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  • 1.  Foreign languages and engineering

    Posted 04-13-2019 06:56 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 04-13-2019 06:55 PM
    Did speaking a foreign language have an impact on your engineering career?

    While speaking another language is great for personal fulfillment, I was surprised by how few times it was useful for me professionally.

    In ten or so years working for small to medium companies, it only came up twice, and one of the times was during an internship abroad.

    Curious if others have had a different experience. I suspect, things are different at larger international firms and companies outside of the US.

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    Natalya Sokolovskaya P.E.,M.ASCE
    Wynnewood PA
    (323)382-6176
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  • 2.  RE: Foreign languages and engineering

    Posted 04-14-2019 02:55 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 04-14-2019 02:54 PM
    Having some facility with foreign language in countries where I worked was very helpful and allowed me to avoid an interpreter, plus it created a more friendly and respectful working environment.

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    Kim de Rubertis P.E.,F.ASCE
    Cashmere WA
    (509) 782-3434
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  • 3.  RE: Foreign languages and engineering

    Posted 04-15-2019 07:39 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 04-15-2019 07:38 AM
    In the countries that speak my other language (Arabic) they are very fluid in English and they use it in their international business. Speaking to them in Arabic sounds like insulting to their fluency in English!

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    Neil Kazen, M.Eng., M.Sc., P.Eng.
    FASCE, FCPCI, FEC,
    Retired Structural Engineering Manager, Transportation Division, SNC-Lavalin
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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  • 4.  RE: Foreign languages and engineering

    Posted 04-14-2019 02:55 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 04-14-2019 02:55 PM
    Like Natalya's experience with second language, I didn't benefit much from it either. Even when we got projects from countries that speak my other language, the actual business language with them was English.

    English remains the predominant language in international business.

    On the other hand, international experience was immensely helpful in related international projects.

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    Neil Kazen, M.Eng., M.Sc., P.Eng.
    FASCE, FCPCI, FEC,
    Retired Structural Engineering Manager, Transportation Division, SNC-Lavalin
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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  • 5.  RE: Foreign languages and engineering

    Posted 04-14-2019 07:26 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 04-14-2019 07:26 PM
    I speak halting French, but have used it only on one occasion. When I was AWWA President in 1998 I attended the Quebec Section's annual conference in Montreal. For my speech to their board, I worked assiduously for two days to prepare my remarks in French. Everything went well, and the board expressed a rather emotional appreciation.  As my wife, Diane and I left the boardroom, I remarked "Did you see that? They were in tears over my speech!"  She retorted, with wifely cynicism "That's because you slaughtered their language."

    Seriously, I am on the board of a startup company, ECO Water Technologies. We have multiple prospects in Central America. Our chief engineer is bilingual and originally from Columbia. His language skills have been indispensable, in translation of documents, marketing and start-up assistance.

    I think that language skills skills are very valuable to an engineer. Of course it depends on the project or client location, and the matching language.

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    Bevin Beaudet P.E.,M.ASCE
    Bevin A. Beaudet, P.E., LLC.
    West Palm Beach FL
    (561)373-4442
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  • 6.  RE: Foreign languages and engineering

    Posted 04-15-2019 10:10 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 04-15-2019 10:10 AM
    It has definitively helped, not directly but I have used it in a few occasions. Speaking Spanish has helped me communicate better when I am out at job sites as most of the workers only speak Spanish, that avoids a ton of confusion. Also, I am involved with EWB and we have a few projects in Guatemala where my Spanish has come in handy. It is definitively a plus to know more than one language. I am afraid most companies (depending on the company and the role you will have) don't see it that way, but in the future, it will have its benefits.

    ​---------------------------------------------------------------
    Luis Duque, EIT, A.M ASCE, A.M. SEI
    Structural Engineer
    DLK Engineering
    Email: [email protected]
    Phone: (305) 965-1363
    Website: www.luisfelipeduque.com
    ---------------------------------------------------------------
    The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams                       - Eleanor Roosevelt

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    Luis Duque
    Boulder CO
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  • 7.  RE: Foreign languages and engineering

    Posted 04-15-2019 10:36 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 04-15-2019 10:35 PM
    Not being able to speak a second language, here is an outside observation.  Depending on where you are working, having understanding of a dialect is of great importance, especially if you are dealing with technical clients in international locations.  However, your language skills may not be fully appreciated by others. People often do not value what they do not understand.

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    David Thompson M.ASCE
    KTA Structural Engineers Ltd.
    Calgary AB
    (403) 246-8827
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