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Languages open more doors in increasingly globalised world

A multi-lingual panel will explore the benefits of having a second or third language at a public talk, Opening Doors Globally, at the University of Canterbury (UC) tomorrow.

Chief Executive of the German-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce Monique Surges shares her life and language experiences at a public talk at 11am, followed by a panel discussion about with UC academics at 12 noon.

Surges has built a career on facilitating trade between Germany and New Zealand, and explaining each nationality’s cultural quirks, so the benefit of a second, or third, language is not lost on her. However, many New Zealanders don’t realise just how important languages are - in Europe it is commonplace for university graduates to speak several languages.

Programme director of German at UC Dr Vera Leier, who speaks four languages herself, organised the event to show her students that speaking German has many benefits in the European business world.

“You can contribute more to the workforce and understand better the ways that people work,” she says.

“The culture is in the language, so maybe you can contribute on a higher level than being an English speaker who is tolerated and often avoided. You can dip into the country and the social environment.”

Having a second language shows employers that you are open-minded and can make the effort and develop the strategies required to succeed. “If you apply for a job and you have languages in your CV it shows that you think and are interested.”

It is even possible that the changing nature of Europe, with the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union, and the economic power of Germany, will result in German becoming more prevalent on the continent, she says.

“There was already quite a discussion 15 years ago about the language to be used for all the EU documents and it was English, however that was already not seen as a very positive thing. So German could now become one of the two important languages of Europe along with French; it is the driving power in Europe.”

For the panel discussion, Associate Professor Jōrg Finsterwalder from the UC Business School, Dr Stephanie Gutschmidt, College of Engineering, and Associate Professor Chris Jones from the UC Arts share their own experiences of how learning other languages and living in other cultures have shaped their lives, with Professor Natalia Chaban as a moderator.

Event details: Opening doors globally is on 26 September, 11am – 1pm, Undercroft 101, Puaka-James Hight (free)

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