Blogs // Rob Williams

Conference: Sprachen und Beruf

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Last week I attended the Sprachen und Beruf conference - an annual get together in Berlin dedicated to the use of languages in business. There were the usual things you find at conferences – a panel discussion, plenary speakers and a range of smaller group discussions. I was there to present Chinese 4 Europeans, which as it turned out was a timely intervention.

The panel discussion was on English as a lingua franca or multilingualism. The consensus was that English should be a given – we can’t get away from the fact of English being the international language of business. However, the overriding views put forward was that English was not enough and that we ought to be building instruction of other languages into curricular. One speaker bemoaned the fact that in a private international school, where all parents could afford to pay, a class in Chinese was cancelled because not enough children enrolled in the class. In the Q&A for my presentation, many people echoed the fact that Chinese is in fact relatively easy to learn, that it is one of the international languages of the future and that, if we are going to become global citizens, learning Chinese helps open up our mind set beyond the confines of western thinking. We cannot do this if we restrict ourselves to learning the languages of our European neighbours. In the 21st century technology has already broken down the barriers of global communication – the only obstacle left is us.

Rob Williams

Rob is a principal lecturer in the Department of Modern and Applied Languages at the University of Westminster in London, where he runs an MA in International Liaison and Communication. He has visited China on a number of occasions and has worked with students from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs among others on the MA. He is also President of the ICC International Language Association, an NGO dedicated to enhancing the teaching and learning of languages to adults and in professional environments. His passions are travel, talking to people from everywhere in the world and making music.