The Bicultural Podcast

"That flow of different cultures started going into Russia" | Interview with Natalia Karlina

June 21, 2021 Janina Neumann, Natalia Karlina Season 2 Episode 9
The Bicultural Podcast
"That flow of different cultures started going into Russia" | Interview with Natalia Karlina
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In the ninth episode of season 2, Janina Neumann interviews Natalia Karlina, founder of Angara Language Services Limited.

This episode will give insight into

  • Experiences of Russia
  • Cultural differences between Russia and the UK
  • Insights into food and STEM in Russia
  • Bridging the cultural gap

Read the podcast transcript here: transcripts.thebiculturalpodcast.com

If you enjoyed this episode, please don't forget to review, subscribe and share with others :).

Book your free place at The Bicultural Podcast Meet Up on Thursday, 15th July 2021 2:00pm-3:00pm (BST): meetup.biculturalpodcast.com  

Janina Neumann (00:00):
Welcome to The Bicultural Podcast. The Bicultural Podcast celebrates bicultural individuals and gives insight into cultural differences, to help you improve business relationships. The podcast is presented by myself, Janina Neumann, a bilingual creative, social entrepreneur, and business owner.

Janina Neumann (00:24):
Welcome to The Bicultural Podcast. Today I'm delighted to be joined by Natalia Karlina, founder of Angara Language Services Limited. Hi Natalia, how are you?

Natalia Karlina (00:35):
Hi, Janina, I'm very good. Thank you for the introduction and for having me on your podcast, I'm really delightful to be here and to share my personal experiences with the listeners.

Janina Neumann (00:46):
Oh, it's such a pleasure to have you on my podcast. I'm really excited about the conversation we're about to have. Would you like to tell us a bit about yourself?

Natalia Karlina (00:55):
Sure. Yes. Well, I've had a long journey, basically. I was born in Siberia, in a very little town, like no one would even know, though it is pronounced like Balei. Ballet as in dance. And then I started kind of moving around Russia with my mom and we ended up in Moscow and that's where I had my, like, main bulk of experiences as an interpreter and translator. And then when I was working in one of the companies, they offered me a position in the UK, in London. So I just decided to relocate and see what happens. And yeah, I've been living in the UK for more than six years now. It's not been easy I would say, very challenging, but at the same time, very interesting and exciting, and it helped me to develop as a person and as professional.

Janina Neumann (01:52):
Oh, wow. That's so exciting to hear more about your story. Would you like to tell us a little bit about you know, where your company name came from?

Natalia Karlina (02:03):
Sure. Angara is the name of the river in Siberia, and I'm just fascinated with the story of the river as well. It flows out of the Lake Baikal, which is like the biggest freshwater lake on earth and the deepest. So there are 665 rivers, if I'm not mistaken, flowing into, feeding into the Baikal and only one river, which is the Angora, which flows out of the lake. So I think it's just a fascinating fact. And also was when I was thinking about the name, I was thinking that we interpreters and translators are like rivers. We're constantly evolving and changing and no matter what the external factors, our source will never run dry. That was the idea behind it.

Janina Neumann (02:58):
That's beautiful and how fascinating, I would definitely look into Angara. I think that's really interesting to hear about that.

Natalia Karlina (03:06):
Yeah, I know.

Janina Neumann (03:09):
So would you like to tell us a little bit about how you developed your passion for languages?

Natalia Karlina (03:15):
Yeah, well, it started when I was very little and I was born in the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), but then when I went to school, it was already Russia. So the USSR split. And at that time, because of the USSR was a closed country, as you might know, after it split, that flow of different cultures started going into Russia. We had like French series and soap operas. We had Mexican soap operas, we had Argentinian soap operas. So we just started kind of seeing all those different cultures and learning about them. And I loved it basically. And we had like a French soap opera, and I was literally just writing down every word that I heard in the songs from the soap opera and I was kind of reproducing them.

Natalia Karlina (04:14):
And I always thought that a foreign language is the same Russian language, it's just written in different letters. So yeah that was really funny, but then I realised that was not true and I decided, okay, I need to learn then the foreign language. Well, at school where you had only one option to learn English. So I started with English and then I went to like a special English school as well. And when I went to university to start in translation and interpreting, I also added Spanish to it and I love it honestly. So yeah, I've always been fascinated with languages.

Janina Neumann (04:53):
That's fantastic. So tell us a little bit more about like some of the differences in linguistics between you know, the different ways that Russian is structured.

Natalia Karlina (05:08):
Actually, Russian is very different from English in terms of structure, grammatical structure, but it's very similar to Spanish. That's why sometimes Spanish is easier for me even. And the main difference is in the order of the words in the sentence, like in English you have a very, like in German I guess, it has a very strict order. So you have first subjects and then you have the verb and so on, right? It's like adding beads to it. In Russian, it's like completely different. We're so flexible. I mean you can start with whatever words you want, well to a certain degree, but basically, I can start a sentence with any words. So the same, almost the same, in Spanish as well, and sometimes it is difficult for Russians to learn English because we have to switch to this strict order of the sentence.

Janina Neumann (06:09):
Oh, wow. That sounds really interesting. And just, you know, recently been coming another beginner learner of a new language, Farsi, I just sometimes think, you know, when you're at that beginner stage that it's sometimes easier, you know, to form conversations when you can put words in different orders, but as soon as it comes to writing, I personally find the order helpful just to make sure that I'm actually communicating. I have enough words in the sentence to make myself you know, clear what I'm trying to express. So that's really interesting about how Russian and Spanish work.

Natalia Karlina (06:49):
Yeah, I know. I think that the spoken language is a bit more flexible as well. You can make like make mistakes and then don't have time sometimes to think about what you're saying kind of, but with the written language you have time, kind of to sit down and think what you want to write. So it's easier.

Janina Neumann (07:09):
Yeah. Yeah. I can definitely relate to that. Are there particular sounds of the Russian language that you think are difficult for perhaps native English speakers to repeat?

Natalia Karlina (07:23):
Oh yes, there are many of them and because my partner is English, sometimes I play these tricks with him and try to get him pronounced different sounds. But I think one of the best examples would be two words that to you might sound the same, but they're completely different in Russian, like 'mishka' and 'mushka'. So 'mishka' is a bear, like little bear, and 'mushka' is a little mouse.

Janina Neumann (07:50):
Oh wow.

Natalia Karlina (07:50):
And the only difference is the second letter, the vowel, which is 'eh' and 'e', so 'eh' is quite difficult sometimes for foreigners to pronounce.

Janina Neumann (08:03):
Oh, that sounds so interesting. And how fascinating also, you know, that you could have a totally different meaning with what you're trying to say, you know, having quite sizable differences between these animals as well.

Natalia Karlina (08:19):
Exactly. Yes. And sometimes if you make a slightest mistake, it can be so funny. Yeah. But it's understandable if a foreigner is trying to speak Russian. Yes, it's just understanding them all.

Janina Neumann (08:35):
Oh, wow. That sounds so interesting. So tell us a little bit more about some of the effects that, you know, these new cultures had on your life when they were introduced to you.

Natalia Karlina (08:49):
Yeah. I've never lived in the Spanish culture. I've never been immersed into any Spanish culture, unfortunately. I wish I could, maybe I will in the future, but because I've been leaving for six years in England when I just came, I was very Russian, well obviously, and I was very straightforward, literally. This is our national trait. We'll just say what we normally think as opposed to English, which try to be polite and try to say something negative, even in a good way. But Russians are different. We can be very like direct. Sometimes it's good. I think in businesses it's good. Not always, but generally. But in personal life, if you're too direct, you can sound disrespectful, you don't mean to be disrespectful, but you might sound disrespectful and ignorant and offend someone, without even wanting to offend anyone. So, yeah, that was... and I was kind of slowly learning to be more aware of what I'm saying and how I'm saying it. So that's the big thing that I learned basically by being in the UK.

Janina Neumann (10:13):
Oh, that's really interesting.

Natalia Karlina (10:15):
Yeah.

Janina Neumann (10:16):
I think also, you know when you're in these groups scenarios, I think sometimes we might feel uncomfortable by being direct because, you know, no one is saying what everyone's thinking. Everyone's trying to almost preserve that group harmony, but actually, everyone feels uncomfortable and is waiting for someone to actually to voice their opinion. So it'd be good if people actually adapted to those scenarios whilst others might you know, just see how that certain uncomfortable situation carries on because no one's being direct.

Natalia Karlina (10:54):
Yes. Yes. I agree with you. I think it's being direct, as I said, can be good and bad. If the situation requires and calls for some politeness and the directness would not serve the purpose, so it will not help, you'd better be polite I guess and handle it politely. But if the situation is really almost like on edge and nothing can be solved by being polite, I think that directness is the only solution basically. And in business, especially when the project is not going anywhere, and everyone is just, as you said, trying to be polite and to preserve group harmony, it's like the project will never be completed.

Janina Neumann (11:47):
Yeah, exactly, and it just causes frustration, and then it might develop, you know, personal feelings towards certain people in forms of anger, which is just not helpful...

Natalia Karlina (11:57):
No.

Janina Neumann (11:57):
...in resolving the issues. But I'm interested to hear more about how it was working in-house in Russia and in the UK. Did you find any differences between the way the companies were structured, for example?

Natalia Karlina (12:16):
Well, to be honest when I was working in the UK in-house, it was also kind of Russian environment because there were Russian-speaking people, though we did have more interactions with our English partners or like German partners, so it was a bit different. But I think that's working, in-house helped me a lot, as we say, I've seen everything from the inside, so I've been in the kitchen. So I've seen everything, how it's cooked basically. And I believe it will help me now that I'm trying to set myself up as a freelancer. It will definitely help me in terms of how business is done or how business shouldn't be done as well. So what mistakes can be avoided and things like that. So I really appreciate that now, that I kind of started attending these different webinars for freelancers and they do focus on this business aspect a lot, and I understand that, because I'm coming from an in-house position. I have like almost a privilege, so it's easier for me.

Janina Neumann (13:30):
Yes, that sounds really cool. And, you know, congratulations on joining us as entrepreneurs, you know, it's fantastic to have you here.

Natalia Karlina (13:40):
Thank you very much. Yes. I'm very excited.

Janina Neumann (13:44):
Oh, fantastic. So tell us a little bit more about you know, what drives you to focus on your specialties within your business. So for example, legal, electrical engineering and the environment.

Natalia Karlina (14:01):
Well, legal has always been part of my work, I would say because, in any company you work, there would be some contracts and agreements to translate, terms and conditions and things like that. So legal has always been there and especially with the last position in Imperial & Legal, where I worked with an immigration advisor and I was helping the immigration advisor to file in the applications and prepare the paperwork and things like that. So it's been a really useful, really challenging, but interesting. And in terms of engineering, electrical engineering, that was I think one of the best work I've had so far, that was the company that offered me the position in the UK. So first I worked for them in Moscow and then I was transferred to London. And yeah, I like technical style because it's very direct as well, and it's very structured and I like understanding how different technical things work. So if I translate something from English, I first do my research and try to understand how this works, and then I start translating and seeing how the same things are called in Russian, because it's not always, as we know as translators, is not always the same term, even.

Janina Neumann (15:34):
That's really cool.

Natalia Karlina (15:36):
Yeah. And in terms of environment, I can't say I'm like an environmentalist. I'm not 100% and I'm not a religious environmentalist, but I do care about nature and I love nature and wildlife and I'm trying to do my best to help and preserve it by just doing little bits and pieces like recycling and trying not to waste food because also in Russia, wasting food is a sin. So we were taught from childhood that you can throw away a piece of bread even because that's a sin. So things like that, and just trying to be kind to nature.

Janina Neumann (16:26):
Oh, wow. That's really interesting to hear about your specialties and how interesting also, you know, that food waste is regarded as a sin because I think it also reinforces that we should be very appreciative of what we have, you know, and actually it comes down to your cooking skills, whether you can make, create different foods with the leftovers that you have.

Natalia Karlina (16:53):
Yes, that's actually funny because well everyone has leftovers. Everyone has something left in the fridge, a bit of this, bits of that. And then when my partner just opens the fridge, he can't see anything. He can't see what he can do with all of it. But if I open the fridge and I see all different bits and pieces, I can like create a completely new dish out of it. And he will be like amazed, "How did you do it?", so, yeah, that's funny.

Janina Neumann (17:25):
That's brilliant. And so tell us a bit more about some of the food that's popular in Russia or the food that you enjoy cooking.

Natalia Karlina (17:35):
Yeah. Soups are very popular in Russia because we have some parts of Russia, especially have a very long winter. So soups for us are like a comfort food. So we have 'shie', so cabbage, sauerkraut soup, and 'borsch', which beetroot soap. Yes, and we share it with Ukrainians as well. And I love them and my partner loves them as well. Also, we have like dumplings, so which were called 'pelmeni'. I don't know if you've heard about them? And we have different 'piorgis', like different pastries and also 'blinis', which everyone knows about, yeah 'belinis'. Caviar, 'belinis' with caviar is like very traditional dish for us as well. Yeah, I love cooking all this kind of and fish. When I lived in the North, there was a very famous dish with fish and potatoes, like a stew, so I like cooking that.

Janina Neumann (18:43):
That sounds so delicious and, you know to have soups and dumplings and, you know, some of the things that you mentioned, you know, I can see how some of the German culture has also taken those popular dishes into their own culture, which is lovely because I can relate to that.

Natalia Karlina (19:05):
Ah yes, yes. I know like now with the the world is more open and the cultures are getting kind of interconnected and it's so fascinating.

Janina Neumann (19:19):
Yes. I love how interconnected things are getting, because you can also you know, cook for a variety of different tastes, and sometimes also, you know, people can't have dairy or they can't have wheat. And I think the more open you are to different cuisines, the more it might help you in accommodating that person and forming that relationship with them.

Natalia Karlina (19:49):
Yes, definitely. I am trying to experiment. I love Italian cuisine. I love Indian and Lebanese, like Arabic. So yeah, I'm just trying to cook different things, to experiment as much as I can. Recently we've been trying to switch to plant-based diets because we've been watching these documentaries that you might know, like Cowspiracy and Seaspiracy, these kind of things. It's very fascinating. So in me as a kind of green person, yes, I like these things. So yeah, plant-based diet to me is challenging one because you have to be very creative with the recipes, but I like it. I really, really like it.

Janina Neumann (20:44):
Yeah, I can definitely relate to being creative with the recipes. It's almost like it's challenging to cook plant-based foods, you know, I always thought before, like, I'm exploring that world, how difficult can it be to put vegetables together, but actually it is quite a skill to make it tasty.

Natalia Karlina (21:05):
Yes, yes. That's why the spices come into play and yeah, I love spices. So I'm trying to try and integrate them into different dishes.

Janina Neumann (21:17):
That sounds wonderful. Oh, that's brilliant. Well, I hope we're not making our listeners too hungry, so I will talk to you about other things that I found fascinating.

Natalia Karlina (21:29):
Sure.

Janina Neumann (21:29):
For example, you talked about how you find it really interesting, you know, the technical aspects of some of your work, for example, the work for the electrical engineering company. I'm just interested to know, you know, how is STEM, so science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, regarded in Russia? For example, here in the UK, you know, there's a big drive for women to get more into STEM.

Natalia Karlina (22:01):
Yeah. To be honest, when I was working for that company in Russia, as far as I remember now, all the engineers for men. So don't remember any engineer that was a woman and it's a bit different culturally in Russia like that. Russia is very different. It's in between Eastern West and it's both East and West. And that's why mentality-wise we're still kind of more drawn to the East and East is like family-oriented culture, collectivism, and discipline, and actually where women should know their place, almost. It's changing now, but it's been like this for many years. And there are not that many women at the moment, like in electrical engineering. And I don't know if actually, they're trying to get there, because normally there are different professions for women where they would go, the path they would choose. But that's from my personal experience, that's what I can say, basically.

Janina Neumann (23:21):
That's really interesting. And also, you know, being family-orientated...

Natalia Karlina (23:25):
Yep.

Janina Neumann (23:25):
...that also makes a lot of sense, you know, if there are certain roles that women are kind of drawn to because they obviously want to have a family, so that's really interesting. And I also find it really fascinating from a cultural perspective of my own, you know, how we see the map of the world, you know, Russia is usually to the right of the map. And we just sometimes don't see that actually, you know, if you spun that global around that Russia is very close to the East. We always see it's to the right of Europe, and I think that's really fascinating about when you talk about some of the values that Russia has...

Natalia Karlina (24:17):
Yep.

Janina Neumann (24:17):
...and how it connects with people, but also in business. I think that's really interesting.

Natalia Karlina (24:26):
Yeah. I know. I think it's because you have different maps. So that was very interesting as well because our maps look different from the maps in the UK or maps in the US for example, as we know. So for us, I mean, we don't see to the right of the map, it's just the whole Russia on kind of on the one side of the map, basically, it's hard to explain, but you can visualise. And to be honest, my partner as well was surprised to know that Russia is partly in Europe because he always thought that Russia was just in the East, so it was just Asia basically, but no we are partly in Europe and partly in Asia, so kind of Eurasia. So yeah, that's fascinating and that affects our mentality a lot. So, as I said, so the Eastern trait of character and the Western, where we have this entrepreneurial spirit and trying to be independent and trying to build business. So we do have them. So it's kind of this divide. And even it's reflected in our coat of arms if you look at it, how have like two-headed eagle, so one kind of one head looks into the East, the other head looks into the West, and we're drawn to both sides at the same time.

Janina Neumann (25:55):
That's fascinating, and also, you know, Russia's so big as well. You know, the landmass itself is fascinating.

Natalia Karlina (26:02):
Yeah.

Janina Neumann (26:02):
And of course it makes sense, you know, if Russia is centered because you want to see all of Russia, you know, if you live in Russia...

Natalia Karlina (26:09):
Yeah.

Janina Neumann (26:09):
...because it takes up so much of the world. How fascinating. That's really interesting.

Natalia Karlina (26:18):
Yeah. It's a big country, it used to be even bigger with the USSR, but it's also hard to manage at the same time. It's really. There are some remote regions in Russia, which are underdeveloped, they're neglected and things like that, which is because the eye of the center doesn't reach to there, to those regions, which is a shame really. But that's how it is. It's just too big.

Janina Neumann (26:48):
Yes, it's very big. How fascinating. Oh, well, I've definitely learned a lot from this conversation already. That sounds fantastic. So tell us a bit more about your business. What kinds of people are you excited to be working with or would like to be working with

Natalia Karlina (27:08):
Friendly, open-minded. Yes. Ready to collaborate and yeah, ready to benefit from the services that I'm offering and ready to listen, basically, because I really want to be very helpful and I really want to build this bridge as we say, yes? Between different cultures and languages. That's what I really enjoy. And yeah, I'll be happy to work with companies and individuals. And I've started working for like a company where I help different people who come to the UK and who need help and help to interpret for that. So, yeah, it's really interesting. And I find my work very useful and rewarding

Janina Neumann (28:08):
That's so important and I can definitely relate to that feeling that you're making a difference, I think, really keeps you going as well in business. But tell us a little bit more about your services that you offer.

Natalia Karlina (28:24):
So my main services are translation and interpreting from English/Spanish into Russian. And I also offer other language services, which are proofreading, editing, working with texts, machine translation post-editing, subtitling, because I've been working with TED talks and subtitling for TED talks, and I really enjoy it because you can learn so much from different videos and you can choose which video you can subtitle and then translate. So it's really fascinating.

Janina Neumann (28:59):
Yeah, it is really fascinating because also there's a whole bank of knowledge out there and it would be odd for us to think that the bank of knowledge always has to be communicated in English because actually, you know, that might not feel natural to that speaker. So I'm a real advocate of having things, you know, subtitled or captioned. I think that's really valuable.

Natalia Karlina (29:28):
Yes, definitely. And that's also a big difference between like Russian film industry and like European film industry, that in Russia, our films are dubbed. And so basically, as my friend jokes, Brad Pitt doesn't talk with a voice of Brad Pitt. So we just hear a different like Russian voice, some Russian voiceover, basically. While in Europe you still hear the voice of Brad Pitt, but at the same time you have the subtitles where you can translate it into your language and you can, at the same time learn English even, that's how many people learn English in Europe by just listening to English and just reading the subtitles. It's very interesting, and it helps to share the knowledge because as you said, the big bank of the world global knowledge is in English and I really want to share it and translate it into Russian, so more people, Russian-speaking people can see it.

Janina Neumann (30:39):
Yeah. It's a fascinating conversation. It really is. And I also find it interesting about you know, some of the things that you mentioned about how to learn a language. Is there a particular tip that you'd like to give on how people could first connect with Russians so that they have the basics, that perhaps they can build that relationship with their partners in Russia?

Natalia Karlina (31:08):
Yes. I mean it's always good to speak the basic language when you try and enter the market. So say if a business is trying to open their representative office or find a distributor in Russia, it's always good to learn at least a couple of words like greetings, hello and thank you, and good afternoon, good day. So things like that because then it's like an ice breaker as in any culture, basically. So it's really good. And it's not that difficult, to be honest now with all this internet resources, you can just find some YouTube video and learn from that.

Janina Neumann (31:52):
Oh, that sounds brilliant, and I will go and learn my Russian phrases as well.

Natalia Karlina (32:01):
Definitely.

Janina Neumann (32:01):
That sounds brilliant. Ah fantastic, it's been such a pleasure to talk to you, Natalia, and how can people connect and also work with you?

Natalia Karlina (32:11):
Thank you Janina for having me for this wonderful conversation. I think the best way to contact me would be on LinkedIn because at the moment I don't have a website. So my LinkedIn handle is Natalia-Karlina. So that's basically how they can find me and they like literally can send me direct message. I also have an email address it's [email protected]

Janina Neumann (32:43):
Oh, fantastic. Natalia, it's been such a pleasure. Thank you so much for sharing all your wonderful insights. I really enjoyed talking to you.

Natalia Karlina (32:53):
Me too. Yes. Thank you so much, Janina. And yeah, I hope my personal experience can help someone as well.

Janina Neumann (33:02):
Oh yeah. It's definitely helped me to reflect on my cultural perceptions and also, you know, find out more about Russia, I think is so fascinating.

Natalia Karlina (33:12):
Yes, it definitely is.

Janina Neumann (33:14):
Thank you. Take care.

Natalia Karlina (33:16):
Thank you, Janina, take care. Have a good day.

Janina Neumann (33:18):
Thank you and you.

Janina Neumann (33:20):
Hi there, this is Janina. I'm so pleased that you are here and listening to the podcast. For me, the podcast has been a great opportunity to learn and meet new people. I would like to bring together my community of like-minded people and so I am delighted to invite you to our first meet up. The meet up will be taking place online on Thursday, 15th July from 2pm to 3pm British Summer Time. The meet up will give you the opportunity to connect and meet some of the podcast guests and listeners. There will be a breakout room session for networking and a panel session for Q&A. You can book your free place at meetup.biculturalpodcast.com or click on the link within the show notes. I really hope to see you there and I can’t wait to meet you.

Janina Neumann (34:17):
So, I hope you've enjoyed this episode. Please don't forget to subscribe to The Bicultural Podcast. Thank you for listening, and bis bald.

Welcome to The Bicultural Podcast
Experiences of Russia
Cultural differences between Russia and the UK
Insights into food and STEM in Russia
Bridging the cultural gap
Invitation to The Bicultural Podcast Meet Up
Thank you for listening