Calderon was fluent in French, had ‘learnt Flemish while shaving in the mornings’ (according to his composer friend Martin Shaw), and incredibly enough had once made a special study of Walloon dialects. His German was also competent. He had absolutely the right languages to be an interpreter in France and Belgium, therefore, but his register in these languages was purely literary. He now had to set about methodically learning lists of military vocabulary in French and Flemish — and learn them fast. Fortunately, he was a past master at this kind of intensive language acquisition.
He would also need an official testimony to his proficiency. In his thirties he had worked for a translation/interpreting agency, Flowerdew’s, and he had only recently interpreted for Fokine in French and Russian. But he had no certification of this experience. The only time he had not been self-employed was 1900-1903 when he had worked at the British Museum as an Assistant in Printed Books. For this he had had to sit the Civil Service examinations in Russian and French, in which he scored high marks. He now wrote to the B.M. for a reference that would attest to the latter.
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