Irina Young

Irina Young MCIL CL is a conference interpreter. Here she explains why she wanted to become a professional linguist. For the original Russian version of this article, see The Linguist 54,6.

Irina Young

"I was born in the USSR, where Russian was the lingua franca. It was the Cold War and I was curious about ordinary people ‘on the other side of the barricade’: I wondered how different they were, what they liked, what they dreamt about. That is how I became interested in foreign languages.

I attended a specialist English language school and the teachers' love for English was infectious. It was a totally different world. I then enrolled in the Philological Faculty of the Far-Eastern State University in Vladivostok and the course included units on translation and interpreting theory and practice. At that time, university students had military training alongside their degrees, and I was admitted to the military translation and interpretation course. The language labs had modern equipment, and we had an opportunity to listen to unabridged authentic speech in English. It was my first experience of simultaneous interpreting.

After doing a PhD in lexicography in Leningrad, I became Head of the Foreign Languages Department at the Technical University of Komsomolsk-na-Amure. I returned to translating and interpreting during perestroika, when Western business people began searching for new opportunities in post-Soviet Russia.

It gives me a lot of satisfaction to think that, because of my work at conferences, seminars, masterclasses and shows, people of different languages and cultures can find common ground and agree on important business and political issues, acquire new skills and knowledge, and enjoy each other’s company as professionals. Interpreting often involves working under stress and yoga helps me with breath control, memory and stress resistance.

My academic past gives me tools to teach young interpreters and, besides working with educational institutions in the UK, I have visited Kazakhstan to provide professional development training. I also do voluntary work, helping people to find information about family members who died during war time by translating relevant documents. And I am starting to work on a project developing handicrafts with women in central Asia and republics of the former USSR, and finding markets for their products."