Katie Morrison is an HR Business Partner at Canon Europe.
Katie loves working in the EMEA headquarters of Canon, which is a very international and multicultural organisation (with 40+ nationalities!). Although she works in a language other than English only occasionally, she believes that knowing another language is great for relationship building.
Could you give us some examples of when you have used foreign languages at work?
Meeting and building trust with international colleagues. Demonstrating my knowledge of their language and culture builds an instant bond, which helps to build a strong and supportive working relationship.
I can also help translate when required.
Would you say that speaking foreign languages is advantageous in your sector?
Language skills and cultural understanding really makes it so much easier to relate to an international workforce and break the stereotype of parochial Brits!
How proficient would you say people need to be for language skills to be useful at work?
If the working language is not English, then you really need to be fluent for it to be possible to work constructively.
For relationship building and an international environment, any level beyond “tourist talk” is appreciated! Just please don’t claim you speak a language if all you can manage is a few phrases – either on your CV or in person!
What would you say to a young person about the benefits of speaking at least one other language when entering the workplace?
If you have an interest in the wider world, travel, or working with a scope bigger than the UK, then it is a great advantage to speak another language. It makes you aware of the fact that the world is not just what you have grown up with and that there are so many different cultures, societies, ways of thinking and communicating, and ways of doing things.
Particularly in London, you will work with an international workforce and have the opportunity to work for European and global companies.
What helped you to learn languages effectively?
Study at school and university, and then living abroad!
While studying – reading as much as I could in the language, watching films, listening to the radio, conversation clubs, etc. Anything that gets your brain used to the sounds, rhythms, and phrases, like a child learns their native language.
Once you have a solid grasp of the language, the best way to learn is to really immerse yourself in it. Go and live abroad for a while! Either through Erasmus or working abroad (e.g. teaching English, summer work, etc.). Being there, you have not choice but to use it, so any timidity vanishes and you’ll be amazed how creatively you can communicate!
A massive thank you to Katie for sharing your story and experiences with us!
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