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Francesca Smith, Marketing professional & PGDE Modern Languages student

Photo of Francesca SmithMy name is Francesca Smith and I am currently studying for a PGDE Secondary in Modern Languages (Spanish and German).

Before studying for the PGDE, I worked in marketing for ten years.

Having recently completed a course in teaching English as a foreign language I travelled to Asia and Spain to teach young learners and adults. These fantastic opportunities reminded me how important languages are in the world we live and I feel the next natural step for me is to encourage language learning in secondary schools in Scotland.

What languages have you learned?

I have studied languages since I was very young. I was born in Brazil to Scottish parentsmultilingual speech bubble therefore my first language was Brazilian Portuguese and I learned to speak English at school and at home. So I was speaking Brazilian Portuguese and English well by the time I was seven. I moved to Portugal with my family when I was seven and started to learn French.

I was later introduced to Spanish and German at secondary school in Scotland, which I both went on to study at university.

I have recently lived in Vietnam where I was learning Vietnamese.

How have any language skills helped you in your work or personal life?

World trade imageLearning languages allowed me to gain confidence in myself whilst at school as well as being able to interact with people with other countries.

For my work, it opened up many doors and I was offered jobs based on my language skills. When I graduated, I worked for a local technology company in Fife in collaboration with Glenrothes college. I worked as a Customer Services Co-ordinator/Marketing Assistant and managed customer accounts in Europe over email and telephone and face-to-face. I was also given the opportunity to study for a Certificate in International Trade, which gave me a practical understanding on how we work with other countries. On the marketing side, one of my main duties was to set up and manage trade shows in cities like Paris and Cologne for example. MyBusiness women liaising languages came into play as I needed to deal with trade show organisers continually through the events.

I have also worked in Dubai and was hired by a German automotive company head office where I used my German to communicate with staff members and customers.

What benefits do you think language skills bring?

Languages not only help you understand your own language and how other languages work but allow you to have self-confidence and add another string to your bow.

Do you have any advice for anyone considering learning a language?

Consider learning the grammar of the language because this is the bread and butter and you can build on the vocabulary. You need to be motivated and do a little every day. Pronunciation is important too, so listen and watch as much as you can.

Vietnamese character saying hello and welcomeAny tips on how best to approach communicating in a language you have little knowledge of?

I learned Vietnamese because I was living in a city where very few people spoke English and the best way I learned was learning everyday Vietnamese in chunks of language eg ‘How much is this? It’s 500 Vietnamese Dong’.

I learned through lots of listening and speaking as the written form is difficult to learn pronunciation from.

In your experience, would you say cultural awareness is important?

Cultural awareness is extremely important, as every culture has its own identities, personas andfamily eating dinner together customs. I learned in Vietnam what is important to our culture, is not important to Vietnamese people. For example, the Vietnamese are not materialistic like the western world and family is important to them. They very much live in the now, the past is the past and tomorrow is not here yet. It took me some time to get used this mantra.

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