I’ve decided to write short summaries of how I spent the previous month. I think a month is a lot of time, and it’s hard to predict what will come out of it even if I have some goals set. Life always gets in the way. So it’s always interesting to compare what I hope to do and what I did in the end. October was no exception in this case.
At the end of September I was invited to help out with interpretation at meetings between the representatives of an Indian company and some Russian companies. The Indian company is a consultancy and advisory firm that facilitates trade and investment for its clients, corporates and governments, worldwide. It was their first visit to Russia to start building relationships with Russian companies and governmental bodies. So those were high level meetings with general directors and other decision makers.
I was lucky because I didn’t really have to interpret much – most Rissian counterparties spoke English so I was there just in case. Still, it was quite a load for my mind. The Indian accent was hard. There was a lot of new information about world trade and investment. We mostly met with Russian railway companies and discussed some of their products, of which I have very little understanding even in Russian. Even if I didn’t interpret all the time, I had to follow the conversation very closely to make sure both parties understand each other in the right way, especially because they spoke quite basic English prone to mistakes. However, they mostly understood each other wonderfully well – I saw the power of context and the domain knowledge combined with English as lingua franca at play. And now I understand better my students’ reaction to vocab in B2-C1 Business English books. None of it was used at those meetings. No diplomatic or tentative language, no complex grammatical structures, no change of registers or metaphors. Basic A2 grammar and industry related vocab.
So ‘real’ interpretation would have been incredibly difficult as I don’t have the right skills. But the Indians were happy with me interpreting the gist. That was even better, they said, because it was much more important to find mutual understanding than just translate the words. And they invited me to work part-time for them in the uncoming months. ‘Communication intelligence’ is what they called it.
They were also talking about opening an office here in Moscow. The person there would have to follow up meetings and assist Russian companies in their inquiries. As most collaboration was expected to happen between railway companies, I though my younger brother, Danya, might be useful. He’s studying to be a railway engineer and has a true fascination for locomotives. Right now he’s working as a swimming instructor in a fitness club but obviously there are no real career prospects there. With the Indian company, though, it could have been much more interesting. I honestly think that Danya can be a very good middle manager: he’s all about action, very reliable and a very good communicator.
So I introduced my brother to the Indians, and they asked us to allocate a couple of days a week for further meetings. I would be there to interpret if necessary, and he – to learn about the domain and improve his English. Later there would be a trip to India for Danya to undergo the training on their premises and meet the team. That sounded very exciting. Just think – from a fitness trainer to a representative of an international company overseeing Russian companies entering the Indian market. That would also require Danya to improve his English very fast, from A2 to confident B1 in a matter of 3-4 months. What a case for my coaching practice, I thought!
On the 4th of October we started our English classes with Danya, and he turned out to be almost a perfect student. As agreed, we allocated the time for meetings and kept it free. But a week passed, then another one, and there were no news from the Indians. Danya started having second thoughts about the whole enterprise. Then he ran into some financial and health difficulties and finally said he didn’t want the job. Pity, I think. However, it clearly shows that big sudden changes are not for everyone however attractive they may be.
The Indians did get in touch in the middle of October and asked to interpret a presentation during a webinar. I was lucky again because they send me the slides beforehand with the summary for each slide, so I managed to prepare well. But during the webinar I could feel that my interpretation was messy. The contents of the presentation didn’t help either – more than a hundred slides with statistics that tool almost an hour. Who could possibly stayed focused that long with all those figures? If I knew the topic better, I could have put the right emphasis during the interpretation, but I don’t. I simply did what they asked.
This situation just proves to me again that being fluent in language is not only about knowing grammar and vocab. It’s the actual knowledge and the ability to structure ideas that matter and that help to put it all together and speak well. If you know what you’re speaking about, if you’ve found the right words to express yourself, you sound well. Otherwise, it’s a mess, be it mother tongue or foreign language.
At the same time, beginning of October, I took up another job to try out copywriting in English. They were looking for a person with B2 English to write about blockchain, press releases and short articles (about 200 hundred words). Sounds easy and interesting, I thought. My articles are ten times longer on average. Obviously, I thought, I’d be able to do those articles in 20-30 minutes with my C2. Why not give it a try? After all, if the Indians get in touch and I have time between meetings, I’ll fill it with writing texts. It could also be good writing practice useful for my blog as well, I thought. Well, I was wrong.
The topic. The topic of blockchain turned out to be so horribly difficult for me. It’s not only the technology itself one should understand, but also the world of cryptocurrencies, decentralised finance and financial tools used to trade cryptos. In case you don’t know, there are about 6000 different crypto coins and new blockchain projects appear all the time. It’s a whole universe. Consensus algorithms, validators, options, futures, risk hedging, trading platforms… After two days of reading all this stuff my head was quite literally spinning round. Plus the topics kept changing. I google one topic for two hours, only start to grasp the idea of a concept and a new task comes in on a different topic…
I survived only three days and on the forth I quit the initial arrangement of working 4 hours a day. Even if I didn’t have to translate anything and I read more or less fast in English, it was too much new information. Actually, it is an interesting experience which can be compared to learning a language intensively. Have you tried it? New grammar and new vocab every lesson without much time to take it in and process – that’s not for everyone for sure. Some even say that most intensive courses are quite useless because they overload students and little goes to their long term memory. Still it is interesting to experience something similar on myself.
In the end, we rearranged for me to be paid on a text basis and to write texts for only two projects. With more practice and less stress it should become easier, I thought, agreeing to write another 20+ new texts. But no, it wasn’t. On average, I still spent about an hour per text and still got tired of them.
However much I tried, I couldn’t find enough time for my blog, reading or languages. With this Indian detour and copywriting experiment, everything got postponed again, which is sad. That makes me think of what is called cognitive load and described as “the used amount of working memory resources” (Wiki).
Have you ever counted how many things you need to track/ control/ monitor/ remember at the same time? I have a suspicion that life has taught me to carry a lot in my mind. I have my work where I’m trying to do some marketing and find new students. I look after our flat and do the cooking. My cat wants my attention several times a day and if he doesn’t get it, he gets hysterical. My husband too needs my time and attention. So does my family. I’ve become very particular about going for a walk almost every day, for exercise and sort of meditation. I keep thinking about my languages and try to find time for them. I’m reading 3-4 books at the same time. I’m trying to write for the blog and get back to analytics. There are also meetings with fellow teachers and more than 30 habits in my habit tracker to check off. I’m not sure if this all can qualify as cognitive load, but with texts my routine started to fall apart.
Interesting that while I was bombarded with questions and comments about my texts I kept thinking that I’m a married woman who needs to do the housework and make dinner before my beloved comes home, so I can’t really be so much distracted by those texts =) But home does need time and attention, doesn’t it? When it’s in a mess, I feel a mess too.
So I’ve decided I’m done with blockchain. Too technical, too complicated. Other topics – maybe, as long as they don’t interfere with what’s important for me to do.
The best thing about this experience is how I quickly understood that I don’t want to spend my time on it. Just one month of trial and error and my conclusions are all ready. That is some progress because before I would’ve stayed much longer with the experience to check and double check that it doesn’t work well for me. Now I move on.
Finally, I tried hip hop in October. I went to the dance studio only three times but I can say that I’m doing OK there. It doesn’t look bad in the mirror, although it is strange to see myself dancing like this.
This style is something quite alien to me as I’ve always been fascinated by ballet, flamenco, ballroom dance or even bachata – something much more elegant and gracious than street dance. But I like the feeling hip hop brings. It is about freedom, energy and natural movements. It is about self-confidence as well as the ability to stand one’s ground and defend it, so it would be very difficult to learn to dance it if one’s anger was suppressed. But anger is a very important emotion that really helps set and defend one’s boundaries and self. Probably, I do need to connect with my anger better, so I’m drawn to hip hop. I left the classes every time in an upbeat mood and with energy levels up. So hopefully, I’ll continue it in November.
Actually, after flamenco where you need to keep you posture all the time and coordinate not just arms and legs, but also hand movements and footwork, hip hop feels really liberating. It also feels more natural as many steps were born from natural movements of the body. With flamenco, it’s a very particular style that is difficult to acquire, and the whole posture, with lower part of the body grounded and ‘to the earth’ and the upper part flexible and aiming to the sky, never felt natural to me.
But! After my hip hop classes I started to admire the beauty of flamenco more. Nothing can beat flamenco in its elegance, complexity and depth. And I keep thinking that I should go practise my bata de cola and learn to play the castanets which I got last New Year. Well, with flamenco there’s always time. As they say, the best dances are those of elderly women who can express all their life experience in just one hand gesture.
It’s interesting what will be with my dance in November. I really don’t know and don’t plan. If eventually I can have both hip hop and flamenco in my body, I’m sure to feel the world differently.
This is what I like about dance – every type brings up a new self with a unique set of emotions, which makes the personality itself richer and deeper.
Plans for November
I’ll try to keep it short and sweet:
- read books from my reading list,
- write reviews on them here,
- learn my languages.
I’ve also established some routine that I’d like to keep up. Weekly that involves
- 30-35 hours of work which includes teaching, copywriting, interpreting, working on the blog and learning analytics,
- 6-10 hours of reading,
- 6-7 hours of languages,
- 5-6 walks and a couple of runs,
- 4 days without sugary things or pastry.
The last one is especially difficult because I tend to eat when I’m nervous or stressed. So I’ll need to keep calm.
Voilà! Let’s see what will be in a month =)