Out of the comfort zone: reviving my long-forgotten Spanish
After various experiences outside of my home country during my studies, I knew I wanted to carry on living abroad, at least for the foreseeable future. That’s a big part of what attracted me to Hilti: the promise of an international career. After 1 year in the field in Lyon (France) and 3 months of project in Paris (France again, as surprising as it sounds), it was finally time: I was moving abroad once more!
Having started in Hilti’s Western Europe organization, I had two main options for my third assignment: Belgium or Spain. Sure, Belgium is interesting, and I would have been very happy to go there. But something told me I should pursue another destination, one that would require to push myself a bit more: Spain.
There’s a very good reason I saw it as a challenge: I spoke Spanish. Kind of. Maybe? Or least I thought I did… but that was 10 years before, when I was still in middle school.
France is famous for its cheese, its wine, its strikes, and of course for its “great” skills at teaching French people to speak foreign languages. I was no exception, and any decent grade I could get in language class became meaningless once I had to speak to actual foreigners.
As I progressed in my studies after high school, I focused on English, and managed to bring myself to an acceptable level by international standards. But I did not do the same for Spanish: I never practiced it properly, and soon enough I could barely remember present-tense conjugation.
Fast-forward to my first call with my soon-to-be managers in Hilti Spain: “wow, they speak fast” and “hmm… not sure I understood that” were my main thoughts. I knew I had to prepare better: I downloaded the language practising App Duolingo, I did 7 lessons per day. And I watched Narcos on Netflix.
Narcos didn’t really help. Duolingo helped a little. After I started working in Madrid, after I spent days listening to Spanish, speaking in Spanish, reading Spanish, the old knowledge slowly came back. And quickly some new knowledge came in. My Spanish was still imperfect, but at least I could have a conversation, and soon I had progressed enough that I could get a landing position in Latin America.
“The story of how I learnt Spanish again” is not very interesting by itself – and many people would improve it similarly if put in the same situation. But it’s a good example of what the Outperformer Program allows you to do. “Putting you in that situation” is what it does, and with many more things than a language: new places, new offices, new departments, new colleagues, new skills. It pushes you in the pool, but is ready to hand you a buoy if you need one. If you like learning to swim… then you’ll enjoy it!