Examination Newsletter 2009

published

by the Chartered Institute of Linguists.

 

Daniel was asked to contribute an article about his interest in languages.

The article as published is reproduced below.

 

 

My Life with Languages

“I was prompted to learn languages when I realized how many opportunities I had missed as a child. I was brought up in Morocco, Mali and Senegal and only learnt a few words of Arabic at an age when I should have been able to absorb the language without too much difficulty. My mother was born in Italy but her parents left for France before she could speak Italian and therefore she was not able to pass it on to me.

            I was taught English and Italian at school, but was an appalling student. Having spent so much time trying to learn foreign tongues, I donned my rucksack and went hitchhiking all the way from the South of France to London. To my amazement, all these grammatical problems which seemed insurmountable became clear within a few months. Suddenly I was able to speak two languages and a number of doors opened for me. I was offered jobs in the travel industry simply because I could get by in English and in French. One thing leading to another, I started working part time with an Italian company; I heard Italian being spoken all day long, and very soon I had the opportunity to go to Italy on short trips. It did not take me long to realise I had to study the language further. I found myself a job as a courier in Rome which was absolutely wonderful as I could practice both English and Italian all day long and go to evening classes as well. But then, back in London, I approached the BBC French Language Service (FLS) where I was asked to write dialogues in French and I started a career in broadcasting very soon afterwards. I had the privilege of being supervised by Cyril Alexander – a fantastic linguist who helped me tremendously with my translating.

 

            In the mid Seventies, national service was still compulsory in France so I asked if I could be posted to Berlin and to my surprise and delight it was easily done. By then I had acquired a taste for languages and wanted to learn more.

 

            Having gone to drama school when I was still at college, I was able to combine my linguistic and performance skills and worked in television as well as radio. I never thought so many opportunities would arise when I first started to learn languages!

 

After my stint at the FLS, I worked quite regularly for BBC Radio 2, writing and presenting my own programmes over a period of more than 15 years. I use my voice almost every day in different languages to record corporate DVDs. I have also started to learn Spanish at evening classes.

 

            Not only have languages given me a fantastic way to make a living, but they have also opened new horizons as I have travelled to many countries for work and leisure and still have time to enjoy them. It is a great pleasure to be able to say a few words to the local people wherever you are in the world, but it also opens your mind to new ways of thinking, to other "truths".

 

 

 

 

 

 

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