Notes: Head of Creative Learning at Scottish Dance Theatre
My name is Dawn Hartley and I am Head of Creative Learning for Scottish Dance Theatre, part of Dundee Rep Theatre.
What languages have you learned?
I have studied Latin, French, German and Serbo-Croat. I have learned more French than the others, and in all cases I find that what takes me the longest is understanding others' speech.
How have language skills helped you in your work?
I have had the great fortune to be able to travel extensively during my career as a dancer, teacher and now at Scottish Dance Theatre. Being able to speak other languages has been very useful. For example, on a recent residency in Rio, I talked to one student in French which she then translated to the others as we had no Portuguese to English translation.
In the past, I have taken part in a dance class taught in German and found that very interesting.
Also, because of studying Latin, I found understanding Italian colleagues easier when I was participating in a residency in Florence.
What benefits do you think language skills bring to your work?
Being able to speak some words in the language of others helps everyone feel more included. It can often save some time too. More time for dancing!
Do you have any advice for anyone considering learning a language?
Go for it and remember anything worthwhile takes time and practice.
Do you have any tips on how best to approach communicating in a language you have little knowledge of?
Think about what you most need to know and find that out as soon as possible. For example, in my work, I need to know things like “everyone in a circle” or “find a partner” so I try to find those things out as early as possible. Also, when someone tells me a new word, I repeat it to them to check I have the right sound and I imagine writing it phonetically until I find out how it’s written.
Be brave about miming until you find out the right words.
If I don’t know what a menu says I will (politely) point at what someone else is eating and request that. How bad can it be if someone else is enjoying it?!
In your experience, how would you say that cultural awareness has been important?
Cultural awareness is key to avoiding embarrassing others. Finding out how other people do things is fascinating. Understanding differences and appreciating these is what makes life interesting. Mutual respect for one another’s culture and beliefs is important. We need to live and let live!
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