How IWLP British Sign Language influenced my future career path

a young woman with long brown hair smiles in a graduation outfitMy name is Esmé O’Mahony and I studied English Language and Linguistics. I took on British Sign Language Stage 1 in my second year of university and progressed to Stage 2 whilst in my final year. I’d always had a keen interest in languages and BSL was something I had always wanted to learn, especially as I felt taking a language module would complement my main degree.

I enjoyed every aspect of the BSL course – learning the vocabulary and signing with my peers was fun, but the most interesting thing for me was learning about Deaf culture. I found the content itself fascinating, especially having the lectures signed and interpreted. In my final year, I chose to write my dissertation on how deaf children are taught to read and from there, I pursued a career as an audiologist – something I would not have considered for a moment before taking the BSL module.

Something I was nervous of prior to starting class was the practical elements; I am an academic person and knowing that I would have to utilise my practical skills was daunting at first. Fortunately, there was a good balance between practical lessons and interpreted lectures so I was able to develop new skills and enjoy a format I was familiar with.

BSL classes were a refreshing change from my main degree because of the different methods of teaching and how the content was delivered. Several aspects of the course overlapped with my degree (for example, the study of linguistics within BSL), so it felt like I was aiding my learning rather than juggling extra work.

I learned so much more than the language in the BSL course; it has had a substantial impact on my life and introduced me to a rewarding career in audiology. I could not recommend the module highly enough for anyone who is thinking about taking it, the skills and knowledge I have gained and the passion the lecturers have for the module is invaluable.


IWLP Spanish: “It will make you a more confident and curious person!”

a young woman in grey leggings and a beige top stands in front of a fountainHi, my name is Emily and I’m studying French and International Relations. I previously studied Spanish at GCSE level but I loved it so much that I wanted to carry on. I decided to take an IWLP module in my first year and this was quite an easy decision for me because I love languages!  It may seem intimidating to learn two languages at once, but it is actually really rewarding and it gives you the opportunity to compare and learn from both. I started at Stage 2 and am now studying at Stage 3.

Everyone in the class is there to learn so it is a comfortable and enthusiastic atmosphere where we can all help each other to improve. I have enjoyed learning not only about the language but also about Hispanic countries and cultures, which is an important part of the IWLP modules. As well as this, speaking and presenting in lessons has really improved my confidence in and out of the classroom. Completing a portfolio allowed me to take control of my own language learning, and develop skills that are also needed for my main degree.

In the summer I had the opportunity to meet a group of talented Spanish chefs while working at Ascot, and I was able to practice my Spanish with them a bit. They were very friendly and let me try lots of fresh Spanish cuisine. Although I haven’t visited any Spanish-speaking countries yet, I would love to go and use my new language skills. If you are hesitant to take an IWLP module I would definitely recommend it. Learning languages has taught me so much and it will make you a more confident and curious person!


IWLP Japanese: Taking the opportunity to finally learn the language

Hello! I’m Rhiannon, and I’m currently studying Creative Writing with English Literature and have done two years of IWLP Japanese, starting from a complete beginner. I had developed an interest for Japanese media and culture for a very long ta young woman in a black dress and blue shirt stands on a streetime due to gradual exposure to it, so I chose to study Japanese. For a while, I had an interest in learning the language but had never come across the right time to commit to it. Taking the IWLP module has helped me to understand the grammar constructs and social aspects of the language first hand, as well as continue to expand my cultural understanding of Japan. I had not known Reading University offered Japanese classes until choosing my modules for my main degree in English Literature and spotted the option when looking at the option list. This was when I decided that this was the time to study the language, and I don’t regret it!

I gradually gained more confidence in using Japanese in the classroom as we progressed through the module, and I can guarantee that this will be beneficial to me in the future, be it job employment or befriending those outside of the United Kingdom. I’m currently in the second year of the module, and it’s a great challenge! Learning the new scripts, be it hiragana, katakana, or the much more complicated kanji, was a challenge but not impossible at all! It was good to try a language that was so different from the English lexicon and Latin alphabet altogether, both literally, grammatically and culturally. I believe learning another language is essential to broadening your horizons and help communicating with others! So, if you’re interested, give it a shot!


IWLP Italian: “Studying it alongside my degree is so refreshing.”

In this post, we hear from Yagmur Adademir, another Business and Management student who did a year of IWLP Italian Stage 1 and then studied at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice. Like Darcey, she studied the English curriculum but was able to use her Italian in her daily life in the country.

a boat on a canal in Venice in front of a grand buliding with a domed top

I believe language plays a gatekeeping role in understanding a culture. Although English has become almost a globally known language, there are always some elements of culture that get lost in translation. I was dreaming about spending a year in Italy and participating in the Erasmus Programme ever since I started university, so I thought taking the IWLP Italian module would be helpful for my future. In Venice, I interacted with so many locals with whom I got to practice and develop my Italian. Taking an Italian module was a good starting point for me, as I was able to and motivated to have short conversations as soon as I arrived in Italy.

I first started taking Italian classes during covid, before I went away. Although everything was online, learning something new and interacting with new people from different courses was very enjoyable. Therefore, after returning from Venice, I decided to continue with IWLP Italian, and being present in the class made everything even better.

I felt nervous when I first chose the module – I was worried about my level of Italian. However, once I went to the class, I got over it since everyone was almost at the same level as me. The class environment is very collaborative, and I was inspired by other students’ motivation to learn Italian as well. Our lecturer encouraged us to ask questions and interact with other students in Italian. The portfolio assignment gave me chance to observe and reflect on my progress in Italian, as it required me to be up-to-date with the lectures and revise the materials consistently. Additionally, through the portfolio I have discovered many cultural elements that my home country, Cyprus, and Italy have in common. I’ve also learned that I have learned some stereotypes that have been attached to Italian culture were not true.

For me, my degree and my IWLP module go in hand in hand. I try to work for short periods of time for Italian, and studying it alongside my main degree is so refreshing. My main degree is based on theories and sometimes it gets a little bit overwhelming whereas learning Italian is more practical, interactive, and dynamic.

Unfortunately, I do not believe that I will be remembering or use most of the theoretical knowledge that I have learned at the university in my daily life. However, taking an IWLP module is sensible for both career and social life. It could help you make new friends, and meet new people not only in your university life but in the future as well. As a business student, I know many multinationals are looking for people who could speak at least more than one language. Therefore, it could create good opportunities in your career path. Next year I am planning to work and take a B1 course in Italy.


IWLP British Sign Language: “I loved the interactive classes.”

In this post, we hear from Annie, who took IWLP British Sign Language (BSL) for two years.

a young woman with curly blonde hair smilesI took BSL in the second and third year of my course. At the time, I was doing a three-year course of BA Archaeology.

Prior to my enrolment to the University of Reading, one of my friends was a Deaf colleague who was also volunteering in a café. Our communication was a bit haphazard to say the least, and for the good of all Deaf people I was to meet in the future he suggested that I go and learn sign language. I can only assume he got tired of me trying to mimic his hand gestures! As soon as I saw that British Sign Language was an option at UoR, I jumped at the chance to take part and learn the language.

I loved the interactive classes, as well as having the opportunity to learn more about Deaf culture. The lessons didn’t just teach me a language, but a new outlook on the community. I also thoroughly enjoyed learning how to sign. It was nice to have such a hands-on class (no pun intended) which was so friendly and accepting.

If you’re nervous about learning a language because you don’t have enough time alongside your main degree, I would strongly argue that you should go for it anyway. Aside from the numerous benefits of knowing another language, it’s also a welcome reprieve from your usual lectures. You may regret passing up the opportunity after you graduate!

All in all, learning BSL with the IWLP was one of the best decisions I made. It elevated my university experience and led to me meeting incredible people from all over the university. My lecturer, Ilan Dwek, was fantastic in engaging the class and all of us improved quickly as a result. I look forward to continuing my BSL language learning journey.


Using IWLP Italian with Italians in Venice

In this post, we hear from Darcey, a BSc Finance and Management student who took IWLP Italian Stage 1 in her first year before she did a year abroad at a university in Venice. Darcey did the English language curriculum at Ca’ Foscari University but, as she explains, learning Italian before she went really helped her make the most of living there – just like Yagmur, who has also written about her experience.

My course is a joint degree with Ca’ Foscari University and I decided to learn Italian as I thought it was important to have a basic understanding of the language before I went to Venice. Although my first year at university was very disrupted by the pandemic, my only in-person class was Italian with Ugo. It was great to be able to interact with people, and I felt this is a crucial part of learning a new language: being able to speak and practice.

The module layout was unlike any other I have taken whilst at university. We had weekly lessons with recommended exercises to do before the next session, but alongside this we had a portfolio. The portfolio not only allowed us to get familiar and confident with the fundamentals, but also gave us a chance to explore areas that interested us, for example discovering Italian music, media and culture. It also gave opportunity for self-reflection and evaluating and improving our own work as we improved our skills. I think getting advice from others and correcting my owa mother and two grown daughters smile in the sunshinen mistakes significantly lowered the amount of errors I made in the future speaking to Italians. In my portfolio I mainly focused on scenarios I would come across in Venice, e.g. conversations in restaurants, supermarkets and so on.

I joined the course a few weeks late, so my initial reservations were around the skills of my peers. I haven’t been a beginner in a language since I was 14, and it really throws you back into the school-like experience, where you have no knowledge on the subject before you start. As I knew that I would be using what I learnt in my 2nd year in Venice for I was also nervous about the transition between class-learning to real life situations. Luckily I lived with an Italian in 1st year so I was able to talk to them, practicing in an informal setting really grew my confidence. Along with this, we had lots of chances to do speaking tasks with other students too.

I was able to use Italian a lot in Venice. As I got familiar with my surroundings, I found my favourite cafes and bars to go to and built relationships with locals, and they really encouraged me to speak Italian. I also had Italian friends who would test my skills and try to get me to communicate with them in Italian as much as possible, only correcting me when dramatically wrong, which really helped me build on what I had learnt in the course and gain confidence.

If you have the opportunity to take an IWLP module, do it. Even if you don’t think you will use the language day-to-day, breaking up your learning with someone more creative made my first year much more interesting and less repetitive. Also being able to communicate with others in a different language is cool and the best way to integrate yourself into a culture, even if it is just for holidays!