The Value of Foreign Languages ​​– Jamaica Observer

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Gabrielle on a solo trip to Vientiane, Laos, in 2019.

Quadrilingual Gabrielle Barnett makes her mark

IT’S NOT every day that you meet a quadrilingual Jamaican, but Gabrielle Barnett, 27, speaks four languages.

Barnett, who is an alumnus of St Hilda’s Diocesan High School and Hampton School for Girls, is fluent in English, Spanish and Mandarin; and is at the advanced proficiency level in Portuguese.

Until September 2020, she was Education Manager and Head of Capstone Educational Group in Beijing, China, where she worked with students attending international schools in China and preparing to transition to universities in China. the stranger.

Barnett previously worked in the Hong Kong office as a lead instructor and educational consultant before moving to the Beijing office. She noted that she had been promoted six months earlier than the norm to become director of the Beijing office, helping to lead the expansion efforts of the other mainland China offices (Shanghai and Shenzhen) and leading the site’s overall strategy. from Beijing.

Additionally, she was also the office translator and helped mediate client meetings between non-English speaking clients and non-Mandarin speaking staff.

“I originally wanted to be a diplomat for Jamaica, so I decided I wanted to learn languages ​​because it would be of strategic importance to Jamaica. With that in mind, I started finding more opportunities to improve my Spanish language proficiency and decided to study Mandarin as well,” Barnett said.

This led her to study for a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations with a minor in Mandarin and a Certificate in Latin American, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies at Mount Holyoke College, the first and oldest all-female college in the United States. -United.

As part of his undergraduate studies, Barnett also studied in Beijing, China; Seville Spain; and Monrovia, Liberia.

She graduated with honors in 2015 before moving on to the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies where she completed a graduate degree in Chinese and American Studies with a concentration in economics.

“By studying abroad, I was able to improve my language skills, develop strong cross-cultural communication skills, and clarify what I wanted my future to look like. The constant exposure to foreign cultures, languages, and people challenged me to push past any perceived limitations I had for myself and taught me to be more resilient, imaginative and resourceful,” Barnett pointed out.

Similarly, recognizing the value of learning a foreign language, in January of this year Education Minister Fayval Williams announced that Mexico and Jamaica will set up a pilot project in which Mexican teachers will teach Spanish to Jamaican students online.

Barnett believes that Jamaican organizations should provide their employees with the opportunity to learn foreign languages ​​as the world becomes more integrated and business models are changing rapidly.

“Organizations that allow their employees to learn other languages ​​are well positioned to succeed, and it’s a worthwhile investment. When you learn a language, you also learn the culture, which is a key asset to have when dealing with a more diverse clientele,” Barnett said.

In 2019, the Jamaica National (JN) group implemented a program for its employees called JN Foreign Chat, Learn a Foreign Language, with the aim of increasing communication with customers who speak foreign languages ​​and to remain a player prominent in the Caribbean region.

“By championing our vision of using innovative solutions to unlock the potential of our people and ensuring that JN Group’s performance directly benefits the people and communities our member companies serve, the Talent Management Unit and performance of JN Group conceptualized the foreign language conversational program.

“It aims to provide a platform for JN Group employees to develop their language skills in French, Mandarin and Spanish. The objective of the program is to provide our employees with the basic conversational skills needed to converse in different situations. The program is also flexible with future organizational demands and is subject to change based on organizational needs,” said Rushard Blake, Learning Support Manager and JN Foreign Chat Program Coordinator.

Blake pointed out that the courses given before the coronavir pandemic facilitated both face-to-face and online. However, since the pandemic, sessions are instructor-led only and live recordings are made available through the group’s learning management system for all staff members to access. He added that classes will resume this summer.

Having worked as a freelance translator and editor in Mandarin, Barnett said learning the languages ​​has helped her get many job opportunities and stand out when applying for grants and scholarships.

“My language skills have been instrumental in securing my previous jobs. Also, having had the opportunity to thrive outside of my comfort zone, I find it less intimidating to explore other projects like solo international travel,” said the avid traveler.

She added that she is often called by her alma mater to give talks about studying abroad and the benefits of learning a foreign language.

Barnett has traveled to 35 countries so far and is on a full scholarship to study a Masters of Business Administration at the Asia School of Business in conjunction with MIT Sloan Management in Malaysia, where she is the first student from Jamaica. and the Caribbean.

Gabrielle Barnett wearing a traditional Chinese dress in Xian, China in 2019.

Gabrielle in Seville, Spain in 2015 where she completed part of her undergraduate studies.

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