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    Hi,

    I absolutely love studying languages - it's what I spend most of my free time doing.

    However, even though it's what I love, I'm reluctant to do a language course at university because I don't see the point.

    For example, why spend £9000 on tuition fees each year when you could live abroad and become truly fluent in the immersion setting? Or why not study in a university abroad?

    What can you actually do with a language degree? Is it not more useful to have a politics/law degree for example, and also have languages on top of that so you can work in the EU or something similar?

    I really want convincing that I should study languages . But my -hopefully erroneous - logic can't see how it's better to do a degree in a language instead of using the money to go abroad, or alternatively, how it's better than doing a degree in something other than languages but having language skills...

    Thanks
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    (Original post by lesswrong)
    Hi,

    I absolutely love studying languages - it's what I spend most of my free time doing.

    However, even though it's what I love, I'm reluctant to do a language course at university because I don't see the point.

    For example, why spend £9000 on tuition fees each year when you could live abroad and become truly fluent in the immersion setting? Or why not study in a university abroad?

    What can you actually do with a language degree? Is it not more useful to have a politics/law degree for example, and also have languages on top of that so you can work in the EU or something similar?

    I really want convincing that I should study languages . But my -hopefully erroneous - logic can't see how it's better to do a degree in a language instead of using the money to go abroad, or alternatively, how it's better than doing a degree in something other than languages but having language skills...

    Thanks
    I'm in the same position as you. What languages do you want to study btw?
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    I shall be taking up a place to study German and History this September at Edinburgh so I'll add my twopence here. I think you're forgetting that a language degree encompasses a lot more than pure linguistic instruction. As well as the language itself (which normally comprises 50% of your work), you're taught about the politics, history, and literature. So, there is value to doing a language degree! Really, I would suggest you do some research as to where such a degree can take you. This is just one example, but many diplomats/foreign correspondents read for a degree in modern languages at university. I think the career options are quite diverse.
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    Languages degrees comprise of much more than just language study - there's cultural (history, politics, literature, film studies etc.) modules too :russia::france:
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    As above, you'll study history etc as well. But I know what you mean, you could work abroad for a while and become probably more fluent in the language. Though you should remember that you need to practice reading and writing as well as speaking and listening. Some of my non-student foreign friends where really good at conversational English but weren't very good at writing and sometimes even reading. So simply going abroad doesn't always turn out to be the best option.

    On top of that, having a degree is a requirement for some jobs. So even if you went to Argentina for 4 years and came back at a better standard of Spanish that your friends who did the degree in Spanish, they are more employable on paper as they have a better education.

    If I was going to do a humanities based subject, I'd probably rather do languages. But I do see your point.
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    I recently answered this question right here, but it's quite a long reply (but definitely worth having a read.)

    For example, why spend £9000 on tuition fees each year when you could live abroad and become truly fluent in the immersion setting? Or why not study in a university abroad?
    Living abroad is definitely not enough to become fluent (I discuss this more in depth in the reply I posted above.) Studying at university abroad is (imho) the best choice, but that'd require you to already have a good level in a language so as to not fall into the trap of going to an English-speaking university and not actually improving much on the side (a few friends have done that and their level in Swedish and French are terrible.) That said, no-one said you had to stay in the UK and pay £9000 a year for a degree in languages, but getting an education is quite valuable in quite a few countries.

    What can you actually do with a language degree? Is it not more useful to have a politics/law degree for example, and also have languages on top of that so you can work in the EU or something similar?
    I strongly believe it's more useful to do languages as a foundation and add whatever you want on top of it. It's much easier to do a GDL or a masters in IR than it is to learn a language on the side - you just don't get the same support, the same motivation and the same work done. Some degrees (quite a few, actually) will let you combine these subjects as well.

    I really want convincing that I should study languages . But my -hopefully erroneous - logic can't see how it's better to do a degree in a language instead of using the money to go abroad, or alternatively, how it's better than doing a degree in something other than languages but having language skills...
    Going abroad but not going to university there means you miss out on education. Sure you can still do things without a degree, but in a country where getting a 2:1 is becoming a requirement for everything and anything, it's a risky strategy. You're also unlikely to get that great a job when you go abroad, and what you'll learn will be very much restricted to your environment, meaning you'll learn the slang and how people usually speak, but you may not be able to learn translation, or writing/speaking in a formal context. People seem to think immersion is the best way to go on about learning a language, but you need preparation and careful consideration before you do that, and you need to know what you want out of your language learning, because you won't get it all.

    Going abroad to university, as discussed above, just make sure you don't have classes solely in English, because it's much harder to force yourself to work in another language when there's an easier solution available. But you'll need a decent level in another language to follow classes in a foreign language, and I'm not entirely convinced you'll get that with an A-Level.

    As for the degree choice, just combine whatever you want with a language, you'll get the best of both worlds. Just remember that it's easier to do an actual degree in languages followed by something else in a different field than it is to do something else and have evening language classes or trying to be self-taught. There's a huge variety of courses that combine languages and other subjects, I'm not sure why you seem to think you can only do straight languages…
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    I personally think that doing a straight Langauge degree is the biggest waste of time and money possible. The only reason i could see for doing it is if you want to teach and need an academic understanding of it!
    I'm doing European Law, and currently just finishing off my 3rd year in Germany, where all my classes and exams were in German - I've improved massively at German over the year and if I'd wanted to, could probably have finished this year being as close to fluent as anyone studying a straight German degree. So not only will I be able to tell employers that I have a good level of German, but I also have a law degree. And a knowledge of the German legal system! Sure, I can't write down tables and tables of conjugations or teach someone how to do certain grammatical constructions, but I can still do most of those myself.

    Essentially, I think doing a language as a "minor" for a more useful subject is a great idea, especially whilst the Erasmus scheme continues to be well-funded. But a language on its own is pointless.
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    (Original post by Katie_p)
    I personally think that doing a straight Langauge degree is the biggest waste of time and money possible. The only reason i could see for doing it is if you want to teach and need an academic understanding of it!
    I'm doing European Law, and currently just finishing off my 3rd year in Germany, where all my classes and exams were in German - I've improved massively at German over the year and if I'd wanted to, could probably have finished this year being as close to fluent as anyone studying a straight German degree. So not only will I be able to tell employers that I have a good level of German, but I also have a law degree. And a knowledge of the German legal system! Sure, I can't write down tables and tables of conjugations or teach someone how to do certain grammatical constructions, but I can still do most of those myself.

    Essentially, I think doing a language as a "minor" for a more useful subject is a great idea, especially whilst the Erasmus scheme continues to be well-funded. But a language on its own is pointless.
    Except plenty of languages aren't included in the Erasmus scheme and require far more work than German*, particularly if you haven't been given the opportunity to study it prior to going to university. In the case of a language like Mandarin or Arabic, you'd certainly have a hard time getting to a decent level by taking it as a minor. You could also argue that it'd be just as easy to do straight languages and do a GDL afterwards, which could be even more beneficial as some companies are ready to pay for their employees to do it (and judging by the number of people I know who've done straight languages and have gone into law…)

    *: Disclaimer, I'm not saying German's easy, but I do think it's easier to reach a better level in a shorter amount of time compared to some other languages.
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    (Original post by Anatheme)
    Except plenty of languages aren't included in the Erasmus scheme and require far more work than German*, particularly if you haven't been given the opportunity to study it prior to going to university. In the case of a language like Mandarin or Arabic, you'd certainly have a hard time getting to a decent level by taking it as a minor. You could also argue that it'd be just as easy to do straight languages and do a GDL afterwards, which could be even more beneficial as some companies are ready to pay for their employees to do it (and judging by the number of people I know who've done straight languages and have gone into law…)

    *: Disclaimer, I'm not saying German's easy, but I do think it's easier to reach a better level in a shorter amount of time compared to some other languages.
    For my course that wouldn't be more beneficial, because you wouldn't know German law.
    Starting a language from scratch at degree level is fair enough, but I still think it's better to do it joint with another subject than on its own.
    If a language isn't included in Erasmus, studying it at degree level is bound to be more expensive than a year of evening classes and then visiting the country for a year. You can argue about the merits of that option, but I know who I'd prefer to employ out a graduate in Arabic (from scratch) and in History and Arabic.
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    (Original post by Katie_p)
    For my course that wouldn't be more beneficial, because you wouldn't know German law.
    Starting a language from scratch at degree level is fair enough, but I still think it's better to do it joint with another subject than on its own.
    If a language isn't included in Erasmus, studying it at degree level is bound to be more expensive than a year of evening classes and then visiting the country for a year. You can argue about the merits of that option, but I know who I'd prefer to employ out a graduate in Arabic (from scratch) and in History and Arabic.
    I totally agree with you.

    My degree will be in Politics with Economics (with German) and the language is something I've added to the degree programme through my options along the way, and I'm going to Germany next year (Btw, Katie, I found out which housing I'm in in Konstanz, all feeling a bit real now!).

    I think the best 'straight languages' courses encompass a lot of the 'added extras' from history, politics, literature, etc - but if I studied straight languages I would want to develop a 'minor' from one of those to give my CV a bit of added extra. Because even if *you* don't think straight languages is a waste of time, some employers might.
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    (Original post by lesswrong)
    Hi,

    I absolutely love studying languages - it's what I spend most of my free time doing.

    However, even though it's what I love, I'm reluctant to do a language course at university because I don't see the point.

    For example, why spend £9000 on tuition fees each year when you could live abroad and become truly fluent in the immersion setting? Or why not study in a university abroad?

    What can you actually do with a language degree? Is it not more useful to have a politics/law degree for example, and also have languages on top of that so you can work in the EU or something similar?

    I really want convincing that I should study languages . But my -hopefully erroneous - logic can't see how it's better to do a degree in a language instead of using the money to go abroad, or alternatively, how it's better than doing a degree in something other than languages but having language skills...

    Thanks
    Well, it depends on what you want to do with your degree. If you want to be a lawyer or a politician, law or politics would be your best bet but languages are more transferable to other jobs. Companies will pay big bucks to someone who speaks another language because its easier than hiring someone with a degree in anything else and teaching them another language.

    The best option seems to be combining your preferred subject with a language so a 50/50 split as unfortunately people do not go abroad and all of a sudden become fluent in that language. There are English expats who have been living in Spain for 20 years + and they still do not speak Spanish.

    Not to say that some people aren't capable of achieving this. Some people are and if you have the motivation to study another subject and dedicate your free time to languages, go for it.
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    (Original post by RibenaRockstar)
    I totally agree with you.

    My degree will be in Politics with Economics (with German) and the language is something I've added to the degree programme through my options along the way, and I'm going to Germany next year (Btw, Katie, I found out which housing I'm in in Konstanz, all feeling a bit real now!).

    I think the best 'straight languages' courses encompass a lot of the 'added extras' from history, politics, literature, etc - but if I studied straight languages I would want to develop a 'minor' from one of those to give my CV a bit of added extra. Because even if *you* don't think straight languages is a waste of time, some employers might.
    Exactly this.
    Culture and history is all very well, but people claiming you can't get that from a year of "immersion" are kidding themselves, in my opinion. Sure, if you know nothing and go abroad, you'll struggle to get anywhere, but if you can get to A-level standard before you leave, and have a bit of money, you can learn so much about history and culture just by looking around and talking to people!
    Why study one subject when you can do two just as easily, making yourself more employable and learning more about the "more useful" subject? Any kind of specialist knowledge coupled with a language is great, but a language on its own makes you no different to a native from that country with a good knowledge of English.

    Where are you staying in Konstanz?!
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    (Original post by Katie_p)
    For my course that wouldn't be more beneficial, because you wouldn't know German law.
    Starting a language from scratch at degree level is fair enough, but I still think it's better to do it joint with another subject than on its own.
    If a language isn't included in Erasmus, studying it at degree level is bound to be more expensive than a year of evening classes and then visiting the country for a year. You can argue about the merits of that option, but I know who I'd prefer to employ out a graduate in Arabic (from scratch) and in History and Arabic.
    It is going to be more expensive, but also more beneficial. Evening classes will never ever get you to the same level as a year of a language degree would, and you get to visit the country on your year abroad anyway.

    And you might want to have a better look at language degrees, they include history, literature, politics, business, translation, etc., meaning you get language skills and practically any other humanity degree skills (I'm not saying knowledge, but you'll certainly get the same skills) under the sun, so a degree in Arabic and History only differs from a degree in Arabic in that you'll learn more about history that isn't related to Arabic, but you'll get the same skills out of it. Unless you're after someone who specialises in Arabic and Victorian history, your argument doesn't hold much weight here, particularly as most jobs don't even require a specific degree.

    Straight languages also offer you the chance to keep doors open. Because you can pick what you want to study from so many subjects within your degree, you get an extra four years to decide what really interests you and you're not at risk of becoming a one-trick pony because you'll get all these subjects, and you'll know what you want*. I started my first degree convinced I was going to be an interpreter and I'm now working in cybersecurity (a job I could have definitely got with my straight languages degree.)

    Joint honours are only useful if you're gonna do something that you wouldn't get by doing languages, like a science subject or a vocational subject like law or, to an extent, economics. Someone who's done English, History or Philosophy and a language has virtually no advantage over someone who's done one or two languages in terms of skills. The only difference is gonna be the content of what they learnt.

    *: I realise this is clearly not your case, but A LOT of people do not know what they want to do after university. At least with languages you're that little bit more interesting to employers compared to the usual string of Business or History graduates they'll see apply for jobs that don't require specific skills. So few people in the UK bother with languages that it makes you stand out.
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    (Original post by Katie_p)
    Where are you staying in Konstanz?!
    Sonnenbühlstrasse 38/40. I *think* 38, given the floorplans online and the number of people they've said are in my flat.
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    (Original post by Anatheme)
    At least with languages you're that little bit more interesting to employers compared to the usual string of Business or History graduates they'll see apply for jobs that don't require specific skills. So few people in the UK bother with languages that it makes you stand out.
    Yep, so few people bother with languages that my minor in German makes me stand out, and then my boss looks at my Politics with Economics and is impressed by that too. Rightly or wrongly, a lot of people think of languages as worthless degrees, and some of those people will be choosing whether or not to hire you.

    You can stand out from the crowd with a minor in a language.
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    (Original post by RibenaRockstar)
    I totally agree with you.

    My degree will be in Politics with Economics (with German) and the language is something I've added to the degree programme through my options along the way, and I'm going to Germany next year (Btw, Katie, I found out which housing I'm in in Konstanz, all feeling a bit real now!).

    I think the best 'straight languages' courses encompass a lot of the 'added extras' from history, politics, literature, etc - but if I studied straight languages I would want to develop a 'minor' from one of those to give my CV a bit of added extra. Because even if *you* don't think straight languages is a waste of time, some employers might.
    How would they? You can basically teach yourself politics or economics far more easily than you can teach yourself languages… And given that most jobs don't even require a specific degree (because they're after soft skills that are the same across a lot of social sciences and humanities degree), having language skills will make you stand out more than it will make you seem useless.

    (Original post by xJessx)
    Well, it depends on what you want to do with your degree. If you want to be a lawyer or a politician, law or politics would be your best bet but languages are more transferable to other jobs. Companies will pay big bucks to someone who speaks another language because its easier than hiring someone with a degree in anything else and teaching them another language.
    This.

    (Original post by Katie_p)
    Exactly this.
    Culture and history is all very well, but people claiming you can't get that from a year of "immersion" are kidding themselves, in my opinion. Sure, if you know nothing and go abroad, you'll struggle to get anywhere, but if you can get to A-level standard before you leave, and have a bit of money, you can learn so much about history and culture just by looking around and talking to people!
    Why study one subject when you can do two just as easily, making yourself more employable and learning more about the "more useful" subject? Any kind of specialist knowledge coupled with a language is great, but a language on its own makes you no different to a native from that country with a good knowledge of English.

    Where are you staying in Konstanz?!
    Having done the "learn a language for ten years and move abroad" and the "learn a language at uni and go abroad for a year", I can tell you for sure that immersion is not necessarily the best option for everyone, and that what you get out of a year of studying abroad and a year living abroad by yourself with no structure is really quite different.

    And again, you do get specialist knowledge within a language degree! What do you think we do, stick to translation and grammar?!

    (Original post by RibenaRockstar)
    Yep, so few people bother with languages that my minor in German makes me stand out, and then my boss looks at my Politics with Economics and is impressed by that too. Rightly or wrongly, a lot of people think of languages as worthless degrees, and some of those people will be choosing whether or not to hire you.

    You can stand out from the crowd with a minor in a language.
    But not with the skills you'll have achieved in that minor compared to someone who's done an actual degree in German and did one of your social sciences as their minor. And with Politics and Economics being so painfully common, German by itself would definitely make you stand out more, even by itself.

    People think of language degrees as worthless degrees because they don't know anything about them, but trust me, that is not the case for employers.
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    (Original post by Anatheme)
    It is going to be more expensive, but also more beneficial. Evening classes will never ever get you to the same level as a year of a language degree would, and you get to visit the country on your year abroad anyway.

    And you might want to have a better look at language degrees, they include history, literature, politics, business, translation, etc., meaning you get language skills and practically any other humanity degree skills (I'm not saying knowledge, but you'll certainly get the same skills) under the sun, so a degree in Arabic and History only differs from a degree in Arabic in that you'll learn more about history that isn't related to Arabic, but you'll get the same skills out of it. Unless you're after someone who specialises in Arabic and Victorian history, your argument doesn't hold much weight here, particularly as most jobs don't even require a specific degree.

    Straight languages also offer you the chance to keep doors open. Because you can pick what you want to study from so many subjects within your degree, you get an extra four years to decide what really interests you and you're not at risk of becoming a one-trick pony because you'll get all these subjects, and you'll know what you want*. I started my first degree convinced I was going to be an interpreter and I'm now working in cybersecurity (a job I could have definitely got with my straight languages degree.)

    Joint honours are only useful if you're gonna do something that you wouldn't get by doing languages, like a science subject or a vocational subject like law or, to an extent, economics. Someone who's done English, History or Philosophy and a language has virtually no advantage over someone who's done one or two languages in terms of skills. The only difference is gonna be the content of what they learnt.

    *: I realise this is clearly not your case, but A LOT of people do not know what they want to do after university. At least with languages you're that little bit more interesting to employers compared to the usual string of Business or History graduates they'll see apply for jobs that don't require specific skills. So few people in the UK bother with languages that it makes you stand out.
    Most jobs don't require a specific degree - this is true, but a "difficult" degree is always going to stand you in better stead than an "easy" one, if you ignore other variables. I'm not saying that's a good thing, and I'm not sure I consider languages "easy" (though many do) but just because you can nominally do anything for a huge range of jobs doesn't mean you shouldn't try to make the most of your degree and choose a "more useful" subject alongside your language.

    You can choose subjects and learn what you want/the only difference is going to be in content - again, this is true, but equally if you know you like geography, why not do that alongside a language and still choose subjects within the language part of the course? I don't really agree with spending huge amounts of money and time finding out what you want to do like this. The entire point about not becoming a one-trick-pony is flawed in that you remain a generalist, not a specialist. Sure, knowing everything important happened in 15th century Europe, or how rocks are formed or whatever isn't that helpful for most jobs, but I think any specialism is better than none, especially if you retain a certain amount of general stuff (by combining with a language, or having transferable skills etc.)
    Why settle for "language" content and not "language and X" content?

    If you don't know what you want to do, I think that studying just a language is the easy option. You don't have to know what career you want to decide on another interest to pursue alongside your language(s) and whilst people will call me a snob for saying so, it's what employers want. Why would they hire a German/French/Chinese etc graduate for work, purely by way of example, in a large company in marketing, when they can hire a German/French/Chinese native with excellent English skills AND a relevant degree?
    Sure, I could be wrong, but I think languages on their own are not viewed so favourably by employers for these reasons.
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    (Original post by RibenaRockstar)
    Sonnenbühlstrasse 38/40. I *think* 38, given the floorplans online and the number of people they've said are in my flat.
    Ooh OK. That's very close to Uni but packed buses in either direction - you'll need to invest in a bike!
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    I love learning languages too!

    My degree is English language and TEFL, but I am taking elective modules in different languages throughout. In september I am taking Mandarin and Italian, and next year I can either go on to the next level of those languages or choose new ones
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    (Original post by Katie_p)
    I personally think that doing a straight Langauge degree is the biggest waste of time and money possible. The only reason i could see for doing it is if you want to teach and need an academic understanding of it!
    I'm doing European Law, and currently just finishing off my 3rd year in Germany, where all my classes and exams were in German - I've improved massively at German over the year and if I'd wanted to, could probably have finished this year being as close to fluent as anyone studying a straight German degree. So not only will I be able to tell employers that I have a good level of German, but I also have a law degree. And a knowledge of the German legal system! Sure, I can't write down tables and tables of conjugations or teach someone how to do certain grammatical constructions, but I can still do most of those myself.

    Essentially, I think doing a language as a "minor" for a more useful subject is a great idea, especially whilst the Erasmus scheme continues to be well-funded. But a language on its own is pointless.
    Which uni are you at?
 
 
 
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