My New Year 2016 kicked off to a great start with a visit to Trinidad, hosted by the University of the West Indies, to encourage young students to embrace their language studies to get the language advantage.
Here’s an extract of my talk to students in Port of Spain and San Fernando.
Part of me
I’ve always loved languages – but I’m not sure why! I wonder if it is because my great great grandmother was French, so it’s in my genes, or whether it’s because my grandmother used to take me to France for the summer holidays to visit friends in Dijon. Possibly it’s because I grew up in the southern city of Southampton, so effectively I lived nearer to France than to Scotland!
I am not a natural linguist, but a keen mathmetician, so learn languages more by looking for the patterns and learning the rules. I much preferred studying French than English and I used to spend hours reading the French dictionary as a teenager – what a geek!
I knew I was starting to master French, when one summer I started dreaming in French. I was so excited.
Getting the grades
I did French and German at O-level and got good grades, so then had to decide what to do next at A-level. I was told not to, but went for a mixture that covered a mix of discplines when the norm was to go for all arts or all sciences: Maths (science), Economics (social science) and French (art).
My university course was influenced by me wanting to do something practical with my language, so I chose to study Management Science & French, which included a year at the University in Strasbourg. I didn’t really understand anything for three months and couldn’t even ask for an extra blanket in our halls of residence (although I could talk about the President of France)! But then it all clicked into place … you really do need to be patient with languages. So apart from learning French, I met people from all over the Francophone world.
Working the world
I got my first job with Accenture – one of the big management consulting companies – and I am pretty sure that the combination of my having a language and an M.Phil. helped hugely in making me stand out and get noticed. I joined Deloitte Consulting after that as a programme manager and was always being sent on the international projects as they said I was good at dealing with people in different countries – again mostly because of my language studies. I ended up working in the USA and in Europe, managing people from all over the globe.
When I had my beautiful son, I figured the jetsetting lifestyle was no longer for me and I set up my own business. I try and motivate people to learn languages (www.languageadvantage.com) and I help companies to sell their products and services all around the world over the internet (www.growglobal.com) – very cool! To help business people communicate better, I wrote four language and culture audio books – Teach Yourself Business French, Business Spanish, Business Japanese and Business Mandarin Chinese.
I love to chat and it is my lifelong mission (and probably will be!) to speak to 80% of the world’s population in one of their national languages.
I can speak English, French and am learning Spanish – so just Mandarin Chinese to go (perhaps a retirement project for me?).
Languages in the digital world
Searching on the web is not just in English and “every day Google answers more than 3 billion questions from people around the globe in 181 countries and 146 languages”. And 2 billion people use social media and Facebook is available in 90 languages, you can watch videos on YouTube in 76 languages and tweet in 36 languages.
Language underpins everything we do
Language plays a part in every element of our lives from globalisation, through citizenship to international relations. It can define our identity and our culture.
Languages are good news
- get you good exam results
- travel to far off places
- have more fun on holidays
- make more friends across the world
- have more job opportunities
- earn more
- be better at multitasking
- have better cognitive processing
- be protected against dementia (as you grow old)
- have an open mind (throughout your life).
The world of work opens up if you learn a language
There are traditional ‘language’ jobs:
- language teacher
- academic linguist.
There are opportunities for high-powered international jobs:
- marketing manager
- international lawyer
- international charity worker.
There are jobs you may not have considered which would benefit from language knowledge, including:
- event management
- fashion buyer
- video games tester.
What’s your dream?
You could set up your own business as a .com entrepreneuer reaching customers all around the world or work for a massive global brand travelling the world with colleagues from all corners of the globe. Or anything in between!
Where in the world would you like to live or work? How many of you will learn a language?!
Learn a language – it WILL give you an advantage. Get the language advantage! Get the competitive advantage!