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Topic Title: MEMBER NEWS FEATURE: Vinko Potocnik
Topic Summary: Explorer of Mountains and Languages
Created On: 3/10/2010 4:17 PM

 3/10/2010 4:17 PM

Maureen Byko

Posts: 41
Joined: 2/19/2007

Vinko Potocnik collects languages, with the mastery of words and their nuance of thought a challenge that he has relished since his boyhood in Slovenia.
“My native country is very small and people are encouraged from childhood to learn foreign languages,” he said. “I learned Serbo-Croatian first in elementary school and found it was fun when I was able to speak to local people on my first holiday at the Croatian seaside.”
From there, Potocnik tackled English while still in elementary school and then studied French and Latin in high school, while learning Italian on his own. “When I met foreigners, I always tried to speak their language as much as I could. I saw that this was greatly appreciated,” he said.
Once at university, Potocnik selected his languages to learn based on professional necessity, as well as personal interest. “I studied physics from English textbooks, which I could not afford to buy. But, then I found that Russian physics and mathematics books were much cheaper, so I learned Russian quickly on my own,” he said. When his first job—a research project on electric arcs—required collaboration with a German company, he learned German to communicate effectively with his colleagues and to read German technical articles that were not available in English. His love of salsa music compelled him to learn Spanish, and then, just for fun, he took up Italian and Portuguese.
Now an aluminum reduction technology consultant based in Jonquière, Quebec, Canada, Potocnik, a TMS member since 1987, has found his mental library of languages to be particularly useful when TMSattending the TMS Annual Meetings, which he describes as “the largest gathering of professionals in the aluminum industry in the world.
“I have used all the languages I speak to communicate with attendees from different countries,” he said. “It is fun to see how surprised they are when somebody speaks to them in their own language when they do not expect it.

Read more in the March issue of JOM.


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