Two Souls Dwell, alas!, in my Breast.
(J.W.v. Goethe, Faust)
Once upon a time:
There was a girl who had to decide about her professional career. For the school-leaving exams (Abitur) she had chosen English, Physics, Geography and Spanish, showing a focus on languages. So her future seems to be clear.
Fast Forward to today:
The former graduate has been working as a translator for many years.
The path of life indicated at graduation was taken consequently and successfully.
Hold it! Life isn’t that simple.
The basic question for the choice of a career is: “Technology or language?” Quickly followed by: “What can you do with a degree in languages?” My answer is: “Not much”. Thus I enroll at RWTH Aachen to study mechanical engineering.
A fellow student quits after the first semester and starts training as a foreign language correspondence clerk. At the introductory lecture she is advised to complete an engineering degree as an aside because ‘you can’t do much with just a language degree’.
Great! I made the right choice! So I complete my engineering degree and keep up my knowledge of English reading, listening to the radio and watching English language films with Dutch subtitles on Dutch TV. The plan is to spend my working life as a technical designer.
But as Prof. Dr. Werner Kirsch once said:
Planning Replaces Coincidence with Error
At first things look good. I happily work as a designer in plant engineering and construction not expecting anything bad.
Until one day my boss has a problem:
Right in the middle of setting up a plant in an English speaking country the company’s language expert goes on maternity leave. Who will write the manuals now?
He quickly finds a solution for this problem:
“Ms Wanke, you can speak English, you do it!”
Language has caught up with me again! I write the manual. It is sent to the customer. When I inquire about the customer’s reaction I find out it was: “Finally a manual we can understand.” Next a plant developed by the company requires a manual. So I get going — and realize: I have found my niche and reconciled the two warring souls. Describing technical issues in German and English challenges my fondness for both engineering and languages.
When the employment ends the job market for engineers does not look good. I notice a job ad written in English and land a job with a software company looking for a technical writer/translator. Now I write installations and user manuals for software sold in the USA.
We must be willing to let go of the life we by planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
The new employment comes with a fixed-term contract, so I have to plan ahead. Besides working full-time I start training as a state certified translator for the English language. A good idea as it turns out. My contract is extended for another year and after that I star out on my own.
That was a long time ago, but I am still glad this life waited until coincidence brought me to it.