Is Taking Two Beginners' Languages at Uni Really That Much Work?

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armyoctopus
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#1
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#1
I’ll be going into Year 13 in September, so I’m getting my university choices/subjects sorted out. I know I want to study Japanese in some form, however my interest and aptitude lies firmly on the language side of things, and I can’t say I’d be able to enjoy studying East Asian history and culture to a great extent. It interests me, obviously – but not enough to enjoy spending years studying it.

So I was wondering – would it be too much for me to study two ab-initio languages at university? Sheffield, for example, offers a course in Japanese with Russian, both from beginners’ level. I could then avoid too many of the history/culture modules by replacing them with modules from another language. Sheffield also offers a Major/Minor approach (80/40 split), so I could do a ‘major’ in Japanese and a ‘minor’ in Russian.

I’ve heard that ab-initio languages involve quite a lot of work, but I don’t really understand why – surely if you’re doing the same number of modules as people on different courses, for the same number of credits, your workload is roughly the same? I do have a talent for languages (A*’s in French and Spanish GCSE, predicated A*’s in both for A-level), but I definitely do not want to undertake a degree which is too much work for me and stresses me out.
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Snufkin
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#2
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#2
(Original post by armyoctopus)
I’ll be going into Year 13 in September, so I’m getting my university choices/subjects sorted out. I know I want to study Japanese in some form, however my interest and aptitude lies firmly on the language side of things, and I can’t say I’d be able to enjoy studying East Asian history and culture to a great extent. It interests me, obviously – but not enough to enjoy spending years studying it.

So I was wondering – would it be too much for me to study two ab-initio languages at university? Sheffield, for example, offers a course in Japanese with Russian, both from beginners’ level. I could then avoid too many of the history/culture modules by replacing them with modules from another language. Sheffield also offers a Major/Minor approach (80/40 split), so I could do a ‘major’ in Japanese and a ‘minor’ in Russian.

I’ve heard that ab-initio languages involve quite a lot of work, but I don’t really understand why – surely if you’re doing the same number of modules as people on different courses, for the same number of credits, your workload is roughly the same? I do have a talent for languages (A*’s in French and Spanish GCSE, predicated A*’s in both for A-level), but I definitely do not want to undertake a degree which is too much work for me and stresses me out.
Very few universities offer two ab initio language degrees for the simple reason that it's a bad idea, it is a lot of work and your language skills will suffer as a consequence. If you want to reduce the number of cultural modules, why not combine Japanese (or Russian) with Linguistics?
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pizzanomics
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I just finished my first year at Sheffield studying languages. I did both Dutch and Russian ab initio (alongside post-A level German) and dropped Russian becase I found it too difficult.

Loads of people manage just fine though. I know someone at Sheffield who changed their degree completely and did 3 beginner languages starting from 2nd year (Russian, Dutch, and Czech) and graduated with a First this year so it's definitely not impossible.

The benefit of doing languages it Sheffield is that you can start however you want and if it's too tricky you can drop them (and pick others up if you want).
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armyoctopus
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#4
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(Original post by pizzanomics)
I just finished my first year at Sheffield studying languages. I did both Dutch and Russian ab initio (alongside post-A level German) and dropped Russian becase I found it too difficult.

Loads of people manage just fine though. I know someone at Sheffield who changed their degree completely and did 3 beginner languages starting from 2nd year (Russian, Dutch, and Czech) and graduated with a First this year so it's definitely not impossible.

The benefit of doing languages it Sheffield is that you can start however you want and if it's too tricky you can drop them (and pick others up if you want).
This is very interesting to hear - did this person you know have to begin their entire degree from scratch (i.e. do a whole additional 4 years)? Or did the first year they did count towards their degree?

Do you know, from your experience at Sheffield so far, if it would be possible for me to start doing just Japanese Studies, and then pick up Russian at some point further along the line if I decide that I want to?
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pizzanomics
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(Original post by armyoctopus)
This is very interesting to hear - did this person you know have to begin their entire degree from scratch (i.e. do a whole additional 4 years)? Or did the first year they did count towards their degree?

Do you know, from your experience at Sheffield so far, if it would be possible for me to start doing just Japanese Studies, and then pick up Russian at some point further along the line if I decide that I want to?
Nope, they did 3 languages in first year, one of which was beginners Russian, then swapped the other two languages in second year for beginners Czech and beginners Dutch. First year doesn't count towards 99% of degrees no matter where you go.

I don't know as Japanese (alongside Chinese and Korean) aren't taught in the School of Languages, but instead come under the School of East Asian Studies in the Social Sciences faculty. Should be possible if you have credits leftover, but you'd get a better answer by emailing them directly.
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YNWA1
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#6
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(Original post by Snufkin)
Very few universities offer two ab initio language degrees for the simple reason that it's a bad idea, it is a lot of work and your language skills will suffer as a consequence. If you want to reduce the number of cultural modules, why not combine Japanese (or Russian) with Linguistics?
Hey ArmyOctupus,

Great name and awesome use of the term 'ab initio'.

As a Single Honours French Studies graduate, all I can say is starting a language from scratch is a slow and laborious task but pays off in the long-run. Most people fall by the wayside as they don't persist (a few hours a week isn't enough to reach fluency). It's all about languagifying as many things as possible on a daily basis (reading the news, emailing friends, watching films... in the target language) and not expecting the language to magically permeate your skin. I learnt French, Italian and Spanish and had to move to France, Italy and Spain to make any real progress. Reaching fluency was such a slog but so worth it!
As for one language versus two, if you do single honours definitely make the most of the fact most unis allow you to study additional languages free of charge... as a linguist, the more strings you have to your bow, the better!

Good luck in your decision-making! Tim
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Snufkin
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#7
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(Original post by • You’llNeverWalkAlone)
Hey ArmyOctupus,

Great name and awesome use of the term 'ab initio'.

As a Single Honours French Studies graduate, all I can say is starting a language from scratch is a slow and laborious task but pays off in the long-run. Most people fall by the wayside as they don't persist (a few hours a week isn't enough to reach fluency). It's all about languagifying as many things as possible on a daily basis (reading the news, emailing friends, watching films... in the target language) and not expecting the language to magically permeate your skin. I learnt French, Italian and Spanish and had to move to France, Italy and Spain to make any real progress. Reaching fluency was such a slog but so worth it!
As for one language versus two, if you do single honours definitely make the most of the fact most unis allow you to study additional languages free of charge... as a linguist, the more strings you have to your bow, the better!

Good luck in your decision-making! Tim
I think you meant to quote armyoctopus
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Asolare
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#8
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(Original post by • You’llNeverWalkAlone)
Hey ArmyOctupus,

Great name and awesome use of the term 'ab initio'.

As a Single Honours French Studies graduate, all I can say is starting a language from scratch is a slow and laborious task but pays off in the long-run. Most people fall by the wayside as they don't persist (a few hours a week isn't enough to reach fluency). It's all about languagifying as many things as possible on a daily basis (reading the news, emailing friends, watching films... in the target language) and not expecting the language to magically permeate your skin. I learnt French, Italian and Spanish and had to move to France, Italy and Spain to make any real progress. Reaching fluency was such a slog but so worth it!
As for one language versus two, if you do single honours definitely make the most of the fact most unis allow you to study additional languages free of charge... as a linguist, the more strings you have to your bow, the better!

Good luck in your decision-making! Tim
You quoted the wrong person btw!

armyoctopus
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HWU StudentRep 1
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#9
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It's a lot of work but so are many courses if you like languages and are passionate about it it isn't really a struggle. There will be a lot of translations and practice work to try and get you to reach fluency.
AF, 3rd year chemistry ( and I did beginners sign language 1 & 2)
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armyoctopus
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(Original post by • You’llNeverWalkAlone)
As for one language versus two, if you do single honours definitely make the most of the fact most unis allow you to study additional languages free of charge... as a linguist, the more strings you have to your bow, the better!

Good luck in your decision-making! Tim
Thanks for your reply.

To clarify, are you referring here to studying additional languages completely separate from your degree as a hobby? Not as something that will give you credits towards your degree?
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armyoctopus
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#11
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(Original post by pizzanomics)
Nope, they did 3 languages in first year, one of which was beginners Russian, then swapped the other two languages in second year for beginners Czech and beginners Dutch. First year doesn't count towards 99% of degrees no matter where you go.
So you can basically switch degrees to a similar degree after the first year for most courses without having to re-do the first year?
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pizzanomics
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(Original post by armyoctopus)
So you can basically switch degrees to a similar degree after the first year for most courses without having to re-do the first year?
Not exactly.

That's only 100% guaranteed at Sheffield because of how the course works, but only if you're studying languages within the School of Languages and Culture. Japanese, Chinese and Korean are not in that department so you would most likely have to redo the year. Any other course at Sheffield and/or any other uni then you would most likely have to do first year again as well but like anywhere each case is judged seperately.
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armyoctopus
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#13
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(Original post by pizzanomics)
Not exactly.

That's only 100% guaranteed at Sheffield because of how the course works, but only if you're studying languages within the School of Languages and Culture. Japanese, Chinese and Korean are not in that department so you would most likely have to redo the year. Any other course at Sheffield and/or any other uni then you would most likely have to do first year again as well but like anywhere each case is judged seperately.
Thanks. I also have a general question about Sheffield, might be different for your degree though. Are you able to choose whatever modules you want from the subjects you're doing, as long as you make up the necessary credits? Or do you have to do a certain number of credits for each subject? For example, could you take 100 credits of subject A and 20 credits of subject B to make up 120 credits? Or would it have to be a precise 80/40 or 60/60 split?
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