If you work with language and love your job, one way to share your enthusiasm is to take part in career days or simply talk to pupils at your local school about your work and why you enjoy it. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, language teachers will thank you for your efforts.
I’ve attended several careers events at local secondary schools. How effective these are depends partly on the format, partly on the age of the pupils, and partly on the national educational system – is language learning compulsory, and to what age? (It also depends on how well the presenters convey their enthusiasm to the kids – enthusiasm not being a particularly desirable quality in teenage eyes).
Although I wear my translator/editor’s hat when I talk to the kids, I also tell them about previous jobs I’ve had where language skills were important. The important thing is to give them an insight to the wider job opportunities that language learning opens up. So I encourage them to include – but not necessarily focus exclusively on – languages in their study and career options. On which point: I used to teach translation to Italian honours students at Glasgow University. While some of the students were passionate about their subject, others seemed uninspired and pretty clueless as to why they’d opted for (single honours!) Italian in the first place. What were they thinking of?
So I think it’s best to present languages to kids as an additional skill that will give them an extra edge, whatever career they choose. Here are some examples (based on people I’ve met) that I use when I’m talking to pupils:
- a Scottish make-up artist and beauty therapist who used to live in Italy, where she worked for an Italian TV channel and learned Italian along the way. She now travels to Milan once or twice a month, where she organises (and charges beautifully for) treatment weekends for her showbiz friends and acquaintances.
- a sports journalist who got his first big career break, in the 1990s, through a scoop involving a famous Belgian. The journalist, who spoke some French, convinced his editor to send him to Belgium to interview Jean-Marc Bosman. The footballer was so taken aback to be approached by a French-speaking Brit that he agreed to the interview. During which, the European Court of Justice issued the Bosman ruling. Bosman kept to the exclusive deal, and the journalist got his scoop. The journalist now reports on Spanish football for Sky Sports. (I’ve co-presented with him, but more about that in a later post).
- a Scottish businessman who sells parts for military vehicles. He made a courtesy call to a customer in Germany. About 10 minutes later the customer called back, having just realised, to his amazement, that the businessman had conducted the entire call in German. That “unique selling point” cemented an already good business relationship, and the businessman’s role as preferred supplier.
Most of the careers events I’ve taken part in were organised directly by the schools, so I’ve had to fit in with a pre-arranged format – some more successful, and some more tiring for the presenters, than others. I’ll describe some of these in later posts.
By Marian Dougan