With three languages already to his credit, the 54-year-old defies the norm of the typical Englishman, averse to learning foreign lingo.
Still, he maintains a dose of British modesty. “I have no talent for languages at all,” he says. That hasn’t stopped him from trying to master a fourth.
Brodetsky is President and CEO of Lindab AB, a building material and ventilation systems company based in Båstad, southern Sweden, but has lived abroad for much of his professional life.
“My wife is French and we have lived in Paris and the Loire Valley,” he says. “French just came naturally – I picked it up because I had to.”
A stint based in Spain, including work relations with Mexico, tested his language skills further. “Spanish was a business necessity,” he adds. “But I became really motivated. I guess I learnt Spanish the same way I’m learning Swedish now – a lot of hard work and effort.”
Motivation is key for Brodetsky. He recalls how he once attempted to add German to his repertoire but the lessons became a drag.
“It was like having to go to the dentist every week which is not something I enjoy doing. So I ended up throwing my books in the bin and giving up. I wanted to avoid that with Swedish.”
But he had a tough time trying. Teachers in his local area failed to challenge him and the boredom set in.
He came across Företagsuniversitetet on the internet and, in order to get a head start, signed up for a week’s intensive course.
“The teacher Lise Murphy and I had a good rapport,” Brodetsky adds. “But it was held in Stockholm which wasn’t very convenient for me, living in the far south of the country.”
However, enthused by this classroom experience, he committed to more lessons with Företagsuniversitetet.
“Even though it’s an effort, the only way for me to progress is to organise lessons when I’m in Stockholm on business,” he says.” And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”
Brodetsky enjoys this flexible approaching to learning, alternating one-to-one classes with telephone lessons and email support.
“I explained to Lise that I get bored easily and she responded to that, regularly changing the content of the lessons,” he adds.
“There‘s a lot of variation and it’s very much tailored to my needs – that’s partly why it keeps me motivated.”
Stimulation is also achieved by setting short-term goals; one of which proved to be a particular winner among his company investors. Just six months into his language training, Brodetsky held a shareholders’ meeting in Swedish for around 250 people.
“It went incredibly well although I’ve set myself quite a precedent now,” he says.
“But you need those sort of challenges and I felt it was important to conduct the meeting in Swedish.”
Unlike French and Spanish Brodetsky believes living and working in Sweden presents a different kind of motivational requirement.
“Swedish is a bit different because there’s no necessity to learn it,” he says. “I could quite happily do my job without it but it’s important for me to know what’s happening in the news and financial community.”
He sees the ability to speak Swedish more of a psychological than business advantage.
“It makes employees feel more comfortable if I do a presentation in Swedish,” he says. ”And I thought it was important to show willingness to become integrated into the country.”
His next goal is improving conversation although he believes he has mastered the Swedish art of making small talk about the bad weather. “Still, Swedes are able to make sounds that I don’t think it’s possible for my mouth to make,” he adds.
Brodetsky’s former boss once jokingly gave him a ‘Teach Yourself Swedish’ DVD, deeming it likely that he would eventually make the move up the ladder and to Northern Europe someday.
“Instead I have a teacher that’s based 600 kilometres away,” he says. “That may sound strange but Företagsuniversitet keeps me motivated to learn Swedish.”