Snufkin
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This is a guide to choosing which language(s) to study at university and what type of degree to take. I have put together a brief introduction to each language (grouped by language family) below. Any questions, post and ask.

What qualifications do I need?

Studying languages at university is open to everyone, whether you're a complete beginner, took a language GCSE or have just finished A-levels. Some courses require you to have a language A-level (or equivalent qualification) in order to apply, but many universities offer opportunities to study languages from scratch.

What's the difference between single and joint honours?

A single honours degree allows students to concrete all their time and energy on just one language. Single honours is a great option if you want to learn a language in great depth and gain a thorough understanding of the culture and society of the country or countries where your chosen language is spoken. If you study one language (as a single honours degree), you'll take more content modules in the literature, culture, politics, linguistics, film and history of your chosen language, and you will also spend your year abroad in one country. Studying a single honours language is a good idea if you want to learn a particularly difficult non-European language, or if you have a burning passion for a specific language/country.

If you choose to study two languages, you can split them 50/50 (joint honours) or 75/25 (major/minor), depending on the course and the university. You'll still have content modules, but not as many as a single honours student. A joint honours degree enables you to learn two languages concurrently or combine a language with an unrelated subject. Joint honours language degrees are popular because they allow students to pick up a new language which that they haven't studied before. If you study two languages then you split your year abroad evenly between two countries.

Can I study languages with another subject?

Yes! Languages lend themselves well to being studied as part of a joint degree. Some languages are especially well suited to certain subjects, e.g. German and Philosophy, Italian and History of Art, French and Politics - but the combinations are endless. Joint honours degrees are an excellent way to boost your employment prospects, as the graduate job market becomes more competitive, gaining extra skills (especially business, technological or scientific skills) could be a good career move and a way to future proof your degree.

Can I learn a new language at university?

Yes! These are known as ab initio (beginners) courses. Beginners language courses are fast-paced and cover a lot of content, but they do allow you to reach a high standard by the time that you graduate. Learning a new language is a great challenge that is lots of fun and there are plenty of language learning resources available at university to help you.

Which language?

There are dozens of languages offered at UK universities, but they generally fall into these three categories:

"Classic" languages that are most often studied at degree level and are usually studied at school.

> French
> Spanish
> German
> Italian

"New" languages which are in high demand nowadays due to globalisation and the rapid development of BRIC counties.

> Chinese (Mandarin)
> Japanese
> Russian
> Arabic
> Portuguese

"Rare" languages are often undersubscribed and only offered at a few universities, but they have the benefit of having small class sizes, making you stand out to employers, and niche language skills are always in demand in translation and interpreting.

> Middle Eastern (Persian, Turkish, Hebrew)
> North European (Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Icelandic, Irish, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic)
> East European (Bulgarian, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Serbian/Croatian, Slovak, Ukrainian, Yiddish)
> Asian (Korean, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Nepali, Tibetan, Burmese, Indonesian, Malay, Thai, Vietnamese)
> African (Amharic, Hausa, Somali, Swahili, Yoruba, Zulu)


Romance Languages




French is spoken by over 220 million people (and that number is set to rise to over 700 million by 2050) in more than 75 countries across all five continents. Widely used in diplomacy, the judiciary and the charitable sector, French is both a working language and an official language of the United Nations and the European Union, as well as an official language of major international institutions such as NATO, UNESCO, the OECD, the International Olympic Committee, the European Space Agency, the World Trade Organisation, the Red Cross, Amnesty International, Médecins sans Frontières and international courts. French also has the distinction of being the language of the three cities where the EU institutions are headquartered: Strasbourg, Brussels and Luxembourg.

French is the international language of cooking, fashion, theatre, the visual arts, dance and architecture. Some of the most striking literary texts ever written are in French, French cinema is one of the world's richest and Paris has long been the centre of the art world. French, and the francophone cultures of Europe, Africa and the Caribbean, are some of the richest and most rewarding to study on the planet. French literature spans a thousand years, including such great names as Montaigne, Flaubert and Proust. French also gives you access to philosophical and political thinkers, like René Descartes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau or Simone de Beauvoir, who have fundamentally shaped our modern world and our understanding of ourselves.

Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world with approximately 400 million native speakers. It is the official language in 21 countries, not only in Spain and Latin America, but also in Equatorial Guinea, western Africa. In the United States, Spanish is the second most used language after English, with over 40 million speakers.

Spanish is the language of great writers, artists and filmmakers such as Cervantes and García Márquez, Velázquez, Botero, Goya, Almodóvar and Iñárritu, and Spanish-speaking cities such as Madrid, Mexico City, Buenos Aires and Havana are some of the most dynamic in the world. Spanish is a major regional language in the Americas and is an official language of the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, the Latin Union, the Central American Common Market, the European Union, Mercosur, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Organisation of American States and the Union of South American Nations.

Portuguese is spoken by approximately 240 million people, mostly in Brazil and Portugal, making it the sixth most widely spoken language in the world, and the third most spoken European language after English and Spanish. Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, Portugal, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Principe. It is also an official language in Timor-Leste.

Portuguese is an official language of the European Union, the Organisation of Ibero-American States, the African Union, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the Economic Community of West African States, the Organisation of American States, the Southern African Development Community and the Union of South American Nations. Brazil is a major developing nation and as one of the BRIC countries, is a high priority international market for the UK, and is especially important in the oil & gas, mining and financial services sectors. Brazil is generally considered to be the 7th largest economy in the world and it has the potential to become an economic superpower. Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are among the largest urban centres in the Americas.

Italian is spoken by approximately 85 million people. It is the official language of Italy, San Marino and the Vatican, is one the official languages in Switzerland and it is also used in Monaco and Malta, as well as by immigrants and their descendants in the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Croatia.

The Italian peninsula is one of the pivotal centres in the history of the West. From the Roman Empire to the medieval communes, from the Renaissance to Fascism, Italy has shaped the culture and politics of Europe and the wider world for over two millennia. Italian is an official language of the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Italian is the language usually associated with music (Verdi, Puccini, Monteverdi, Rossini ...), renaissance art (Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Mantegna, Botticelli, Bellini...), history and architecture (from the Etruscans to ancient Rome and the renaissance to classicism and modernity), the fashion industry (Valentino, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Benetton, Trussardi, Bulgari...) as well as excellent cuisine, general wellbeing and beautiful cities (Florence, Venice, Rome, Bologna, Pisa, Siena, Arezzo...).

Romanian is spoken by approximately 24 million people in Romania and Moldova, as well as minorities in Ukraine, Serbia, Hungary and Greece. Romanian is the only Romance language spoken in Eastern Europe and is the easiest language of the region for a native English speaker to learn. Romania is a developing country with a fascinating history, a very interesting grammatical system and excellent (and cheap) travel opportunities.


Germanic Languages




German is spoken by over 110 million people. It is the most widely spoken language in the European Union and is an official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxemburg, Italy, Liechtenstein. Although expulsions and assimilation after the Second World War greatly diminished their number, there remains thriving German-speaking minorities in Central and Eastern Europe. In these areas, German is a lingua franca and you are more likely to make yourself understood if you speak some German rather than English. German is a recognized minority language in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine. German is also spoken in parts of eastern France, Namibia, South Africa, as well as by immigrants and their descendants in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Israel and the United States.

German is the leading language for Business and Finance in the European Union and a bridge for communicating with the emerging markets of Eastern Europe. German is the second most commonly used scientific language. Germany is the third largest contributor to research and development and offers research fellowships to scientists from abroad. Germany has the fourth largest economy in the world and is the world's most successful exporting nation. Roughly 10% of all books published worldwide are written in German and there are more than twice as many German websites than British. According to the 2013 Education and Skills survey by the Confederation of British Industry, German is the second most sought-after language in industry with 45 percent of those businesses requiring languages citing German as the language they most needed. German will give you access to a great wealth of literary, intellectual and cultural tradition. In the periods of Reformation, and of Romanticism and Modernism, the German-speaking lands saw the birth of literary, artistic, theological, philosophical and musical movements which continue to shape the world we live in today. German writers such as Goethe, the brothers Grimm, Thomas Mann, Brecht or Grass and thinkers such as Luther, Kant, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud rank among the most important writers and thinkers of the West.

Dutch is spoken by more than 23 million native speakers in the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as in Suriname in South America. It is also widely understood in former colonies in the Caribbean and Indonesia. Moreover, Afrikaans which is spoken by 10 million people in South Africa and Namibia, is to a large extent mutually intelligible with Dutch.

Dutch is the seventh most-spoken language in Europe. The Netherlands and Belgium are some of the largest trading partners of Britain and the United States. Belgium is also the seat of many European and transatlantic institutions. Dutch is consistently ranked as one of the top five languages most frequently requested by UK employers

Scandinavian (Danish, Swedish Norwegian, Icelandic) are spoken in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland respectively. Swedish is also an official language in Finland, and Danish is a recognised minority language in Greenland, Germany and the Faroe Islands. The 'continental' Scandinavian languages (Danish, Swedish and Norwegian) form a dialect continuum of over 20 million people. The languages are in fact so similar that a Norwegian speaker is able to understand and communicate with Danish and Swedish speakers with ease, and vice versa. Icelandic has approximately 350,000 speakers and due to its historical and geographic isolation, is not mutually intelligible with the other Scandinavian languages. Icelandic has changed so little since medieval times that Icelanders are able to read Viking sagas in the original Old Norse.

Famed for the Icelandic sagas and other heroic legacies of the Viking age, medieval Scandinavian literature is among the richest of the European Middle Ages. Modern Nordic culture boats such internationally renowned writers and film-makers as Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg, Knut Hamsun, Edith Södergran, and Lars von Trier. More recently, Scandinavia has become known for its exciting detective and suspense fiction, as well as for its popular musical culture. Competency in Scandinavian languages is a niche skill that’s highly in demand, especially in the translation, interpreting, oil and gas, shipping and tourism industries.

Yiddish is a Germanic language but with important Slavic and Hebrew-Aramaic influences. It is spoken by approximately two million people, the majority of whom live in Israel and the United States, however, there are also large Yiddish-speaking communities in France, the United Kingdom and Sweden. Yiddish is the language of Ashkenazi Jews (that is, Jews whose ancestry hails from Central and Eastern Europe), which was spoken by approximately 13 million people before World War 2. For many centuries, Yiddish defined Jewish existence in Central and Eastern Europe as well as in those New World countries to which Jews emigrated. It was the language not only of the home, but also of a rich literary culture which, like Yiddish itself, combined Jewish motifs and content with European form. Classics of Yiddish literature include the works of Sholem Aleichem (the pen-name of Sholem Rabinowitz, 1859-1916), whose Tevye stories are known to a general audience as the basis for the musical 'Fiddler on the Roof', and Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904-1991), who became to only Yiddish writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978.

The secularisation of Jewish culture at the end of the nineteenth century transformed Yiddish also into a symbol of Jewish nationalism and socialism. While the Nazis’ mass murder and the Stalinist persecution of Jews killed the bulk of Yiddish speakers and destroyed much of Yiddish culture and society, Yiddish is by no means a dead language. It is a native language for many Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jews, and is increasingly studied and embraced as a foreign language by Jews and non-Jews alike who wish to gain an understanding of the European Jewish experience and explore the cultural and literary traditions of a language that has always transcended national borders.


Slavic Languages




Czech is spoken in the Czech Republic by 11 million people. Czech is closely related to and mutually intelligible with Slovak. Since the early Middle Ages, the Czech lands of Bohemia and Moravia have been a crossroads where many different influences – Christian and Jewish, Roman and Byzantine, Latin and Old Church Slavonic – have joined to create a fascinating culture. The social and cultural milieu of Bohemia produced such important German-language authors as Franz Kafka, Franz Werfel and Rainer Maria Rilke; writers such as Werfel, Rilke, Max Brod, and E. E. Kisch. In the twentieth century, the main currents of modernism – from Dadaism and expressionism to surrealism and existentialism – passed through Prague, shaping the work of Czech authors such as Jaroslav Hašek, Karel Čapek, and Ladislav Klíma; after World War II, some of the major voices of European culture – including Václav Havel, Milan Kundera, Bohumil Hrabal, and the film directors of the Czechoslovak New Wave – emerged from the experiences of repression and political dissent in Communist Czechoslovakia. Today, about ten million people speak Czech as their first language, and the Czech Republic continues to be a centre for theatre, film, literature, and the arts.

The Czech Republic and Slovakia offer highly interesting and important resources for the study of political science. They are countries that historically and culturally belong primarily to the West; however, until recently they found themselves under the domination of the Soviet Empire. Czechoslovakia had its own communist tradition, conceived originally independently of Russia, and an extremely well-developed democratic tradition, being the only democracy in Central Europe between the wars. Because of these elements and because of Czechoslovakia's unfortunate and prolonged experience with totalitarian regimes, both the underground Czechoslovak and émigré literatures played an important if little-recognised role in the fate of the modern world. The modern Czech Republic is at the heart of the expanded European Union and is set to remain a key strategic and trading partner of the UK. It has established itself as a centre for banking, finance, media, diplomacy and tourism. Czech expertise, especially combined with another European language, is a prized asset for many professions.

Polish is spoken by 55 million people in Poland as well as minorities in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine. There are also large Polish-speaking immigrant communities in the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and the United States.

Its more than a thousand year long history, one extraordinary even by Central European standards, has included periods of political dominance and triumphs of the libertarian spirit intertwined with those of catastrophic defeats and subjugation to neighbouring powers. Yet it is precisely this continuous facing of real or potential adversity that produced the incomparable cultural phenomenon which is Polish literature. From Renaissance and Baroque courtiers and country squires entertaining their friends with poems and tales, Catholic bishops writing caustic anti-conservative satires during the Age of Enlightenment, great Romantic bards and Positivist novelists of the nineteenth century whose pens were mightier than any swords, to the world famous poets, fiction writers, and playwrights of our times, Polish literature boasts an astonishing number of fascinating figures. Poland is famous for the composer Fryderyk Chopin; cinema directors - Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Kieślowski and Roman Polański; scientists - Copernicus (Mikołaj Kopernik), Maria Skłodowska-Curie (better known as Marie Curie), the only woman who got two Nobel Prizes in Science. After almost thirty years of rapid changes and reforms following the end of Communism, Poland and Central Europe as a whole are again distinctly dynamic and diverse. Poland is an increasingly important actor on the world economic and political stage, the country's economic, political and cultural strength offers exciting and promising opportunities to Polish speakers.

Russian has more than 270 million speakers. Russian is the official and majority language in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Russian is used as a lingua franca throughout much of the Caucuses and Central Asia, it is spoken by large minorities in Estonia, Latvia, Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Israel. There are significant Russian-speaking communities in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Belgium, Greece, Norway, and Austria.

Russian is an official language of the United Nations, International Criminal Court, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. The increase in ethnic and regional conflicts in the post-Soviet era, together with Russia’s role as a global economic power, has meant that Russian continues to be an important language for diplomacy and security. As one of the BRIC countries, Russia has been identified as one of the four major world powers whose influence is growing fast. It is already the world’s sixth largest economy and is projected to overtake Germany by 2030. Russia is one of the largest producers, if not the largest producer, of numerous natural resources and raw materials including oil, gas, petroleum, diamonds, gold, copper, manganese, uranium, silver, graphite and platinum. Russia is the second largest steel producer in the world after Japan and has an enormous timber reserve. It is the world's largest producer of natural gas, third largest producer of oil and fourth largest in terms of the mining of coal. Russia has an estimated 40% of the world total reserves of natural gas. Russia's proven oil reserves are second only to Saudi Arabia's, and it is the top oil producer in the world. Russia is an enormous market for goods and services.

Russia is home to some of the world's finest traditions in the arts. Literature, music, ballet, opera, theatre, cinema and visual arts are only a few of the areas in which Russians have established great traditions and continue to produce remarkable innovators. From Lev Tolstoy to Joseph Brodsky, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov to George Balanchine and Mikhail Baryshnikov, Sergei Eisenstein to Andrei Tarkovsky, Anton Chekhov to Boris Pasternak, Fyodor Dostoevsky to Ivan Bunin, Shostakovich to Khvorostovsky, Bolshoy and Mariinsky Ballet companies, and so on. Russia produces great arts and has more Nobel Prize winners in literature, music and arts than any other country in the world.

Serbian/Croatian has approximately 21 million speakers. A major language of Southeast Europe, Serbo-Croatian comprises four mutually intelligible standard varieties and is spoken in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro.

Learning Serbo-Croatian offers three languages and two alphabets (the Latin script is used in Croatia, the Cyrillic script is used in Serbia) for the price of one. The nuances between the languages of the former Yugoslavia mirror the richness of its cultures. As it was situated between the super-powers of the Habsburg and Ottoman empires before World War I, and between the capitalist west and communist east as part of the Non-Aligned Movement for most of the 20th century, the territory came to symbolize a bridge or crossroads between civilizations. It has produced great writers, such as the Nobel laureate Ivo Andrić, famous scientists, such as the inventor Nikola Tesla, and of course, world-class basketball and tennis stars.

Ukrainian is spoken by 46 million people in Ukraine, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It is a recognised minority language in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia.

Ukraine is situated at the boundary between Central and Eastern Europe, on the north side of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. With a territory slightly larger than that of France, it is the largest country contained wholly within Europe. The name Ukraine means 'borderland', which refers to its historical and cultural position at the intersection of the Western/Catholic, Eastern/Orthodox and Southern/Muslim worlds. It also lies at the crossroads of historical east-west and north-south transport and trade routes. The core vocabulary of Ukrainian is Slavonic, but Ukraine's complex history has also left its mark on the language, with loan words from Greek, Scandinavian, the Turkic languages, Polish, German, Russian, French and English. For centuries Ukrainian's very existence was under threat from Russian Imperial and Soviet authorities; today, from the cafes of L'viv to the boulevards of Kyiv and Odesa, it is experiencing a revival.

Ukrainian literature has a rich and diverse heritage from its exuberant folklore through the powerful poetry of Shevchenko to the lean precision of the twentieth-century avant-garde; from the legends and history of Kievan Rus to the glory and turmoil of Cossackdom to the haunting legacy of Chernobyl. Ukrainian is an important tool for understanding the growing political and economic power of Ukraine in the Eastern European context, as well as the acute problems that plague many post-Communist nations.


Celtic Languages




Irish has approximately 2 million speakers, although the vast majority speak Irish as a second language. Irish is the first official language of Ireland and has been officially recognised in Northern Ireland since 1998. Today you will hear Irish being spoken not only in the Gaeltachtaí, the traditional Irish-speaking areas, but in the pubs of Belfast and Dublin as well, and even in Irish communities outside of Ireland. It is a language very much at home in the lively world of Irish traditional music. There are television, film, radio, and print journalism in Irish, and many wonderful poets and fiction writers continue into the present a literary tradition that dates back to the sixth century. In Irish heroic saga and myth we have the oldest European literature outside the Greek and Roman traditions, and early Irish law and history offer valuable insights into the structures of a European society outside the Roman Empire. An extraordinarily rich oral tradition of wondertales, legends, and songs survived in Ireland well into the twentieth century, and has been recorded since the nineteenth century; this folkloric heritage continues to influence important Irish writers like Seamus Heaney and Paul Muldoon today.

Welsh has 700,000 speakers. Welsh has officially had equal standing with English in public life in Wales since 1993, and the 1998 Government of Wales Act enhanced the status of the language further, after more than 450 years during which English was the only official language in Wales. The establishment of the National Assembly for Wales has spurred tremendous growth in an already lively Welsh language culture. The Welsh film, pop music, and television industries are hives of energy and creativity. At the same time, older cultural institutions continue to thrive, including the annual National Eisteddfod, a festival of Welsh language culture in which poets compete with one another in the composition of poems ranging from the lyrical to the satirical to the downright scurrilous in complex metres that date back to the Middle Ages. Welsh – one of J.R.R. Tolkien's principal inspirations when he invented Elvish – preserves some of the most enigmatic and captivating of medieval stories, including some that found their way into the legend of King Arthur.

Scottish Gaelic has 80,000 speakers. The Gaelic language of Scotland is spoken primarily in communities of the West Highlands and the Hebrides - a group of islands off the west coast of Scotland; however, there is also a Scottish Gaelic community on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. The Scottish Parliament's Gaelic Language Act of 2005 has made promotion of the language to a status equal with that of English a priority of the Scottish government. Meanwhile, Gaelic language and culture thrive in poetry, fiction, traditional and contemporary music, oral tradition, and a very lively blogosphere.

Speakers of Celtic languages are in demand, especially in Celtic-medium education schools and Celtic-medium broadcasting (both radio and television), where recent government investment has created a need for employees with skills in Irish, Welsh and Scottish Gaelic.


Middle Eastern Languages




Arabic is a Semitic language spoken throughout the Middle East and North Africa. With over a quarter of a billion speakers, Arabic is the fifth most widely spoken language in the world, it is the official language in 26 countries, and is one of the six official languages of the United Nations.

Since the rise of Islam and the expansion of the Arab world in the 7th century AD, Arabic has established itself as the vehicle of a strong and diverse culture, it is also the sacred language of around 1.5 billion Muslims across the world, and is the means for exploring almost 14 centuries of one of the most sophisticated, varied, and rich intellectual heritages in the world. Modern Standard Arabic, derived from the Quur'an - Islam's holy book, is the language of books and news broadcasts, poetry and political speeches across the whole Arab world. However, nobody speaks Standard Arabic as their native language. They learn it at school, but the mother tongue of a native Arabic speaker is the dialect of their own country or region. The principal dialect groups are Egyptian, North African, Arabian, Sudanese and Levantine. Egyptian Arabic has the advantage of being a central dialect that Arabs from other parts can readily understand, and which can easily be adapted to speaking in other dialects, therefore it is the most commonly taught dialect of Arabic at British universities.

Persian is one of the major languages of the contemporary Middle East. It is an Indo-European language, distantly related to English, French and German but written in the Arabic script. It is the official language in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, where it is called Farsi, Dari and Tajiki respectively. Persian has more than 110 million speakers around the world, including millions of migrants from Iran and Afghanistan in Europe and North America.

In the early modern period, Persian was the lingua franca for the educated élite in the Indian sub-continent and is still taught in Muslim communities there. Persian is considered the second language of Muslims and many Islamic religious and literary texts were originally written in this language. The Persian-speaking people themselves have an extraordinarily rich literature, history and culture, to study Persian is to enter into a world of major epic and Sufi poets such as Ferdowsi, Rumi and Hafez, exquisite miniature painting, fine carpets and world-class cinema. Its literature contains some of the finest epic and lyric poetry and its general intellectual and artistic contribution to Islamic culture is unmatched. It is also a gateway to modern Iran, a dynamic society and politically strategic country that is also a major energy-supplying nation at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Since Persian has not changed significantly in over a millennium, the basic grammar for the classical and modern forms of the language is virtually the same and is relatively easy to learn.

Hebrew is spoken by approximately 6 million people in Israel and Jewish communities around the world. Hebrew is both a vibrantly dynamic and amazingly flexible modern language of speech and culture and an ancient tongue whose writings are rich in history, artistry, and thought.

Hebrew has been used continuously for 3,000 years. Pre-modern forms of the language were used for much of the Bible and contemporary inscriptional material, the majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Rabbinic Literature, as well as for a great many texts written during the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment. During the 3rd century AD, the use of Hebrew as a spoken mother tongue ceased. Even so, the language continued to serve as a vehicle for written communication and literature, in the liturgy, and occasionally even as a lingua franca between Jews who did not share another language. As Jewish immigration to Ottoman Palestine swelled during the 19th and early 20th centuries, efforts were made to revive Hebrew. The enterprise was so successful that Hebrew was recognized as an official language under the British Mandate. No longer just a liturgical and literary language, it rapidly became a vernacular in everyday use, and is now the most widely-employed language of the State of Israel, where it continues to develop, is used for all forms of communication, and where there is a vigorous and growing literature. As the language of a modern and thriving democracy in the Middle East, Hebrew is immensely useful as preparation for jobs in foreign relations, diplomacy, conflict resolution, development, translation, and journalism.

Turkish is the westernmost of the Turkic languages which originated in Central Asia. Turkish has approximately 90 million speakers, the majority of whom live in the Republic of Turkey. Turkish is also spoken in Northern Cyprus and is a recognised minority language in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Iraq, Kosovo, Macedonia and Romania. More than two million Turkish speakers live in Germany, and there are significant Turkish-speaking communities in the United States and Western Europe.

Turkish is one of the ten most important foreign languages for the UK's prosperity and global standing over the next 20 years, according to a report published in 2013 by the British Council. Turkey is considered to be the gateway between Europe and Asia; it is a Eurasian country located on the Mediterranean Sea stretching across the Anatolian peninsula in southwest Asia and the Balkan region of southeast Europe. Turkic languages are closely related and learning Turkish provides access to other Turkic languages such as Azeri, Kazakh, Uzbek and Turkmen. Proficiency in modern Turkish is also an indispensable aid to learning Ottoman Turkish, the official language of the Ottoman Empire and the key to accessing a wealth of literary, historical and religious sources from the pre-modern Islamic world.



Asian and African Languages




Chinese is spoken by one-fifth of the world's population. There are many varieties of spoken Chinese found across different regions and ethnic groups of China, many of which are not mutually intelligible. By far the most widely spoken is Mandarin Chinese. In 1932, the Chinese government introduced the Beijing dialect of Mandarin as the official standardised form of Chinese – this is known as Putonghua (common speech) or Guoyu (national language). Mandarin Chinese is the official language of Mainland China and Taiwan, one of the four official languages of Singapore, and one of the six official languages of the United Nations.

China's economic growth over recent decades, its growing importance as a major political power in international affairs, its relationship with Hong Kong, along with increased contact between China and the West, has seen a corresponding rise of interest amongst Western audiences to travel to, or learn about the cultural and social life, of the region. UK school children now have opportunities to learn Kung-fu or study Mandarin; and Chinese food, TV and film, fashion and computer games have become a fascinating part of global popular culture. China is home to a huge depth of culture developed over thousands of years without much influence from the outside world. Some key aspects of Chinese culture include Confucianism, Taoism, tea culture, martial arts, poetry, calligraphy, the imperial legacy, traditional dress and minority traditions, ancestor worship, the animal zodiac, and much more. There is also a great array of historical relics including, to name a few, the Great Wall of China, the Terracotta Army, and the Forbidden City. Many key inventions also came from ancient China, such as the compass, paper, gunpowder and the printing system.

Thirty years of uninterrupted growth averaging ten percent per annum has transformed China into the second largest economy in the world. Given its rapid growth and status as a major emerging power, the business opportunities and challenges in China are great. With the rapidly changing international picture, languages such as Mandarin Chinese are becoming strategically important to the UK and internationally. Mandarin Chinese is one of the priority languages for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and additional diplomatic posts are being created in China reflecting its growing economic and strategic importance.

Japanese has over 125 million speakers, the great majority of which live in Japan. Japanese is a complex and fascinating language, which allows you to access and fully comprehend the rich culture of a country that plays a considerable role in the international community and that constitutes the world's third-largest economy.

Alongside the global popularity of Japanese pop culture, such as anime, manga, games, costume plays and its new national food Ramen, the number of non-native speakers who study Japanese has been increasing. The origin of Japanese language is unclear. It is widely believed that Japanese is related to the Altaic group of languages found throughout northern Asia including Korea and Mongolia. But it is still often categorised as an independent language group, the Japonic languages group. In contemporary Japanese writing, Chinese characters, as well as kana (phonetic symbols of Japanese origin), are used. Therefore, many people misunderstood that Japanese may belong to the same language group as Chinese. Early Japanese was an oral language with no writing system. In the 7th and 8th centuries AD, the Japanese experienced a massive influx of Chinese culture and started to use Chinese characters to write the Japanese language. At the same time, a large portion of its vocabulary was borrowed from Chinese. However, in terms of grammar, syntax and pronunciation, the modern Japanese share very little with the Chinese language. Japan is famous for its high technology but at the same time has preserved traditional culture and customs well. The dynamic blend of old and new is one of Japan's distinct attractions.

Japan continues to play an important role in high-level international fora and as a major provider of development assistance. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office considers Japan an important partner in matters of climate policy; energy and resource security; the reform of financial institutions; counter-proliferation and the tackling of cyber-attacks.

Korean is the official and national language of both Koreas: the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). It is one of the two official languages in the Yanbian and Changbai counties of the People's Republic of China. It is also spoken as a heritage language by 5.3 million in the United States, 0.7 million in Japan and 0.5 million in the former Soviet Union, and as a foreign language by an ever-increasing number of non-Koreans worldwide because of its overwhelming economic success since the 1970s. In terms of the number of speakers, Korean is rated as the eleventh in the world with approximately 80 million speakers.

The writing system of Korean, known as Hangul, is one which separates it from many other languages and is seen by many linguists to be the most logical in the world. It was created by King Sejong in the 15th century as a way to improve literacy in the country, replacing the use of Chinese characters (Hanja), and uses consonants and vowels in syllable blocks to create words. Some Hanja continues to be used in newspapers and scholarly articles but is rarely used elsewhere and is banned in North Korea. The alphabet continued to evolve throughout the 20th century, especially under early Japanese colonial rule when some vowels were abolished, and later in the colonial period when the Korean language was banned in schools and in any publications to be replaced with Japanese, but this ban ended with the Japanese rule. The Standardised System of Hangul was published in 1933, marking the end of any major developments in the writing system. Korean pre-modern modern literary, religious, artistic and philosophical culture is rich and dynamic, and South Korea has an increasingly visible role in the world economy, technological innovation, and global popular culture.

Since the 1990s, South Korea has been the epicentre of much of East Asia's popular culture. The spread of their dramas and pop music, known as the Korean Wave or Hallyu, has exposed the rest of East Asia and the world to their culture which continues to grow in popularity and takes advantage of modern technology and social media to fuel its success. More recently, South Korean cinema has been gaining international recognition and is known for its genre-bending, artistic, and creative films.

Hindi is the official language of India and is a lingua franca throughout South Asia. it is also spoken in territories as widespread as Fiji, Trinidad and Mauritius. Hindi is very closely related to and mutually intelligible with Urdu, Pakistan's national language, and somewhat less closely related to neighbouring languages such as Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali and Nepali with which it shares the inheritance of Sanskrit. Hindi is the first language of several hundred million speakers, and the second language of many more; in total over half a billion people understand Hindi.

Hindi has a long literary tradition, both in modern prose and poetry, as well as pre-modern secular and devotional poetry. Its regional dialects such as Braj Bhasha and Awadhi are the historical vehicle for religious and court poetry of the medieval period. In more recent times Hindi has become a dominant language of modern media such as Bollywood movies and television soap operas, which form an important part of the lives of many in contemporary India and Pakistan.

Swahili is the most important and widely studied indigenous language in Africa. It is spoken by approximately 100 million people and is an official and a national language in Tanzania and Kenya. In addition, it is the main lingua franca in almost the entire Eastern and Central African regions. It has spread rapidly and is now also spoken in parts of Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Malagasy, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa and the Comoro Islands. Swahili has a significant presence in major cities of Europe and the United States where African Diaspora communities are found, and in the Gulf states such as Oman. Swahili is an official language of the African Union.

As a result of over 10 centuries of contact with the Arabian Peninsula, Swahili has borrowed many words from Arabic. Flourishing trade between the East African coastal towns and the Persian Gulf and Asia elevated Swahili as a trade language. Subsequent settlement by Persians and Arabs and their intermarriage with local women promoted a vibrant Islamic culture which has left traces in modern Swahili. A good example is the structure of classical Swahili poetry and the popular Swahili music genre known as Taarabu. Aspects of diversity in Swahili culture can be clearly seen in its cuisine, literature, arts and crafts, architecture as well as music and dress code.
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FionaMG
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(Original post by Snufkin)
This is a guide to choosing which language(s) to study at university and what type of degree to take.
What a great piece Snufkin!

Would you mind if I add a bit of insight for anyone considering Portuguese?

European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese are very different, much more so than the difference between, for example, UK and US English.

For this reason, it would be worthwhile for anybody thinking of studying Portuguese at university to check whether their chosen universities offer only one version (which one?) or both. Someone wanting to work in Europe would be better off choosing a university that offers European Portuguese and someone hoping to work in Latin America would be better off choosing a university that offers Brazilian Portuguese.

That is not to say that if the university someone really wants to go to only offers the "wrong" version, they should give up on it and go somewhere else instead, but in this case they should check if they will have the option of doing their year abroad in the "right" country.

Hope this is helpful and complements all the excellent information you have already provided.
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username3509418
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I am interested in learning a language (in my spare time) at uni, my uni offers languages but I just missed the deadline to study Spanish last year. But I'm interested in many different languages, French, Italian, Portuguese, German and Spanish.

I don't know which to choose. I have little knowledge of French and was good at French in high school. Don't know which I'd be most interested in learning, I'm interested in them all. I know I love Italy as i've lived there before, and loved the country. I'd be interested in living abroad one day in one of those countries. Don't know which to pick for which language to learn though. They all seem appealing.

Any advice on which to choose?

And has anyone taken a language course/learnt a language while at uni?
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SkyRunner61
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You can trial learning a bit of each language in order to try and determine which you like learning the most. I know that Duolingo has courses for all of those, so that might be something you want to check out?
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username3509418
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(Original post by SkyRunner61)
You can trial learning a bit of each language in order to try and determine which you like learning the most. I know that Duolingo has courses for all of those, so that might be something you want to check out?
I've tried that, I liked them all on that but found German a bit hard
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SkyRunner61
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(Original post by Taurus5)
I've tried that, I liked them all on that but found German a bit hard
Oh right sorry for the useless advice then, it's good that you've done your research though. In that case, as mercenary as it sounds I would probably choose according to which one's the most spoken if there are no other winning factors, which would be Spanish. It's important to note that if you learn any of the romance languages then there will be a lot of positive transfer for other romance languages, so it would be easier for you to pick up another one later if you wanted
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Milax1x
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Pick a useful language. If you’re moving abroad then research the countries and pick the language of the country you seem to like the best. Although from personal experience you’ll learn the language must faster if you actually live there and forced to speak it (fluent in spoken Korean)
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username3509418
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(Original post by SkyRunner61)
Oh right sorry for the useless advice then, it's good that you've done your research though. In that case, as mercenary as it sounds I would probably choose according to which one's the most spoken if there are no other winning factors, which would be Spanish. It's important to note that if you learn any of the romance languages then there will be a lot of positive transfer for other romance languages, so it would be easier for you to pick up another one later if you wanted
Yeah, I saw a lot of similarities between what I remember of French with Italian and Spanish. It was really interesting, German was different though

Thank you for the advice I could also learn Chinese but... I don't fancy that. I know Mandarin's the most spoken in the world but... Seems to hard, plus I don't think I'd like to move there, would rather stay in Europe and go somewhere with the sun
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username3509418
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(Original post by Milax1x)
Pick a useful language. If you’re moving abroad then research the countries and pick the language of the country you seem to like the best. Although from personal experience you’ll learn the language must faster if you actually live there and forced to speak it (fluent in spoken Korean)
Thank you

Because that I already love Italy, I would choose that, but I'm having doubts with the economy there with how it's been there and what it will be like there for a graduate there in a few years time... otherwise I'd choose Italian, I know I love the country

I also like Spain, or maybe repickup French again. I would consider moving to any of those but never been there and never lived in those countries so would be a little into the unknown with them. Might enjoy them though
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SkyRunner61
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(Original post by Taurus5)
Yeah, I saw a lot of similarities between what I remember of French with Italian and Spanish. It was really interesting, German was different though

Thank you for the advice I could also learn Chinese but... I don't fancy that. I know Mandarin's the most spoken in the world but... Seems to hard, plus I don't think I'd like to move there, would rather stay in Europe and go somewhere with the sun
Oh right I just said the most widely spoken language out of the ones that you said you were interested in. I learn Mandarin myself, but I think that what's most important is how useful the language would be for you, which if you don't want to move to China or somewhere else in Asia, probably isn't very helpful
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Snufkin
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(Original post by Taurus5)
snip
I've moved your question into the 'Which language should I study?' thread - I suggest you read the first post (or, if you prefer, read it in article form: https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/uni...-at-university) - it's a good starting point.
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username3509418
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That article was very useful, thank you and thank you for moving it to the right thread (didn't know the there was a thread for it haha)

After reading that article, it's down to between French, Italian or German. Still don't know which to chose though probably any would be fine, it's me overthinking it probably

I didn't know that German and French had such interesting history behind them
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Snufkin
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(Original post by Taurus5)
That article was very useful, thank you and thank you for moving it to the right thread (didn't know the there was a thread for it haha)

After reading that article, it's down to between French, Italian or German. Still don't know which to chose though probably any would be fine, it's me overthinking it probably

I didn't know that German and French had such interesting history behind them
If it were me, I'd go for French - especially if I knew a bit already. Once you have a good command of French it will be relatively easy to learn Italian. That said, why not do French and German for a while and see which you prefer?
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username3509418
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(Original post by Snufkin)
If it were me, I'd go for French - especially if I knew a bit already. Once you have a good command of French it will be relatively easy to learn Italian. That said, why not do French and German for a while and see which you prefer?
Each beginner language course cost £150 each at my uni, that's the only problem I could give a go to both on the Duolingo app for now and see which I prefer come September

Thank you
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Snufkin
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(Original post by Taurus5)
Each beginner language course cost £150 each at my uni, that's the only problem I could give a go to both on the Duolingo app for now and see which I prefer come September

Thank you
That's a lot - maybe do free versions? E.g. https://www.goethe.de/prj/dfd/en/home.cfm and http://www.du.se/en/study-at-du/kurs...e/?code=IT1020
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Plagioclase
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Can't believe I've only just seen this, this is one of the best written posts I think I've ever seen on TSR! Great job Snufkin!
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username3509418
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WOW I just checked that out, they are free? they are taught online?

Thank you!

Yeah :/ I'm at the university of liverpool and they charge £150 per language at mine :/
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Snufkin
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(Original post by Taurus5)
WOW I just checked that out, they are free? they are taught online?

Thank you!

Yeah :/ I'm at the university of liverpool and they charge £150 per language at mine :/
Yeah both are free and online. The second link is a proper uni distance-learning course so it will take up quite a bit of your free time (at least an hour a day), but it's only free for EU students so not sure what will happen after we leave the EU. So if I were you, I'd apply now - I believe late applications are still being accepted.
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TSR Mustafa
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(Original post by Plagioclase)
Can't believe I've only just seen this, this is one of the best written posts I think I've ever seen on TSR! Great job Snufkin!
Onii u can do better
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Fonzworth
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I also recommend reading the report by the British Council to also help aid your decision. Make sure you enjoy the language though, it’s a lot of hard work!
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