The Linguist

The Linguist 52,5

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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FEATURES Fully immersed EU translator John Evans tussles with Lithuanian on a short immersion course in Vilnius 'The little birds flew in from the warm countries, Chirping and twittering – just like the two of us. Left, right, forwards, backwards, Up, down – just like the two of us.' I am singing these words in Lithuanian – fortunately along with around 60 other people, all holding hands in a circle and dancing. This is not your average language class. Strictly speaking, it isn't a language class at all: an afternoon of folk songs is part of the cultural programme that runs parallel to the four-week course in Lithuanian that I am enrolled on at Vilnius University. Nevertheless, once we have sung the song several times with the accompanying actions, I know my directions in Lithuanian much better than I would if I had just memorised the words in class. More than 70 students from 25 countries have signed up for the summer course this year and, after an initial test, I am placed in the level 3 class (there are six levels in total), together with several German linguistics students, a Spaniard and two British men with Lithuanian wives, a Uruguayan of Lithuanian descent, an American and a handful of students from other European countries. 20 The Linguist Over the next four weeks we spend three hours a day together in language classes with our excellent teacher Rita, attend lectures on various aspects of Lithuanian culture and society, and go on museum visits in Vilnius and sightseeing tours to other parts of the country, all for the cost of £575. Kaunas and Klaipeda universities run similar courses for foreigners, but I choose Vilnius as I am only able to do the course in July. But why Lithuanian? Well, working as a translator for the English Language Department at the European Commission's Directorate-General for Translation means having to learn new languages when there are capacity gaps that cannot be filled through recruitment. This is often the case for the less widely-known languages, such as Lithuanian, because we have to translate documents received by the Commission from all EU countries and written in all the EU's official languages. We are able to attend weekly classes at work over a period of 4-8 semesters, depending on the type of language course (standard or intensive) and the location OCTOBER/NOVEMBER With seven cases it is quite tricky to put any sentence together… I have been declining nouns in my sleep! (Brussels or Luxembourg). Halfway through or towards the end of a course cycle we are given the chance to go on an immersion course in the country where the language is spoken. There are several schemes for attending such courses, with varying degrees of financial and administrative support. Usually courses last between two and four weeks and, in most cases, special leave is granted and the tuition fees are reimbursed. My first experience of an intensive in-country language course came long before I joined the Commission when, in September 2001, I attended a four-week summer course

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