I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t conscious of and interested in other languages and cultures. I have vivid memories of playing ‘let’s pretend’ as a little girl and would often choose to be of a different nationality, making up the language as I went. Of course, I would then have to ‘translate’ for my little pals, who […]
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t conscious of and interested in other languages and cultures. I have vivid memories of playing ‘let’s pretend’ as a little girl and would often choose to be of a different nationality, making up the language as I went. Of course, I would then have to ‘translate’ for my little pals, who didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.
We were first offered French lessons in the last year of primary school (when we were 10/11 years old) and I remember daydreaming about how great it would be to speak in an unbroken stream of the language. I imagined my proud parents looking on as I directed groups of French tourists to the town hall… I don’t believe my hometown has ever seen a French tourist – if it has, they were probably somewhat off-course – nor is our town hall of any cultural interest whatsoever (it burnt down in 1988 and was never rebuilt). But it was the only place I could issue accurate directions to, not due to my limited linguistic ability, but because I completely lacked (ok, lack, in the present tense) any sense of direction.
By the end of high school, I had realised that I was more suited to German and luckily, my vivid imagination was maturing somewhat. I actually started wondering about a career with language as its pivot. I was accepted by the University of Manchester to study German and Russian and I found myself in a whole new world of opportunity.
What have my language skills done for me? On a personal level, my childhood aspirations are still carried with me. I do get a kick out of helping people by speaking to them in their own language. I have also broadened my horizons – and friendships – in a way I never realised possible when I was at school. I have yet to meet any tourists seeking our town hall, but at least I’ll be able to soothe their disappointment in Russian or German when the time comes…
Professionally, language has brought a great deal of opportunities. After spending time in Russia teaching English, I returned to the UK and quickly found that my language knowledge offered employers the opportunity to widen existing markets and to form prosperous business relations in developing ones. I was welcomed on various business trips and allowed to understand areas of the business environment that were still just part of textbook theory for my monolingual counterparts. I progressed quickly and a lot of it was due to the confidence and analytical skills my language knowledge had given me, as well as the linguistic ability itself.
After a great deal of consideration, I later decided to start my own business helping others use language to broaden their professional horizons. We live in a globalised environment and I no longer had to be present in Russia to teach my native language. Instead, teaching English via Skype had become a valid possibility and I am able to draw on my corporate experience and still-vivid imagination to create materials specific to my students’ needs.
So, if you are reading this as a learner of English, where do you want the knowledge to take you? What doors has it opened and what new opportunities do you hope to explore?
Rebecca, English Club Online
Онлайн репетитор и носитель английского языка
Online Native English Tutor
Remember, my blog is here to help you improve your English actively! Now you’ve read the text, here are some more things to think about…
Paragraph 1: friends (search for an informal synonym)
Paragraph 3: bright, detailed
Paragraph 4: ambitions
Paragraph 5: equivalents
Paragraph 6: to use (an available resource)
b) Note the use of the passive voice in the blog post:
We were first offered French lessons in the last year of primary school
[The town hall] was never rebuilt
I was accepted by the University of Manchester
There are various reasons for using the passive voice, which generally gives written text a more formal tone.
*When it’s either obvious who did the action, or we want to keep the focus on the action (for example, we don’t say ‘The thief was arrested by the policeman’: arrest is the interesting issue, and we know that police arrest people! We therefore say “The thief was arrested”.
*When an organisation or something is responsible for the action, it’s often better to use the passive. So “I was accepted by the University of Manchester” and not “The University of Manchester accepted me”.
Answers to the synonyms:
Paragraph 1: friends – pals
Paragraph 3: bright, detailed – vivid
Paragraph 4: ambitions – aspirations
Paragraph 5: equivalents – counterparts
Paragraph 6: to use (an available resource) – to draw on