The Zipcar team are a talented bunch, ok, I’m a little biased, but they do have some impressive skills. So this month I’ll be chatting to just a few of the many particularly special team members to learn what they get up to when they’re not saving the world one Zipcar at a time (and sometimes when they are).
This week let me introduce you to Sarah D, Zipcar UK fleet procurement and remarketing supervisor (basically she makes sure you only drive the best and newest Zipcars). So Sarah, tell us what you can do.
SD: I’m a polyglot – which means I’m a speaker of many languages. I can currently speak three quite well, and I’ve studied 10, but that’s if you include English.
DMK: Wow, so when did you start learning languages, and when did you realise you had a bit of a gift for them?
SD: I started learning French in Kindergarten – I grew up in Vermont, USA, on the border with the French-speaking Canadian province, Quebec. So it was standard for Vermonters to learn French. I remember being five-years-old and fascinated that there were whole other ways to speak; that there were whole other languages full of different words. As I grew up, I continued to explore this passion. By the time I was 16-years-old I could speak seven languages. I think it dawned on me then that I just might have a knack for this!
DMK: So why did you decide to learn so many?
SD: I got a bit addicted to the nuance of language – the way every language frames the world slightly differently, and is a window in to an entirely different culture. I also preferred learning languages to pretty much anything else, because I could see immediately how useful and practical a skill it was. I started to travel early, and this allowed me to put my theoretical and classroom learning into practice in immersive environments. Plus, I was good at it. It’s fun to do something you are good at!
DMK: I wish they came so easily to me! Make us feel better about our lack of language skills, what has been the hardest language to learn?
SD: Definitely Finnish. I lived in Finland for a year, with Finnish host families and attending a Finnish secondary school, and I mastered woefully little of the language. The only bits I retain aside from pleasantries are ice hockey related phrases! I played ice hockey, and my team mates were the only people I interacted with in Finland that didn’t also speak English.
DMK: Besides being able to communicate with the Finnish ice hockey team, have you found it useful being able to speak and understand so many languages?
SD: It has proved to be incredibly useful: from picking up snippets of conversation in London (a truly diverse city), to helping out fellow travellers in unfamiliar airports. It has helped me as a traveller to get more out of my holidays and any time spent abroad. It is also useful in my work at Zipcar as we continue to expand in Europe. I am able to read, write, understand, and speak to my colleagues in Barcelona using Spanish, and to exchange pleasantries in German with the Zipsters in Austria.
DMK: I don’t know about the readers, but I definitely want to have a crack at learning a few more foreign language phrases now. What is your top tip for picking up languages?
SD: The best way to pick up language is through blended learning in an immersive environment. For example, if you want to learn Spanish, the very best way to do it is to take a Spanish language course in a Spanish speaking country, where you learn the mechanics in the classroom, and then immediately have the opportunity to apply them with native speakers in real life. Oh, and don’t be shy! You will make mistakes, but you will not improve until you get in the habit of opening your mouth and trying your best to get the words out!
DMK: Thanks Sarah. Finally, could you give us a phrase in each language you speak?
· Spanish - No eches raíces en un sitio, muévete. Pues, no eres un árbol, para eso tienes dos pies. - Don’t set down roots in one place, get moving! Well, you’re not a tree, this is why you have two feet.
· French - Où est mon Tuc? - Where is my cap? (Tuc is a Quebecois word to describe a knitted winter hat.)
· Lithuanian - Dabar labai noriu grybauti. - Now I really want to go out into the forest and gather mushrooms.
· Russian - Я живу в лондоне. – I live in London.
· Finnish - Ymmärätsitko? LUISTELLA!! – Do you understand? SKATE!!
· German - Wann fährt der Zug ab? – When is the train leaving?
· Swedish - Jag älskar ost. – I love cheese.
· Norwegian - Hva drømmer du for vår jord? – What do you dream for our world?
· Arabic - Ayna ana? أين أنا (I’ve no idea if I’ve written that properly; I never really mastered the script) – Where am I?