Learning a Language
Remember that scene in ‘Inglorious Basterds’ where Bridget Von Hammersmark turns to the Basterds and asks “I know this is a silly question before I ask it, but can you Americans speak any other language besides English?”. It is one of my favourite quotes from the film, as it just sums up the rest of the world’s attitude to native English-speakers. There are, however, more reasons to learn a new language than avoiding embarrassment in front of your new international student friends.
If you clicked on this post, chances are, you’re thinking of learning a language. You must already know the personal advantages of learning a language; the excitement of a new project, self-advancement, travel opportunities…the list goes on. However, there are plenty of practical reasons too!
I, for example, decided to learn German. There are many reasons to start learning German, mine was for love (ahhh how sweet!), but soon I found I had plenty of other reasons to continue. One of them is the job prospects. My boyfriend signed up to a job website that asks you to fill in languages you know and your proficiency in them. He is a native German speaker, so put that down alongside English. Suddenly, the amount of e-mails he received from companies offering job interviews was staggering! I realised, with a knowledge of German, if I was to lose my job or simply fancy a career change, there are plenty of jobs available in languages.
On top of the job prospects, I can see how it emphasises my C.V. As I am looking at a career in advertising and the media, I can see how knowledge of a language like German can make me appealing to potential employers. Germany is a common location for U.K businesses to expand into, or form connections with. The world of business is rather international, so there will always be room for languages in most careers.
The question for most graduates, however, is usually ‘how can I do this on my meagre budget?’ Rosetta Stone CDs cost £300, something most graduates can’t afford to drop in one go, and courses usually cost much more. I was faced with the same dilemma. My boyfriend did not have the time, nor the patience, to teach me and my student budget was already rather stretched. What is a poor graduate to do?
Well, I made use of everyone and everything available to me. I do recommend saving up for one programme just to get your started and to set up a routine, which will keep you motivated. Assimil book and C.D deals come to around £60, and Michel Thomas is about the same on Amazon, and are much better than Rosetta Stone. However, everything else you can do by yourself. Follow language podcasts, buy children’s books, make flashcards and when you’re advanced enough, read newspaper articles and find a book in both your choice of language and English and read them side by side. The beauty of this method is that it’s completely up to you! You are your own teacher!
One key thing to note is that you need somebody to speak to and ask questions. Otherwise, your pronunciation may be bad, and you may lose motivation very quickly. You can either kindly ask a friend, or even advertise online (Gumtree for example). Also visit the website meetup.com, as many people host language socialising events where you “exchange” languages, you spend half the evening practicing a foreign language and the other half speaking your own so others can learn too.
My proficiency in German has now reached the level where I am able to visit Switzerland for the summer and get around just fine. I highly recommend visiting your chosen country, if you have the money. It’s not just a great holiday, but full immersion is a fool-proof method of learning. You might even, like I have, find somebody willing to tutor you in exchange for some household tasks.
Learning a language doesn’t have to be a tedious, expensive lesson if you do it your own way. As long as you’re creative, dedicated and motivated, you can be chatting with native speakers in no time!