Notes: Licensing Executive with Harper Collins
I’m Julianna Dunn and I am a Licensing Executive with Harper Collins the book publishers. I am in charge of our print business – I negotiate translation and reprint rights with foreign publishers and approve all their publications of our materials. It’s mainly an office job based near Glasgow, but I also travel to International Book fairs to meet existing clients and to drum up new business.
As well as your home language, what other languages have you learned?
I am a native English speaker and I speak French and Italian which I learnt at school and university, as well as having spent time in Italy after I graduated. I am currently trying to learn Russian.
What aspects of learning a language do you enjoy most?
I love being able to communicate with non-English speakers. It feels like a real achievement to understand and to be understood in a language other than your own. Particularly, the ‘romance’ languages I have learnt are, in my opinion, so beautiful and musical in comparison to English and are a real pleasure to listen to. I also like language learning on a technical basis – understanding the etymology of words and finding links between those and English.
I think that language learning has given me much more than communication skills. Understanding how a language works, unveils levels of a country’s history and culture that are not always evident to non-speakers. Acquiring knowledge of more than one language allows you to make connections between them, so you can recognise the words, phrases and concepts that they have in common. This can tell you a lot about how countries have developed together. For example you can learn a lot about the history of the UK, by simply looking at the English we speak and discovering how it has been affected by other languages, both ancient and modern, from Europe and across the globe.
Do you have a ‘EUREKA’ languages moment, when suddenly you realised that you were able to communicate in a language other than English?
When I first moved to Belgium in my Erasmus year I was utterly terrified by the difference in the French to that which I had learned. I found it extremely difficult to communicate and my confidence took a real knock. Everyone I met wanted to speak English to me, so after a few weeks I started lying and telling people that I was Swedish so that they would have to speak French to me. That was the best lie I ever told! Things started to turn around and I found that I was using Belgian French colloquialisms without thinking and actually found them quite hard to drop when I got back to my final year of ‘France’s French.
How do you use your language skills in your working life?
I use French every day at work to communicate with our French-speaking customers and clients. It’s vital to a business relationship to make the effort if you can, to use the client’s language. Although English is the global business language, I think it’s important not to let the globalization completely take over. My clients really appreciate me communicating in their mother tongue and although it’s more work for me, it’s a great way to keep up my French.
Additionally, I am an informal ‘reference’ for the editors when it comes to Italian products. We outsource the Italian editing to native speakers, but when there is a small point which needs checked or to be decided upon, then I am often asked to cast my eye over it.
In what ways do think learning other languages has become an important part of your everyday life?
In my spare time, I often listen to French or Italian radio, in the background. Even though I’m not actively listening, I know that my ears are picking it up and hopefully it is stirring something in the back of my brain to keep my languages up to date!
Russian is an on-going project for me. I took it up because I find the alphabet fascinating and quite easy to sound out. I use language learning materials that are created in our department and spend a few hours a week practising.
What’s your most memorable language related experience?
After I graduated, I lived in Naples teaching English in high schools. I quickly realised that Italian just wasn’t enough to get by there. I found an Italian-Napolitano dictionary and set about learning Napolitano so that I could understand what my students were saying when they didn’t want me to understand. When a class of 14 year olds saw that I was studying Napolitano, they were ecstatic and insisted that in the last ten minutes of every English class, the tables were turned, and they were my Napolitano teachers. I couldn’t have done it without them and it was amazing to see teenagers so fiercely proud of their language and dedicated to teaching it to me for months on end.
Do you have a message to share about the importance and the benefits of language learning?
You often hear people who don’t speak any languages, saying that they wished they had learnt a language when they had had the chance. To speak another language other than your own is to have a tool that you can pick up and use for the rest of your life. It is not only a great exercise for the brain and something that you can use on holiday; no matter what sort of career you go into, even if it is unrelated to languages, it puts you firmly a head and shoulders above other candidates. I know many people (even in finance!) who insist on hiring people with a second language purely because it shows creativity, dedication and independent learning.
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