I worked a short stint in a hospital psychiatric ward, but couldn’t handle the challenges of that. It has praised our “efficient professionalism and prompt response” to requests for interpretation – and appreciates our “strong involvement with the culturally diverse Grand Rapids community.” We provide translation for languages often considered difficult to support – from Albanian and Assyrian to Zaghawa and Zulu.
I married, moved back to Asia – to Japan – where I secured a job with the United Nations helping to resettle refugees and, later, worked as an interpreter and translator. For good measure, we can field 16 languages spoken in Myanmar (Burma) and American Sign Language.
The education system at Waianae High School was different from the one in Sri Lanka.
Most of the time I couldn’t understand the subjects, and I didn’t even know what people were talking about.
It’s amazing to consider the fact that today, in western Michigan, people speak more than 120 languages.
And it’s even more amazing for me to be part of helping many of those immigrant families integrate into our society. My story begins aboard a boat with 100 others in the spring of 1975, my family and I reeling as our beloved homeland of South Vietnam fell into Communist hands.
This essay is part of an occasional series provided by our partner organization Encore.org, which is building a movement to tap the skills and experience of those in midlife and beyond to improve communities and the world.
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I served as a liaison between the UN and the governments of Japan and Korea and Indochinese refugees, many of whom required resettlement all over the world. Realizing there was a growing need here for my skill set, I started a business in my basement – Liaison Linguistics – to help non-English-speakers. Especially satisfying is serving the nearby Kentwood Public Schools.
That became my encore career and, now, my lifework. ) I employ some 250 interpreters and translators, some of whom are fluent in as many as seven languages. Twice a year, we partner with mothers and fathers attending parent-teacher conferences.