Wednesday, 9 January 2008

I am an Art Importer from Morocco

The only sentence I can say clearly and with complete confidence in French is "I am an art importer from Morocco".

When I was Chief Information Officer of Egg plc, the online bank, I was told that it would be good if I could introduce myself to my Egg France technology team in French, even if I only knew a few words. So, naturally I stood up in front of my hundred strong team in Paris and declared with complete confidence "I am an art importer from Morocco". Complete confusion resulted (although I did manage to shift a couple of paintings and a broken vase...)

There are two problems with this.

1) I am not an art importer
2) I am not from Morocco

Actually there is a third problem and that is that in order to build Garlik in to a really big business, I need to go "international" and it turns out that not everyone speaks English in "international".

This afternoon I did a long telephone interview with Les Echo, one of France's leading daily papers. I resisted the temptation to sell Moroccan art but despite the fact that the journo spoke excellent English, I did feel that I would have done a much better job of representing the company if I spoke French. And in a few weeks time I am going over to accept an award on Garlik's behalf and I will be doing a presentation in English to a largly French business and technology audience. Yikes! Perhaps its time to bite the bullet and learn a language.

But I've tried that before. About 20 years ago I decided it would be really useful to be able to speak Japanese. Don't ask why. I found a book that stated quite clearly that if I just followed a few simple instructions I would be fluent within 10 days. They lied. Months later I could only say two things. "Ministry of Education". And "toothpaste". To this very day I have never had cause to call upon this rare ability.

And anyway, what language should I learn? This year we are looking at expanding in to countries ranging from India to China to Brazil. I explained to my wife that for work purposes I needed to live on the beaches of Rio for a few months to learn the language and really absorb the culture and that was a sacrifice I was willing to make for the company. Following an immediate strategy review with her, it turns out that Brazil is not quite as high up on the agenda as I had thought !

No, I fear that I am destined to roam around the world "S P E A K I N G V E R Y C L E A R L Y" to everyone I meet. And if while I am at it I get the opportunity to flog them some Moroccan art, well, why not?

1 comment:

Regia said...

What about collect Brazilian art?