Student Life: Ab initio language learning

In response to an article in the Sunday Times of 27 July 2014, ‘GCSE enough to take degree in languages,’ Professor Catherine Leglu wrote a post for this blog explaining many of the great benefits of ab initio language study – i.e. learning a language from scratch while at university.

We thought we’d ask some Reading students who are currently pursuing degrees in language after having begun a new language ab initio to reflect on their own experiences.

Sabrina Beevor, a final-year student of Italian and English Language, said the following:

SabrinaI chose to study a language at university because I really enjoy the process of learning a language and I like a new challenge. I chose to study Italian specifically because after visiting Tuscany on a family holiday at the age of fifteen, I came back to England wanting to learn more about Italian language and culture. After finishing my French GCSE a year early, and since Italian GCSE was not an option at my school, I decided to teach myself Italian and later, during my A levels, decided to attend an out-of-school adult night course which led to achieving my GCSE.

Personally, choosing to study a language ab initio has been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding decisions I have made – not to say that it comes without its challenges! It is not easy and there is a lot of hard work involved (as there is with any degree) but if you are committed and enough effort is made it is an extremely rewarding experience. I have been very lucky in that the department in which I study is very supportive and provides all of the necessary tools that are needed to learn a language from Sabrina 2scratch. I have also been extremely lucky in that I was able to spend an ERASMUS year abroad studying at the University of Florence. After having spent this time living in and experiencing Italy, I can safely say I have achieved real competence in Italian.

To anyone who is considering whether to pursue an ab initio language degree, I would say if you are passionate about a particular language and culture and you are prepared to put in the time and effort, what is there to stop you? It has been a lot of work and commitment to get to the level of language I am at today but it has all been worth it since I am well on the way to achieving the goal that I set for myself at the beginning of my uni adventure: to learn Italian. 

If you’d like to hear more from Sabrina, you can read her account of her experiences as an ERASMUS student in Florence on the blog that she maintains.

If you would like to learn more about studying languages at the University of Reading, including studying a language you may not have studied in school, we invite you to visit our website. For up-to-date information about the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies, we also encourage you to follow our blog. And watch this space for reflections from more of our students, past and present, who have pursued ab initio degrees.