The Bicultural Podcast

"It was always my dream to somehow bring languages into my job" | Interview with Kirsty Major

March 15, 2021 Janina Neumann, Kirsty Major Season 2 Episode 2
The Bicultural Podcast
"It was always my dream to somehow bring languages into my job" | Interview with Kirsty Major
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers
In the second episode of season 2, Janina Neumann interviews Kirsty Major, founder of EwK Services and English with Kirsty.

This episode will give insight into

  • Differences between British and German audiences
  • Experiences of learning languages
  • The importance of accessibility in business

Read the podcast transcript here: transcripts.thebiculturalpodcast.com

If you enjoyed this episode, please don't forget to review, subscribe and share with others :).

www.thebiculturalpodcast.com

Janina Neumann (00:00):
Welcome to The Bicultural Podcast. The Bicultural Podcast celebrates bicultural individuals and gives insight into cultural differences, to help you improve business relationships. The podcast is presented by myself, Janina Neumann, a bilingual creative, social entrepreneur, and business owner.

Janina Neumann (00:24):
Welcome to The Bicultural Podcast. I'm delighted to be joined by Kirsty Major, founder of EwK Services and English with Kirsty. Hi Kirsty, how are you?

Kirsty Major (00:36):
I am fine thanks. Great to be here.

Janina Neumann (00:39):
I'm so pleased to have you on my podcast. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Kirsty Major (00:45):
Okay. Well, I'm Kirsty. I have the two businesses, but before that, I've always had a real interest in languages and other cultures. When I was at school, languages were my favourite thing. I started with French, but unfortunately, I've forgotten most of my French and then went on to learn German, and having those skills and that interest in language, then enabled me to meet lots of interesting people. And later it was always my dream to somehow bring languages into my job. And it didn't work out very well at the beginning because I was basically told at school, if you like languages, you have to be a translator or an interpreter, and that's fine if you want to do that, but I didn't.

Kirsty Major (01:23):
And it took me a while to work out how to really bring this interest into my job. But fortunately, now I have, so I have the best of both worlds. I get to do something I enjoy, and it's also my work.

Janina Neumann (01:35):
That's really good. Yeah, and it's just the education about how you can use languages in your future job role. I think that's what's also missing, you know, when we look at how many people are studying languages, I think it's not very clear about how you can actually utilise them.

Kirsty Major (01:54):
Yeah, I think that's maybe the point why or one of the reasons why there's such a low take-up because certainly when I was at school, it was never seen as, "Oh, you need this because it will help you in your career later in life". It was kind of something you had to do. And then at our school, you had to take at least one, I took two, but I don't think people ever saw it as part of their future in the way that I did. But even though I did, I didn't really understand how to make that work until quite a few years later, because there were some jobs in sales that I saw, but I didn't really want to work in sales either. So I think if we could help people to understand how languages can be useful and not just a fun thing to do for a holiday or for a hobby, then I think perhaps that the take-up of other languages would be higher.

Janina Neumann (02:40):
Certainly. And tell us a little bit more about the services that you offer and the people that you meet and help through your businesses.

Kirsty Major (02:51):
Okay. I became self-employed in 2012 and I started with English with Kirsty, which is basically an English language teaching service for adults. So I work with adults, mainly professionals who need to use English at work, mainly from other parts of Europe. I focus on the German-speaking countries, so Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, because I also speak German and it's just easier in some ways, particularly if I have beginners or if people want to talk to me about their goals or language concerns and don't want to do that in English, so we can do it in German too. But essentially I work across Europe offering language services, either courses, I write specific courses for individuals, focused on what people want to learn. And after a while people started asking me about other services and my page was getting quite cluttered. So I decided to split some of the services off into another business, which is EwK Services. So that's where I offer proofreading, translation German to English. I've recently started offering accessibility services. So helping people to make their businesses more accessible to people with a visual impairment. It's basically all focused around the idea of good communication and that might take different forms. That's written communication or delivering presentations or making your websites accessible.

Janina Neumann (04:22):
Yeah, and I'm loving being on your course as well. For the accessibility course, I've learnt so much as well.

Kirsty Major (04:30):
Oh fantastic.

Janina Neumann (04:30):
And I think it translates into communicating effectively across different cultures, because also, you know, certain audiences might use different social media platforms. And it's just been really interesting to learn about how accessible these social media platforms are actually.

Kirsty Major (04:52):
Yeah or aren't. But yeah, there's a lot we can do to as an individual to make posts a bit more accessible or a bit more inclusive.

Janina Neumann (05:04):
Definitely. So tell us a little bit more about some of the differences that you've noticed between British and German audiences.

Kirsty Major (05:17):
Actually, when I had been teaching for a couple of years, I got some of my German speakers, some of them were friends, some of them were customers, to answer some questions because I was interested in this as well. So I knew I'd noticed, but I was really keen to see what they'd noticed too. So a lot of them, I think all of them had either lived for some time or were living now in the UK. So they came here and they were talking about this kind of British politeness, this where people don't actually say what they mean. And I thought this was just a stereotype, a myth because I don't really do that. But when I was looking at the answers to the questions, I'd asked them a few people had come across this. Some of them said it was a good thing because they said, "Oh, you know, back in my old company, people would just say, this is a rubbish idea or it's terrible, but here people find something good to say about it first and then introduce the criticism".

Kirsty Major (06:16):
So for him, that was quite a good thing. But for other people, I've found that they didn't really know where they stood sometimes because people would say things like, "Oh, I've just got a few small amendments" when really, they wanted to rewrite the whole document, but they didn't want to say that. Or, you know, "Oh, that's interesting" whereas that can mean anything from, "Yeah, that's really interesting" to, "Oh yeah. Okay. Yeah, let's not do that. That's not really relevant". And so trying to understand what people actually mean here is a bit harder when people don't always say what they mean. And I noticed less of that with my German-speaking customers and friends, generally, people have a more direct communication style and I actually really liked that because, I guess, it's more in line with my own side, so it's easier to communicate in that way. But it's definitely something for people from the UK to get used to, or for people moving from say Germany to the UK to be aware that their communication style may be a bit more direct.

Janina Neumann (07:17):
Yeah, certainly. And also having that conversation sometimes with my British clients it would be so much easier if they just told me what they would like changing.

Kirsty Major (07:28):
Yeah.

Janina Neumann (07:35):
You know, it also comes down to making things a bit more efficient. But then also, you know, I understand the approach of being polite and I do really like that, you know, that you're not basically making it personal. Sometimes it comes across like you're criticising a person whereas if you make it a bit more polite and indirect at first, you know, it makes it obvious that it's just an amendment. So I think that's been really interesting. But yeah, I can definitely relate to the differences and I also spot it on emails, you know, like a German client. It's very obvious what needs to be amended, but there's also a real warmth behind that because you understand what languages and what greetings they'll use. And I just find it really interesting, someone that I know is German, adapting kind of to the British way of life, you know, by saying, "I hope you're well". And you know, it's a real nice mix of cultures and how they communicate.

Kirsty Major (08:47):
But also when communication doesn't happen, but somebody has taken a message that wasn't intended. I remember, I was working with somebody from Germany and she was working in an international customer service role and she regularly had something to do with this English-speaking person and they never put any greetings at the end of the email. And she was saying, "I wonder what I did to annoy them or upset them?" They just put their name or just put her name at the top of the email. I don't do that because I do think it looks a bit impolite and I do work with a lot of people, who would find that a bit offensive, but I've also seen that as people just doing that in the UK and not thinking anything about it, the lack of greeting or, you know, that's just efficient for them, whereas it could leave other people wondering what they did wrong.

Janina Neumann (09:38):
Yes, definitely, especially if someone fluctuates between being really formal to very informal, I think that definitely causes some confusion as well.

Kirsty Major (09:48):
And finding the right way of speaking to people, like with me coming from an English-speaking background, we don't have various forms of addressing people, various forms of 'you', and generally I just let my customers decide. I'll start off being formal, if they don't want to that's cool, then I don't have to remember to be formal, it's fine. So I kind of let it be led by them, but even within the German-speaking world, I've noticed that some countries or people from some countries tend to stick with the more formal vocabulary a bit longer than others. So, yeah, it's not just one language, one behaviour, there are regional differences as well.

Janina Neumann (10:30):
Yeah, definitely. I mean, just from my own experiences, it causes me anxiety sometimes if they know that I live in England and then we go and talk German, I'm thinking, okay, we've kind of like met in an English-speaking setting and then now we're speaking German, which is fine, but how formal would you like to be?

Kirsty Major (10:56):
Yeah.

Janina Neumann (10:56):
I usually approach it, you know, it's better to be formal, and then they can either ask for your permission to be less formal or they just, you know, become less formal. And then you see that as a green light or, you know, it's kind of their way of saying it's okay to speak a little bit more informally. I also think it's interesting about kind of the way you approach like meetings in Germany about the general chitchat that might go on at the beginning of the meeting sometimes isn't there. So you might feel like really disconnected sometimes to your German counterpart, but actually, it's kind of a respect that they respect your time as well.

Kirsty Major (11:47):
Yeah, and I've certainly been in meetings in the UK where I've started doing emails or just like the general chatter at the beginning just got a bit much, and I'm thinking, I could be doing something else. Not if I'm involved, but yeah, I do like that. I think a lot of the work that I do is one to one. So when I start meetings, there is a general, "How are you? How was your weekend?" kind of thing, and people do tend to open up a little bit more than they would in perhaps a setting with 10, 20 people. So I kind of get the best of both with what I do because it is more personal than being in a class of say 30 other learners because we can look at the individual on what they want a bit more. But yeah, we do get down to business as well. And I can get through quite a lot in a short space of time. And I like that too, because it's appreciating my time, but also appreciating theirs, you know, we can both benefit from that.

Janina Neumann (12:45):
Yes, definitely. What kind of things have you found are common with people that want to learn English?

Kirsty Major (12:57):
Most of the people that I speak with say that their English isn't very good when it's actually a lot better than they think it is, but there seems to be like a big expectation now for people to use English at work. So maybe somebody applied for a job and said that they were perfectly happy to do something, but there was no need for them to, and then it changed and became more and more, but sometimes meetings will be in English or you would have to communicate in English with more people. So I think a lot of people struggle with confidence because they don't have the opportunity to do it at other times apart from when it's really important.

Janina Neumann (13:31):
Yeah.

Kirsty Major (13:31):
So I think that's part of what I can provide with English with Kirsty. You know, we set up meetings and I give people the opportunity to practice in a setting that isn't going to make or break their career because, you know, I don't even work with them, it's fine. So yes, I can give feedback and tips and help with pronunciation or vocabulary or all these things, but it's also just having that opportunity to use a language, and I know for myself because I used to be so scared about using German. Every time I had to make a call, I'd rather write five emails then make one short call because I hated it so much. The only way I really got over that was to find situations where it wasn't so important, you know, just chatting with a friend over coffee or online because the online world has opened up so much. And it's only really with doing that I began to get over my fear and learned to be myself in the other language because I think that was a really big thing that monolinguists maybe don't understand how it feels to learn to be yourself in another language with all your quirks and humour and personality and responses, the way you deal with even negative situations. When I went to Germany and had to deal with somebody being a bit impolite, it was different for me because normally people don't speak to me like that because they don't think I'm shy. Whereas this guy thought that because I was struggling to be myself in German, that I was very timid and very shy and it was kind of okay to be disrespectful. So, yeah, it's a learning curve, and the only way we really learned to be ourselves is to practice again and again, in situations that maybe aren't as important.

Janina Neumann (15:15):
Yeah, I can definitely relate to being yourself. More came to light really when I started to learn Farsi because, you know, I moved here to the UK quite young, so kind of grew up bilingual. So I did feel like I could quite quickly be myself in both languages, but learning Farsi as an adult learner, it's really hard to be yourself because you also want to make sure that you're not saying anything that might come across the wrong way. I just always remember kind of the feedback initially that I got from my partner, when I was talking Farsi, I would say, "How was your day?" You know, culturally, apparently, it's not that appropriate to go into detail about your day, even though they keep asking, "So what's up?". So I take that as, "Oh, you want to know more". But yeah, it's about also changing the subject perhaps rather than keep talking about that specific subject.

Kirsty Major (16:23):
Yeah and I guess as an adult, you don't want to feel like a child, like you have opinions. You can probably give reasons for them, examples for them, but if you're beginning to learn a language like my Turkish is not as good as my German, my understanding is kind of okay, but my spoken Turkish is not as good as what I can understand. And if I can listen to people and understand what they're saying, but then if they say to me, "What do you think about that?", "I think it's a good idea", "I think it's a bad idea". You know, like I feel like a child and no adult, especially if you're reasonably articulate in your own or other languages wants to feel like a child, which is why I think it's so good for people to learn languages early. But at the same time, it's never too late. You just have to be patient with yourself, be kind to yourself, and get past these feelings of inadequacy because you know, it does get better.

Janina Neumann (17:21):
Yeah, it definitely does get better, and also it opens up a whole different opportunity. Like you say, you know, you get to actually talk to people in their native language, so you might get a better understanding of who they are because their knowledge, for example, of English might not be as good as your knowledge of German, perhaps. So actually you get to know them a little bit better by understanding and being speaking another language.

Kirsty Major (17:50):
Yeah, one of my first friends I made in Germany was related to one of my English friends. And they came for a holiday and because my German was still quite basic then because I was only at school, but it was more advanced than everybody else around me at that time. So I went to visit them and I joined this kind of holiday that was going on. And one of the people there hadn't really learned a lot of English at school and she basically said that she didn't speak English. So I knew that my German was better than her English, even though it wasn't pretty good at that time. And we spent time together, we had breakfast together and I really felt that I got to know her.

Kirsty Major (18:37):
She was patient with me because she knew that she couldn't do any better in English. And she was generally a nice person, but that really helped for me to get to know her just this time that we spent together. And I think also spending time in another country is good. When I think back to my first school exchange, I was really fortunate. I spent two weeks with a German family, and it was a really nice German family because I know like the experience can depend a lot on whether you fit in well with the family that you're with and how much they're engaged in into making it a good experience for you. But this family was really good and they tried to engage me in conversation. They did things like they went to the library and got some books for me before I came and made some music for me to take back like German music.

Kirsty Major (19:35):
It was really nice, but I think one of the things I learned was the difference between what we maybe learn it at school about certain events in German history, and then what people who lived in Germany thought about them and it wasn't the, you know, polished, sanitised version. But it was real lived experience and, you know, different people had different complaints about the way the, I don't know, the local government or, you know, like it helped me to think, okay, this is people's real lives, not just something from a textbook. And I think that was interesting for me to see some of the differences, to see some of the things that were completely normal. Like how much cake do we eat? You know, like it's time for coffee and cake again. I think that was because they had a guest and, you know, they were being friendly with us.

Kirsty Major (20:25):
That was just funny, but it amused me about the cake, but I also thought it was really nice people sitting together, drinking coffee and talking and something that we don't necessarily do as much here. And just to make those distinctions. Like breakfast as well, like everybody made the time to eat together. And I know that doesn't happen in every German household. I think, you know, the family were doing that because they had a guest or maybe they did do it, but it's just thinking we would never do that in our family. It was usually just a cup of coffee and then out the door or some fruit or something. So these different like rituals, that was quite nice to get to know them and to find out about them through lived experience rather than just reading about it in a book.

Janina Neumann (21:10):
Yeah, I think that's so beautiful how you've put that because understanding history is really important and where these kind of rituals come from. But also I think what's interesting, particularly with Germany, is kind of the openness to actually speak about the past, which I think really helps others to find out more about Germany. And also, you know, when you mentioned the 'Kaffee und Kuchen', so eating cake and drinking coffee, I think it's really nice to actually put some context behind what you learn, but also kind of understand how the German lifestyle might be different. So that's why certain things are approached in a different way to the UK.

Kirsty Major (22:00):
Yeah, and I think it's also a way to kind of meet new people, for me, like different people came and I think it was a more relaxed way to talk to them. And also I love the coffee, it's where I got my love of proper coffee. So that was good, but yeah, we were talking about history. We were looking at reunification at that time. So we were reading a book about it, reading texts, but then when I started talking to people on the exchange programme, it was really interesting that they brought up things that hadn't been covered. And I think that's always good because you can, even with materials that try to be balanced, you can fall into stereotypes and, you know, all German people think or all English people think, and you know, that's not helpful, but actually talking to the real people helps you to learn what they think.

Kirsty Major (23:00):
And I think that's something that we maybe don't do enough at schools because not every school has an exchange now. Okay, there were some problems. Some people didn't hit it off quite as well. I'm not saying that everybody's going to have as good an experience as mine, but for me, we really made a point of speaking German in Germany and English in England. I think that really helped us both to get a better experience because it would have been easy to keep falling back into English because generally, the German students had a better level. It was my favourite subject. So I did a lot of kind of extra stuff. So I was able to improve my level. But I think when you want to learn about another country or culture, the temptation is to use the language, which is easiest for conversation.

Kirsty Major (23:49):
But if that's not the language that you want to learn, then you can miss out. So sometimes you have to be quite strict. Like I've got a Turkish exchange friend and we meet twice a week. But the first time we speak English and the second time we speak Turkish and that's the rule. We don't keep speaking English because it's easier. I think sometimes you just have to push us up a bit harder if you really want to learn about the other language or about another culture, because often the things you talk about are shaped by our experience or, you know, things that we find a bit unusual if we're living in another country, or it's interesting to look at why that is because why our own experience is so much different from what we're experiencing.

Janina Neumann (24:32):
Yes, definitely. So tell us a little bit more about learning Turkish. Like what things have you learned through learning the language about the culture, for example?

Kirsty Major (24:45):
I've learned that the grammar is quite different and you have to keep remembering it's like building a tower with children's bricks. Like you need this part and then you need this part and then you need this part and only then is it correct. If you've forgotten something isn't right. One of the harder things with German is, you know, knowing the gender of all the nouns, and you don't have that in Turkish. You don't have to learn that, which is nice. You know, a thing is a thing like it is in English. But also like in German that he and she pronouns at the same. So, it's not as important. And it was always quite funny when you start learning about family, like the different words and the level of detail that you can go into, like there's a different word for your maternal grandma to your paternal grandma because in English and German, it's used your grandma. But there all these different words, whether it's somebody, you know, the brother of this person, you know, it gets into how is the family structure built. Because I guess it seems more important, whereas, you know, for us, your aunt is your aunt and the same in German. You don't know whether that's your father's aunty, your mother's aunty, just your aunt. But I think that's interesting that like the emphasis on the family and the family structure, but of course it means there is more vocabulary to learn.

Janina Neumann (26:24):
Yes. They also have that in Farsi I've noticed. But it makes it a bit clearer about who you're talking about.

Kirsty Major (26:31):
Yeah.

Janina Neumann (26:31):
Because sometimes if you tell stories and then they have to say, you know, my mum's mum, you know, it makes it more difficult, especially if it goes on to great-grandma and so on.

Kirsty Major (26:43):
Yeah.

Janina Neumann (26:43):
It's really exciting that you that you're learning different languages even now, and to have that commitment with practicing the language as well. That's really good.

Kirsty Major (26:59):
Yeah. I mean, I do believe that if you want to teach, it's also important to be learning something too. And for me, it's not something I do because I'm a language teacher. I originally started wanting to learn German and then Turkish, I have some Turkish friends, but I've made more since I started learning. I think it's good for you. It's good for the brain, but it also introduces you to so much, because like with one of my Turkish friends, when I lived in London, we went to Turkish restaurant and she introduced me to some of her favourite dishes. And you can learn so much about a culture by food as well. And, you know, trying new food is also a fun thing to do, but you know, it's really nice to not just to go there because I wouldn't have necessarily known at the beginning what the dishes were, what would be good to have together, but going there with somebody who really wanted to kind of show this food off to you or tell you about the food was a really nice way to learn a bit more as well about food and I think also when you're having food with somebody, unless you really don't like them, I guess it's also a way to kind of relax and get to know them, it doesn't feel like a business meeting, it's a fun thing to do to have lunch with somebody, so that makes it a bit more relaxed. Apart from when my friend told me that she wasn't going to order anything, and I had to do all the ordering for both of us. That was quite scary. But the overall experience was good.

Janina Neumann (28:29):
That's brilliant. Yeah, and food does relax you, and you also kind of understand a little bit more about the country and like what food is available. And then you start to picture in your mind the kind of the landscape that people live in and kind of the experiences that they have. And I think that's really nice.

Kirsty Major (28:51):
And I love that too because I thought I worked predominantly with German speakers and that's true, but not all of the people I work with originally came from Germany. So at the moment, I've got somebody who was from Russia. I've got some from Bulgaria, a couple of Turkish people. So not languages that I speak, but when we have conversations, I learn a bit about differences in culture, in the way things are done, or celebrations that we don't have here. It's interesting to learn about them. So yeah, obviously I'm providing a service and teaching language, but for me, it's really interesting to you too, to find out about these different approaches to things or different festivals, different dishes, you know, all that kind of thing is quite interesting for me too.

Janina Neumann (29:47):
Yeah, definitely. And it makes you realise that you live amongst other cultures on this world, and it's really nice to have that one-to-one experience about their perception of that culture. And I just think it's a really good tool to bond over as well.

Kirsty Major (30:05):
Yeah is was one of the things I really loved about living in London. I don't live there now, but when I did, in our team, we had people from lots of different cultures. When you went out for dinner, there were so many options in terms of restaurants. I mean, London, isn't somewhere I'd want to live now, there were just so many people. I did find that a bit much after a while, but I love the diversity there where you can, you know, you can find out about so many different cultures just by going for dinner with your team or something. It was really cool.

Janina Neumann (30:40):
That's really nice. So if people love listening to you and would like to connect with you and find out more about how they can work with you, how would they do that?

Kirsty Major (30:52):
Well, if they love listening, I do have a podcast and I know you've already been on my podcast. So come and listen to Janina's interview, if you want to do that. The podcast is called 'English with Kirsty' because I don't really want to change the name, but it's not just about learning English. We talk about a lot of things like language and communication, good communication, how to communicate effectively in different situations. So it's not just a podcast for learning English. But it's been going for several years now. So I don't really want it to change the name. So it's called 'English with Kirsty'. But other than that, you can visit me on either of my websites, which is EnglishWithKirsty.com or EWKservices.com. Kirsty is spelled K I R S T Y. So it's not Christie. Or you can find me on LinkedIn or XING or Twitter is @EnglishWithK. So I'm all over the place really, there are lots of ways to contact me.

Janina Neumann (31:52):
That's fantastic. Would you like to tell us more about your accessibility service and why it's important for businesses?

Kirsty Major (32:01):
Yeah, sure. So this is something that's relatively new, although I've been doing it for some time. But last year I decided to make a course, and I also offer some webinars, some one-off webinars, because I have a direct interest in this type of accessibility because I'm visually impaired myself. And I know all the frustrations about things not being accessible when I can't buy things because websites have been designed inaccessibly or people have forgotten to label things like buttons or images or when I struggled to find out what's going on in a social media post because it's been written inaccessibly. So I when I joined a couple of groups for business owners, I started talking about all my other stuff that I do, and the questions that kept coming, kept coming back to my accessibility knowledge and work, because people were generally interested in what they could do to make it a better experience.

Kirsty Major (33:03):
So I answered the questions and I helped out where I could, but then I realised that some of the things that I was saying, what were the same. So, it would make more sense to put something together so that people could look at it themselves. I've got a self-paced course that people can go through, but we also have a Facebook group with that. So if anyone has any questions, they can ask there. Or I do some webinars because I think that people are generally not trying to be difficult or inaccessible a lot of the time people just have a thought that maybe something they're doing is making it harder for other people to use their products or services, and if they don't know where that is, then they can't fix it. So I'm interested in working with people who want to be a bit more inclusive, particularly for visually impaired customers, because that's what I know about.

Kirsty Major (33:54):
And also like sometimes the things that I suggest that people do actually end up helping a lot more people as well, you know, something that's good for one group ends up helping other groups. So that's always a good thing. So yeah, I have the webinars and the self-paced course, and then if anybody specifically wants one-to-one help and I do have a consultancy service as well. So if you're interested in any of that sits on EWK Services, you can have a look there's a bit more information there, or I can answer any questions that people have.

Janina Neumann (34:29):
That's brilliant. Yeah, I'm finding the accessibility course so useful. And also what I find really interesting is to reflect on, you know, for example, if you have an online shop, it's a better platform for people who need that extra bit of help than perhaps going into a shop, because actually if you label your imagery correctly, you can actually tell that person what colour it is, what shape it is. And sometimes we just don't go in enough detail. Like I remember my conversation with you when I sent you my headshot and you said, "That's fantastic, but what kind of headshot? Is it like formal? Is it like in the garden?", and I've never really thought about that because of my own perception of that photo, and of course, it makes a lot more sense to describe it. It's black and white, it's done in a studio environment, and I have a blazer on, you know, that's actually a lot more friendly. And I think when you think about image descriptions now, I think about, you know, actually as if I was writing a book, you know, being that descriptive, you bring the whole story to life, whether you need it or not. But even if you download an image, for example, you know, it's a lot easier, if it's nicely described or if it's an attachment to an email.

Kirsty Major (36:02):
Yeah, it helps people to paint that picture in their head and for somebody that can't see the image, it may make the difference between them buying it and them not buying it. You know, like I love online shopping, not just because of the current situation with a lot of shops being closed at the moment, but I've always been interested in online shopping. I can go to the shops. I do sometimes with my friends, but if I want to do something myself, then it's so much easier. I can browse shops, you know, I can do searches in online shops for things and then find out what there is because sometimes you don't really know what you're looking for. You just want to see what's there, and that's a lot harder for me in a physical shop. I have to get somebody to describe things, but even then that they're making a decision about what they're going to describe because it's unreasonable to describe every single thing in the shop. So online there's a lot of potential there if it's done well and that's what I'm trying to help people to do.

Janina Neumann (36:59):
No, that's brilliant, and it makes everything a lot more inclusive. And I also think, you know, for any designers out there, or perhaps also web designers, when you think about, you know, the customer journey or the customer experience, it's actually about also thinking about these accessibility points, not just about what the visually sighted customer would want, and what's obvious. I remember you saying also about, you know, colour coding certain buttons, but not describing what they do, and that could be such a hurdle for someone to overcome.

Kirsty Major (37:39):
Or information. Like if you only highlight something in a certain colour when it's wrong, like, you know, you have to fix the fields that are marked in red. Well, that's great, but I don't know which they are. So I then have to go back and try and work out. Is there anything wrong with any of these fields? Whereas if that were done in a different way, it would be a really quick process, and sometimes people just haven't got that much time. If I can't figure out after a couple of attempts, I might just say, "Well, I'm going to find someone who has a better website than this. I'm going to not make this purchase". And I'm almost there, you know, it's much, much harder to get people to come to the site and start purchasing things than somebody who's almost at the checkout, and then something goes wrong where they didn't complete the purchase. It's much easier to fix that, then to invest a load in going to get more customers. If you've got somebody who's almost purchased something from you, you're almost there.

Janina Neumann (38:36):
Certainly, so true. I've really enjoyed our conversation today, Kirsty.

Kirsty Major (38:40):
Yeah.

Janina Neumann (38:40):
Thank you very much for your time, and it's been so great to hear about your experiences of different cultures and also about being more accessible in business. They're really great values that I can relate to.

Kirsty Major (38:57):
So it's always fun chatting to you.

Janina Neumann (39:01):
Lovely. Thank you very much, Kirsty. Bye-bye.

Kirsty Major (39:04):
Bye.

Janina Neumann (39:08):
So, I hope you've enjoyed this episode. Please don't forget to subscribe to The Bicultural Podcast. Thank you for listening, and bis bald.


Welcome to The Bicultural Podcast
Differences between British and German audiences
Experiences of learning languages
The importance of accessibility in business
Thank you for listening