Notes: Mechanical Engineer
I’m Gregor Anderson and I’m a Senior Mechanical Engineer at Leonardo UK. We design and build lasers.
What languages have you learned?
I learned French at school until the end of S4 and also German to AH level. When I went to university to study mechanical engineering, I had the opportunity to continue with German, which I did. I gained extra credits for the languages modules that I did and I got to spend my 4th year studying in Karlsruhe. All of the lectures, exams and everyday life were entirely in German and being thrown in at the deep end hugely improved my language skills. I joined the local rugby club, too, and playing with them was great fun and also really helped my German.
How have any language skills helped you in your work?
Although I don’t directly use my language skills day-to-day at work, my language skills and experiences were nevertheless a key asset when I applied for my job. It definitely gave me an edge – not just the fact that I could speak German, but rather the fact that I had travelled and spent time in another country and culture. It shows an openness of mind and a get-up-and-go attitude.
What benefits do you think language skills bring?
Having knowledge of other languages puts you in more authentic contact with people. You get to know them better because you have an insight into their culture, you understand how they see the world and you can find common ground more easily and break the ice more quickly. Learning another language also helps improve your English. It’s a benefit to have English as a mother tongue and speak other languages – it really makes you stand out. I can imagine life without learning another language but it would be less rich.
Do you have any advice for anyone considering learning a language?
Learning a language is like learning a musical instrument – to play really well, you need to learn the scales / grammar. But to start with, just play the tunes that you like – in languages, this may involve singing songs in the target learning, watch TV programmes of films, etc. For me, I liked the band “Rammstein” and wondered what they were singing about.
Any tips on how best to approach communicating in a language you have little knowledge of?
Don’t focus on getting it right every time – the main point of language learning is to communicate and you’ll learn more quickly if you just give it a go.
In your experience, would you say cultural awareness is important?
Absolutely! As British people, our culture is heavily exported and we have an expectation that other countries and cultures will have an awareness of what we do and what we like. But we miss out on a lot if we don’t have an awareness of other cultures too. That’s what brings languages to life!
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