Susan Laval

Photo of Susan Laval

I grew up in a country named Tanganyika, that technically no longer exits. It was part of the British share of the German territory of East Africa. In 1922 it came under a UN protectorate under British supervision, and then in 1964 formally became part of Tanzania.

Swahili was the language spoken on the coast of Tanganyika where I was born. Since then the use of Swahili as the lingua franca of Eastern and Central Africa expanded into the whole of Tanzania and Kenya, parts of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, eastern Congo, Northern Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar, and South Sudan. The use of Swahili and Kiswahili is expanding. I attribute this growth to the fact that it is the only African language that is not associated with any tribe or religion.

My childhood in Tanganyika and travels to places like Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, and Cameroon exposed me to a diverse set of cultural and social experiences that were beyond just language. Having experienced life in developing countries, where many migrants originate from, has been an invaluable contribution to my work as an interpreter for TIS National.

I left Tanzania and came to Australia in 1969. I worked in the health field as a Social Trainer and an Assistant Occupational Therapist working with people with disabilities, for approximately 20 years.

My husband and I bought and operated a newsagency for 8 years. After we moved to a small costal town, I decided I wanted to give back to my community. After a lot of thought I decided to put my language skills to good use. I remember the struggle I went through when I arrived in Australia and the isolation I felt in a strange new land. I knew I could be a helping hand, and lend my voice to my community.

I love being an interpreter and I see the rewards all the time. Just to be able to say to a vulnerable client that I am here to help you be understood is the best reward. I have been interpreting for nearly five years and love it.

In my spare time I love the beach, dancing, singing, reading and movies. I also go back to Tanzania often and it’s a great professional development.

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