Notes: Researcher in International Law
My name is Mark and I’m a researcher in international law based at a university in Beijing, China.
I work on the editing and production of an academic journal on issues of global governance, and publish original research on international investment law. This involves collating articles and reviews from academics all over the world.
What languages have you learned?
My confidence in Mandarin Chinese has improved as I have continued to live in China. I am able to speak and read to a good standard, and I’m working to improve my writing. Attaining fluency in a language is a continuous process.
I have also started to learn some basic Russian while living with friends from Tajikistan.
What benefits do you think language skills bring?
Knowing the language of the place you are living really broadens your horizons in terms of the places you can go and the type of people you meet. It expands your community beyond just other expats, and gives you a more well-rounded experience in getting an understanding of the culture of a country.
At a professional level, language skills can be invaluable whether you plan to live at home or work abroad. Businesses are increasingly trading across borders, and knowing another language will increase your attractiveness as a potential employee. This is as important in government and charity sectors as it is in business.
One of the more surprising side-effects of learning another language is that you begin to understand your own a lot better, and how our rules compare to those in other cultures.
Do you have any advice for anyone considering learning a language?
The most helpful advice I received was to download and listen to podcasts about the language you are learning. A more obvious tip is to talk with other speakers, preferably native speakers, to improve your pronunciation and vocabulary. Once you get into a more advanced stage, it might also help if you start to watch films or television shows in the language you are learning.
Any tips on how best to approach communicating in a language you have little knowledge of?
The main thing is not to be afraid to look a bit silly sometimes. You’ll be surprised at how many native speakers are just pleased that you’ve made the effort to learn their language. Technically sound language skills are important, but aren’t necessary for basic communication, at least in the beginning.
In your experience, would you say cultural awareness is important?
It can be very useful to understand some of the social norms and conventions before you visit a country.
Having a basic knowledge of the political situation and the extent of social conservatism will help you avoid any awkward faux pas, particularly if you travel outside Europe.
Return to Job Profiles