Student Life: Put any fears aside and embrace the challenge

In response to the article on ab initio language study that appeared in the Sunday Times of 27 July 2014, ‘GCSE enough to take degree in languages,’ we’ve heard from Professor Catherine Leglu, who explained many of the great benefits of learning a language from scratch while at university, as well as from Sabrina Beevor, a Reading Finalist, who told us that “choosing to study a language ab initio has been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding decisions I have made.”

Here is another reflection on the benefits of beginning a new language while at university, sent to us by Jess Kravetz, a Reading undergraduate who is currently on her year abroad in Venice, where she’s studying at Ca’ Foscari University:

Jess KravetzBefore I came to university, I was interested in studying business. Because I believe that having a language alongside a business or management course is beneficial, I decided to do a joint honours degree in business and languages. This proved to be difficult, however, as I did not have a language A-Level, which meant that I would have to start a beginner course. I had studied Applied French GCSE, which had a business-focused approach, and at my sixth-form college I also had the opportunity to learn Mandarin Chinese for one hour a week as enrichment during my first year. But without an A-Level my options appeared limited. I began to look at languages available at beginners’ level and discovered that there were very few languages offered in this category (Italian, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese), languages which generally speaking most schools do not offer.

I chose to study Italian because during my A-Levels I had become extremely fascinated with the Italian Renaissance. Before I started studying Italian I wasn’t sure what to expect and how difficult it would be, but if you have the motivation to work hard it is a really rewarding experience. The most important thing is to work consistently. I found Italian grammar particularly challenging but for the first and second year we had a lesson devoted entirely to Language Skills and this supported my Italian learning and enabled me to be able to ask questions about anything that was unclear.

I have had a lot of sCa'_Foscari-Aula_Barattoupport at the University of Reading and the lecturers are extremely friendly and approachable. I am so pleased with the progress that my ab initio class mates and I have made and it is one of the most rewarding things I have done.

If you are unsure whether to pursue an ab initio language degree I would say you have to be dedicated and motivated to learn the language you are studying. You also have to be patient with yourself, as sometimes it feels like you are not improving but all of a sudden it just clicks and you understand something you were previously really struggling with. But most of all I would say put any fears aside and embrace the challenge, because although it is scary it is one of the best decisions I have ever made!

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.