Languages – foreign ones as well as my native English – have been an area of interest and a source of pleasure from an early age. It was my father’s songs, poems and dinnertime play with French and German that no doubt sparked this interest in me. At secondary school, I studied French and German. I carried French on to university in Melbourne, where I also took up Russian, majoring in both languages.

Following university, I worked for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for six years, during which I completed a diplomatic posting in Poland. That was preceded by a year of language training including a course in language and culture at KUL (the Catholic University of Lublin). I couldn’t have wished for a more exciting period to spend in that country: from September 1986 to July 1989, watching the communist regime collapse before my eyes and the beginnings of the transition to the democratic country within the EU Poland is today. As Australia didn’t have an embassy in East Germany or Czechoslovakia at the time, I also made occasional visits to those countries and got to meet some of the Czechoslovak dissidents who assumed positions within the government following the Velvet Revolution.

With so much going on in Central and Eastern Europe, I was frustrated at being so far away, in Canberra. After leaving the Australian civil service, and armed with my new RSA Certificate for Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Adults, I first went to Prague, where I taught various classes of bank employees for a year and a half. I then went to Moscow to finally do something with my Russian, which I’d neglected since university. I worked there for two years both as a translator from Russian into English for the publishing company Progress, and as an English teacher in secondary schools and for adults in business.

The bulk of my career has been spent working as an editor in the English Language Teaching division of Oxford University Press, for most of that time in the Department of ELT Dictionaries and Reference Grammar. The publications I worked on included: bilingualisation of learner dictionaries for Polish, Czech, Russian, Serbian, Hungarian, Turkish and Arab learners of English; compilation for the Oxford Collocations Dictionary for Students of English; the fourth edition of Michael Swan’s Practical English Usage; the second edition of Ruth Gairns and Stuart Redman’s Oxford Word Skills series; and Oxford Grammar 360° (for Italian secondary students).

Since March 2021, I have worked on a voluntary basis as an Assistant Managing Editor (for issue production) for Asymptote, an online journal of world literature (in various genres) in translation.

Another lifetime passion, which has broadened my contact with other languages, is music – classical in particular. As well as playing the cello and piano, I enjoy singing – in various languages. I have translated song lyrics and given advice to choirs on the pronunciation of Czech and Russian. Coaching singers in the pronunciation of languages I know is something I would love to do more of.

I took the decision to go freelance from September 2022 so I could broaden my range of work and do more in enduring areas of interest: literature, culture, history and politics – involving languages other than English wherever possible.

I already had a good translation from Burmese into English of my novel Rachel Oo, but Janet did an excellent job of ironing out any problems so the text sounds idiomatic and appealing in English, and is ready to present to potential publishers.

Yi Nay Sun (ရီနေဆန်း), Hong Kong