The Outreach and Information Officer believes "A knowledge of other languages helps you to get closer to people."
Raise Your Game: What is your role?
Leri Davies: I work at the European Commission office in Wales. It's a part of DG communication, one of the departments in Brussels. My job is to communicate Europe to the people of Wales. I try and explain to them what we do here in Wales, what the European Commission does, and how it relates to them.
RYG: How many languages do you speak?
LD: I speak five languages. I speak English and Welsh fluently. I've learnt French and Spanish, and I speak Catalan as well, although it's really rusty.
RYG: How did you get this job?
LD: I got this job because of my interest in other European languages. I started off doing A levels in French and Spanish. At University I did politics, along with French and Spanish.
To work for the EU you have to speak another language apart from English. You have to complete the entrance exams in another language. I had to do all the exams in French, which was a bit tricky, but it makes you feel proud once you get in.
RYG: Did you find it difficult to learn other languages?
LD: Not really. I've always loved learning languages. My grandfather was a French teacher, my Mum speaks French, and we always went on holidays to France when I was younger. I'm bilingual so I've always spoken two languages from a young age.
When you're used to learning languages from a young age it makes things easier. I love learning languages and that it opens up so many doors for you. If you go on holiday you can speak to people in their own language. When you're little and you can talk to other children in their own languages, you have so much more fun.
RYG: What advice would you give to young people looking to follow in your footsteps?
LD: It's important to visit the country so that you get inspired, and pick up one or two phrases. At school you need to dedicate yourself to learning the language. Persevere with it. In school, a lot of it is to do with learning the grammar. When I was learning a language I found that quite boring, but when you go to that country and you can speak the language, that's when it pays dividends.
RYG: How do you go about learning a new language?
LD: It depends on the person. I've always been the kind of person that remembers things. I've always remembered words more than I remember grammar, just because I find that easier. It's different for different people. Verbs are the building blocks of any language. To learn any language you have to know your verbs. They're the fundamentals.
RYG: Does the ability to speak other languages help you when you're meeting other sportsmen and women?
LD: Definitely. I did an Erasmus year abroad whereby I studied in French and Spanish Universities. I joined an athletics club in Spain and really got to know the local people. I competed for them and it was fabulous. That's how I learnt Catalan.
I train at the Cyncoed campus in UWIC and you get people there from all over. When we go warm weather training, we get people from all over Spain, and I'm the unofficial spokesperson for the group, asking people things in Spanish and sorting everything out. A knowledge of other languages helps you to get closer to people.
RYG: How do we encourage more young people to want to learn languages?
LD: In terms of encouraging people to speak languages, you need to understand that it will open doors for you. In terms of the European Union we have one of the biggest job markets in the world. People don't realise that they can work and study in any country in the EU.
You can earn more by speaking other languages and you have access to more jobs. In the UK we take it for granted that everybody speaks English. In other European countries they have to learn English. We can definitely learn something from our European neighbours.
If you have an open mind and believe in yourself you can achieve anything.
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