So it’s only been about *checks watch* 5 months since I last posted, and I’m all about breaking records, so I think I did well!
How’re things? The metaphorical kids? Great!
Anyway, I thought I’d talk to you a little about what it’s like learning a new language at Uni. It’s something I wanted to know more about before I started, so I hope you will find this helpful. (and of course if you have any more questions, just comment them down below!)
First off, a little about my experience!
So, in High School I learnt French for approximately 3 years. I sucked. It was absolutely abominable and sometimes I sit and wonder whether I really learnt anything in those three years. What I thought it had taught me was that I was bad at learning languages.
Never has Dwight Schrute been more right in his life.
I’d been forced to learn French, a compulsory subject at my school, and so there was really no real passion or reason for me to learn the language properly. I wasn’t interested! If you’re not interested in what you’re doing, then it’s really not going to get you anywhere, and that’s the real truth.
I’d always wanted to learn Japanese though. When I found out I got into Melbourne Uni, I spent a long time figuring out what classes I should take. I had my major of course, but what was I going to take for my extra breadth subjects?
It took quite a while doing the back and forth dance, until I decided to take (at least what I saw in my mind) as a leap of faith. I was finally going to learn Japanese. It was officially a thing.
I was so nervous going into my first class. SO NERVOUS. Knowing I had previously done so badly in French didn’t help.
I remember sitting down in my first class like a lost lamb, definitely about to pee itself. Not actually, but I’m building a scene, guys. I was a nervous wreck anyhow even without the pee thing.
My new teacher walked in speaking half to himself and half to the class in full on Japanese and…you should have seen me! It was like Dobby all over again. I was looking at the other people on my table though, and thankfully they also looked equally as scared. THANKFULLY he then started to explain in English. I was still in the general vicinity of my utter confuzzlement from the Japanese, but it was a step back. And then he went back to the start. And I swear to you, it was one of the most enlightening and hilarious classes I’ve ever attended. The teacher was super engaging, looking at all the students, walking in between our tables and making things as simple as we needed.
Okay, here is an outline of how taking Japanese 1 actually works.
You have 2 classes a week which go for 2 hours each. They’re specifically called seminars, not lectures, which (at least for Japanese) means the teachers are more interactive with the students. They chat to you, have more time for questions and they often look at your work during classes.
These seminars are not necessarily with the same teacher. Whatever classes you put in your timetable determine what teacher you get. So there might be 6-8 seminar one classes and 6-8 seminar two classes. You *might* get the same teacher, but the chances are slim.
For Japanese 1 I got two different teachers and they were both amazing. The way the seminar classes work is that the first one goes through a lot of the vocabulary you have to learn and goes through the grammar. The second seminar is revising over that stuff and also looking at Kanji (‘a system of Japanese writing using Chinese characters’). In this way, the teaching styles are going to be quite different between seminars, so it’s really good. And that’s what’s really great about having two teachers – if you don’t understand what one says, you can just revise it with the other.
Now, this is only my experience with Japanese 1 (and 2), so other language classes tend to be a little different. I’ve had friends taking German 1 and Italian 1, having completely different experiences. It seems to be that because Japanese is an Asian language and the others being European, the approach has to be different. From the people I’ve spoken to about German and Italian, the classes tend to focus a lot more on grammar than the Asian languages because the vocab is easier to grasp without having to learn new characters.
In answer to my original question in the title, ‘Should you learn a new language at Melbourne Uni?’, you need to ask yourself a few questions. Is it something you’re passionate about learning? If so, YOU TOTALLY SHOULD. Curiousity leads to great things, and you should explore where that leads to. Learning a language is always great, but you have to be prepared to work hard for it. Are you going to continue to work hard? That’s another important question. Like everything else, it takes around 10,000 hours to master something. You’ve dedicated so much time to your other passions, something that may have started out as a small curiosity or interest and has since become something you can’t live without. What’s saying learning a language won’t become one of your greatest passions? That it might help you in your future career? To help you meet new and amazing people?
What benefits have I had so far in learning a language?
SO, I only started at the beginning of this year, so this is short-term benefits guys. However, I think it’s important to note because those short term goals will give you the motivation to continue in your study, making it all seem worthwhile!
In taking Japanese 1 and 2 at Melbourne Uni, I have met so many amazing people. I met many in the Japanese classes themselves (4 classes in total between the 2 seminars a semester), but also online and elsewhere. I found this app called ‘Hello Talk’ where you can talk to people from other countries, helping to correct eachother’s mistakes as you learn the other’s language. I’ve been trying out my new language skills and I’ve seen how much I’ve grown. I’ve literally become friends with people living in Japan right now! It’s a long leap from what I learnt in French, that’s for sure.
When I buy Japanese food I can often read what is on the packages, and understand basic grammar functions to correct ill-translations on Google Translate. That’s such a freeing feeling!
I’m also about to go on holiday to Japan where I can further test out my skills. In my classes I’ve also learnt a lot about culture, so all that will come in handy when I travel!
So I ask you, do YOU want to learn a language? Don’t let anyone tell you whether you should or should not learn a language, it’s completely up to you! If you are interested, I encourage you to try. You may be surprised by the results!