Moving away to university is a big life change, but one you should definitely be excited about. It’s a chance to study something you love, surrounded by other students just like you, as well as intellectuals conducting innovative research into a variety of different things. Or it’s an opportunity to get a degree that will boost your career. Either way, there are many things to look forward to about studying, especially here in the Language and Linguistic Science building, right at the centre of York’s lovely campus.
The first thing to look forward to about studying here is the lecturers. This is the clear advantage university has over college: the people teaching you are passionate about their subjects, experts in their field, and, in languages, almost always native speakers. This means they are incredibly up to date on the newest linguistic research going on, or have an intuitive understanding of the culture you’re studying. So no matter what question you have they’ll probably be able to answer it, and if they can’t, they’ll help you find out for yourself.
When it comes to languages, the seminars might seem a little intimidating at first (what with all that spontaneous verb conjugating you have to do) but the lecturers make it so much easier. Most of the time, they just want you to participate. Even if you stumble through the most incoherent sentence you’ve ever formed in your target language, hey, at least you made a point! And every time you do the lecturers will put you at ease and help you reorganise your words, so that soon you’ll be talking without even thinking.
Speaking of seminars, they aren’t very big, especially in languages. For the linguistics modules the course is bigger, because of the many combinations of different degrees that intersect in linguistics. But on the language side, course sizes are smaller. This will probably be familiar to people who have done languages at A level: alas, we are often a minority.
For example, in French this year we have around 40 students, which means seminar classes hover at a healthy 10 people. But it’s nice. It creates a real sense of community and everyone knows everyone else, making group work much more enjoyable.
Something else to look forward to is the extensive variety of different things you get introduced to through this degree. In other, more literature-based language courses, the majority of the content you’ll be analysing is books, whereas here, it’s much broader. We look at political scandals, laws, news reports, speeches, comic books and films, to name a few, as well as occasionally extracts from books. You’ll get a taste for the real, everyday, circa 2020 culture of your target country, as well as, of course, learning to speak the language.
This year, a personal highlight for me has been tearing apart Macron’s presidential speeches and analysing some of the interesting governmental policies – it means, if nothing else, I know I’ll be up to date with any political jokes I might face on my year abroad!
Being (almost, as far as most people can tell) fluent
The content is focused on the culture and politics but studying language at the University of York is all about language. I study French, so my seminars are in French, my essays are in French, and my speaking exam is an important part of my overall grade. There are even sometimes sessions run by the university or by the language societies specifically for practicing speaking; it may seem daunting but it’s important. Because we aim to be fluent, and even if you might not be by the end of first year (or even second year), you’ll be good enough to survive and enjoy the famous year abroad.
At the end of the day, studying languages at York will give you a deep understanding of current culture and language. And on top of that, it’ll make you fluent enough to thoroughly annoy your monolingual friends. So, be excited to revel in the confusion on your housemates’ faces and eavesdrop on natives on the bus. Studying languages is just so much fun.