Notes: Area Manager at Amazon Germany
My name is David Rodger and I am a 25 year old Area Manager at Amazon Germany. Although I started working for Amazon UK in London in 2015, I transferred to Munich this January and haven't looked back!
What languages have you learned?
I graduated from the University of St Andrews with a degree in French, German and Italian, however on top of that I am currently learning Spanish through my partner. She's half Spanish and the Spanish side of the family don't speak a word of English, so it's very much a case of "speak Spanish or don't speak at all!" I like to talk far too much to go without that!
How have language skills helped you in your work?
It would be no exaggeration to say that I wouldn't be where I am today were it not for the languages I've studied. The teams I've had the good fortune to manage so far have been incredibly multicultural, and it really helps people engage with you and realise that you're on their side if you demonstrate the willingness to understand their language and culture.
Additionally I always liken the study of language to the study of patterns and logic systems; when learning a language I am always on the hunt for a specific pattern or set of rules within the language, and then seeking to apply that to other aspects of the language in order to improve my knowledge and ability. My day-to-day job is very similar in that I spend a lot of time looking at complex logistics systems and use patterns which work (or don't!) in order to find the best way of doing something somewhere else.
What benefits do you think language skills bring?
Studying languages has opened my mind in a way no other vocation could have. It's a great gift for me to be able to exchange ideas not just with one set of people, cultures and languages, but several. It has shown me, in the most literal way, that there is always more than one way to describe something and this is a concept that can be applied in all walks of life. On a practical level, I love being able to travel to other countries and speak directly with the locals - it really interests them and often they go out of their way to help if you make the effort with their language!
Do you have any advice for anyone considering learning a language?
Absolutely - first and foremost please do it! I can't recommend it more as it has positively changed my life in so many ways. I wouldn't be in the gorgeous city of Munich writing this today had I not taken the leap into the wonderful world of languages. Secondly I think the biggest hurdle to overcome is the fear aspect of it; often people don't want to actually speak in the new language for fear of embarrassing themselves. It's much easier to remain in the comfort zone. To this I would say (somewhat philosophically) that if, as children, we were too afraid to stand up and walk on two legs for fear of falling over, we'd be staring at the ground our entire lives.
Do you have any tips on how best to approach communicating in a language you have little knowledge of?
I would honestly say just throw yourself in there and give it your best - in the absolute worst case scenario you say something silly and have a funny anecdote for friends back home. Additionally being open about your lack of knowledge with the other person will help a great deal - it's a cliché but people love it when you try and this will bring a lot of goodwill your way. Remember that with every broken conversation, your language skills get that little bit closer to where you want to be.
In your experience, how important would you say cultural awareness is?
I think now more than ever the ability to understand another culture is critical in that it boils down to what is actually a key fundament of life: understanding the viewpoint of others and being able to work alongside that. Ultimately a culture is just the environment in which a person grows up in by pure chance; we all think, see and feel in the same way (we just vocalise it differently) so the better we work to understand that, the happier we'll ultimately be. Additionally through my work I've seen first-hand the success that can be achieved when people of multiple backgrounds come together for one common goal, and it is a very powerful thing indeed. I firmly believe we should always seek to foster that.
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