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First year language students, how are you finding it?

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    (Original post by SoulfulBoy)
    That's the way. Unless you plan to get more pragmatic.
    The way to best learn a language? Surely not - the study of both literature and translation are two of the most ineffective ways to progress linguistically. Of course they both have their merits, but for example, language learning aids translation, not the other way around.

    Indeed, the pragmatic approach is invariably more effective. Although everyone's learning strategies are different, I suppose.
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    french and russian ab initio at Homerton cambridge next year hopefully!
    anyone got any tips?
    http://leprincepetit.tumblr.com
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    95 days of my degree left. I'm gonna miss uni, but god I CANNOT wait to be done. Too much work.

    (Original post by howdoyoudo?)
    french and russian ab initio at Homerton cambridge next year hopefully!
    anyone got any tips?
    http://leprincepetit.tumblr.com
    One can never learn Russian participles and verbs of motion early enough.
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    (Original post by jonnythemoose)
    The way to best learn a language? Surely not - the study of both literature and translation are two of the most ineffective ways to progress linguistically. Of course they both have their merits, but for example, language learning aids translation, not the other way around.

    Indeed, the pragmatic approach is invariably more effective. Although everyone's learning strategies are different, I suppose.
    Aguas calientes son lubricacion y favorecen la...
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    (Original post by jonnythemoose)
    I thought you were doing your entire degree abroad? :ninja:
    Good point :p: I just meant that I don't get to spend very long in the country of the language I'm studying. Hopefully I'll be able to spend a couple of summers over there or something to compensate though.
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    (Original post by jonnythemoose)
    The way to best learn a language? Surely not - the study of both literature and translation are two of the most ineffective ways to progress linguistically. Of course they both have their merits, but for example, language learning aids translation, not the other way around.

    Indeed, the pragmatic approach is invariably more effective. Although everyone's learning strategies are different, I suppose.
    I would argue that translation is a very good complement to the pragmatic approach (It seems you're referring to immersion in the language?) It is also a means of language learning in its own right, but it focuses on a different aspect of the language.

    We have many people here who seem practically fluent when speaking from living in France for long periods of time, but who fall down when they actually have to write something because of spelling/grammar mistakes that aren't very apparent when speaking.

    We get set translation passages that invariably bring up interesting grammar points, and some passages are focused on specific topics. These are then discussed at length in the class. This provides a deep understanding of the structure of the language, to an extent that is not necessarily acquired through speaking. Of course speaking is very important and we're supposed to be constantly putting this knowledge into spoken practise, but one is not necessarily subordinated to the other. In fact the two are not necessarily separated - most of our classes are conducted in French.


    As for literature...well, it's really fun
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    Hey, I am a first year at Bristol studying Spanish and Portuguese and honestly think the course is really bad.

    I get a 2 hour spanish grammar lesson a week which no one turns up to (6/20 there last week) where we just go through grammar in a text book. I also have a 1 hour oral class a week with a group of about 10 people. Also have 3 hours of literature/history all taught in english...

    Basically the number of spanish teaching hours since school has decreased a lot and i can comfortable say i haven't improved since school. I think this lack of work applies to all university language courses but its pretty much a very easy and slow course..
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    (Original post by nickth)
    I'm just interested to see how everyone else is finding their first year as a language student.

    I'm at Bristol - my course is diabolical and I feel I was better at the language I'm learning two years ago at A-Level than I am now...
    (Original post by alma)
    Hey, I am a first year at Bristol studying Spanish and Portuguese and honestly think the course is really bad.
    I'm planning on making Bristol my firm for French(and hopefully German), and this really isn't very reassuring.
    Are there at least some redeeming qualities of the department?
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    (Original post by Dusty12)
    I'm planning on making Bristol my firm for French(and hopefully German), and this really isn't very reassuring.
    Are there at least some redeeming qualities of the department?
    French seems to be a more difficult course from what i have heard from people, they have some lectures in French and have to right half their coursework essays in French as well. Spanish just seems to be very badly run and the work isn't challenging or particularly interesting. This is just my opinion though and i am comparing the course to what i had at my old school.
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    (Original post by alma)
    I am a first year at Bristol studying Spanish and Portuguese and honestly think the course is really bad.
    I was also planning on firming Bristol for French and Spanish, but this is really worrying

    What makes the course so awful in your opinion? Do you think it will improve when you can choose modules which interest you more?
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    (Original post by hannahdlc)
    I was also planning on firming Bristol for French and Spanish, but this is really worrying

    What makes the course so awful in your opinion? Do you think it will improve when you can choose modules which interest you more?
    I dont want to put anybody off bristol university because honestly it is a great uni and i am having a lot of fun but just have been disappointed with my course.
    The only oral time you have is a class of about ten people for one hour a week and there is no choice over which culture modules you can do. This means that i have set through lectures that i enjoy about politics in South America and the Spanish conquests but have also had to sit in lectures about 18th century spanish theatre and 21st century spanish literature.

    This is probably very similar for all universities but i have just found that there is very little set work and i have done very little work on spanish, portuguese has been more intense because i am doing it ab inito.

    Also the exams we sat in January for Spanish were A level standard, if not slightly below that. I got an A at A level spanish with quite a lot of work and managed to get 80% in my spanish exam which is a high first with next to no work.

    Hope this helps
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    (Original post by hannahdlc)
    I was also planning on firming Bristol for French and Spanish, but this is really worrying

    What makes the course so awful in your opinion? Do you think it will improve when you can choose modules which interest you more?
    You too? If we both go to Bristol, and the course is bad, at least I'll have someone to sit with in French lectures, discussing this thread and our regrets.

    Seriously though, nickth and alma, do you think everyone on your courses feel the same way, or is it just that the course doesn't suit you personally? I was pretty set on Bristol, but this is quite concern-inducing.

    EDIT: Thanks, alma; your responses are helpful.
    Honestly I'm the sort of person who would be secretly quite relieved if the course wasn't much more difficult than A-Level at the beginning.
    I'm visiting Bristol soon, so I'll have a chance to gauge things for myself.
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    (Original post by Dusty12)
    You too? If we both go to Bristol, and the course is bad, at least I'll have someone to sit with in French lectures, discussing this thread and our regrets.

    Seriously though, nickth and alma, do you think everyone on your courses feel the same way, or is it just that the course doesn't suit you personally? I was pretty set on Bristol, but this is quite concern-inducing.
    It's just not a very demanding course and doesn't have enough focus on speaking at all.

    In my timetable i have:
    2 hours of spanish lectures (in english),
    1hour seminar every 2 weeks
    3hours portuguese grammar
    1hour spanish oral
    1 hour portuguese oral
    1 hour portuguese history
    2 hours spanish grammar

    Speaking to most people on the course they would say that their spanish has not improved a lot. I came from a pretty good private school with small classes and dedicated teachers but for a top university i would have expected more from my degree
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    (Original post by qwertyuiop1993)
    I would argue that translation is a very good complement to the pragmatic approach (It seems you're referring to immersion in the language?) It is also a means of language learning in its own right, but it focuses on a different aspect of the language.

    We have many people here who seem practically fluent when speaking from living in France for long periods of time, but who fall down when they actually have to write something because of spelling/grammar mistakes that aren't very apparent when speaking.

    We get set translation passages that invariably bring up interesting grammar points, and some passages are focused on specific topics. These are then discussed at length in the class. This provides a deep understanding of the structure of the language, to an extent that is not necessarily acquired through speaking. Of course speaking is very important and we're supposed to be constantly putting this knowledge into spoken practise, but one is not necessarily subordinated to the other. In fact the two are not necessarily separated - most of our classes are conducted in French.


    As for literature...well, it's really fun
    The benefits of translation are indeed engagement with texts in the target language, which can of course improve reading skills and amplify one's vocabulary; that I will admit - as that's what you're referring to when you mention that texts provide grammar points for discussion, etc. That is the sort of benefit that can be gained by reading or studying a text in class or at home, not necessarily through translating it.

    However the exercise of translating a text goes against the very nature of language learning - because to learn a language to a high level of proficiency has got nothing to do with the skill of translation. Translation is a highly-skilled discipline within its own right, and many excellent linguists can still flounder here because translation requires one to be able to work two languages in tandem at once; which is rarely the way one learns a language at university level (where proficiency is such that a student can learn without any dependence on their mother tongue). Indeed, when I first started studying translation, it was a real challenge (especially in Spanish), because my proficiency had increased to such where I'd become totally comfortable working in Spanish, I could barely remember how to render half of what I said into good, suitable English.

    Treating translation as a way of improving linguistically seems illogical to me...and to be honest I'm surprised it's taught in first year undergraduate level ML courses at some universities; it's commonly regarded as Master's level stuff. Then again it can't hurt to start practising early on, it's a definite learning curve!

    As for your love of literature, well I should hope so seeing as the Oxford course is very literature-heavy! Although I can't say I share your passion for it...
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    (Original post by jonnythemoose)
    I'd become totally comfortable working in Spanish, I could barely remember how to render half of what I said into good, suitable English.
    Yes, this! Although not necessarily Spanish, but I agree!
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    I'm doing English and French and I do agree with many of you that my French language skills at A-Level felt better than they do now (though I'm averaging a decent 2:1 in language classes so I can't be doing terribly.. but anyway). However, I adore the culture side to my course - it's so varied, we're sampling nearly all aspects of French culture: literature, film, philosophy, pop music even. Next year I plan to focus on literature and film (with a smidge of philosophy) on the French side of my degree.

    One thing language courses need to make student more aware of is that the place students will do the majority of their language learning is during the year abroad. Grammar is something that is primarily learnt in the UK, but the vast majority of the vocabulary and idioms you'll learn during your degree will be in the country in question. I too had a misconception that my French would be SO much more improved after my first year of uni, but the reality is that the fluency will come when I go to France. And I'm fine with that because I really appreciate the culture side of my degree.

    Also people need to really look into the course content of each uni. There's a girl on my course who's leaving because she's not into literature and it plays a huge role in the Warwick 1st year course. Basically, if you don't care about culture and fluency is your primary aim then go to York or somewhere where the course is pretty much just language.
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    I'm a first year doing German and Spanish at St Andrews and I feel the same way as a lot of you seem to. We don't get any oral classes although the 2 language classes per language per week are taught in German and Spanish and they try to encourage us to speak there. It's definitely not enough and I also feel like my speaking has got worse since A level, but I'm a bit relieved to know that it's not just me...

    I get the impression that in first year the focus is on getting everyone up to the same standard (including the beginners, so they can join in with us from next year), even if it means holding us back a bit. It makes some sense, since I've noticed a massive difference in people's levels, even between all of those getting As at A Level, and in addition to that you have the different emphasis placed on grammar and speaking in the Scottish Highers, IB and other qualifications. If I was struggling with some fairly basic grammar, it definitely wouldn't help to plunge right into the more complex parts.

    That being said, I do love my course and this semester seems to be more challenging and interesting than the first. Also, with languages you really do get out what you put in - the German department runs a Sprachcafe every two weeks which is like an informal conversation class (although at the moment I'm too scared of the thought of fluent fourth years to go!), and if you find the time to work at home on the language and really get stuck into the literature then it's great I also think that the Year Abroad will make a massive difference, and I honestly can't wait!
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    (Original post by alma)
    I dont want to put anybody off bristol university because honestly it is a great uni and i am having a lot of fun but just have been disappointed with my course.
    (Original post by Dusty12)
    You too? If we both go to Bristol, and the course is bad, at least I'll have someone to sit with in French lectures, discussing this thread and our regrets.
    Alma: Thanks a lot for the advice. From what you've said the course doesn't sound as impressive as I'd expect, but I don't want to believe it because I loved Bristol so much

    Dusty: It's good to know I may have someone to moan to if we regret our decisions! I did go to an open day last June and the French course seemed promising to me, but I just don't know now after reading this thread!
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    (Original post by jonnythemoose)
    The benefits of translation are indeed engagement with texts in the target language, which can of course improve reading skills and amplify one's vocabulary; that I will admit - as that's what you're referring to when you mention that texts provide grammar points for discussion, etc. That is the sort of benefit that can be gained by reading or studying a text in class or at home, not necessarily through translating it.
    Sorry, I should have specified that I'm thinking more along the lines of English to French translation.

    From this perspective I'd say the act of translating is very useful because it gets you thinking about how to say things and then also leads to general discussions on important grammar points. Here we don't have a lesson where we sit down and work through a grammar book because they think it's more stimulating to give a context to the grammar points we are learning.

    As for French-English translation, yes that doesn't really help with language learning any more than reading the text. I agree with you on translation being a skill that goes beyond being fluent in two languages. As you say, a lot of the time the problem isn't with knowing what the foreign language means, but rather with putting it into eloquent English with respect to register etc. It doesn't help when your tutor is extra picky.

    What modules are you taking for finals if you dislike literature? History? Politics?
    I did some French film last term which was a refreshing change from books!
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    (Original post by yabbayabba)
    I'm doing English and French and I do agree with many of you that my French language skills at A-Level felt better than they do now (though I'm averaging a decent 2:1 in language classes so I can't be doing terribly.. but anyway). However, I adore the culture side to my course - it's so varied, we're sampling nearly all aspects of French culture: literature, film, philosophy, pop music even. Next year I plan to focus on literature and film (with a smidge of philosophy) on the French side of my degree.

    One thing language courses need to make student more aware of is that the place students will do the majority of their language learning is during the year abroad. Grammar is something that is primarily learnt in the UK, but the vast majority of the vocabulary and idioms you'll learn during your degree will be in the country in question. I too had a misconception that my French would be SO much more improved after my first year of uni, but the reality is that the fluency will come when I go to France. And I'm fine with that because I really appreciate the culture side of my degree.

    Also people need to really look into the course content of each uni. There's a girl on my course who's leaving because she's not into literature and it plays a huge role in the Warwick 1st year course. Basically, if you don't care about culture and fluency is your primary aim then go to York or somewhere where the course is pretty much just language.
    Are you doing any medieval French? I have a friend at Warwick doing English and French and she said some people do La Châtelaine de Vergy, which is something I study too.

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