Column: Are you the one getting asked: “How is your French?”


Raise your hand if you are the one getting asked to prove his/her credentials, all the time. No matter what amount of clients you worked for, how impressive your résumé or website is, there is always a client who just doesn’t know you well enough or didn’t do his due diligence and asks you the same question over and over again. 

What choices?

In the past 20 years I worked for major broadcasters, did hundreds of business shows and yet every time I meet or connect with someone new they want to check if my French is really good enough. Maybe it’s because they don’t expect a colored girl in a white world to excel at something but having to answer this question over and over again (I do this job almost 20 years) I feel offend. I was raised in French. I never spoke another language for the first 4 years of my life.

Turning 4 I learned Flemish in kindergarten and English when living and studying in the UK. So yes, believe me, I know my French. For me being multilingual is natural and I know switching effortless to different languages is a gift. Moreover I have a broad interest in science, politics, finances or sustainability, without neglecting my female side and really be happy when I see a beautiful handmade couture gown. 

But this seems to make people wonder if I am good at something or worse… serious at anything. Have you ever asked yourself what you like or are fond of? You can’t be interested in everything but being raised with an international open mindset, turned to the world, I find it very challenging to be judged on what people think I should be or do. I find it even harder having to justify choices made in the past and or choices that are made for future endeavours. 

Do I like politics?

Yes, I read financial newspapers and get excited when I interview captains of industry. Yes, I read a lot of books and love to discuss what is happening in the world right now. And finally yes at the same time I hosted shows and business meetings and events for the past 16 years. Bear in mind that being a female working in the entertainment business  doesn’t make me illiterate or stupid. I still have other interests I want to explore. I gladly make a turn in my career today, thank you Covid. And I am evolving from presenter to expert and consultant and this makes me happy and excited. But doing what I love is more about a personal growing mindset change than anything else.  

The future is non linear

I hope the world is at a crossroad of understanding that linear careers are over and the workforce needs to be as flexible as possible to tackle the situations, opportunities and challenges that come our way. Being employed for 45 years in the same company, doing a whole career exactly the same thing every single day is not the right path anymore. Today we need to navigate very rough seas and adjust the sails multiple times. 

Hi, this is me and yes I am good enough

I was born a female and I am physically capable of bearing children. But I am most of all a human being curious by nature. Since the day I was born I was never destined to be only one thing. I will be a very different person the day I leave my earthly state than when I was born. And that is normal. For those in the back, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Every professional once started as an amateur. People change, study and grow. Always keep the little voices in the head small and do the daily practice. It will turn you from pupil into master. So next time someone asks if you master your French or any other question relating to your skills, reply with a smile ‘Yes I do, do you?’

This article has been written by @VALERIE THYS

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