Life of a First Year Linguist by Meili Ellison

As a second year student of German and Italian at the University of Reading, it’s safe to say I have a love for languages. Starting at Reading last year, I learnt that I shared this love for languages with both lecturers and fellow students in the Department of Modern Foreign Languages.


“If you start a language from scratch at Reading, you will be at GCSE level by the end of first year, and by the end of second year you will be ready to live and work abroad. “

I attended countless University open days in year 12 and Reading stood out for me because of the welcoming nature of the lecturers and the students and this was not a one off occasion. Throughout the course of my degree so far, it has become obvious that the lecturers in this department love their subjects and have a lot of enthusiasm for what they teach. Joining the MFL department at Reading not only immerses you in the culture of the language, but places you amongst many like-minded people with lots of mutual interests, therefore I’ve made a lot of amazing course friends too!


Without a doubt there is a focus on working hard, but there is a great balance with fun and enjoyment within this department. (If I can’t convince you, then maybe this will: ). Throughout the year, many social events are planned such as: the Sauerkraut Cup- a football tournament with other universities, trips to Christmas markets, Halloween parties, and regular meet-ups with the Language Societies which are run by current students.


The first year of my degree was fantastic. I continued my studies of German language and my eyes were opened to the wonders of Italian. Starting a language as a beginner at degree level is a daunting prospect. However in my experience, there was nothing to be worried about. You receive plenty of support from your language tutor to make sure you’re working at the right level and they are more than happy to have one-to-one meetings if you are struggling with something in class.

If you start a language from scratch at Reading, you will be at GCSE level by the end of first year, and by the end of second year you will be ready to live and work abroad. There’s no denying that this is a very intensive course, but it’s also amazing to think you’ll be fluent in a whole new language at the end of your degree.

My other main concern was that I would somehow forget all the German I’d ever learnt by the time I started University and once again, there was no need for concern. First year is used to ensure that everyone reaches the same level of proficiency and often topics from A-level courses are recapped, so there is not a huge or scary transition from school at this stage.

The main difference from School that I experienced was the interactivity of the lectures. German and Italian lend themselves well to small class sizes, which are usually very hands on and discussion based. The majority of my classes have on average 12-20 students in them, which is great as it allows everyone to participate and share their ideas. This is also a good way to get to know your lecturers and class mates.


One of the best things about doing a language degree is the variety. Not only do you gain an extensive knowledge of the language itself, but you also learn about it in the context of literature, history and culture- it’s almost like you’re getting 4 degrees for the price of one! Last year I studied modules from the Nazi Past and Present, to Renaissance and Medieval Italian Culture, and everything in-between! If you have any trouble deciding which modules to pick, then during Welcome Week there are help and support sessions run for signing up for modules and plenty of information and advice is given about the content of the available modules.


Also during Welcome Week, you will meet your assigned Personal Tutor. This is usually a lecturer from the Department who will hold compulsory one to one meetings each term. They can give advice on anything from educational problems, to pastoral issues and genuinely want to help wherever possible.


With a Languages degree, if you’re enthusiastic and hard-working, then you will be rewarded with the gift of knowing another language, and I can’t think of anywhere better to study it, than the University of Reading. A language degree is a skill for life.