Language & Culture Adviser, International Trade Team, UK Trade and Investment (North West)
Sara Knowles is Language and Culture adviser at UK Trade & Investment North West, a government agency that supports companies with international trade. Sara studied Geography at Lancaster University and graduated in 1994. During her time at Lancaster she studied Spanish and Italian as extra curricular subjects since she had always been interested in languages. Sara hadn’t studied languages at A-level (despite having achieved grade As in GCSE French and German), something she says she later regretted, but resolved later in life. After graduating, she completed a Teaching English as Second or Other Languages (TESOL) course at Manchester University over the summer. She went to Slovenia to teach English as Foreign Language, initially for 6 months but stayed for 3 and half years! During her time in Slovenia she learned to speak Slovene fluently which arose as a combination of her immersion in the language and self-study. She passed exams in Slovene at the University of Ljubljana. Her German and Italian skills also came in very useful during this period with Austria and Italy as two of Slovenia’s neighbouring countries – the two languages are significant second languages and have regional influence on dialects in Slovenia.
Following her time teaching in Slovenia, Sara went on to work for the British Council, the UK’s cultural relations organisation. During this time she worked in 26 countries in Africa, Asia, The Middle East and Europe, developing new knowledge about diverse cultures and endeavouring to learn at least a few basic words and phrases of the languages she encountered. She later set up her own communication skills training company and developed the business internationally – this included providing services to Slovenian companies seeking to market their services and products in the UK. Sara joined UK Trade and Investment in 2014 and provides services to help companies from North West England to develop their international communications skills and knowledge.
Sara stated, “Language learning and developing cultural awareness have been integral to my career. There is a languages deficit in the UK and, from the work I do, I see abundant opportunities for graduates with language skills combined with business, marketing and technical skills knowledge and experience. I believe that learning languages is the key to widening opportunities in interesting and rewarding careers. Having languages and international experience on your CV will help you to stand out as more employers require these skills to develop their businesses internationally”.