Notes: Managing Director, Albion (Overseas) Ltd
My name is David Cant and I am originally from Glasgow, though I have been fortunate enough to live in various places over the years, including spending several years in Russia.
The work I do is almost all connected to Russia. We help UK companies to enter the Russian market and to build their business. Different companies use us in different ways. For example, one car manufacturer runs its advertising agency through our Russian office. Others use us for research, prospecting or basic guidance and support.
Based on what they see in the papers, some people think that Russia is a scary place. In fact, the reality is quite different and we work with many Russians who are genuinely lovely people.
What languages have you learned?
The first language I learnt was French. I found I was quite good at it, but I enjoyed German a lot more. I took that up when I was about 12 years old and I kept both languages going right through school.
I went to university originally to do Single Honours German but also took up Russian. It was by pure chance that I chose that language, but it changed my life.
What has been your experience of learning the Russian language and culture?
Many Russians love the UK, and have a particular fondness for the Scots. The famous Russian writer Lermontov was of Scottish descent, and I think I have only once met a Russian who does not know all about Robert Burns. Being a northern country, Russia and Scotland are quite similar in some ways: the food we eat, what we drink, and some of our leisure pursuits such as fishing and hunting; the main difference being that Russians hunt bears!
Some people are put off learning Russian because of the alphabet, but once you have mastered it, learning Russian is like learning any other language.
Where can Russian language skills take you?
Don't forget that it's not just Russia where you can use the language. True, Russia is the biggest country in the world, but apart from Iran, all the countries around the Caspian will speak Russian. Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are all virtually dual lingual. You can get by with Russian in some of the Baltic nations, particularly with older people who were brought up with Russian as their main language. In Belarus, Ukraine, even Finland (which used to be part of Russia) many people will happily talk to you in Russian. Generally, with Russian you can cover much of central and Eastern Europe, and most of central Asia.
Why would you recommend learning Russian?
These are difficult times, not only because of Brexit, but also because a lot of the news coming out about Russia at the moment is quite negative. I have found Russia to be a great place to work and to live. It is immensely rich in culture, history and such a beautiful place to visit.
If you visit Saint Petersburg in the height of summer or Siberia in the depth of winter, you will see things that will amaze you.
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone wanting to learn Russian?
We are always happy to talk to people who want to learn more, and we can help with things like internships and work experience. This could be in Moscow or here in the UK. We also recommend people talk to the Scotland Russia Forum, which has cultural objectives, to the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce, or to the Russian Consulate in Edinburgh.
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