Chartered Institute
of Linguists

Working with languages as a professional tourist guide

By Tess Pike

A career using languages, requiring good organisational and people management skills

At school my careers adviser listened to me tell her how much I loved languages and that all I wanted from a job was to speak German. I thought I was shy, because, as the youngest of five, I never managed to get a word in edgeways at home, so for many years I followed her advice and ended up virtually tying myself to my computer.

After university, I studied for my Diploma in Translation and worked as a translator for several years. The money came in, the bills were paid and the children fed and clothed, but there was something missing … until I trained as a Blue Badge Guide and discovered an exciting world of new experiences, working with visitors not just from Germany, but across the world.

Training as a Blue Badge Guide

The training was enjoyable, but more challenging than my degree course. I count it as one of the truly life-changing things that I have ever done, and my life is richer for it in every way. I found myself and discovered my perfect job at the same time.

Tourist Guiding is a perfect complement to other self-employed language work

For many years, whilst bringing up my family, I combined my translating work with developing my guiding business, until several years ago I decided to leave dictionaries and Trados behind me and concentrate full time on guiding.

A career that can lead into new opportunities

I am qualified to guide in Cumbria, Yorkshire and the Liverpool City Region, but as a linguist I am often called upon to tour manage across the north of England. My guiding career has also led me down the avenue of delivering training, and besides training Blue Badge Guides, I also deliver courses aimed at the hospitality sector on welcoming German visitors to Britain.

The value of the tourism industry

The past year has been a difficult one for all of us in the tourism industry, but as we look into the future, the prognosis is good. During my talk at the CIOL Conference, I’m going to be sharing some facts and figures about the value of the UK tourism industry. Did you know, for instance, that in 2019 the UK was the fifth largest international tourism destination ranked by visitor expenditure? (The first four destinations were USA, Spain, France and Thailand). 

I am a valuable cog in that industry and yet even now, in 2021, working as a Blue Badge Guide doesn’t make it onto many of those career advisers’ lists! I’m looking forward to speaking at the CIOL Conference and spreading the word about my incredible career.

25 years since training, the world is still my oyster!

Find out more about working with languages as a professional tourist guide in Tess’s talk at the CIOL Conference 2021 on Thursday 11 March at 3.15pm. Tickets available here.

About the author

Tess Pike is qualified for Cumbria, Yorkshire, and the Liverpool City Region, and she guides in English and German.  Born and bred in London, she moved to Cumbria in 1993 and is passionate about guiding visitors around Northern England by vehicle and on foot.  She lives in a small market town on the edge of the tranquil Yorkshire Dales, an easy journey away from the bustling Lake District and cosmopolitan northern cities. Tess is Course Director of the 2021-2022 Cumbria Blue Badge Guide Training Programme and welcomes enquiries about training as a Blue Badge Guide.  She can be contacted by email, on Instagram or Facebook. She also guides virtual tours – you can see her tours here!