When I was 11 or 12 I read a book about the Nuremberg Trials (Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial) and decided that I wanted to be a simultaneous interpreter someday. Obviously that has not magically become my career, but over the years I have been able to dabble in it thanks to studying foreign languages and then living overseas. I probably got the most practice with it in Russia, since 1. I learned the language quite well, quite quickly; and 2. many foreigners there never learn Russian and many Russians don't speak English, meaning I was often the most qualified person in the room (unless Jeremy was also there...sigh).
There is one time in particular that I am so proud of: I was at a regional meeting in Moscow for the leaders of the young women's youth group and there were a few Americans there from the international branch. Somehow, there was no one else there to interpret the Russian speakers' remarks into English, so I got to do it. It remains one of my most favorite language-related memories. If that seems weird, well, imagine practicing a piano piece for months and then having a recital, or a race you've been training hard for and then you get a PR. It was so satisfying and fun!
I don't get the opportunity to interpret in Finland very often because Finnish is so much harder than Russian (for me, both linguistically and circumstantially) and because so many Finns speak English so well that there are often lots of people who can interpret if needed. But yesterday, through a strange set of circumstances, I got to do my favorite thing: interpret!
I was in Espoo helping out with a church trip for the young women youth group and sat with the girls to listen to a guy give a speech in Finnish about baptism. I followed along pretty well, since church discourse and vocabulary are pretty specialized/contextualized. Then I was asked to stay behind with one of the girls, and it ended up being a long enough delay that I was still in the room when the same guy got up to give the same speech, only this time there was an American exchange student in the audience who didn't speak Finnish. And nobody else in the room spoke English. So they asked me to interpret! And best of all, I was really prepped to do so since I had already heard the speech once! It was so perfect!
It may literally be years before I get the chance to do that again, but I think the energy of yesterday's experience will carry me through my ongoing study of Finnish for at least a few months. As with any academic endeavor, I go through periods of feeling not great about my Finnish, and I think yesterday kick-started a period where I feel ok about it.