ESPS at UCL - ab initio language learners and fluency

Watch
lifeisgood.
Badges: 12
Rep:
?
#1
Report Thread starter 8 years ago
#1
Hi there!

I'm an offer holder for ESPS at UCL and in order to pick the right language, I've done some research that I'm going to share, regarding the language acquisition at ESPS. I also have some questions regarding the amount of language you learn on the course, and how proficient you will get.

First off - the amount of language contact hours (including history, speaking, culture, literature etc) are typically 6-7hrs a week (though this can rarely stretch up till 9 depending on the amount of modules).
(Source: http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/show...0#post36362250)

An academic year is typically around 32 weeks. So that means around 220 hours an academic year. I can only assume language contact hours on the year abroad will be similar or only slightly higher due to local courseload and dissertation research, but the effects of immersion will accelerate acquisition.

The US State Department's Foreign Service scale of language difficulty measures how many classroom hours it takes for an English-fluent student to become proficient in another language at the level of S3 in the ILR scale, equivalent to C1 on the CEFR scale. The descriptor for C1 is "Effective Operational Proficiency" - meaning working proficiency. These are the following ESPS ab initio languages:
(Source: http://www.effectivelanguagelearning...age-difficulty)

Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish: 600 Hours
German: 750 Hours
Russian, Finnish: 1100 Hours

I was originally going to pick Russian, but seeing as the amount of contact hours traditionally required to reach a level of working proficiency seem to be above the contact hours at ESPS, would it be more wise to opt for Italian or German?

If anybody knows any ESPS students or graduates, could you please comment on the level of their language proficiency?
0
reply
Snufkin
Badges: 21
#2
Report 8 years ago
#2
I am just curious, would you be equally happy studying any of these languages? If not, you should pick the language which interests you most and never mind how hard or easy it is perceived to be. You will need a genuine interest in your chosen language to sustain you for four years and achieve something like fluency at the end of them. Studying a language you do not enjoy is much harder than studying a hard language.
0
reply
Laudisi
Badges: 0
Rep:
?
#3
Report 8 years ago
#3
Dear all,
graduated this year from ESPS (Italian ab initio) here's the truth- you won't be fluent, but your CV will say you are. This is true of all the ab initios in my year (to a greater or lesser degree). In truth the ESPS language component is most useful to people with good knowledge (A level at least). In my year LOTS of people were studying languages which they grew up with but weren't educated in (German/French parentage, lived in Paris studied at a French school, studied German for ESPS etc), which is excellent for getting very high marks, but not so much fun for the ab initio lot.


Sorry guys!
1
reply
lifeisgood.
Badges: 12
Rep:
?
#4
Report Thread starter 8 years ago
#4
(Original post by Laudisi)
Dear all,
graduated this year from ESPS (Italian ab initio) here's the truth- you won't be fluent, but your CV will say you are. This is true of all the ab initios in my year (to a greater or lesser degree). In truth the ESPS language component is most useful to people with good knowledge (A level at least). In my year LOTS of people were studying languages which they grew up with but weren't educated in (German/French parentage, lived in Paris studied at a French school, studied German for ESPS etc), which is excellent for getting very high marks, but not so much fun for the ab initio lot.


Sorry guys!
Thanks!

I'm very interested in the Italian ab initio program. Can you tell me how proficient you are, in italian? Are there any official qualifications to certify you are proficient in italian? What did you mean by "but your CV will say you are"?
0
reply
Snufkin
Badges: 21
#5
Report 8 years ago
#5
For some reason you decided to ignore my question lifeisgood, but I think it is worth asking again - would you be equally happy studying any of these languages? I find that hard to understand and frankly a little foolish. From reading your other posts it seems to me that you are not interested in the cultures and societies these languages represent and your primary motive for learning a new language is to bolster your CV. If that is the case you will find whatever language you choose very difficult.

(Original post by Laudisi)
Dear all,
graduated this year from ESPS (Italian ab initio) here's the truth- you won't be fluent, but your CV will say you are. This is true of all the ab initios in my year (to a greater or lesser degree). In truth the ESPS language component is most useful to people with good knowledge (A level at least). In my year LOTS of people were studying languages which they grew up with but weren't educated in (German/French parentage, lived in Paris studied at a French school, studied German for ESPS etc), which is excellent for getting very high marks, but not so much fun for the ab initio lot.
I do not agree, it might be difficult to attain fluency in some languages in only four years, but it is perfectly possible in others so long as you put in the effort. ESPS students spend the same amount of time learning their chosen language as other students on ab initio language degree programmes, if they can become fluent there is no reason why ESPS students can not.
0
reply
lifeisgood.
Badges: 12
Rep:
?
#6
Report Thread starter 8 years ago
#6
(Original post by Samual)
For some reason you decided to ignore my question lifeisgood, but I think it is worth asking again - would you be equally happy studying any of these languages? I find that hard to understand and frankly a little foolish. From reading your other posts it seems to me that you are not interested in the cultures and societies these languages represent and your primary motive for learning a new language is to bolster your CV. If that is the case you will find whatever language you choose very difficult.



I do not agree, it might be difficult to attain fluency in some languages in only four years, but it is perfectly possible in others so long as you put in the effort. ESPS students spend the same amount of time learning their chosen language as other students on ab initio language degree programmes, if they can become fluent there is no reason why ESPS students can not.
Hey Sam -

Sorry for ignoring your question. I only did so because it really wasn't of much concern to me - I am equally interested in all of them. I love both the Russian and Italian languages more, but I enjoy Germany better as a place to live and experience on my year abroad, and I'm more interested in German culture and history (though Russia intrigues me as much). So they're basically tied in the respect you were asking for.

I was asking for more of a ceteris parabis question - Which language should I pursue, given the relative difficulties, the limited timeframe of my learning, and the usefulness and career prospects the languages would have.
0
reply
Laudisi
Badges: 0
Rep:
?
#7
Report 8 years ago
#7
(Original post by lifeisgood.)
Thanks!

I'm very interested in the Italian ab initio program. Can you tell me how proficient you are, in italian? Are there any official qualifications to certify you are proficient in italian? What did you mean by "but your CV will say you are"?

My Italian is OK now, I can read plays, poetry etc. and have a conversation, but after ten minutes or so the conversation deteriorates and I end up guessing from context etc. Novels are too hard. I'm a B2/C1 borderline. C1 is degree level and therefore fluency according to the EU, but I'm not so convinced. Hence 'your CV will say you are'.
There are separate certificates you can get.
If you take ESPS Italian ab initio you'll get 4 hours/week in the first year and 2/week thereafter.
Another poster mentioned that fluency is attainable in 4 years, I agree, but my experience is that ESPS-ers don't get enough tuition/ there's not enough pressure on your degree to attain it.
Last thought, after I posted I remembered the exception to my claim that none of our year achieved fluency from the ab initio cohort, one lad did manage, but he was very much an exception.
0
reply
asparkyn
Badges: 15
Rep:
?
#8
Report 8 years ago
#8
(Original post by lifeisgood.)
Hi there!

I'm an offer holder for ESPS at UCL and in order to pick the right language, I've done some research that I'm going to share, regarding the language acquisition at ESPS. I also have some questions regarding the amount of language you learn on the course, and how proficient you will get.

First off - the amount of language contact hours (including history, speaking, culture, literature etc) are typically 6-7hrs a week (though this can rarely stretch up till 9 depending on the amount of modules).
(Source: http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/show...0#post36362250)

An academic year is typically around 32 weeks. So that means around 220 hours an academic year. I can only assume language contact hours on the year abroad will be similar or only slightly higher due to local courseload and dissertation research, but the effects of immersion will accelerate acquisition.

The US State Department's Foreign Service scale of language difficulty measures how many classroom hours it takes for an English-fluent student to become proficient in another language at the level of S3 in the ILR scale, equivalent to C1 on the CEFR scale. The descriptor for C1 is "Effective Operational Proficiency" - meaning working proficiency. These are the following ESPS ab initio languages:
(Source: http://www.effectivelanguagelearning...age-difficulty)

Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish: 600 Hours
German: 750 Hours
Russian, Finnish: 1100 Hours

I was originally going to pick Russian, but seeing as the amount of contact hours traditionally required to reach a level of working proficiency seem to be above the contact hours at ESPS, would it be more wise to opt for Italian or German?

If anybody knows any ESPS students or graduates, could you please comment on the level of their language proficiency?
Come to UCL and meet the rest of us ESPS peeps :cool: I wanted to do Russian as my language too, but I picked Spanish instead because they didn't allow dual majors involving Russian :mad:. I had precisely the same qualms as you did last year and I remembered spamming my then-ESPS administrator for advice. After the second year you're meant to have 3000 words at your disposal (or was it more, I forget?) which is what people claim you need to manage well at a basic level. Factor in the year abroad, and well ...

Russian major-language students get far more contact hours than Italian or other ab-initio languages ... you hardly ever see Russian-language majors around because they're having way too many classes. You will have to work very hard for Russian too, more so than you ever will with other languages. I know of one dude just back from his year abroad at Moscow and his level of Russian was the same, if not better than those doing a straight Russian degree here at UCL. (Also this is because, as you will find out soon enough, ESPS students are just bat**** crazy, they're all so smart and speak 50 languages already, one more won't do anything to them).

Whether or not you'd be at a C1 level when you graduate, no one could tell you that. You will get the results that you put in. If you are very interested in improving your fluency (and by this I mean your spontaneity of using the language, no one's expecting you to start reciting Dostoevsky from day one or anything), I'd say you should maximise your opportunities as much as you possibly can. There are numerous volunteering abroad opportunities over the summer where you can easily go to Kazakhstan or Ukraine or Russia to get yourself immersed in the language. With a language, anything you do outside of the classroom seems far more effective.

Just pick a language that you like best, don't cry over your workload and PM me if you need further assistance!
1
reply
Snufkin
Badges: 21
#9
Report 8 years ago
#9
(Original post by asparkyn)
know of one dude just back from his year abroad at Moscow and his level of Russian was the same, if not better than those doing a straight Russian degree here at UCL. (Also this is because, as you will find out soon enough, ESPS students are just bat**** crazy, they're all so smart and speak 50 languages already, one more won't do anything to them).
I do not understand the rationale behind this post at all. You are suggesting that in achieving a similar standard of Russian as the students on the Russian degree programme, that the ESPS student has worked harder and put in more effort? That does not make any sense because as I have already said, ESPS students do exactly the same amount of contact hours as the students on the language degrees.
0
reply
lifeisgood.
Badges: 12
Rep:
?
#10
Report Thread starter 8 years ago
#10
(Original post by Samual)
I do not understand the rationale behind this post at all. You are suggesting that in achieving a similar standard of Russian as the students on the Russian degree programme, that the ESPS student has worked harder and put in more effort? That does not make any sense because as I have already said, ESPS students do exactly the same amount of contact hours as the students on the language degrees.
How is that possible? How can an ESPS student, who studies a bunch of social sciences, have as many contact hours as a straight Russian student?
0
reply
Snufkin
Badges: 21
#11
Report 8 years ago
#11
(Original post by lifeisgood.)
How is that possible? How can an ESPS student, who studies a bunch of social sciences, have as many contact hours as a straight Russian student?
Because language degrees entail much more than just the study of language. A first year student on the single honours Russian degree programme for example will only take 1.5 course units in the Russian language, the same as an ESPS student - the rest of the time is spent studying literature, culture, history and politics.
0
reply
asparkyn
Badges: 15
Rep:
?
#12
Report 8 years ago
#12
(Original post by Samual)
I do not understand the rationale behind this post at all. You are suggesting that in achieving a similar standard of Russian as the students on the Russian degree programme, that the ESPS student has worked harder and put in more effort? That does not make any sense because as I have already said, ESPS students do exactly the same amount of contact hours as the students on the language degrees.
Of course not - the second part was meant to be a joke. That guy I talked to has incidentally worked harder, but that wasn't the point I was making at all - I mentioned that ESPS Russian students get more contact hours than other ESPS ab-initio students such as Italian (7 hours as opposed to 4) but I know that they do get the same contact hours as straight Russian degree students. Looking back at the post, this was what I meant to say, and perhaps it wasn't as clearly worded as I would've liked.

The fact that his level of Russian was the same - if not better - than the straight Russian degree students was because he had the same number of contact hours as a typical Russian student at UCL, and at the same time he had capitalised on many summer abroad opportunities in his first and second year, which meant that he had a bit of a kickstart for his third year abroad. But that was just a solitary case, but I wanted to talk about it because the OP has suggested that the only way to get fluent is through the number of contact hours (1100 hours for Russian) but it also involves far more than just going to classes.

I was in no way saying that with the same number of contact hours, ESPS students get more results out of their language (if anything it suffers because we have so many other things to do that our language inevitably falls by the wayside). The part about ESPS students speaking a million languages and being crazy was just a little observation of mine during my stint here - I suppose the only thing you can draw out of it is that ESPS students generally have an affinity for languages, but nothing more than that.
0
reply
asparkyn
Badges: 15
Rep:
?
#13
Report 8 years ago
#13
OP, if you decide on Russian in the end, here are the modules that you will be doing for Russian language on your first and second year:

Year 1: http://www.ssees.ucl.ac.uk/course_units/yr1Aruss.pdf
Year 2: http://www.ssees.ucl.ac.uk/course_units/yr2Aruss.pdf

As you can see, it states here very clearly that you will have 7 hours per week for Russian classes, to a total of 1.5 c.u each. It is a very heavy course, so think carefully if you want to take it or not, knowing the fact that you will be having a mandatory 3 hours a week for ESPS1001 in your first year and another 4 hours a week for another 1.0 c.u. Russian major language students have far busier timetables than other ESPS ab-initio language students, and far more work as well. But I personally think it is a very rewarding language, and good luck with whatever you do!

EDIT: Oh yes, just to mention ... ESPS Russian students get to go to Russia on their first year as well, to study for a month. I suppose that this makes it good to take Russian as an ab-initio language than other languages if you are looking for a language that offers the most exposure.
2
reply
The Polymath
Badges: 16
Rep:
?
#14
Report 8 years ago
#14
(Original post by Laudisi)
you won't be fluent, but your CV will say you are. This is true of all the ab initios in my year. In truth the ESPS language component is most useful to people with good knowledge (A level at least). In my year LOTS of people were studying languages which they grew up with but weren't educated in (German/French parentage, lived in Paris studied at a French school, studied German for ESPS etc), which is excellent for getting very high marks, but not so much fun for the ab initio lot.
My Italian is OK now, I can read plays, poetry etc. and have a conversation, but after ten minutes or so the conversation deteriorates and I end up guessing from context etc. Novels are too hard. I'm a B2/C1 borderline. C1 is degree level and therefore fluency according to the EU, but I'm not so convinced. Hence 'your CV will say you are'.
ESPS-ers don't get enough tuition/ there's not enough pressure on your degree to attain it.
B2 is meant to be A-level standard though? At the moment (in my A-level year) I can hold a conversation on loads of topics (film, immigration, transport etc.) and read basic novels. To be fair, I suppose C1 is a huge step up though, going from conversational fluency to a professional standard in all situations. What's it like for post A-level students? Will they reach fluency? I was hoping to be comfortable C1 by the end of the degree.

When you say "not so much fun for the ab initio lot" - was it more difficult for you to achieve a good result because of the 'near-native' speakers?

The tutors on the ESPS assessment day were saying that ab initio and post A-level students finish on "roughly the same level with no clear correlation between knowledge pre- and post-degree" - is this simply untrue then?

Whereas the straight languages students just live the language and study related stuff in every lesson (Italian language class, then Italian novels, then Italian History) ESPS students would have to balance their time between a language and a social science, and so would have less 'brain time' devoted to absorbing the language.
0
reply
Laudisi
Badges: 0
Rep:
?
#15
Report 8 years ago
#15
(Original post by The Polymath)
B2 is meant to be A-level standard though? At the moment (in my A-level year) I can hold a conversation on loads of topics (film, immigration, transport etc.) and read basic novels. To be fair, I suppose C1 is a huge step up though, going from conversational fluency to a professional standard in all situations. What's it like for post A-level students? Will they reach fluency? I was hoping to be comfortable C1 by the end of the degree.

When you say "not so much fun for the ab initio lot" - was it more difficult for you to achieve a good result because of the 'near-native' speakers?

The tutors on the ESPS assessment day were saying that ab initio and post A-level students finish on "roughly the same level with no clear correlation between knowledge pre- and post-degree" - is this simply untrue then?

Whereas the straight languages students just live the language and study related stuff in every lesson (Italian language class, then Italian novels, then Italian History) ESPS students would have to balance their time between a language and a social science, and so would have less 'brain time' devoted to absorbing the language.

I would say that they say that there's no correlation...but there is. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, I just think you need to be realistic with what is achievable on the degree. The other thing is A level is supposed B2, like a degree is supposedly C1, but there is a massive breadth of ability in that spectrum.

I suspect the reason the language level isn't brilliant is, as you say, ESPS-er have more on their plates that a straight languages student and also that unless your level is REALLY bad, it won't negatively effect your degree classification and hence there's no pressure.

On the subject of grades, usually the near native lot get crazy grades in their language exams (90+) which can be a drag for the rest of you.

While I'm being a massive downer, I would still recommend the degree, just exercise some skepticism at the bold claims the department makes!
0
reply
The Polymath
Badges: 16
Rep:
?
#16
Report 8 years ago
#16
(Original post by Laudisi)
I would say that they say that there's no correlation...but there is. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, I just think you need to be realistic with what is achievable on the degree. The other thing is A level is supposed B2, like a degree is supposedly C1, but there is a massive breadth of ability in that spectrum.
I suspect the reason the language level isn't brilliant is, as you say, ESPS-er have more on their plates that a straight languages student and also that unless your level is REALLY bad, it won't negatively effect your degree classification and hence there's no pressure.
On the subject of grades, usually the near native lot get crazy grades in their language exams (90+) which can be a drag for the rest of you.
While I'm being a massive downer, I would still recommend the degree, just exercise some skepticism at the bold claims the department makes!
Yep, there is definitely a huge spectrum of ability even within those who get an A at A-level :yep:
Bah, wish they would ban near-natives Are marks standardised? So does a native getting 90+ actually make it harder for you to do well?

I'll be a post A-level applicant anyway so I expect the course to be epic :yes:
0
reply
FJB_07
Badges: 0
Rep:
?
#17
Report 7 years ago
#17
Hello! Apologies in advance as my question is not regarding ESPS! But this was the only thread that I thought could help me! Basically I need to achieve Italian B2 in the next year (possibly over ambitious...) and wondered what books (if any) you used to achieve your Italian B2. I have found Zanichelli books however am not sure if they are too basic... Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thank you
0
reply
X

Quick Reply

Attached files
Write a reply...
Reply
new posts
Back
to top
Latest
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

Personalise

Are you tempted to change your firm university choice on A-level results day?

Yes, I'll try and go to a uni higher up the league tables (42)
27.1%
Yes, there is a uni that I prefer and I'll fit in better (14)
9.03%
No I am happy with my choice (88)
56.77%
I'm using Clearing when I have my exam results (11)
7.1%

Watched Threads

View All