On Tuesday 10thMarch, the MFL society hosted Mr. Tim Cole to give a talk to Upper School Linguists about his life and how languages have been a part of his career. Mr. Cole engaged the listeners by introducing his knowledge of greetings in various languages, ranging from Italian to Mongolian. Mr. Cole began by engaging our minds to try to make us memorise the greetings in Zulu, a language spoken primarily in South Africa. “Sanibonani”, Mr. Cole said, to which we replied “Yebo”. “Ninjani?”, he then asked. “Sikhona” we replied. I did not think that this activity had any other purpose than to ‘add some spice’ to the talk, but as it turned out, the activity played a perfect role in helping the listeners fully understand and adopt the idea that knowledge of a language is key to a native person’s heart; and how else can you start than to greet a native in their own language!
Mr. Cole’s career changed multiple times, switching locations from place to place, from working as an English teacher in Zimbabwe, to be a British Ambassador in Cuba, to finally work with the non-profit organization ONE. Languages have been indispensable for Mr. Cole. My personal favourite episode of his life which he shared with us was his time in Portugal during his gap year. His initiative to start a charity movement by himself, trying to walk from Portugal back to England, caught attention from the local media, as no comparable feats have been attempted before. He was invited to be a guest in a live-broadcasted interview, in a radio equivalent to BBC Radio 1. As he recollects, he was petrified, mortified and nervous before his interview because he did not think that his Portuguese was of an adequate level. However, much to his relief, his doubts in himself were soon to be converted to confidence as he spoke beautifully during the interview, explaining the whole purpose of his initiative. This particular anecdote, if it may be so called, connected with me due to the similarities with myself: a young person planning his gap year, his time at university and with a knowledge in a foreign language.
Mr. Cole’s talk on how he used languages throughout his career has inspired me to devote my time in the future to learn various languages, to delve in and commit myself to learn more about the great variety of cultures which the world holds, to cherish and appreciate the historical struggles which countries and whole continents have faced. Through Mr. Cole’s very personal story, I was able to develop a new perception on the usefulness of languages, which I hope prompts me to a more diverse, thus interesting, life and career. I want to thank Mr. Cole for giving up his time to present a truly engaging talk.