Taking a Slavic language as part of a joint languages degree? Watch

Athena17
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Hi everyone!

Wouldn't mind some advice... I'm applying to uni this autumn to go and study languages. I know I definitely want to take German, but I've been thinking hard about looking for a joint degree programme where I can take Polish or Russian alongside German too. I'm very interested in Eastern Europe so it would be brilliant to be able to learn more about the region in one of these, its own languages and it might be a good option for jobs later on too, as they seem to be more commonly used languages than German here. Only thing is, I've heard they're quite difficult to pick up from scratch, especially Russian. Do you think it would be realistic for me to do this while also studying German to a higher level? Any current language students who're doing these two at the mo, German and Polish or German and Russian: what's it like??? Do you manage to keep up with everything OK? Does one language take up a lot more time than the other or is it fairly balanced between the two? Is it really stressful learning a completely new foreign language as well as continuing one you know to degree level, or does it get easier as you get on?

Thank you! Athena17
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Jmin97
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Russian is hard, but if you know it you can understand some Polish
As a person who able to communicate in 6 languages can say, that it is gonna be ok to study 2 languages at the same time. And sometimes knowledge of 1 language helps you to learn another.
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pizzanomics
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(Original post by Athena17)
Hi everyone!

Wouldn't mind some advice... I'm applying to uni this autumn to go and study languages. I know I definitely want to take German, but I've been thinking hard about looking for a joint degree programme where I can take Polish or Russian alongside German too. I'm very interested in Eastern Europe so it would be brilliant to be able to learn more about the region in one of these, its own languages and it might be a good option for jobs later on too, as they seem to be more commonly used languages than German here. Only thing is, I've heard they're quite difficult to pick up from scratch, especially Russian. Do you think it would be realistic for me to do this while also studying German to a higher level? Any current language students who're doing these two at the mo, German and Polish or German and Russian: what's it like??? Do you manage to keep up with everything OK? Does one language take up a lot more time than the other or is it fairly balanced between the two? Is it really stressful learning a completely new foreign language as well as continuing one you know to degree level, or does it get easier as you get on?

Thank you! Athena17
If you've got no experience with Slavic languages then you will find learning something like Russian/Czech/Polish from scratch relatively difficult, however when learning it at university you will have the benefit of getting lessons, making it a lot easier. And the whole reason for you being at university is to learn those languages, so you will spend a LOT of time doing it. Not that it's a bad thing (I'm starting a degree in German, Dutch and Russian) but I think you might be underestimating the amount of time you'll spend learning the languages you choose. Don't be fooled by the cyrillic alphabet - most people can learn it within a few hours and if you keep practicing it and reinforcing it you'll be able to read it in no time, it's the EASIEST thing about Russian, NOT the hardest.

Russian (can't speak for other Slavic languages) and German share a few cognates so there will be vocab that you will recognise from knowing German. Also Russian, and many other Slavic languages, have a very extensive case system. If you're familiar with how grammatical case works, which you should be from knowing German, then you don't need to relearn what 'case' is.. just what the different cases are in Russian/Polish and how they work. Regardless of similarities (or lack thereof) between languages, having already learned one language you will find it a lot easier to learn a second, because you will already know how to learn a language and you don't need to train your brain into a new way of thinking and learning.

In prep for my degree I've been doing basic Duolingo and Memrise courses on Russian and it doesn't seem that difficult to do alongside post-A level German. It's VERY different, but it's pretty refreshing. You'll have a lot of structure at university which will make it easier.

Depending on the university you go to and how they run their course, it's likely that your contact hours will be split evenly between your languages, regardless of how many you do or whether they are post A level/ab initio. However, from what I have heard and from making educated guesses, you will probably spend a lot more of your free time working on improving your ab initio languages because it goes without saying that whatever the language is, you'll find it harder because it's new and you'll need to get used to it.

I'll be a student at Sheffield in September. Here's their Slavonic Studies department page. They offer Russian, Czech and Polish all from beginners - you can find a list of the degrees that include them by clicking the links on that page. If you've got any questions feel free to ask, I'll do my best to answer.
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Asolare
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Though I can't offer you an experience, I can offer you the fact that I'm in the same position. I am going to continue German past A Level and take up Russian as well.

I'm aware that it will be difficult (Russian is a lot more difficult than German by far) and naturally if you take up any language ab initio at university it's going to be fast-paced, but that shouldn't dissuade you. Unis will have years of experience in managing students who haven't studied Slavic languages pre-A Level and everyone will be on the same page pretty much.

But you should definitely prep in advance for the course. Oxford & Cambridge (unsurprisingly) have webpages with list of preparation they expect students to do for the beginner's Russian course, naturally other unis are going to be nowhere near as demanding, but it is a sentiment you should follow.

I have started learning Russian (incl. Russian cursive) in preparation because I have over a year to get myself prepared; so you could consider doing the same?

Also, although the alphabet itself is different to the one English & German use, if you know how to pronounce some Russian words you would be able to guess their meanings as they are similar to English/German words.
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Snufkin
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Clearly it is possible to learn a Slavic language alongside German (if it wasn't, universities wouldn't let students do it), but you just have to want it enough. If the language doesn't interest then you will find it very hard to learn. Choosing a language you enjoy and interests you is far more important that how 'useful' you think it is or how many speakers it has.

I agree with the other posters that if you want to study Russian you should start learning basic Russian grammar and the Cyrillic alphabet now. It is also important to spend time listening to spoken Russian and familiarising yourself with how it sounds. See here: http://www.mml.cam.ac.uk/slavonic/papers/part-ia/a. But you don't have to study a Slavic language if you're interested in Eastern Europe... there's always Romanian, it seems to be less difficult.
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