Mirror WORKS: Find Your Language; LEARNING ANOTHER LINGO HAS BEEN MY PASSPORT TO A GREAT NEW LIFE

The Mirror (London, England), August 23, 2007 | Go to article overview

Mirror WORKS: Find Your Language; LEARNING ANOTHER LINGO HAS BEEN MY PASSPORT TO A GREAT NEW LIFE


Byline: By SHEILA PROPHET

FLUMMOXED by French and left glassy-eyed by German, Paul Noble never dreamed he would one day be living a life of luxury in Asia, chatting to businessmen in Mandarin Chinese.

The 27-year-old from Kempston in Bedford is proof that having a second language really does open up a world of job opportunities.

And after he completes a third year in China, he knows what he will do on his return to Britain.

"I want to build my own website and open a language school," says Paul, confidently.

"I want to use my experience to show other people that even if they failed at school, they too can learn a language and, like me, use it to build a career and see the world."

Yet Paul hated foreign-language lessons when he was at school.

"I did German at GCSE level when I was 16 and scraped a C pass, but I had no real understanding of the language," he says.

"The lessons concentrated on grammar and used terms such as 'conjugation', which I didn't understand.

So when I left I couldn't imagine having a conversation with a German person."

Undeterred, Paul had a go at learning French from a textbook while studying history at Manchester University. But he got nowhere and despaired of ever breaking the language barrier.

"Then one day I spotted language courses on CD by Michel Thomas, who I'd seen on telly and who achieved amazing results," he says. "I bought the French and German courses and I can honestly say they changed my life.

"There is no hard work involved, you simply listen to the CDs and within weeks you start to understand and speak the language."

AS Paul gained confidence in speaking both languages, he began to rethink his future and decided to work in Germany for a year.

"I did a TEFL course - Teaching English as a Foreign Language - and got a job in a college in Dusseldorf teaching English to local businessmen," he says. "It was a fantastic experience and great fun - I could teach the vice presidents of big companies to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star!

"When I came back to Britain I did a PGCE, or Post Graduate Certificate in Education. It was a year of very hard work - a lot of it involved full-time teaching in inner London schools and I had to learn how to handle difficult teenagers. But it was worth it."

Having that qualification also gave Paul the courage to pursue an even more adventurous plan.

He says: "On the internet I saw opportunities to teach English in East Asia so after learning French and German I thought I'd have a go at Chinese.

"It was a lot harder because our languages and writing don't have anything in common," he says.

"There is also a limited choice of courses. I finally found one in Mandarin that used the same sort of methods as Michel's courses. It taught me enough of the essentials to get by and three months later I was off to the city of Taicheng, in China. I've been there for two years now and it's like living on a different planet.

Teachers' salaries are high over there - I have an apartment on the 20th floor of a building, overlooking the city, with satellite TV. It's not easy uprooting so far from home and it takes a while to get over the culture shock.

"What I miss most is the English sense of humour. …

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