Lake Zurich translator’s work spans the globe
Lake Zurich resident Ruth Hoffman runs a foreign language learning business out of her home. She also works with church-based home-schooling agencies. | Joe Cyganowski~ For Sun Times Media
Updated: October 14, 2012 12:45PM
LAKE ZURICH — Lake Zurich-based Language Resources teaches its clients how to communicate in languages other than their own, but it is not a typical tutoring service.
For example, Ruth Cassel Hoffman, coprincipal and founder of Language Resources, said she recently translated post-adoption documents for a client who had just adopted a boy from Nicaragua.
“That kind of job really makes me feel good,” Hoffman said.
Language Resources, Hoffman explained, serves many business purposes.
“We’ll do whatever we can,” she said. “Whatever people ask us.”
Hoffman and her husband started Language Resources in 1983. Hoffman had been teaching French at St. Mary’s College in South Bend, Ind., when she received a call from an automotive company that needed a French instructor for employees who were being sent overseas. Until that call, Hoffman had taught in what she called the academic context.
“I knew immediately the class needed to be taught in a different way,” she said of her new assignment.
Before long, Hoffman began Language Resources. She teaches foreign languages for practical purposes, which she explained is much different than teaching in the traditional academic setting.
“I think it’s much more fun watching faces light up when they realize they can communicate,” she said. “They can walk into a pharmacy in a foreign country and get aspirin.”
While in South Bend, Hoffman worked with companies including Bayer and Zenith.
“It used to be mostly training,” she said, explaining that Language Resources thrived on that business model until companies began cutting their training budgets.
“I could see that my market was shrinking,” said Hoffman.
So Hoffman and her husband moved to the Chicago area because of its stronger business market.
Hoffman explained that her home-based business now does less corporate training, but more document translating and interpreting. She also works closely with several social service agencies in the area. For example, she has been contracted to do translating work for the Lake County Health Department.
Instead of teaching, her work is now primarily administrative.
“If a company does not keep reinventing itself, it goes down the tubes,” she said.
Because of her ongoing adaptations, Hoffman said she doesn’t feel threatened by competition from language software programs like Rosetta Stone.
“If you’re trying to learn a language, you need human feedback,” she said.
And her model aims for understanding rather than perfection, she explained.
“Not everyone is gifted in languages,” Hoffman said. “I like people to be a success.”
Hoffman also writes a blog about the French language. The blog is written in both French and English, covering a wide range of mostly lighthearted topics.
“I try to be funny,” she said. “I try to be interesting.”
Originally from Philadelphia, the Hoffman’s have raised their family in Lake Zurich after moving from Indiana.
After 30 years, Hoffman said she has never tired of her work.
“I like being able to help people,” she concluded. “It feels good to know that I’ve made someone happy.”