Bridging the language gap


The story about Vijay's SkillsFuture experience

"The first step is the hardest, but after that you will succeed"

An electrical designer specialising in remote controls, Vijay took the unusual route of learning a new language – Mandarin – as a way of upgrading his skills. "I design remote controls. Anything that you point and click, that's what I do, says Vijay with quiet pride.

However, life as an electrical designer is more complex, as Vijay swiftly discovered. His daily work required him to work closely with colleagues and suppliers from all over the world, especially in China.

"Deep down, everything is about the language. If you are not able to communicate with production and suppliers, you cannot get your things done. This is the most critical thing when it comes to design. You can design the most perfect product, but you cannot deliver it because your supplier says '今天不可以, it's not possible today' and you cannot counter-act," says Vijay about the challenges he faced at work when he was not able to communicate in Mandarin.

Speaking the right language to suppliers and colleagues was more than about effective communication. It also opened up new ways for Vijay to bond with his colleagues and suppliers. "That's the main reason why I learnt Business Chinese," says Vijay. "It helps me make my work more convenient, and I'm able to build a better bond with my factory colleagues and suppliers in China."

A simple search online led him to enrol in a Business Chinese course, which Vijay chose as it was nationally recognised. Facing a new learning environment, he felt a small measure of nervousness but soon found common ground with his classmates as he grew to understand why they too, were taking this class.

"I found out that they were learning for the same reasons as me, and that is to communicate better with their clients. I felt I wasn't alone… and we can study together and help each other out."

A particular inspiration for Vijay was meeting a 70-year old learner in his class. "Seeing her there learning alongside us, really motivated me and I realised… there is no limit for learning." His perseverance and enthusiasm in learning Mandarin, also led to Vijay winning the first prize in the Lunar New Year class competition.

With his new language skills, Vijay found new confidence when engaging with his overseas suppliers. "Now it is easier for me to communicate over the phone, instead of writing an email and waiting for them to translate it." His colleagues were also pleasantly surprised when he was able to join in their daily conversations.

"I feel more much confident and a sense of accomplishment. Now I am able to communicate and I do not have to depend on anyone else. I am more aware of my work and able to deliver what I can do."

Looking ahead, Vijay is now keen to continue his learning journey. "The next step is to further my Business Chinese to Level 5 for speaking and also start learning how to write so that I can read email and even the newspapers!" he says with enthusiasm. "The industry is always changing, but that doesn't mean that you don't. Never give up, when it comes to learning, you always have to try. The first step is the hardest, but after that you will succeed. 不要放弃,一直学习!"



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