Notes: Equality and Diversity Engagement Officer
My name is Simran Kaur and I work in the Equality & Diversity Office at the University of Strathclyde. I have also worked as a translator and continue to do some translation work.
What languages have you learned?
I am a native English speaker and grew up with Punjabi at home. Although my spoken Punjabi isn’t bad, I’ve been trying to work more on my reading and writing skills.
I studied Italian in primary school and Italian and French in high school. I also completed my undergraduate in Italian and French and my Masters in Translation and Interpretation at the University of Strathclyde.
I also attended a summer school in Tianjin, China where I learned Mandarin Chinese and obtained my HSK 1. I’ve also been trying to pick up Scottish Gaelic on Duolingo!
How have any language skills helped you in your work?
After completing my Masters, I worked for a Language Service Provider as a Translator, working with clients from French- and Italian-speaking countries. I then moved on to freelance work, mainly translating Italian academic and museum texts into English. My language skills are also useful working at Strathclyde, where so many different languages are spoken on campus.
What benefits do you think language skills bring?
Language skills have such a wide range of benefits! Being able to communicate with others in their native language is such a special feeling and gives you so much insight into other cultures and ways of thinking. You begin to see the connections between languages and cultures all around the world. It also improves your skills in your native language.
I also love being able to watch films and read books in their original languages and read posts and memes on social media. Learning language unlocks so much of the world, and you begin to realise how much else exists beyond what we are used to.
Most important is the sense of community that languages bring. Speaking and learning Punjabi keeps me in touch with my culture and heritage.
They are also a vital skill in the workplace and allow businesses to tap into foreign markets, and studies show that learning languages can change your brain. It improves your short- and long-term memory, and improves concentration and communication skills.
Do you have any advice for anyone considering learning a language?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, as mistakes help us learn! Language is about communication, so if you’re talking to someone, don’t worry too much about getting the grammar perfect – what matters most is being understood.
Any tips on how best to approach communicating in a language you have little knowledge of?
Language and culture are interlinked. Watching films and YouTube videos, listening to music, reading books and following social media accounts in your target language will give you a sense of how native speakers use the language, the pace they speak at, colloquial language and slang. You will also learn more about their culture(s), and it’s fun!
In your experience, would you say cultural awareness is important?
Definitely. If you’re using different languages at work and in your personal life, having that cultural sensitivity is really important. Having an interest in different cultures shows your respect for them.
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