th anniversary of my translation career and I am now proud to run a successful translation business specialising in medicine and pharmaceuticals. Although for commercial reasons we work mainly with Polish and English, Dutch and Indonesian remain a key part of my personal life. I often joke that our family meetings resemble the General Assembly of the United Nations. My childhood dream of defying the limits of my own country and culture has come true.