Andrei Paddubski: “I want to see support of the Belarusian language not as sponsorship but as cooperation”
From September to January 2014, the Association of European Businesses held classes of business Belarusian for its members and other Belarusian and foreign companies. Andrei Paddubski, the head of the international transportation and logistics group of companies “Fabeas”, was a guest speaker in one of the classes and shared his experience of using the Belarusian languagein business and supporting Belarusian public initiatives.
Onthe way to speaking Belarusian
Since childhood, I spoke Russian, went to the Russian speaking school and university like everybody else. Since my childhood I was interested in history – first Russian, then Belarusian. I entered the Belarusian language path 4-5 years ago. It all started by accident: I ordered Belarusian books from the online store Prastora.by, and its head Ales Kvitkevich delivered my order. We began to talk, and the talk stretched for two and a half hours. Then we started our cooperation: Fabeas helped Prastora.by and we launched joint projects to publish Belarusian books and make audiobooks, movies, etc.
About the Belarusian language in business
We give a discount for those who do paperwork in Belarusian when working with us. We have contracts signed both in Russian and Belarusian, but to be honest with you, 98% of the clients choose Russian. They say they do not need a discount of 5%, as the text of the document is not clear...
As for the staff, speaking Belarusian is not the criterion by which we hire people. We look for efficiency and effectiveness, but fluent Belarusian is an advantage.
About the "secret weapon" in negotiations
It all started during business negotiations with the Lithuanians: they spoke Russian with us, but Lithuanian with each other. And we didn’t understand what they were saying in Lithuanian. We felt uncomfortable, so we decided to "take revenge" and started speaking Belarusian among us in negotiations. At first it was like a joke, but then it turned out that they did not understand a word!
Later, I asked my friends in Lithuania whether they really do not understand Belarusian. It turned out that Russian for them is a foreign language, so the words "what" or “run”, which are similar in Russian and Belarusian, sound completely different for them.
About the languagein the family
At home, I speak Russian. I tried to do the days of Belarusian with my sons, but in my opinion it should not be forced – my sons have to come to this. For example, when we play spies with my youngest, we speak Belarusian as the language of the spies. We watch movies and cartoons dubbed in Belarusian. We do it always together: if my son does not understand some words, then it is hard to understand the story and he loses his interest.
About social initiatives
We created the project Concerned Belarusians, which brings together businessmen interested in supporting the Belarusian language and culture with project proponents who need help. We have a database of businessmen who are interested in receiving such offers and we send them information on the projects. If someone from the business responds, we arrange a bilateral meeting between those who will do this project and those who would like to invest in it. Once a bilateral agreement on cooperation is signed, we believe that Concerned Belarusians did a good job. We don’t deal with money: We are not a fund and our main goalis to bring people together.
Another project that I have in mind is Dream Sail, to make Belarusian interesting for children.
On self-sufficiency of the projects
I do not want to see the support of Belarusian as sponsorship and allocation of money. Money can be given like this only for treatment of children or education, but here everybody is healthy and capable to figure out how to bring balance in the current circumstances.
Unfortunately, many are accustomed to earning money through sponsorship and grants. But nothing can exist on the long-term artificial conditions. And any money is artificial conditions. Therefore it is necessary to seek cooperation, not just to transfer the money. In addition, the projects in cooperation remain independent from investors.
Clearly, this is a difficult path, but one should follow it. So far, artists who should make suggestions are not mentally prepared. And neither are businessmen who do not see the proposals, but only hear "give us money!" We all have allergy on it. One should start with himself, with small steps.
The AEB starts classes of business Belarusian for the second time. Representatives of commercial companies will be able to develop their skills of oral and written business communication in Belarusian for business negotiations, meetings, presentations, interviews, etc.