Learning languages

By Ryan Thompson

I subscribe to the belief that if you want something done - ask a busy person. At the height of student busyness, in the final year of my undergraduate degree, I decided to pick up French again which I hadn’t spoken for six years.

I used to enjoy it at school and had just let it slide whilst I read for my degree. More to the point, speaking a foreign language to a competent level was the glaring gap on my CV.

I enrolled in an evening language programme run by my university, Exeter, to take an intermediate level course. The class size of 20 was perfect for partnering up for practice dialogues and learning snazzy phrases from others in the group.

The classes were two hours long and totalled 20 weeks over two terms. After this was over, it was easy to fall back into neglecting the phrase cards or verb charts. Luckily, there was a host of CDs, YouTube videos and more to listen to anytime, anywhere.

That said, nothing beats the experience of talking to another person in a language you’re getting to grips with.

By the following year, I decided to start Spanish from the ground up and within three years I’d got to a level where I was a confident speaker. I then started Italian but I was getting a little tired of Europe and so now I’m doing a fast-track Japanese class!

It’s a lot of fun learning a totally new way of reading and writing a language.

I suppose my angle on learning languages has been the “tapas approach” (of a little of everything) but it keeps things fun and the option is always there to go to advanced levels if that’s what you want.  By learning a variety of languages, even if it is short term, you can keep your mind engaged with language overall and obviously keep learning.

I’ve found there is a real mix of ages and also professions who study new languages which has meant I have met a variety of people along the way. It is the social aspect, and the sheer achievement of upping your level of understanding, that is the most rewarding thing.

See my Infographic on the different aspects of learning a foreign language for more tips.

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