How the italki Language Challenge prepared me for the Olympics

March 31st, 2014 | Posted by Jim in feature | Language Challenge | Motivation
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Patineuse (left) at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics acting as a volunteer translator.

I completed the 2014 italki New Year’s Language Challenge. The challenge was to take 20 lessons in 6 weeks.  I actually finished the Challenge in a record 10 days!  The Challenge was great for me because I was going to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi and it was the perfect opportunity to improve my Japanese, French and English.  I wanted to improve these languages to at a level where I could help out as a volunteer translator.

I want to thank my favorite teachers JapaneseTutor, Jéròme, Altini and Lloyd. It was not only my Challenge, but also theirs as well :)

At the Sochi Winter Olympics, I was preparing to volunteer as a translator at Iceberg Palace where I would be translating for figure skating and short-track speed skating contestants.  I’m a native Russian speaker and am fluent in English, Japanese and French.  However, I wasn’t at the level where I could translate specific figure skating and speed skating vocabulary.  I needed to really improve my translation abilities in these languages very quickly.  Even though my teachers were all native speakers in their respective languages, they had to put in extra time to learn the specific vocabulary around these sports.  I really appreciated all the extra preparation that my teachers put in to learn about figure skating and short-track speed skating.  You can say that they are now “experts” in these areas.  They really showed their professionalism and sincere wish to help me during the Challenge.

What I got out of the Challenge was even more confidence and a greater understanding of these languages. One my personal highlights of the Games was that I helped translate for Olympic Champions Yuzuru Hanyu (in the picture above with me!), Yulia Lipnitskaya and Adelina Sotnikova. I also acted as one of the translators for Canadian short-tracker Charles Hamelin. There were many athletes that did not need any translating help, but as I was always nearby I was able to listen in on their interviews (of course I completely understood what they were saying).

It was amazing that I had the opportunity to take part in such a historic event!   I could not have been there without improving my language abilities on italki.  The italki Language Challenge kept me motivated in my language learning and I didn’t have to spend a lot of money!

So again, I finished the Challenge. But I’m not stopping there.  I am sticking with my long term goals to continue improving my foreign languages skills.  After the challenge, I’ve actually set a new goal – I want to participate in the Olympic Games in Korea and Japan not only as a volunteer, but as a paid translator!

So, I will continue learning foreign languages and I am looking forward to the next Language Challenge. For everyone at italki, I wish all your dreams will come true!

Patineuse joined italki in 2011 as a student.  In Feb 2013 she became one of our Community Tutors where she helps others learn Russian.  If you’re interested in learning Russian from a Olympic-level Polyglot, please contact her!

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