One of Romania’s great economic strengths is the skill in languages that many of the country’s people possess. Unlike the United Kingdom, a country that spent a very great deal of time and effort building an empire in which millions of people learned to speak English as a first language, Romania has had to survive and prosper in an environment dominated by German, French and Russian. And now that the internationally accepted language of business is English, Romanians have been required to master that as well. This is a challenge that many Romanians have taken up magnificently.
For some people, this is a good thing because it offers them many opportunities to develop and use their language skills to provide services to a growing market. People like Ioana Negrau.
Ioana (in picture) started her career teaching business English at the Academy of Economic Studies (ASE) and conversation classes at the University of Bucharest in1994. She then moved to deliver more comprehensive language services, including teaching Romanian to foreign staff, with the US Peace Corp in 1997. Like so many others, Ioana found herself building a career in a fragmented environment and, at that time, she was mostly engaged in training volunteers in cross-cultural topics. But she has expanded her range of skills and the ways in which she applies them, as the opportunities in the market have grown.
In 2006 Ioana set up her own company, Romanian Teacher, and her major challenge has been to adapt from being an employee in an international American organization to becoming a self-employed specialist. At the age of 41, she started running her own business, and chose a broad array of services to offer: two-way corporate and private translation in economic and social fields and activities- including technical, medical and legal, even teaching Romanian and English to anyone from school children to corporate executives.
One-to-one teaching and coaching requires understanding and adopting a wide range of teaching skills in order to work successfully with the executives, diplomats, managers and families from countries as varied as the United States, Japan, Germany, Italy, South Africa and many more. I can tell you that teaching people like me, lazy and poorly motivated to learn other languages, is a huge challenge in itself .
But there is a tremendous sense of achievement in this kind of work, as Ioana says herself:
‘The variety of the people I have been teaching is a positive aspect, though it may be challenging at times as there are different learning styles, abilities for acquiring a new language, different degrees of motivation. The success is quantified mostly in my case by how happy and confident the people are using their Romanian and if they leave Romania at the end of their stay with a good feeling, wonderful memories and return here and even call Romania their home.”
Those things make her forget the hardships of working long hours, driving miles every day from one side of the city to another or the frustrations of explaining the cumbersome Romanian grammar. “All those are forgotten and what remains is the pride of being Romanian and teaching my language and culture to people from all sides of the world,” she says.
The work undertaken by people like Ioana is vital to the growth of the Romanian economy no matter whether we are talking about the oil industry or international logistics; most of the investment needed to make the growth happen is coming from beyond Romania’s borders and the foreigners who come to manage that investment need linguistic support in every aspect of their business in order to be successful.
But it’s not an easy business for Ioana and the many others like her. There is no national agency available to help bring the business world together with much-needed language specialists in a coordinated manner. Ioana must prospect for business through promotion and recommendation and quite often there is no time to trawl for new business while teaching long days and working on complex translations at night.
As in the case of many support services in Romania, language training and translation is not a stable business environment. However, it is a business vital to Romania’s future and with the current growth in the energy sector, many new foreigners are coming to the country for extended periods and they certainly need language training and translation services to avoid, for example, drilling in the wrong place.
By Ronnie Smith, Guest Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org