Interview: Dr Pierre Bocquillon

Dr Pierre Bocquillon


Please summarise your role at the university?

I am a university lecturer in EU Politics and Policy at the University of East Anglia. I work more specifically on European contemporary politics and the politics of energy and climate change.

What was your pathway into your current role? What did you study at university?

My initial training was in France, in Geography and Political Science, followed by a PhD in Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge. After my PhD, I worked at the same university in the interdisciplinary Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance (C-EENRG) before taking my Lectureship position at the University of East Anglia.

Do you speak German? Have you used your German skills or do you use them in your professional life?

I speak some basic German that I’ve learned in school. Unfortunately, I haven’t practised for a long time. I didn’t get a chance to directly use German in my working environment and therefore I have forgotten most of it. However, in my opinion it is very useful to know a second language, in my case particularly German since my work focuses on European issues. Germany is a crucial country in the European Union, which is well represented in EU institutions as well as on the global political scene. It is also an essential player in the specific field that I am studying, energy and climate change. Germany is playing a key role in the energy debate and for my research it would be very useful if I were fluent in German. For instance, I could study parliamentary debates without the need for translation.

What is your role in the upcoming German A-level conference here at UEA?

I’ve been invited to speak at the German conference and I thought it would be appropriate give a talk about what I know best, which is the European Union and the role Germany plays within it. It seems to be a very interesting topic for students to engage with since, for instance, the monetary union has been very much shaped and influenced by Germany. In addition I intend to discuss the extent to which Germany has become dominant – which some might consider too important – in the European setting. I would like to show students how relevant the study of politics is with regards to Germany.

Do you think we should promote languages in the UK and how can we do this best?

I come from a country (France) where language teaching in school is insufficient and often French nationals tend not to be very comfortable speaking foreign languages. Yet I believe that foreign languages in the UK are even more neglected since English is the dominant language across the globe. Speaking foreign languages is extremely important in terms of personal and cultural development and crucial for one’s professional success not only in an EU setting but globally. Being able to engage with people from different countries and backgrounds is increasingly becoming a crucial skill and of course in the EU it is necessary to speak another language, apart from English. When you go Brussels you have people who speak at least two languages, and in many cases three or more. In European and international settings, such as international organisations but also more generally in a business environment (for instance for trade) speaking another language gives an advantage vis-à-vis other candidates.

With regards to the second question I believe children need to start learning languages from an early age. The earlier they start the easier it will be for them to pick up a new language. Language learning should be embedded as part of their curriculum, and even – should I dare to say - compulsory. We live in a globalised world and there are constant exchanges between countries and cultures. In university settings and in the specific case of our PPL School, one of the good things is that we offer students the possibility to learn a new language as part of, or in addition to their degree. You can integrate languages within your curriculum but you can also study it as an extracurricular activity. I believe this is a great way to expand your knowledge and increase your cultural awareness and employability.