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What’s it like to study languages at university?

By Aoife Martyn

So you enjoy studying languages at school, but how do you know if you’d like to study them at third level? What is studying an advanced language at college like in comparison to the leaving cert? An Applied Languages student is here to give you the answers.

Studying languages at university is different to secondary school but the way in which it differs depends on your teacher at second level. I can only speak as a French student, but from what I can see the leaving cert curriculum is fairly vague (i.e there are no assigned texts) and gives the teacher a nice bit of scope to cover whatever they deem to be useful to give you a more proficient level of the language.

Many second level teachers don’t include literature in their leaving cert classes so you may not have even read a book in french by yourself before but this will be completely different at college where literature will be central to your language learning. Straight away you’ll be handed a French novel and told to read it in your own time which is something to consider. You’ll also have extra literature module options (you can get out of this by doing cultural studies if you wish), but if you’re considering teaching as a future career then you need all the literature credits you can get. Of course, it makes perfect sense that the more advanced you get in your language learning, the more literature you do. Sure, isn’t that exactly how our English language education goes?

There’s also a considerable emphasis on grammar and presentations are everywhere. This semester I have a four modules with presentations which count towards between 5-15% of end of semester grade. Personally, we didn’t do anything like that at school so this was also an adjustment for me, but one from which I have benefited greatly. Of course there are oral exams as well which are more off-the-cuff than the leaving cert ones (and minus the sraithpictuirí you’ll be glad to know).

For Applied Languages, you’ll also be studying linguistics which is defined as ‘the science of language’ and it’s taught through -gasp- English! This really gets into the nitty gritty of what a language is and structure and morphology and phonology and all that jazz, so again not hating grammar is helpful here. From my experience, my love of English at school has really added to my enjoyment of studying languages at college, something I didn’t foresee but of course, English is just another language so it all adds up really.

To sum up, I really enjoy all the various elements of studying languages at university. I always enjoyed grammar and literature and all of the orals and presentations have made me so much more confident speaking my other languages.

So now you know.

untitled-design-13Hey everyone! My name is Aoife Martyn, I’m nineteen and I’m an Applied Languages student from Mayo. I’m in second year and, a year and a half into the course, it’s safe to say I’m loving it!

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