My name is Estefanía Macchi and I am an Architect from Argentina.
I am currently working as an Architectural Assistant at Groves-Raines Architects Studios (GRAS), in Edinburgh, while I prepare for the exams to become a fully qualified Architect in the UK.
What languages have you learned?
I am a native Spanish speaker and have been learning English since I was in kindergarten. In high school, the syllabus was truly bilingual, so we would have some subjects in Spanish and English, such as literature, and some only in English, such as biology… and maths! I continued studying English after school, so I prepared and sat the Cambridge Proficiency exam, achieving a C2 level.
During the first years of high school I was also taught Portuguese, as Brazil and Argentina have a very close relationship. Because I love learning new languages, outside school I studied Italian for two years reaching an A2 level. At some point I also started learning Croatian as my grandmother was from that country, but I had to give it up after a few months as I decided to fully dedicate myself to finishing my Architecture degree. Lastly I have been learning French on Duolingo for over 1000 days on a row now!
How have any language skills helped you in your work?
Speaking English has given me freedom to choose where to study, live and work. After graduating, I knew I wanted to specialise in Historic Building Conservation and to spend time abroad, and because I spoke the language I was able to come to Scotland. It opened a range of opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
In addition, speaking other languages such as Italian, Portuguese and French, even if not proficiently, has widened the spectrum of sources I can consult when looking for information for my studies or work.
What benefits do you think language skills bring?
Other than those mentioned above, I think that learning a language keeps our brains active. Languages have different structures and sounds which take us out of our comfort zone and challenge our brains to work in alternative ways.
Secondly, to me, speaking a language is a form of showing respect to the locals. It shows interest in a culture and willingness to connect, a little effort that everybody greatly appreciates.
Do you have any advice for anyone considering learning a language?
Don’t be shy! I find that many times we hold back from speaking a language because we know we don’t speak it too well and feel we will make a fool of ourselves. But this is never the case! I think it is always worth taking the plunge, the listener will most of the times be patient and try to help.
Any tips on how best to approach communicating in a language you have little knowledge of?
A little research beforehand for some key words/phrases or a bilingual dictionary are good aids. Then smiling is always a good starting point for any conversation, as well as gestures.
In your experience, would you say cultural awareness is important?
Definitely. In line with what I said before, I believe that in acknowledging diversity we show interest and respect, which is ultimately how true communication is made possible.
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