Language Learning at Degree Level

Deciding to pursue a foreign language at University can seem like a huge step to take from A Level, and you may be doubting yourself already, but the truth is language learning is a beautifully chaotic process whatever stage you are at and I would encourage you to embrace ever step of it – and take the plunge!

I currently study BA Sociology and Spanish at Exeter so I can give you some good advice to help you prepare for learning any language at degree level.

First and foremost, it’s super important to bear in mind at all times that you a) are not an imposter and b) cannot spend your time trying to compare yourself to others on your course! Everyone interacts with and absorbs languages differently, your progress is going to be personal and not comparable to those around you, but it doesn’t make you any less deserving of your place. You should also remember that there are going to be people on your course with incredibly diverse stories and families, so their past experience with their chosen language of study may not be the same as yours. Personally, I just enjoy hearing what led people to take the course and what interests them most about other languages and cultures, and if anything, those who seem to be at an advanced level actually end up really helping your own progress because you get to listen to them and pick up tips!

One thing that could be quite intimidating to begin with is the fact that all classes (except culture modules) are fully conducted in the language you are studying. This might seem like quite a jump from A Level, especially with some of the topics that are covered, but do not underestimate the power of immersion for developing your speaking and listening skills. Don’t shy away from asking for clarifications. The staff are native speakers, so glean all that you can from them!

On a similar note, the best way to make the transition from A Level to a degree is to be bold in speaking out and attempting conversations in your classes (and outside of them too, where you can!). A greater focus is put on your ability to converse with others, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes and give it your best shot. It’s cliché but very true that you ‘learn from your mistakes’.

Lastly, at University in general you will be expected to put more time in to your work and individual study hours. This is no different for your language degree; the impetus will be on you to make the most of the resources available, the native staff, and generally spotting your weaker areas and working to address them. There are so many opportunities available to help you (film clubs, Tandem language partner exchanges, websites and events…) so keep an eye out for these.

They always say learning a new language is a bumpy ride – your brain is working overtime to create new neural pathways, after all! – so don’t be discouraged by some of the dips along the way, most of the people on your course will be experiencing the same, and instead revel in the fact that you have chosen to open your mind to a whole new way of seeing the world. Buena suerte, bonne chance, Viel Glück!

 

   May 13th, 2021    Preparing for University, Studying, Undergraduate

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