Why don’t you take an international examination in English, David?
That is what my first English teacher at high school said to me one afternoon, back in 1993. At that time, only a few years after Poland eventually waved goodbye to decades of Communist rule, the word ‘international’ sounded beyond magical. It was a big word, and so appealing. It certainly appealed to me, strongly enough to put me on a road that led me to an A in the Cambridge First Certificate examination two years later, in 1995, after three years of learning English from scratch.
You may wish to note that in the early 1990s Poland was a place where learning aids such as native speakers, online videos, CDs, audio tapes, colourful textbooks or trips to the UK were simply not available to learners of English. That failed to discourage me, and two years later I opened a small envelope from the British Council, containing an even smaller piece of paper telling me I passed the examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English.
My passion for the language grew stronger and persuaded my first employer to give me a job that required me to travel widely across Europe as an interpreter. In that same job I was also made responsible for dealing with the lawyers my employer hired. Several years of giving their scribblings the form of carefully typed and neatly printed documents introduced me to the abundant world of legal terminology, legal phrasing and legal matters. I was in my early twenties at that time.
Afterwards, I left my employer to focus on teaching English and translation. This was followed by more than a decade of freelance translation work for a growing number of clients and, importantly, under the watchful eye of my mentor, a highly experienced court interpreter and public-service translator. In 2009, after completing BA and MA degrees in Economic Sociology, and a two-year university course for a postgraduate Diploma in Translation and Interpreting, I passed a not-so-easy-as-you-may-think examination in legal and business translation and interpreting at the Polish Ministry of Justice and since then my love for law in the two languages has virtually exploded!