A key to success
As President of AIESEC in Slovenia (AIESEC is the world's largest youth-run organisation represented in over 125 countries), I have seen the importance of English as a global and mutual language. Living in today's world, international connections are more important than ever and the ability to speak one of the global languages is a key to success.
I have noticed that the proposal from the Ministry of Education to make English the educational language in Slovenia has opened a debate about the concern that this measure will threaten the Slovene language. From my personal experience I can say that being able to communicate in one of the global languages makes life so much easier and provides you with many more opportunities, while at the same time your native language remains to be the core or your identity. While writing this text I definitely have to translate words from Dutch as well as I'm not even close to how a native speaker would express himself. What counts is that I'm able to ventilate my thoughts and communicate with you. Coming from The Netherlands, having English as second language since high school, I was not able to speak a proper sentence in English until the last year of my Bachelor when I had to give a presentation and workshop on a conference in Canada. Studying a language is not going to teach you how to speak a language. It is the practice that counts.
For many young people all around the world this is one of the reasons to join AIESEC or to go on a cultural or professional exchange with AIESEC. In the past three years I have completely surrounded myself with internationals and worked in many international teams. The beauty of speaking a global language provided me with the opportunity to connect with many different people, find common ground and explore differences. Differences in understanding, the way of working as well as cultural differences. I have noticed for myself that many of my behaviours and the way I work with others comes from the fact that I grew up in The Netherlands. It thought me a lot about my own background as well as that I got to understand how to work with many different people and personalities.
In regards of the debate here in Slovenia I can say that using English as my working language in the past three years did not in any way endangered my roots and my native tongue. When I'm alone with Dutch colleagues here in Slovenia I will always talk to them in Dutch, while in team meetings I would be talking in English to them, simply because in your mother tongue you are able to express yourself better.
At the moment I have been in Slovenia for six weeks and before that I was living in Austria. I believe that Slovenia is definitely ahead of many European countries when it comes to the command of the English language. An example being that here I'm able to ask for help in a supermarket and every employee is able to respond in English, while in Austria this is often not the case. Another example being that I had to cancel my mobile contract in Austria. As there was no information to be found online I had to call customer service and when I answered the phone in English asking if they could help me. The guy told me that he only spoke German as he lived and worked in Austria. I've noticed that compared to Austria, Slovenia is more capable to speak in English throughout all age ranges.
Like The Netherlands, Slovenia depends heavily on export which automatically means that as a nation you need to be able to communicate in multiple languages in order to do business. Besides this, I have had some very interesting conversations in the past weeks in order for me to better understand Slovenia and its business climate and there are quite some interesting innovations going on in the Start-up scene. Meaning that Slovenia definitely has potential in the creation and development of innovative products and services, but that in order for a business to become mature it needs a market bigger then Slovenia with its 2,5 million inhabitants. With English as the educational language I believe that this can strengthen the position of Slovene companies as it forces youth to practice a language. Practicing a language is in my opinion the only way to properly learn how to speak a language. You will grow confidence and it will become easier for you to speak and include non-natives in your conversations which allows you to use the full potential of the diversity that Slovenia has to offer.