#10funfacts (language and other) about me

I thought it would be nice to tell you a bit more about who I am. This makes me more than a name on the screen or a twitter account that you follow. Here we go!

A long time ago I graduated as an interpreter, although I have been working as a translator for more than 15 years and never did any interpreting work. I prefer to be home, in my quiet living room, bent over a text, pencil in my mouth, wrestling with a terribly difficult sentence (preferably from a non-fiction book), my well-thumbed dictionary within reach, sweat dripping from my forehead as the deadline comes creeping up on me … No, just kidding, I am a girl of the 21st century and I do have a computer and a digital dictionary. All the rest is true though!

One of my dreams was to publish a book and seven years ago, I did it, I wrote my very own 1st book – one thing off my bucket list. It was so much fun to see the other side of the publishing process, as a book translator I am usually just one little link (at the very end of the chain, the one with the shortest deadline), but this time I had so much to say and decide. I did this together with my little brother (a photographer in his spare time). Recently it started itching again and I am now working on a novel.

I have a very international family, with members from all over the world. 2 of them speak a language that I am studying, Spanish (my sister-in-law is from Mexico City) and Italian (my brother-in-law is from Milan, Italy). With Mónica I often speak Spanish, but for some reason I am afraid to say anything in Italian to Roberto, probably because we met more than 20 years ago, long before I started studying Italian, and we have always spoken Dutch together. Now that I feel more comfortable in Italian, I have decided to try and speak Italian to him.

 My husband and I have 3 sons, but unfortunately none of them inherited my love for languages. Our oldest son is 18, he graduated in June and decided to join the fire brigade. Fingers crossed that his dream will come true. He needs to take a few tests first and then wait for a job offer. Our second son is 16, he will graduate next year (if all goes well) and wants to go into programming. The little one is only 12, but is determined to become a pilot. I could also have picked my 3 tattoos: the world map because travelling and getting to know the world is very important to me (see 4), three sketchy birds on my shoulder, a reminder to open my hands and let my sons spread their wings, find their way in life, but also keep my hands open to let them return if they should ever need to, and a butterfly on my foot, this represents my journey into accepting myself (I was bullied a lot at school and have thought for a long time that I was worthless; now I accept myself for who I am).

My family and I, we love travelling the world (that’s the reason why I have a tattoo of the world map on my wrist). I find it very important to see how other people live and to show my children that there is more than one way, our way, to live our lives and that what we have, should not be taken for granted. Whenever we travel to a country, we try to leave the beaten tracks and see the real country. A memorable visit was the Tamil school in Sri Lanka, our boys were very young at the time (9-7-3) and they immediately befriended the local kids. I was moved to tears to see my blond haired blue eyed boys playing with the very dark (and very poor) Tamil kids. It made me realise just how lucky we are. This is an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives. We have been to 4 continents: Asia: Sri Lanka, Thailand, Oman, Turkey (for our honeymoon we went on a road trip through both the Asian and the European part) / Africa: South Africa, Morocco, Egypt / Northern America: Mexico (for the wedding of my brother, combined with a 3 week road trip), Cuba / Europe: Belgium (where I live), the Netherlands, the UK, Ireland, Luxembourg, Denmark (where I have lived), Sweden, Norway, Germany, France, Corsica, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Poland, Czech Republic (I hope I didn’t forget any).

What I love the most about my job, is translating books. I am very lucky to be working with 5 different publishers for book translations. They offer me a variety of books, from travel guides over biographies and non-fiction to translate to cook books to review. I am so happy that I got the chance as a beginner to translate a travel guide. I checked the numbers real quick and so far I translated more than 60 travel guides and more than 40 non-fiction books. You can find the complete list on my website, which is here: www.petravancaneghem.be.

Of course, this comes as no surprise, I love to read. These are 6 books that I loved:  De drie bruiloften van Manolita (original title: Las tres bodas de Manolita by Almudena Grandes, I read the Dutch translation, a truly wonderful book that I recommend, the life of Manolita is intertwined with the history of Spain, I read this book on holidays in France and I stayed up all night because I was so into the story I forgot time – goosebumps assured), Das achte Leben (Nino Haratischwili, I read the book in German, this is again historical fiction, this time a family saga, more than 1000 pages but I just could not put it down – the story is set against the Georgian history), A little life (by Hanya Yanagihara, I read it in English – while travelling through Cuba, this one as well is about the life of the main character, but what a magnificent book this was, I can still see myself sitting on a Cuban beach, reading the last pages and not being able to hold back my tears), Wat het hart verwoest (original title: The heart’s invisible furies, by John Boyne, I’m repeating myself but once again, a story that spans a lifetime, this time in Ireland), Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (again – what did you expect – a family saga, let’s dive into the Korean history – I was very much into Korean at that time), Wijvenwereld (by Jelle Haemers, Andrea Bardyn and Chanelle Delameillieure, a book about the situation of women in the middle ages, something completely different from the other books above – it gives you a good insight in the position of women, what they could and could not do, they surprisingly had a lot of freedom in the early 1400’s, which changed afterwards – historical and non-fiction, based on authentic documents and real people).

Time for a very personal confession. 7 years ago, I had skin cancer, a type of cancer that was rare at my age back then (I was not even 40 yet). It was taken away, nothing had spread and I was safe. Every year I have an appointment with my dermatologist and so far I have not had any more malignant moles, but the dermatologist told me it is just a matter of time before they come back. It took me a while to get over my fear of the sun and I am still not an avid sun worshipper – hence my white legs, of which I am very proud of!

I am a very energetic person, I live life at 200%, full speed … and at the end of the day, my battery runs down. It takes about 8 hours to recharge (so I try to sleep enough, which, as you know, is not always possible). No, just kidding. I usually get up quite early, around or before 7 am. I love to be downstairs alone, enjoying the calm before everyone gets up and having the house all to myself. It is great to have breakfast (usually yoghurt, granola and fresh fruit) while watching an episode of my favourite French series (Secrets d’histoire, about French history). In the evening, I try to study one of my many languages and I go to bed around 10.30 pm (doesn’t that add up to 8 hours of sleep? I think it does!).

I remember as if it were yesterday when I fell in love with languages, I was 9 and had my first ever French class. We’re talking early 1980’s, old school building, high windows with heavy curtains, an old noisy projector and a white classroom wall. The teacher closed the curtains, turned on the projector and on the wall a little French girl came to life – she was on a train with her little dog, I even remember a few phrases (Sophie a crié, la valise a tombé, le chien a aboyé, pretty difficult for beginners I think). There and then I decided that languages would be it. I never considered anything else and ten years later, I was an interpreter with French, English and German in my pocket.

Languages have always been a part of my life. I lived in Denmark, picked up Danish, studied a bunch of other languages on and off and about 5 years ago, I decided to do it the right way, focus on my language learning for real this time and gave myself a few years (still 4 to go) to study and speak 10 languages, preferably at a B2 level. I am well on my way with French-English-German already there, Danish-Afrikaans-Spanish-Italian-Luxembourgish almost there and Icelandic-Bulgarian in the early stages. I never decide to study a specific language, they always call me (and I can never resist). After all these years, it is clear that I like Germanic languages, so now I am thinking of studying the main ones, which means Yiddish is the one missing. Swedish and Norwegian are not on the list, for fear of mixing up with Danish.

So that’s me in a nutshell! Nice to meet you!

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