Ben Bradshaw shared his experiences of how speaking German and Italian had shaped his career as a journalist and politician

Multilingual MP guest of honour at University of Exeter event to celebrate language learning

Multilingual MP Ben Bradshaw shared his experiences of how speaking German and Italian had shaped his career as a journalist and politician as part of a University of Exeter event for young people learning languages.

Mr Bradshaw recounted fascinating details about his time as the BBC’s Berlin correspondent at the time of the fall of the Berlin wall and reunification of Germany, as well as his time working with foreign governments as a Labour minister.

The event, Languages in a Global World, is held annually and brings together local modern foreign language teachers and their GCSE and A-level students, local University of Exeter alumni, and current staff and students of languages and international cultures at the University.

Mr Bradshaw spoke to Professor Andrew Thorpe, Pro Vice Chancellor of the College of Humanities about his love of languages and how he came to learn German and Italian. During his degree he studied at the University of Freiburg, Germany, and he also taught English as a Foreign Language in Winterthur, the Zurich canton of Switzerland.

The Exeter MP shared details of how his language and intercultural skills had been of use during international political conferences as a minister, and said he hoped more young people would learn foreign languages in the future. Mr Bradshaw said his skills had not just been of use for his career, but had also helped him enjoy cultural experiences such as listening to the opera The Ring in German.

Professor Sally Faulkner, Professor of Hispanic Studies and Film Studies, and Associate Dean for International and Development for the University of Exeter’s College of Humanities, led a Q and A discussion, when students were able to ask Mr Bradshaw questions about Brexit and the school curriculum.

Professor Faulkner, who is a specialist in Spanish- and Portuguese-language cinema in Europe and Latin America, said: “We are delighted to have welcomed Mr Bradshaw to speak at this event. It was fascinating to hear about his experience of language-learning at school, at university and abroad. It is clear Mr Bradshaw’s knowledge of languages and international cultures has enhanced his brilliant career. He is a wonderful example of how languages are great for career prospects but also for our enriching our experiences as citizens.”

Professor Thorpe is an expert on the history of the British Labour Party. As part of his work on international communism between the World Wars he researched extensively in the Moscow archives, for a book on the British Communist party. There, his school and first-year university study of German paid off, because the first sets of documents he was allowed to see were in German. He also learnt basic Russian at the University’s Foreign Language Centre in order to be able to survive in Moscow. More recently, for personal reasons, he has also acquired a very basic level of Welsh.

Date: 1 February 2019

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