Translating under the Northern Lights

My love for languages goes back quite a long time, in fact to when I was in Year 5 and started learning English at school. Later, I became a language teacher and met my partner Grahame, who is English and with whom I started translation work for a renowned German lifestyle magazine. We were living in Berlin at the time, but wanted a little more adventure. So, in 2013, we gave up our flat, took a sabbatical and set off on our No Fixed Abode Tour towards the frozen North (Scandinavia).

Winter sunrise over the frozen Vindelälven River

During the summer, we helped out at our friends’ youth hostel in central Sweden before moving further north after sticking a pin in the map, which hit the small town of Lycksele in Swedish Lapland. For the winter, we rented a tiny holiday flat in Vormsele, a village 45 km out of town by the beautiful, unspoilt river Vindelälven. The intention was to move on in spring to see more of the colder climate, but we had already fallen in love with a little wooden house near to the river which we bought as our base camp.

Big mushroom harvests at the end of the summer

Our new home has around 50 inhabitants, who gave us a warm but curious welcome and their main question was “Why Vormsele?” Well, why not?! It’s an area of wonderfully unspoilt nature with a population density of around two people per square km but lots of blueberries, elk, reindeer, eagles, salmon and proper winters.

Sunday morning guests on the football pitch adjoining our garden

Reindeer racing at the famous Jokkmokk Winter Market 

However, it proved difficult to get a full-time teaching post in the vicinity and after having studied Swedish for seven months, I took up a part-time job as a German teacher 130 km away, which involved a lot of driving through the forests and in the snow. After an enjoyable time and a magnificent holiday in Iceland, I decided to return to Berlin on a 12-month teaching contract. I quickly realized that city life was no longer for me and whilst in Berlin, I began to plan my future as a freelance translator, proofreader and language teacher.

Enter Gengo. In November 2015, I was accepted in the Gengo community as a German-English/English-German translator. Whilst in Germany, I formed a registered business with my partner and now that I’m back in Lapland, I’m working part-time as a teacher and as a freelance online translator, tutor and proofreader.

Stunning early winter sunsets near our home

Although I now live in a remote rural village, I have superfast fibre-optic broadband, so I can work from home in front of a crackling log fire and look out onto a beautiful landscape with perhaps the Northern Lights dancing overhead.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of translating for Gengo and hope to continue for many more years.

Do you have interesting stories to share and would like to be a guest blogger? Leave a comment below and we’ll get in touch!


Katharina Wand

The author

Katharina Wand

Katharina loves languages, nature and travel. A teacher by profession, she has taught English and German, plus Special Needs, at schools in Germany and Sweden. In late 2015, she joined Gengo’s translator community and works from her home in northern Sweden. In her free time, she enjoys capturing images together with her partner, who is a photographer.

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