As an international language travel company, it is obvious that we need to use many different languages at the office on a daily basis. This also includes the help of translators to spread our messages, ideas and content with people all over the world. With seven translators dedicated to languages, we had to talk with the manager of this team, Rita Balesi Grass.
Have you had any funny or embarrassing experiences while studying a language?
When I emigrated to Corsica, I only spoke French at a basic level. I had studied it at school but I really had difficulties sometimes. Once, I went to the butcher to buy an entrecote – only one. But I wasn’t sure if it was “un entrecôte” or “une entrecôte”, which is very embarrassing if you’re at the butcher and he’s asking you what you want. So I took two of them!
And I had another nice experience when I was first travelling around South America and I wasn’t so good in Spanish, really no good at all. I had a taxi driver who asked me “¿Cuál es tu nombre?“. For me it was “le numéro“ in French and I was asking myself “Which number is he asking?“. I really didn’t understand. When I came back to the hotel I was having a look at the dictionary and I realised what he was talking about. Very funny, he was just asking for my name and I couldn’t answer it!
What is your mother tongue and which languages do you speak at work?
My mother tongue is Swiss German. I think I’m quite good at French, I’m good at English and good now at Spanish. As my father was Italian, I do speak a little bit of Italian but not perfectly. I have a translation degree in French and German. Furthermore I studied Russian for 3 and a half years, but I can’t really use it here, it’s a pity as it’s a wonderful language. At work I mainly use French, German and English every day.
What would you not be able to do in your current position without the different languages you speak?
Why did you choose the career as a translator?
I think it’s my thing, I really like languages. I also enjoy being in contact with different cultures, especially because it opens the door to another world. If you speak Italian or French, you’re close to people that live differently and can provide you something from their daily life, from their mentality. And of course if you are travelling, it’s a huge plus!
It must be interesting to work in an international company with colleagues from so many different countries…
I find it enriching! In the Montreux office there is not so many foreign people, we are working with the product team, whose members are mainly French-speaking Swiss people. But I have been working with Eva, our French translator, and she has taught me a lot of academic French expressions. We often have funny conversations, because she has really the insight academic French that amuses me and provides me some knowledge also. I’m very grateful for that.
And, because of my age, all the people working here could be my children. Really, I’m definitely the only granny at ESL. But it’s nice because I love all this young people. They are really outstanding and they accept me as one of their own, despite the fact that I’m 30 or 40 years above the average. That’s stimulating!
Rita Balesi Grass has been the Manager of the Translation and Content Department at ESL Education HQ in Montreux since 2009, after having her own translation agency, working as a teacher at a high school and as a translator and editor for the famous ecologist Franz Weber.
Born in the Swiss German canton of Appenzell, she speaks German, French, English, Spanish and Italian, which she learnt from her Italian father, as well as a little Russian , At the age of 22 she moved to the beautiful island of Corsica. After 17 years there she moved to Montreux. Despite having lived abroad, she lives in the present and claims Montreux is her favourite place in the world, because enjoying the calmness, the lake, the mountains and its rich cultural offer. Being located in the middle of Europe makes it easy to travel to Italy, France and Germany.
Her favourite word throughout all languages is “inspiration” because it can be said the same in English, French and German and is an inspiring word.