Experiencing Different Languages and Cultures: An interview with Lenka de Graafova, CEO of LingoStar Language Services Vancouver, Canada
We recently interviewed Lenka de Graafova, M.A., CEO and Managing Director and owner of LingoStar Language Services Inc., who told us why she decided to provide translation services in Canada and set up her own agency in Vancouver, and what her experience of languages and cultures around the world has been like.
Who is Lenka de Graafova, M.A.?
In addition to being the director of LingoStar Language Services, Lenka de Graafova is a lover of world cultures and languages. Together with her team of multilingual writers, she regularly posts articles on foreign languages and cultures on social media. She is also an expert in creating websites in foreign languages and wrote the ebook How to make money online, not just in Czech in 2016. She is now about to release a brand new series of Localization Guides and the Beginner’s Guide to Multilingual Website Translation in English, published for the North American market. You can also download her free ebook for a quick overview of what to expect >> How to expand your online business – An Introduction Guide to Multilingual Website Translation.
Lenka, you’ve been living in Canada for some time now. What brought you to Canada?
I have lived in Canada for 16 years now. I’m originally from the Czech Republic. The desire to experience life on the other side of the world brought me here. I studied translation in the Netherlands and the UK and I wanted to experience everyday life in an English-speaking country. My goal was to learn how to communicate in English in a variety of settings and contexts, and to set up my own translation firm. I also wanted to give my child a life skill by giving him the opportunity to learn English as a mother tongue. I’m glad I’ve achieved all of these things so far.
What motivated you to provide translation services in Canada and set up LingoStar? What kind of services do you offer?
I’ve always been drawn to languages and travelling. I wanted to explore opportunities within the language industry. Interestingly enough, when I came to Vancouver in 2004, there were no language jobs available. This only strengthened my desire to provide translation services in Canada and set up my own agency.
I was very lucky to meet the right people at the right time. I managed to get a full-page profile in Vancouver Sun, the local newspaper. The article introduced me as the upcoming start-up in Vancouver.
Then it was just a matter of many hours of dedication and hard work. I had to find the right people to work with, and be flexible and adaptable with clients and suppliers. Establishing quality assurance procedures was especially important, and so was having a very responsive customer services team.
In the last 16 years of continuing business, we have handled the most common, as well as the most peculiar translation projects. We once translated a 40-languages voice-over project for a local video-gaming giant. We’ve also translated tattoo statements into Swahili for individual clients. Every day is different.
We’ve also provided many certified translations over the years, helping newcomers to Canada handle their immigration paperwork. But we don’t just provide translation services in Canada. Our clients come from all over the world, and so do our translators. That’s why we can offer such a wide range of languages, even minority ones.
Our core services focus on translation and localization. New channels of digital communications are developing rapidly. Many clients rely on us to produce high-quality, targeted multilingual translations to sell their products. Consequently, over the next month, we will be launching a brand new series of Localization Guides and Ebooks to help our clients deal with the challenges of multilingual website translation.
What advice would you give to novice translators to help them become successful? What’s important when providing translation services in Canada and worldwide?
Above all, a translator must produce quality translations. This is the main requirement in order to become a successful translator. But that’s not enough in itself. A translator also needs to be a good communicator and respond quickly to clients’ emails. Clients want to have their translations even faster in today’s fast-paced economy, so excellent communication is very important.
A translator should meticulously follow clients’ instructions, pay attention to details, and format the translated documents well. They should never miss a delivery date. Last but not least, I recommend having a well-structured CV with a list of the most important translated projects. Clients want to see evidence of previous translation experience in a particular field.
You have lived in several countries on different continents. Could you highlight something that has fundamentally affected you whilst in any of these countries?
I was born in former Czechoslovakia. At the age of 21, I moved to the Netherlands, where I experienced 7 years of full language and cultural immersion. I went to university in the UK and eventually built a global business in Canada. Over that time, I travelled to nearly 40 countries around the world. This enabled me to learn foreign languages and draw on the culture and beauty of interesting places worldwide.
Life and travel to each new country gave me the opportunity to look into the lives of people of different cultures. I gained an understanding of their habits and behaviour, and created a wider view of the world. With it came tolerance of other races and cultures, learning about the stereotypes of each nation and about their history. This experience has enriched our new series of Localization Guides. These guides describe how small businesses can translate their websites successfully into a myriad of different languages.
Additionally, I enjoy asking people about life in their country. Living in different countries has allowed me to become more open and understanding about people in general. I have also created beautiful friendships with people from different countries whose habits I had no knowledge of before. For example, a friend from Ethiopia told me that they count their age not just on the calendar, but mainly on whether it was raining in a particular year or not. I also learned from a Japanese woman how the different levels of hierarchy are marked when bowing instead of greeting. From Peruvian people, I learnt how to mix the national cocktail pisco sour. From friends in Bavaria, I learnt how to serve Bavarian white sausages and light beer for breakfast. I can name many more examples!
How do you manage to handle so many languages at once?
If you master a language at a more advanced level, it is quite easy to switch from one language to another. It’s not necessary to translate everything in your head, you can think directly into a foreign language. The important thing is to speak as native speakers speak and sound natural.
This, of course, is mainly possible if you have the opportunity to live in a foreign language environment for an extended amount of time. Having to resolve everyday situations helps too. Sometimes, I can be talking in five different languages in a given day: Czech with my child, English at work, Dutch with a client from Europe, Slovak with my friends and Spanish with our piano teacher. The brain automatically switches to successfully resolve the situation it finds itself in.
How do you communicate with your children? Do you raise them bilingually or even trilingually?
I have a 13-year-old son and I speak Czech to him. I have a partner who is Slovak, so he speaks Slovak with him. My son speaks English at school and has private lessons in Spanish. He also attends French classes at school since we live in bilingual Canada. Children need to be exposed to the language from an early age as much as possible. The more opportunities they have to be engaged with native speakers, the better.
Travel also plays an important role. We go to the Czech Republic every year, where my son talks with his Czech friends and communicates with his grandparents. He also communicates with Spanish native speakers when we travel to a Spanish-speaking country, either Spain or the Caribbean, usually once a year.
What would you definitely visit in Canada? Can you give us a few tips?
As I live in Vancouver, I recommend Vancouver. It’s an interesting multicultural city situated between the mountains and the sea. It is no coincidence that Mercer’s annual worldwide survey named Vancouver one of the world’s coolest cities to live in for its quality of life. The British Columbia Province, where Vancouver is located, is full of natural beauty: lakes, high mountains, deep forests, and bears. There are plenty of places for outdoor recreation, particularly hiking, camping, fishing, quad biking, skating, skiing, and skimobile – something for everyone. Canada is a vast country and everyone who loves nature comes to their own.
Translation services in Canada and at your fingertips
This interview was conducted in summer 2020 and coincides with the imminent launch of LingoStar’s Localization Guides on multilingual website translation to help small businesses with global expansion. Here at LingoStar, we have the expertise to help you launch a successful multilingual website or localize your content into all major European and Asian languages. Check out our free ebook How to expand your online business – Introduction Guide to Multilingual Website Translation and if you’re ready, take it to the next level and get the Beginner’s Guide to Multilingual Website Translation.
For more information, contact us by calling +1-604-629-8420 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your next language-related project. You can also request a free quote via our website at lingo-star.com/get-free quote. Additionally, subscribe to our newsletter, packed with interesting news on multilingual topics and our translation services in Canada.
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