Notes: Councillor and former Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army
I served for 37 years in the Army and retired in 2012 as a Lieutenant Colonel. For four years, from 2005 to 2009, I was the staff officer responsible for many aspects of language skills in the UK Armed Forces. I became a Perth and Kinross Councillor for the City Centre Ward when I was elected at a by-election in 2015.
What languages do you speak other than English?
My language journey began with French, which I studied to A-level at school and for one year at university. Once I had joined the Army, I spent some time posted in Germany and lived there for about eight years altogether. I was able to build on my German O-level with Army ‘Colloquial German’ courses. I also taught myself Norwegian O-level (a bet with my school chums), and continued this for one year at university.
I spent much of my Army career abroad. A Gurkhali (Nepalese) Army Long Course equipped me for using the language every day for three years serving with the Brigade of Gurkhas in Hong Kong. I took Estonian evening classes during four years living in Estonia, which gave me a real advantage when engaging with the local staff. I served at the Baltic Defence College (1999-2003) where I was involved in training officers for the armed forces of the newly independent Baltic States.
As a local Councillor for Perth and Kinross, languages are still a useful skill! On a council business trip to Denmark last autumn much of the written material was in Danish, which I was able to helpfully understand by virtue of my knowledge of Norwegian.
My partner is Lithuanian and we spend about a month there each year, which means I am still learning languages – through immersion and osmosis.
How have languages enhanced your life?
I have always been interested in travel and new, different places – languages is a component part of that interest. A knowledge of the language of a place helps you to better understand the people, their culture and their identity.
Do you have a message to share about the importance and the benefits of language learning?
Through language you can gain a better understanding of the world around us and our place in it. So, stick at it and don't be put off! You might not necessarily to have a concrete reason for learning a language, but interest is enough… and you will be surprised where it might take you!
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