Value in Language Learning


Within the UK there is a distinct lack of fondness for learning other languages. I first noticed this when travelling before starting university; everyone I met, who wasn’t negatively speaking English were able to converse. Compared to this, I spoke basic French after having been forcefully taught it in school. I have always wondered why this is.

It was Charlemagne who said, “To know two languages is to possess a second soul”. There is a German proverb “Je mehr Sprachen du kanst, desto mehr Mensch du bist” which means ‘the more languages you know, the more you are a human being’.  This is almost an exact copy of a Czech proverb Kolik jazyků znáš, tolikrát jsi člověkem. Perhaps it is a result of cultural differences, but clearly, some value speaking more than one language has more than one benefit.

My experience with languages began in school, l learning French. which I took until A-level. I really enjoyed it, but I never saw it being useful to me (how native). When I went travelling I befriended with some French travellers, able to join in conversations – although I needed a lot of help opened a new world for me. Following this, when I started dating a Spaniard and embraced learning Spanish. Using Duo-lingo, online tutorials and Spanish news I have begun to develop my understanding to be able to hold a light conversation and I continue to work on it.

As my Spanish progressed, I also noticed an increase in my short-term memory and ability in class, which I do think was related. Can learning languages stop us from entering a room and forgetting why we entered?

I also found out Al Maktoum, an Arabic College in Dundee offered part-time evening classes in Arabic, costing £60 for 12 weeks (student concession – £40). I started this class in January and have so far learned the alphabet, numbers and basic greetings. It is a beautiful language, so very different from English. The biggest difference being reading right to left, which as a left hander I, at last feel some affinity for the layout of the written word. Experiencing Arabic, I now see all language as a code, some codes are affiliated and others are more diverse.  Are people’s thoughts are also coded differently?  Arabic has a code very different from European languages so while my progress with this language is much slower than Spanish, I aim to continue my classes next semester.

For me, learning languages has become very important, as I aim to work internationally after graduation. I recommend everyone to take up a language during the university as employers love it. In my last interview for a summer placement, the interviewers were particularly interested and impressed with my taking an Arabic class; it’s oh so tempting to shrink out world to our course, flatmates, hobbies and social life, employers seek agile communicators who see the world outside campus.

Written by:

Hi, I'm a Fourth Civil Engineering student and the marketing officer at the Centre for Entrepreneurship. I hope you enjoy reading my blog about studying at the University of Dundee.

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    One Response to “Value in Language Learning”

    1. Annie Weber

      It’s awesome and inspiring! I know two languages – English and German. Not great, but I can communicate in both, and I can already see a huge difference in the British and German mentality, and it’s great that I can understand both cultures. Maybe I’m ready to learn another language in the new semester, for example. It would be great to find an international student with whom we can share our knowledge.

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