Notes: Blue Badge Scottish Tourist Guide
My name is Susan Brown and I am a self-employed Blue Badge qualified Scottish Tourist Guide. I run tours of Scotland in French and English, split fairly evenly between the two languages. I take groups of visitors, from 2 to 50 people, across Scotland and tell them stories about Scotland’s history, heritage, culture and landscape as well as life in current day Scotland. The majority of my tours are 5-11 days and I have the best office in the world!
My previous job was working for a global beverage company in Supply Chain and online learning. I spent 3 years abroad using my languages when I was there - anything from ordering food up to managing business meetings in French.
As well as English, have you learned, or do you speak, any other languages?
I started learning French when I was 8 years old, German when I was 13 and learnt Spanish in Spain for a month after I finished university. My competence level can be described as fluent in French and intermediate for German and Spanish.
Do you get the opportunity to go abroad as part of your job? If so, how do you communicate with people when you are there?
In my current role, I stay in Scotland - though am going to New York for Tartan Week as part of my marketing plan! As a tourist guide, I work in French for about 50% of my workload.
In my previous role, I managed projects in France (in French), Spain & Italy (in English) and also lived and worked in Cameroon, West Africa for 2 years. Cameroon is largely French speaking and I spent about 70% of my working time in French. Tuning in to the local accent in French was a challenge in the beginning, but you soon tune in and I had a great team working for me.
Why do you think it is important to be able to speak other languages?
Speaking other languages open up opportunities for work at home and abroad and also enable you to get to know a country and its people better when you are travelling or working there. My basic Spanish helped out when I did a trip to South America after university and the overland adventure truck I was travelling in in Bolivia got stuck in the sand. I volunteered to walk to the local town with a few of my fellow travellers and ask for help - that certainly tested my Spanish vocab!
I haven’t studied my main languages since university, but find that it comes back when you are in a country that speaks that language. I have also completed short courses in Italian and Gaelic but have a lot more work to do on those to get to any level of competence!
Which language or languages have you found useful in your field of work?
I have found that my ability to speak French has been exceptionally useful in my career. Had I not been able to speak French, I would not have been asked to manage a logistics project in France. A few years later, speaking French helped me land a 2 year posting to Cameroon in West Africa to run the Supply Chain for a major beer company.
Now, speaking French and being qualified in French language as a Blue Badge Tourist Guide, has meant that I am able to show French speaking visitors around Scotland, thus ensuring that I have a broad portfolio of clients and income sources. It has also enabled me to choose where I live and achieve the work-life balance I want.
Do you have a message to share about the importance and the benefits of language learning?
You never know when a little knowledge of a language will come in handy, whether for yourself or to help someone else - at home or abroad. If you achieve a level of fluency, it can open up further job opportunities, even if you haven’t used it for a number of years.
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