When I started learning German, a remarkable thing happened. Till that period whenever I watched a Second World War film, I was seeing the Germans as the bad guys. But once I started learning the language, I started becoming sorry for them. That is the magic of learning a new language.
I was fortunately posted to Madras in 1974. In 1975 I enrolled in the French class of Alliance Francaise. My professor was Madame Sharada Lartet, an Indian married to a Frenchman. Believe me, she was wonderful. Here too I repeated my German experience. I completed all the lessons of the Mauger Rouge - 1 within the first three months after the start of my course in July 1975. With a feeling of deja-vu I started taking books from the library. Then I purchased Mauger Rouge - II and completed that as well within the next month. This was folloed by Mauger Rouge - III. It was really hectic in those days. Sharada encouraged me in all my endeavors. I started speaking French within the first three months. I passed the Certificat exam in April 1976.
Pre-diplome class started July 1976 and I was fortunate to be again in Sharda's class! But catastrophe struck at the end of the first trimester. Our class was cancelled as there were not enough students in our session. We were asked to come to another session but it was not convenient for me. Here Sharada rushed to my aid. She packed me to the third trimester session for students writing pre-diplome exam in Dec 1976. I saved one trimester in this manner.
But wonders did not cease. After one week of this session, the new Professor Maureau took me aside and said that my level was far superior to that of my fellow students. He and Sharada consulted together and Sharada sent me to the third trimester of the Diplome class being conducted by her husband Professor Lartet. I gained three more trimesters in this manner. Dec 1976 I passed Diplome with the mention "tres honorable." Then followed the class for the Diplome Superieur in July 1977, which I passed in April 1978.
Looking back, I wonder what made me tick. Without the help of Sharada I would have been nowhere. She came in my life like an angel. I was overwhelmed with her kindness and was also scared on seeing her trust in me. This made me work hard, at least to justify her faith in me.
It was in this manner that I got German and French, from which I have been translating respectively from 1975/1978 onwards. This has given me a fine opening as I start negotiating with a prospective client. I tell him that I have 23 years' experience as graduate electrical engineer, 30 years as German translator and 27 years as French translator. Thus I have a cumulative experience of 80 years whereas I am just 59 years young. The client would invariably ask "how did you manage it?" and I will say with a straight face "Overtime, sir". This always broke the ice and further negotiations proceed smoothly.
Life is really so beautiful!
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