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Friday, April 16, 2010

Une Confession Publique

It's time to confess a secret I've been hiding and snickering about for several months now. And you read it first here on the blog.

I work in communications for an international media ministry, and a lot of my work is fielding written responses from donation partners all over the world. Even though my team and I are only supposed to get e-mails in English from the U.S.A, the U.K., and Australia, sometimes letters in unknown languages land in our inboxes. In this case we have to determine where they are from in order to forward them on to the appropriate regional office.

The first time this happened to my co-worker and long time friend Genavieve, she got an e-mail written in French and sent it to me to read and translate for her, since I speak French. This allowed her to find out exactly what the issue was in the email so she could forward it to the specific staff member in the Europe office who could handle the issue, which was a much more streamlined process than sending it to a generic european inbox first.

Gena was so impressed with me that she tried her luck further with a Dutch e-mail, knowing that I spent two years living in Holland when I was in middle school. My Dutch proficiency was barely conversational when I moved away, and I've lost nearly all of it since then. However, I did manage to get the gist of what the partner was saying and relay it back to Gena.

News started to spread in the office. "Bethany is a master linguist, she can help you with any foreign language question".
Next came a letter in Afrikaanse, a language very close to Dutch that is spoken in South Africa. Then one in Creole, a near-French dialect spoken in Haiti. When these e-mails landed in my inbox from my team-members with "Help?" written in the subject line, sending them back undeciphered was simply not an option for me.

Enter Google Translate.

It's a fabulous little Google tool that is not entirely accurate (don't even think about using it in a language class) but adequately useful. I started entering the mystery text into the translation field and having it do the work for me to generalize what the letter said, then responding to my co-workers with "Oh, this is just someone telling us how awesome we are" or "this person needs to change their monthly donations" or whatever else the letter said.
The requests for translations have gotten more and more obscure since then. I've "translated" Croatian, Estonian, and even Bulgarian.

I am legendary.
And somehow they all have no idea.

So this is my public confession. If any of my co-workers find my blog, they have full permission to call me out during morning prayer.

Till then, I'll keep my office identity of omni-lingual genius.
Dank je wel.