In an excited Norwegian accent, Tor Holmboe talks about meeting some, “wonderful Smi, and absolutely thoroughly enjoy rubbing shoulders with them.” With a slight Russian accent, Natalia Johnson tells of enjoying, “the truly international spirit in the schools.”
Are these visitors or participants at the Games? No. Both are volunteer translators living in Alaska.
Holmboe emigrated from Tromso, Norway in 1954 and has lived at Mile 71.5 on the Tok Cut-off in Alaska since 1967. He generally works the Iditarod this time of year but took “a year’s sabbatical” to come and translate.
The Smi are “so linguistic they are amazing” and “perfectly capable of handling the language,” exclaims Holmboe. He feels it’s because students are required to learn at least three languages and the principal that came with them is “full of language.”
According to Holmboe, language fluency is important in Smi because “everyone lives in a small community and if you don’t have knowledge of your neighbor’s language you’re in the doldrums,” he said.
Johnson came to Alaska three years ago from St. Petersburg, Russia. When she heard about the Games she called and offered to help coordinate language services. She greeted each Russian contingency as they arrived at the airport.
Her first important duty was answering the question, “How do I call back to Russia?” For many this is their first trip abroad and they wanted to know about international calling cards.
She is on call 24 hours a day and has assisted with a variety of translating needs for coaches, officials, organizers and athletes. A highlight was working with the Yamal Cultural group at KCHS helping insure their program would go well. She found their costumes to be exceptionally beautiful and the program wonderful.
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