Richard Hardie

Senior Adviser, UBS Ltd

As a lifelong languages enthusiast, Richard Hardie of UBS Ltd. is leading the Business and Languages Coalition, encouraging employers across sectors to speak up for languages.

Richard read History and French at Lincoln College, Oxford, and is a chartered accountant. In 1977 he joined the Corporate Finance Department of SG Warburg & Co. which ultimately became part of the global financial services firm, UBS Group. His last executive role was as Chief Operating Officer for UBS Investment Bank in EMEA. Richard became a non-executive Director in 2006 and Chair in 2011. He speaks fluent French, and passable Italian and German.

Richard is very active in supporting community and education initiatives, working with, amongst others, Business in the Community and Heart of the City, a programme funded by the City Corporation under which large companies mentor smaller ones in the establishment of their Corporate Social Responsibility programmes. Richard was chair of the Hackney Learning Trust which has in place a coherent and successful language strategy where children learn Spanish in key stages 2 and 3.

Learning other languages and exploring other worlds of culture is invaluable. Yet language skills seem to be becoming increasingly the preserve of the independent education sector. This can’t be right, for so many reasons, and not just for young people in the State system but also for UBS as it does not reflect the cultural and economic backgrounds of an increasing number of our clients.

I strongly back the Speak to the future campaign and am actively encouraging other businesses to do so. It is vital that we speak out in order to reverse the calamitous decline in language study of recent years.

Jon Benjamin

Director of the Diplomatic Academy, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Jon Benjamin has been the Director of the Diplomatic Academy since July 2017. From 2014 to 2017 he was the British High Commissioner in Ghana, and non-resident Ambassador to Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso.

Jon joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1986. He has previously served as Ambassador in Chile (2009 to 2014), Acting Consul General in New York (2005 to 2008), Washington (2005) and served in Ankara (1996 to 1999) and Jakarta (1988 to 1991). He has also held several positions in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office:

  • Head of Human Rights Policy Department (2002 to 2005)
  • Deputy Head of Drugs and International Crime Department (2000 to 2002)
  • Head of Zimbabwe Emergency Unit (2000)
  • Chief of Staff to FCO Minister responsible for EU and Latin America (1993 to 1995)
  • Head of Section for Central Asia and Caucasus (1992 to 1993)
  • Desk Officer for Burma and Laos (1986 to 1987)

Jon has a degree in Languages (German and Swedish) and International Relations, and a strong background in human rights.

We have 500 to 600 diplomats posted abroad in designated speaker slots. In these positions, operational fluency in the language spoken in the country is an indispensable requirement of the job, and not just ‘ a desirable but not essential’ add-on. Language fluency is an essential part of diplomatic trade-craft. Whether it’s presenting a case, negotiating an agreement, formulating policy, finding out about key issues arising, or defending and explaining UK positions to the media, those in designated speaker posts will require high levels of proficiency – C1 to C2 on the Common European Framework of Reference – to fulfill their roles. Diplomacy means both communicating effectively and being able to influence others by using their language and understanding their culture. The work of Speak to the Future is vital in restating the national need for a revival in the teaching of languages in the UK. You will always find the FCO firmly supportive of your efforts to promote the central importance and inherent value of learning languages.

Larry Lamb

Actor and author

Larry Lamb, known for his TV roles in Eastenders, Gavin and Stacey, New Tricks and for his appearance on I am Celebrity Get Me Out of Here in 2016, believes passionately in encouraging young people from all backgrounds to learn languages. Through school, evening classes and time spent overseas in Germany, France, Spain and Italy, he is a keen amateur linguist. Larry is a champion for languages and culture, and hopes to use his celebrity profile to make the government, media and public understand the importance of language learning for future generations. He believes that children should be given the opportunity to learn languages as soon as they start school, and be encouraged to continue throughout secondary school.

As a working-class lad from North London, learning French opened up the world for me. My teacher spoke about this intriguing place over the sea called ‘abroad’. She triggered something in me about learning other languages and finding out about other people. You can’t put a price on that. If ordinary children are discouraged from learning languages, it weakens our society. I’m delighted to back Speak to the future, and strongly recommend getting involved – working together we can really make a difference.

Steve Eadon

Project Manager, Arsenal Double Club

Steve manages the Arsenal Double Club – a project for schools that uses football to enthuse pupils about language learning, both in the classroom and on the pitch. The project forms part of Arsenal Football Club’s community outreach programme – Arsenal in the Community – and produces teaching resources in French, German and Spanish. Steve graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2010 with a degree in European Studies, specialising in German and Spanish language. As a pupil he was a reluctant language learner, but he was inspired by the multilingualism at his beloved Arsenal, citing former manager Arsène Wenger as his role model. Steve joined Arsenal shortly after graduating and has been a mainstay in the community team ever since. Having language skills has given Steve the opportunity to contribute to other areas of the club: he has represented Arsenal overseas on many occasions and has even supported Arsenal’s German and Spanish speaking players with their media commitments.

There’s nothing more rewarding than finding that trigger in a young person’s mind that unlocks their potential to enjoy learning a language. Football, for me, was my trigger, as a teenager. Without my “football idols” – Arsène Wenger, Thierry Henry and many more – I wouldn’t have had any “language idols”. What I didn’t realise at that age, though, was that having language skills not only opened doors to travel and communicate more, but also to empathise, collaborate and build relationships with people. I’m also convinced that the workout you put your brain through when learning a language sharpens your thinking skills, as well as your ability to adapt and innovate. Suddenly, language skills aren’t just a case of memorising vocabulary and grammar – and that’s what I try to transmit to the young people I meet in my role at Arsenal.

Charles Ebikeme

Charles Ebikeme currently works at the London School of Economics and Political Science on building evidence-informed policy strategies around African health systems. Charles’ previous research has focused on drug development for neglected tropical diseases, most notably African sleeping sickness. Prior to joining LSE, Charles has worked at the intersection of science and policy, focusing on mainstreaming health into sustainable development topics such as climate change and urbanisation. Charles provided scientific advice to UN processes, as well as convening scientists, around the biggest research challenges of the 21st century.

He has degrees in Biochemistry from University College London, a Masters in Infectious Diseases from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and a PhD from the University of Glasgow. Charles also worked as a researcher at the Université Bordeaux II in France.

Charles is a writer and commentator on science, policy, and global health issues. His work has appeared in The Guardian alongside other outlets. He tweets about science, policy, and global health at @cebikeme.

Why languages and intercultural understanding are important to individuals and societies…

Incongruously, we live in a world increasingly made up of barriers and walls, yet, at the same time, the possibility of making new connections across the globe is increasingly easier. Despite our fractured times, social mobility is possible and is welcomed. Careers can take us to previously unknown corners of our globe. This simple fact makes it all the more important that we not only look to make those connections, but we look to understand them. Language is one of the ways we derive meaning from global connections. My career in science offered me the opportunity to not only speak another language, but to use that skill in a career where I have to speak to researchers and decision makers on the common global challenges in science that affect us all.

Vicki Rowlands

Cabinet Office, UK Civil Service

Vicki Rowlands is currently Head of Engagement at the Cabinet Office. She is an experienced civil servant, having performed leadership roles across a number of government departments over fifteen years. She has worked as a senior policy advisor in HM Treasury, Home Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and Cabinet Office.

Vicki has wide experience of policy and strategy development, central government and departmental finance and spending control (including two Spending Reviews, and Strategic Defence & Security Reviews), risk management, contingency planning and crisis response.
She is experienced in working with Ministers and in support of Cabinet Committees including the National Security Council (NSC) and COBR.
She has also worked extensively with international partners both bilaterally and through multilateral organisations (including G7, G20, UN, NATO).

Vicki is a 2019 Franco-British Young leader, a programme which aims to deepen understanding and collaboration between France and the UK and create lasting bilateral dialogue at the highest level. She has a First-Class Degree in French and Russian from the University of Sheffield (2004), and continues to act as an alumni mentor for under-represented students.

Languages open up the world, improve your ability to communicate in your own tongue and in others, allow you to meet and connect with new colleagues and friends drawing on a depth of shared cultural understanding, enrich your insight into and understanding of the world’s history, literature and politics, and build lasting links between individuals and societies.

Oliver Tillard

Captain in 1st Battalion Scots Guards

Oliver is currently employed at the Defence Cultural Specialist Unit (DCSU) as a Cultural Advisor, specialising in the Middle East and North Africa. Originally from Sussex, he commissioned from The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2013, and undertook a number of Infantry roles, including a role as an instructor at the Infantry Training Centre.

In 2018 he was selected to work at DCSU and spent the first 6 months learning Arabic, including 3 months immersion training in Jordan. Now employed as a Cultural Advisor he uses his language capability, along with other cultural training, to provide a number of functions across Defence. He has recently returned from a 7 month deployment to Iraq, where he worked as a Regional and Cultural Advisor within the US Headquarters in Baghdad.

I knew that joining the Army would give me the opportunity to see much of the world. However, learning Arabic though the Army allowed me to appreciate the countries I travelled to, and people I met, more than I ever thought possible. Learning a language gives you a far greater understanding of places, people and situations, offering an unrivalled advantage and one of the most useful skills. Speak to the Future is something I am delighted to be involved with and hope that everyone gets the chance to experience the benefits of leaning a language that I did.

Eugenie de Naurois

Head of Corporate Affairs, City of London Corporation

I am Franco-British, completely bilingual with a dual nationality. I have grown up between France and the UK and benefited from both education systems at higher level. I have also worked in both countries and have, therefore, acquired an in-depth understanding of their cultural, business and political environments.

I have led teams in French, British and European organisations. This has provided me with the knowledge, skills and networks to adapt to, challenge, and draw out the positives from different cultures. My core expertise lies in communications, government affairs and politics (UK, FR, EU) and I have extensive knowledge in the following sectors: foodstuffs, automotive, oil & gas, education, public sector and financial services.

I have taught English language in France and French language in the UK to both schoolchildren and university students. I speak Spanish fluently and conversational Italian.

Outside of work I am a keen cook and cinema buff and enjoy spending time with my husband and two children.

I have had the privilege of benefiting from a multilingual upbringing and being exposed to an international environment from a young age. I quickly understood the benefits of speaking several languages and understanding the complexities of different traditions and cultures. Not only did it broaden my horizon, but it provided me with key skills, which would support my career: open-mindedness, empathy, cultural understanding. Being able to communicate in another person’s language helps build relationships, promotes collaboration, partnership and exchange of best practice between societies. It fosters a better understanding between cultures and perceptions. It helps individuals understand different approaches and styles of working and thinking. Ultimately it enables complementarity and finding untapped opportunities.