Languages, linguistics, and learning new things:  My experience of taking foreign language modules with my degree

The start of the new university year is the time to try new things and to throw yourself into situations you may have previously avoided. Since the time of my GCSEs, learning languages had been an interest which I’d always secretly enjoyed, but in school I had let my social anxiety get in the way of practising.

I decided that once I got to uni, it would be the perfect time for me to give languages another go. It was with this in mind that, when choosing my modules before arriving in Reading in my Freshers’ year, I opted to take up a language I’d previously loved, and registered onto a Spanish module with the Institution-Wide Language Programme (the IWLP).

My experience of the classes can be described as follows: terrifying, yet exciting. From the moment I walked into my Level 2 Spanish class, even though it was an elementary level, I was drenched with the target language. Within ten minutes of the first class, I had listened to, spoken, read, and written the language I wanted to learn. I had also made mistakes, I had been confused, and I had struggled to understand. And in those ten minutes, it was clear that so had everyone else. We were all in the exact same situation, we were all being challenged, and we were all learning fast and bonding instantly.

It is because of this immersion in the target language that IWLP classes give a rich way of learning. I felt as though, as long as I fought to keep my head above water and concentrated to catch as much as possible of the lightning-fast Spanish with which the teachers filled our room, I would never stop developing an ability to understand and use this language.

Unfortunately, the number of tasks throughout the modules is disproportionately high. In Levels 1 and 2, you are presented with a foundation test for grammar, a listening test, an oral exam and a final reading-comprehension and writing examination. In higher levels, the breezy foundation test is switched for a class presentation and an essay.

During both of the years I took IWLP modules, this packed schedule led to long hours in the library whilst my friends enjoyed themselves at Union. However, seeing my hard work pay off in my grades, and the rewarding links I was able to make between studying the grammar of a Romance language and taking grammar classes in my English Language degree, made taking Spanish worth the work.

Another gratifying experience that came from my classes was the friends I made. Bizarrely, whilst on a solo trip to Málaga to attend an intensive language course in my summer holidays, I met a British girl of a similar age to me. It turned out that not only was she also a student at Reading, but she also happened to be enrolled on the exact same IWLP Spanish level as me. A year on, we are close friends and Spanish study-buddies. There are no limits to where language courses can take you!

But don’t just take it from me. My classmate Zoe, who studies Psychology, said: “Doing a language as part of my degree was definitely the right decision. Not only have I learnt a new language and increased my employability, I have also made new friends across a range of disciplines. Would recommend!”

Clinical Psychology student Holly said: “I really liked the Spanish course! It was so nice to do something completely unrelated to my degree. Learning a second language is always a good idea as it opens up so many doors and looks amazing on a CV. The teaching was brilliant and we learnt a wide range of skills. And it was so lovely to meet people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.”

The language courses can also be taken as non-credit modules, meaning that any exams or projects you may take will not count towards your final degree. In contrast, my personal choice was to take the credit option, as this motivated me to work as hard as I could and be truly proud of my grades.

I registered within the online module selection form. You receive this, along with a list of the modules you are eligible for, once you’ve enrolled before you begin first year, or in the April before your second and third years.

Sometimes these extra courses do not show up in your options list. This does not necessarily mean you are not eligible to take part. The department send out emails reminding students that even if the language options are not visible on Module Selection, you may still be able to sign yourself up by asking anyone at your School’s Student Support Centre.

Even if you did not originally elect to study an IWLP module and have already submitted your preferences, you still have until Friday, Week 3 (October 18th, 2019) to switch modules. This can easily be done by popping into your Student Support Centre on campus.

To find out more about the choice of languages and the levels offered, search “Reading University modules 2019/20” and select International Study and Language Institute.

Written by Sabita Burke

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