I, linguist.

I, linguist.

by Eric Fendley, LEXIS Languages (www.lexis-languages.de)

I have often wondered how to describe my job most precisely. This becomes difficult at times because it is a question that is often asked of people living in Germany, especially in the most formal of situations.

On the one hand I am the owner and director of Lexis Languages, a language school and international translation agency based in Germany and with a sales office in London too (www.lexis-languages.co.uk). My company offers translation services as well as corporate instruction in business English. So, what is my job? Well, here it would appear that I am a managing director.

Yet, on the other hand, I also translate from German into English, which would seem to make me a translator too. This is my favourite job – it is the jam on the scone, so to speak. Yet, this not being enough, my translation project manager tasks me with regular proof-reads of texts. Does this now make me proof-reader too?

And, of course, I train business people in nuances of business English – and this is indeed the scone itself; it is the backbone of my income – a job that I greatly enjoy, especially because it gets me out of the house instead of spending the day looking into screens of various kinds in my house, something that my life has unfortunately degenerated into (have you ever asked how often and how long you look into screens – it is a scary amount of time!!).

So I am a managing director, a translator, a proof-reader, a teacher, a language trainer and I could extend this list to be a salesman, a purchaser, a web designer, blog-writer etc. etc. ad infinitum – so what do I say in these formal situations, how do I describe my job??

Well, the solution that I prefer is to say what I feel I am, and that is a linguist. In my very own definition of this term, a linguist is someone who works with languages, and that is something that I truly do. All the time. This term provides the cement that connects all the activities together. The Meriam-Webster dictionary describes a linguist as ‘a person accomplished in languages; especially :  one who speaks several languages’ which would apply, because I am and do. It also provides the definition ‘a person who specializes in linguistics’ which I have (I have a Master’s degree in applied linguistics, but I question that that qualification would make anyone a linguist!).

So when people ask me what my profession is, I gladly say ‘I am a linguist’ – which only gives rise to the next problematic question: “What on earth is that?” Deep sigh! And back to square one!

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