One of the topics that frequently comes up in conversation at Open Days and Applicant Days, as well as with our current students, revolves around the question of the jobs that Languages students go on to do. As many of the posts on this blog show, there are more answers to that question than you might expect, ranging from language teachers to commercial coordinators for major wine exporters, from translators to financial crime analysts with much, much else in between. For many of our students, the benefits of languages in terms of their employability become clear while they are still studying and find themselves taking on part-time or vacation jobs where their languages make them a real asset to a particular company or workplace. And, in return, that workplace-based experience of using language skills brings its own benefits to students in terms of their fluency, confidence, communication skills and all-round employability.
To give a sense of what this can actually mean in practice, we’re very pleased to get a chance to post the following article by Andrea Kolluder who is currently in her 4th semester and who has a part-time job working for a local distillery:
‘Learning French has had its many challenges. I have often found it difficult to improve my spoken French, simply because I had a great fear of speaking French words out loud. The fear of pronouncing things wrong, and making terrible mistakes with grammar would pull me back from speaking any of the French I knew. I would have never thought that it would be the subject of whisky that would eventually break my wall of fear of the spoken language. Yet, in May last year, when I started working for a whisky distillery, I gained some much-needed confidence in my spoken French.
When asked at my interview about whether I thought myself capable of doing guided tours around the distillery in French I said yes without hesitation. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. The concept of speaking French to native speakers – tourists with many questions no less – was terrifying at first. But like with many things, once you do it the first time, the next time becomes easier, and so after the first French conversation, the next one suddenly seemed a lot less frightening.
Thankfully my interactions have all been positive, which really helped. French-speaking visitors seem to always be glad to find a French speaker willing to explain the mystery of whisky to them in their native language. In return for a French tour, they were always patient and understanding even when it took me a lot longer to explain certain things to them. They would help me find words I couldn’t find off the top of my head or wait until I finally realised the words I was missing. The best part was that in the end, despite pronunciation or grammar mistakes, I could get meaning across. People were actually understanding my French. And of course, the best motivator of all, was that little praise that my French was very good, just as they were saying goodbye.
A job in tourism is a great one for making you realise how much you can communicate even without words. When you do know a few words though, the quality of the conversation grows for both sides. After many challenging language situations from disinterested teenagers to very curious families, I have built an interesting set of miscellaneous vocabulary about whisky in the French language. And now, I look forward to using it even more often.’
Many, many thanks to Andrea for taking the time to write this blog post and for patiently waiting for me to actually get it online!