Breaking the Ice

Hello, guys.

I am a newbie in site creation, so I hope you will bear with me. I will begin by sharing a little bit of my story with you.

As you must have already read about me, I am a translator-interpreter. This is what I do for a living, and it’s one of the things I most like doing in life. As the proverb goes,

Choose a Job You Love, and You Will Never Have To Work a Day in Your Life,

regardless of who coined this sentence, whether Confucius or not Confucius, I can only say that this is somehow true to me.

In fact, I didn’t exactly choose to work as a translator. I started studying English as a second language in the 5th grade of elementary school in Brazil when I was just 11 years. Right then it was love at first sight. I was hooked on it. While the boys at my age were out on the street playing soccer after class, flying kites, or playing marbles, I was home with an English book. That was my routine from 1:00 p.m. to the time I went to bed, around 9 p.m., much to my brothers’ dismay, who thought I was going crazy. After a while I started talking to the mirror as a way of practicing my pronunciation, and that really freaked my brothers out. ‘This guy is really getting crazy,’ they would say. Hey, come on, the ‘TH’ sound in words like ‘breath’ and ‘death’ is non-existent in Portuguese. So what better way to practice that than looking at the mirror? Besides there was nobody who I could to talk to in English, so I figured that the closest-to-normal thing to do would be to talk to myself while looking at the mirror. And that was so until I was about 15 years old, when got my first job. Against all odds, even though that’s what normally happens to people who study too much – or so did my brothers think -, I didn’t go crazy.

I am the youngest in a family of 11 siblings. Yes, back then we didn’t have a TV set at home, which explains the big family. We are talking about the 1970’s in Brazil. TV sets were a rarity. Only the rich had one. And it was black and white with only 3 channels – not a 100+ channels like we have today. Anyway, being the youngest in the family doesn’t necessarily mean having benefits that the older ones didn’t have, especially when you’re not born with a silver spoon in your mouth. Most of my clothes were handed down from my elder brother, Ezekiel. With a big family to provide for, and with a disability pension due to a back injury sustained at work around the time I was born, my dad didn’t have the means to send me to a private English school.  I remember how sad I was, and how hard I had to hold back the tears whenever I saw an English school. I wanted to attend classes so much.  Yet, instead of getting discouraged, I studied even harder on my own. After a while I started going to schools just to take placement tests as a way to evaluate my progress. 

Back in 1988 an English school called CCAA was opened in my hometown. As usual, I took a placement test and, according to the teacher who evaluated me, I was eligible to start at the 5th level, which was equivalent to two years and a half of studies. Not very convinced, I kept studying on my own. Six months later I went back to the same school and took a placement test, or tests, again. The teacher, an American who had just moved to Brazil, kept me there for hours, each time handing me a higher level test, until I reached level 11. Finally he says I can safely start at level 11, to which I ask him,

‘How come six months ago I came here and you placed me at the 11th stage?’
To which he replies,
‘Well, at that time we had just opened our school and the 5th level was the highest we had.’

Well, it happened that the course was an intensive one (meaning that there were classes everyday), and there was only one teacher taking it. That, of course, translated into more money, which I didn’t have, as I was about to be drafted for military service at the age of 18 in less than six months, and nobody would give me a job at that age.  The teacher asks me to explain my situation to the owner of the school, which I do. Touched by my story, he looks at me and says,

‘Look, I like you. You can study for free.’

That felt better than winning the lottery. For the first time in my life I would attend English classes at school.  I was at a loss for words. I almost kissed the guy, but I held myself back, along with my tears.  

 I finished the course at school. The following year, 1989, I was dismissed from military service (I was too skinny, I guess) and was offered a teaching position at an English school in Leme, a small town near Araras, both in the state of Sao Paulo. That’s when I officially began my career as an English teacher at the age of 18. And from there, I moved to a bigger city, Sao Jose dos Campos, where I had the opportunity to teach executives in companies such as Monsanto, Embraer and Johnson & Johnson.  In 2004 I began teaching at ICBEU, the biggest private English school in Sao Jose dos Campos.  Alongside teaching, I was always invited to interpret pastors who came from the United States at the church where I attended, started translating religious materials and, eventually, in 2009 I officially began my career as an interpreter when I was offered a translator position at ECOVAP, a consortium of three companies – Setal, OAS and Toyo Engineering.

 It never crossed my mind when I was just  11 years old that I could make a living teaching English or interpreting. But I eventually did.  Why? Because against all odds, against all the adversities, the love for it kept me going.  Doors may close on you, but there will always be someone to open a wider door for you down your path. And when you do what you like, when you do not do it for the money, you will always give it your best. You will set your heart and mind to it, whether you make money or not. Sooner or later, someone will recognize you for who you are. So, help yourself, and God will help you tenfold.

Milton Rosa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *