| studying languages at university

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

hello in different languages

Hey lovelies, hope you're all enjoying this weather as much as I've been this week! Tonight I want to talk about a part of my life which I don't seem to mention much on my little blog. I've shared a bit of my uni life, however less about my actual degree. I knew I wanted to study French and Spanish at university at the start of year 12, however the fact that I never once thought during school that I wanted to leave that subject at that level was a serious indication of my enthusiasm for languages.

I found languages at A level pretty stressful, particularly in the speaking area. I used to really struggle with speaking fluently but as many will tell you, the only way to make progress is practice, practice and practice some more! As awkward as it sounds, talking to yourself is a massive help. I was warned about the huge leap from A level standard to university standard, and the thing I was most nervous about was the standard of other people compared to myself. However as I'd expected, many had the same fears as me, and the majority were at the same level as me.

In French I never felt out of my depth, I found I adjusted quickly to the pace of my classes and really enjoyed my sessions. It helped that we had a friendly but firm tutor, who I'm so grateful to because I felt my French progress incredibly. Spanish has always been my weaker language, and I have to admit I really didn't enjoy the first semester. My tutors were quite intimidating and expected a lot of us, and consequently I felt a little dejected and put off. I had to give myself a kick up the bum in second semester to remember why I'm studying Spanish - I had known how difficult it would be, and not doing enough work was hardly going to make it much easier! 

The clear differences between A level and uni standard are grammatical accuracy as well as theory - it becomes more why you employ a certain structure or rule rather than how to use it. They expect you to understand the most basic rules of grammar, and they will nitpick your work at the start to make any serious errors clear from the start so they can be sorted. It's hard not to take all the red crossings out personally, but it's all for your benefit to help you learn from your mistakes. 

In terms of assignments and assessment, I've had a huge variety of methods this year - not all of them enjoyable, and I've had an equal amount of individual and group assessment. This is something to bear in mind, especially if you don't enjoy group work, because it's mostly group coordination that takes up the time! For exam season, I had lots of small exams - listening, speaking and then a 2 hour writing and comprehension exam in May. The difficult thing about languages is that there's a lot less set content to learn in order to revise, I would recommend lots of practise in short bursts - there's no point revising in one session longer than 45 minutes because grammar makes my brain hurt! 

I hope my experience hasn't put anyone off studying languages at university, I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is really passionate about it. I am fully aware though that for some though, this would be their worst nightmare! I have met a host of lovely new friends solely through languages because the different departments are so connected at Southampton, and more often than not a language student you meet will be studying at least two languages. It's been an interesting transition year, and I feel prepared for second year when everything will count. 

Thanks for reading! Have you studied languages at university or want to learn a new language? xx

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