Felicity, how did the fact that BESA’s work was international impact your decision to work for them?
It was really the word international that appealed. Knowing that the show in Basel would be an early event that I would attend, I obviously thought that my German would help. Furthermore, having spent a year at a German university with contact with a whole range of nationalities, it was the idea of dealing with and hopefully visiting a wide range of countries that attracted me.
How long have you been at BESA?
A little over 2 years.
What does your role at BESA encompass?
I am there to assist William Prieto-Parra, the International Manager in all aspects of BESA’s international services, including supporting him at some international events. On occasions I stand in for him but a lot of my time is spent recruiting companies for our various overseas exhibitions and supporting them in preparing for the event, booking the right stand facilities as well as liaising with the organisers.
You are a language graduate from Warwick University, do you get to use your language skills in your role?
Almost as soon as I joined BESA we were working on Worlddidac Basel which is in the German speaking part of Switzerland and this meant an immediate opportunity to use my language ability. Two years later here I am preparing for my second Basel event and no doubt in two more years I will be working on my third!
Language skills or the lack thereof are a hot topic amongst employers, educators and students alike. What’s your view on the importance of language skills today?
It is very easy to think that automated translators on the Internet or simultaneous translators at meetings are a satisfactory solution to different languages. It is only when you realise how easy it is to miss an important nuance in a negotiation because an exact understanding of what was being said was absent that you appreciate fluency in other languages. A lack of language skills is a disadvantage in the UK where it is widely assumed that the whole world speaks or should speaks English. Learning a language also provides a deeper understanding of other cultures.
When applying your German in Basel – do you recall any funny stories?
I was probably overconfident when I arrived in Basel that I would be able to deal with any German spoken to me. However, one of my first encounters was with someone speaking the local Swiss German and I realised very quickly that it wasn’t just the accent that was different but much of the vocabulary. Having mistaken me for one of the organisers, she shouted loudly at me in the dialect and when she saw my totally blank face, turned away in disgust – nothing like being deflated on the first day!