When it comes to spending a week on the beach in Spain, it might be that a combination of English, holding a certain number of fingers aloft and, of course, pointing will suffice and most of us could manage a “por favour” when ordering food or drink.
However, as I myself have discovered, not speaking the local lingo can be a real handicap, which is why I am now learning Spanish at the VICI Language Academy in Newbury – but let me take you back to last week, when I was in the South of Spain and I discovered, not everyone speaks English!
While I can speak my native French and of course English and coped reasonably well on an immersive trip to Rome recently, the reality is when you are talking business in a foreign country, you may discover that contrary to popular opinion, the world does not speak English – or indeed the ‘language of diplomacy’, French.
I was in Andalucía exploring how we could enhance the Spanish learning for students at VICI by offering the same kind of fully immersive, residential programmes that we already do for those learning French. We would also like to offer to teach English for business in Spain.
However, how do I do that? We had a meeting with the local Mayor in an office worthier of a president. We were made very welcome and to their credit they could understand much of what I said, but we needed a translator to properly converse.
I also visited a chapter of the networking organisation BNI – I belong to a chapter here in Berkshire and while I knew what was happening, only two of the members were fluent enough to understand me and had to translate for the rest of the group.
“Everybody speaks English? Au contraire! Or rather: al contrario!
Therefore, I made a promise to the Spanish business people I met on my trip: When I come back to see them again, and I will, I will be able to speak Spanish. I’ve already made a start and naturally we have some excellent Spanish language coaches at the VICI Language Academy.
While we have long supported businesses who recognise the importance of speaking the local language when working abroad, or indeed helping foreign staff speak English if working in the UK, this was a new experience for me.
I truly understand the importance of speaking the local language for business and it is going to be essential as we increase our Spanish offering.
It will be fun learning a language I am sure – I’ve seen it first-hand, teaching French at VICI; not least because as we have so often said… not everybody speaks English!