A gift for languages

When I was eight years old I fell in love with the French language and never fell out with it. Looking back, the day I had my first lesson in French and ran home to tell my mum “Bonjour maman, je m’appelle Jill” was the start of my love affair with languages: first French, then Spanish, then Dutch, and, finally, my own ‘native’ English.

It was only when I taught English in France – and later in the Netherlands – that I started to fully appreciate the intricacies of my own language. When you speak a language from birth, you never stop to think about grammar do you? For a long time, English was simply a way to reference all the new words I was learning in other languages.

Which brings me to my CV which, unsurprisingly, is dominated by languages.

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  • Graduated in French and European Studies from University of Manchester (1981). Obtained marketing and French translation diplomas whilst working for various French companies. Moved to the Netherlands in 1990 to join my Dutch partner, thinking ‘Hey, I’m good at languages so Dutch should be no problem….’
  • Spent 2 intensive weeks with the ‘nonnetjes’ in Vught and shot into year 5 of ‘Nederlands voor Buitenlanders’ in Utrecht. I could recognise all the grammatical constructions but didn’t have a clue what the words meant. With the help of dictionaries and the unfailing patience of my partner Ben, I made pretty good progress and have spoken Dutch fluently since about 1997. But I still think French sounds prettier…..
  • Obtained HBO diploma in Dutch-English translation in 1999 and set up as a freelance translator under the name Helianthus Language Services (because my favourite flower was and is the sunflower). I taught translation on the same HBO Diploma course in Utrecht from 1999-2002 and again from 2016-2017.
  • In 2002 I went back into paid employment as a Senior English Editor in the corporate communications department at Fortis. That job – based in Utrecht and Brussels – really had my name on it: an English native speaker editor with fluent French and Dutch. I loved it! That was the start of 16 years working as a writer and editor in the financial sector at Fortis, ABN Amro, and Rabobank.
  • In 2016 I left set up as an independent copywriter and translator again – and that’s what this website is all about.

This ‘About Jill Whitaker’ section could also be called ‘About a language freak’.  As the saying goes, I have a gift for languages. And I really do see this as a gift. The capacity to help people understand each other, to make connections through language, is part of who I am. It’s what I love doing. So how can I help you?

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