Notes: Technology Analyst
My name is Scott Morrison and I am married with three kids. I work for a technology analyst company. My company makes predictions about technology like how many iPads people will buy this year, or how much it will cost to get internet access in 2015, or when everyone will work from home and use videoconferencing to communicate with colleagues.
I manage a team of analysts based all around the world, and I travel quite a lot on business. When I’m not travelling, I work from home (something I have done for the past 13 years, through several different jobs, in several different countries).
As well as your home language, what other languages have you learned?
I speak, read and write both French and German fluently, and can read Spanish, though not converse in it.
What inspired you to learn languages?
I have always found languages interesting, and from my first experiences Inter-railing, aged 16, around France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, I discovered that it really helps to speak the local language!
What aspects of learning a language do you enjoy most?
You can only really get to know people if you can put them at ease. So while many professionals speak English, they’ll always welcome being able to switch to their own language, and that’s when you get a real insight into how they think and feel. Just as you can’t really explain Scottish culture to people using foreign words, so it is difficult to understand other cultures without using the language that is part of that culture.
Do you have a ‘EUREKA’ languages moment, when suddenly you realised that you were able to communicate in a language other than English?
I’m sure the first Eureka moment involved a girl!! When I was 20 I moved to Germany for six months to do a practical placement in a German company while I was at University studying engineering and obviously I wanted to make the most of that experience. I was suddenly got immersed in aspects of the German language, including slang that they didn’t teach me in school. Of course, working in an office in which 90% of the staff was German meant I had to ramp up quickly.
How do you use your language skills in your working life?
On an on-going basis, I use French a lot more than German, as I regularly visit a lot of customers in France and I speak to other clients in Quebec too. I might spend a whole day presenting on stage to customers in Paris, at the end of which I find I can’t remember words in English, because my brain has switched over. In France, there’s a hope, or even an expectation that you’ll speak French. In Germany, people are more surprised if you do speak their language, but I get a great sense of satisfaction if I come off the phone after speaking to a German client for an hour who thanks me for my efforts to communicate in German.
In what ways do think learning other languages has enhanced your life?
While I could have gone off and worked abroad without knowing at least a bit of another language, I am not sure the idea would have occurred to me, or that I’d have had the guts to do it.
Because I had learned a language at school and university, I had already realised that it is perfectly possible to pick up another language and that doing so opens up so many opportunities.
I saw many other people arrive in France around the same time as I did, but because they didn’t already speak French, and didn’t learn to do so, they were always outsiders, and they left quite quickly. We ended up staying for 14 years!
So on that basis; I guess my whole professional career has been improved by being open to languages and open to new cultural experiences. And now, in my job, I can basically work anywhere I want in the world. We’re currently enjoying life beside the sea in Scotland, to give our children a sense of Scottish culture. My wife and I are both Scottish, but our kids were all born in France and speak French as well as English.
What’s your most memorable language related experience?
Two things come to mind: the day I was interviewed live on French radio about how many customers the mobile operator Orange had.
Also just the other day, I corrected one of my French friends’ use of the subjunctive ... okay, that doesn’t sound too exciting, but French people are very grammatically minded, so scoring a point on French grammar gets them worked up!!
Do you have a message to share about the importance and the benefits of language learning?
Learning another language and travelling will open up your mind to different things, whether you use it professionally or not. Being able to see things from another person’s perspective is a useful tool even if you settle back down in your home town and stay there for the rest of your life. Language is a great way to see things from other people’s perspectives.
My only regret now is that I didn’t learn more languages or take up more opportunities, for example I turned down a job offer in Japan.
I still plan to improve my grasp of Spanish and I think Mandarin Chinese will be an important language of business in the next 10 years. You should never stop learning, but the earlier you start, the easier it is to get the hang of learning languages.
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