Notes: Sales consultant and MA Chinese student
My name is Leah and I am currently a fourth year at the University of Edinburgh studying MA Chinese.
I also have experience working as a Chinese Sales Consultant for a number of luxury goods companies.
What languages have you learned?
At school I studied German to Advanced Higher level. When I graduated from high school I received a scholarship to study in Tianjin, China and since then I have studied Mandarin Chinese to HSK 6 level.
How have any language skills helped you in your work?
Learning Mandarin has been completely transformative for me in terms of finding employment. In my first year of university my language skills allowed me to find work as a luxury goods consultant with a focus on looking after Mandarin-speaking clientele.
Within two years these skills led to me being head hunted by one of Scotland’s foremost jewellery businesses and working with prominent international watch and jewellery brands. Even though I was only a part time member of staff I was still regularly had opportunities to travel for work and meet a wonderful group of customers and colleagues from around the world.
What benefits do you think language skills bring?
I think learning languages have taught me a lot about adaptability and perseverance. As well as a number of exciting employment opportunities, language learning has further provided numerous chances to travel and attend events abroad.
Do you have any advice for anyone considering learning a language?
The first foreign language that you choose to learn doesn’t always end up being the right one for you! I started my language learning studying German and, although I love it very much, it wasn’t until I learned Mandarin that I found my true passion. If you aren’t enjoying your current language learning experience, there’s definitely a language out there that’s the right one for you.
I would also say that communicating with native speakers may seem like a hugely daunting experience but in reality they tend to be the kindest and most understanding people to learn from and with. In my experience, finding a language partner is an incredibly rewarding experience and they usually end up being long-term and valuable friends!
Any tips on how best to approach communicating in a language you have little knowledge of?
Never be afraid to make mistakes. Absolutely everybody who studies a language has to being communicating in it at some point if they want to progress and learn to use it naturally. If you don’t know all of the words you want to use, don’t give up. Instead do your best and you’ll usually be able to get your point across.
In your experience, would you say cultural awareness is important?
In an increasingly globalised world, the ability to learn about and understand other cultures is crucial. Those of us who live in Scotland often live in wonderfully diverse communities and should make sure we use every chance to learn about and appreciate them.
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