Meet Leyla, the second language lover in our series introducing you to inspirational individuals with real-life tales of language-learning journeys that have changed their lives for the better. We hope these stories will help inspire your students to opt for a modern language (or two!) .
- Name: Leyla Vladar
- University of Manchester: BA (Hons) Middle Eastern and Modern European Languages, 2015
- Languages spoken: French, Spanish, Turkish, intermediate Arabic and beginner’s Persian
- Job title: Marketing Campaign Manager
Not just about getting the grades for Uni?
When I chose to study two languages at A Level, my main concern was studying something I enjoyed that would get me the grades I needed for university. I had no idea that choosing French and Spanish would give me the chance to live and work in 4 different countries, to study and live in the Middle East during its most tumultuous period in modern history, to make life-long friends from all over the world and the ability to explore new language families and alphabets with confidence.
Where language progression can be frustratingly slow and abstract at school, university gives you the opportunity to master languages you are already learning and the support to fast-track your study of brand new languages to a working level within just a few short years, all while being applicable and relevant to the world around you and your chosen career path. However, you soon realise that nothing can teach you a language like living in it.
Bikes rides in Istanbul and Brussels
I spent my year abroad in Istanbul and Brussels – two starkly different cultures which provided equally disparate experiences – but which taught me independence and resilience like nothing else. In Belgium I got to shadow conference interpreters at the European Commission, live in a house with students and young professionals of 12 different nationalities and join an Arabic music society. In Turkey I witnessed riots and protests, took a surprise 2 hour written exam in Persian (a language I had to learn to read and write over a few short weeks just to pass the module) and took a week’s coach trip with the rowdiest, most mischievous group of Turkish pensioners I have ever come across. After breaking my ankle and having my bike stolen, I realised that even in the most daunting situations, when you’re alone abroad you just have to steel yourself and get things done. After all, every experience is a chance to learn and test new vocab!
A taste of living abroad was enough to send me straight back out of the UK following my graduation in 2015 when I moved Malta and began to establish myself as a freelance translator which gave me some of the most interesting experiences of my life. Among many other projects, I wrote subtitles for Turkish dramas about the Secret Service, I produced marketing copy for dog food companies, I represented an automotive company at exhibitions across Europe and the Middle East, I translated a regular blog into French for an international software company, and most amusingly, starred in an independent Maltese language short film (no, I do not speak Maltese!). 2 years of working in translation gave me a fantastic base level of experience and a network to pick up freelance jobs whenever and wherever I choose, but by the end of 2017 I was about to get married and was ready to use my experience for something new.
Home but still travelling
That was when I returned to the UK and began working in the International Marketing team at Oxford University Press. Although working mainly in English, I am so pleased to get the chance to use my creativity every day. Where translation relies on the words of others, marketing lets me use my imagination. My day-to-day job combines all the elements of previous experiences that I loved: international travel, a diverse and dynamic team, identifying creative marketing opportunities and a varied and exciting workload. Publishing in Arabic and Spanish and taking regular market research trips to key regions, I do get the chance to practise my language skills but where studying languages has shaped my life the most is the confidence I now feel. My weekdays benefit from the incomparable life skills that come from navigating life and work in a foreign language, and my weekends are filled with trips, phone calls and weddings to all parts of the globe when I can connect with the many wonderful people I have met so far in my career, some of whom I could never have even spoken to without speaking their language. Without studying languages I would have far fewer stories to tell, memories to look back on and opportunities for the future.