One of my fears for this project was communication. I thought it would be difficult enough to get across what I wanted for this portrait under ideal circumstances. Add to that that I’ve been a production editor overseeing journals, a fast-paced environment, and worked with off-shore subcontractors. It hasn’t always gone well. On this one project, I and an off-shore typesetter were pushing deadline (what else is new in journals?). When done, I emailed saying, “Great, we’re good to go.” I then pushed it to the back of my mind and moved onto the next squeaky wheel. Two weeks later, I get an email. Do you want us to print this now? ACK! We scrambled and got it out…late. Sigh. Thereafter, I tried to spot my idiomatic language use, but it’s hard to do that sometimes when these phrases are so second nature (see…second nature!). But with Liiga, turns out my concerns were unfounded. I found myself so comfortable working with her that I slipped into idiomatic language use. Never threw her. So I was curious as to how she knew English so well.
In Latvia it is very common to study a few foreign languages at school, so I got an early start on learning English. This went on through high school, where I took the International Baccalaureate program, and a university that is popular with students from all three Baltic states so the studies were in English here, too. Of course the Internet has played a huge part in expanding my vocabulary, too, particularly when it comes to colloquialisms, and the amount of practice it provides while living in a country where English is not used on a day-to-day basis is invaluable.
There was also a certain element of need to learning it, as the digital medium is relatively new here, so to be able to learn how to draw better, I also had to learn how to speak English better—again, largely through the Internet.
At this point the language barriers usually aren’t much of an issue, unless you count the fact that I’m so very used to dealing with agreements in English that the last time I needed something art-related in Latvian, I had to sit and scratch my head for a while.
Full interview will be available after the last of the selected questions has published on December 12.