Notes: Human Resources Director
My name is Ian Fyfe. I work as Human Resources Director for INEOS Group – INEOS is the world’s third largest chemical manufacturing company and my job means I am involved in strategic decision making at the highest levels in the organisation.
I was also a Category 1 Scottish Football Association referee for 11 years, refereeing football matches at the highest level in Scotland. Since retiring I have become an elite referee Coach and Observer, and I sit on the SFA Referee Committee.
As well as English, what other languages have you learned/are you learning? If none, are you intending to learn a language, and which one would it be? Why?
I have a Masters degree (2:1) in French Language and Literature from the University of St. Andrews. I also studied German through A levels and up to the end of my second year at University.
Which countries have you visited as part of your job? How do you communicate with people when you are there?
Norway, USA, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Germany. In the French-speaking countries, I speak French.
Do you have any memorable experiences of trying to communicate with a speaker of another language you would like to share with us?
Having had one glass of wine too many while in France, in a restaurant I asked for “la recette” at the end of the meal instead of “l’addition” – “l’addition” means the bill, which is what I thought I was asking for; “la recette” is the recipe. The restaurant staff made great play of bringing out from the kitchen the recipe for the beef bourguignon I had eaten.
I also had the experience of chatting away in French to a footballer at a game at Ross County but got no response. I discovered after the game and checking the team lines, that the French guy was wearing No. 10 and the guy I’d been talking to in French was wearing No. 8 and came from Brentford.
Why do you think learning a language is an important skill for SFA coaches?
Internationally, I just think it is so respected if you can make the effort to speak even some basic words of the language. We are an island race and tend not to put great value on foreign languages (“well, they can speak English”), but I think it is well worth the effort.
In Scotland, an increasing number of players come from abroad; I had many conversations in French with the players and it really helped in building rapport and gaining respect. We also have visitors from foreign countries for club and international games – great if we can make the effort to welcome them in their own language if we can.
Which language or languages do you think SFA referees would have to use most?
French and Spanish would seem the obvious candidates.
Apart from communication skills, are there any other benefits learning a language might bring? (e.g. cultural awareness)
Certainly cultural awareness, but I also think it brings confidence. I see my work colleagues in Switzerland tentatively trying to do basic things like ordering food in a restaurant and either getting tongue-tied in French or meekly resort to English and expect the waiter to know what they’re ordering. I have the confidence to just open my mouth and start chatting away – it may not be perfect, but it works and it makes me feel good!
Do you have a message to share about the importance and the benefits of language learning?
Just do it. French is very similar to English in the way it’s constructed, it’s just that the words are different and you need to learn them; but learning by listening and speaking is great and very effective. It will give you skills that not many other Scots possess. People regularly say to me “wow, you can speak French” and are impressed by that, so it’s a great way of making a mark.
It will increase you confidence; it will increase your self-belief and it will make you more employable….and it’s really not that difficult!
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