Preparing to Study Modern Languages

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Published by Harvey
on 15/06/2020

Hi everyone!

If you’re planning on studying Modern Languages at university, this post will give you some hints and tips for how you can keep your languages going between leaving school and starting university, and how to get yourself organised!

1. Keeping your language alive

The best thing you can do to prepare yourself for studying languages at university is to keep learning vocabulary and grammar by using apps such as Memrise and Quizlet to create vocabulary lists and revise words you’ve learnt. This will help you with reading new texts, grammar exercises and help you adapt to new situations when you encounter native speakers or go abroad. Getting into a good vocab routine is a brilliant way to ensure your language keeps developing.

Both Memrise and Quizlet let you create your own lists, but also have access to courses created by many other users, which you can select based on your level and experience, and can help push your vocab in the right direction by helping you learn more technical and specialist terms such as medical and technical vocabulary.

2. Using the media

Keeping up with the most important political events and current affairs in countries where your languages are spoken will give you the chance to see how language is used in a variety of situations and help give you a greater appreciation of how different cultures work and respond to politics. So read newspapers, watch the news and follow social media accounts of famous faces to expose yourself to the language as much as possible.

Another way to use media to improve your language is catch-up TV! There are plenty of soap operas, documentaries and quiz shows out there that are accessible from the UK for free to see how people use language in daily life in more relaxed situations, and will help get you used to different accents and dialects. Some of my favourites include the French Bake Off (Le meilleur pâtissier) and the German version of The Chase (Gefragt – Gejagt).

3. More than language

As you come to study Modern Languages at university, you’ll see it’s more than just studying language – you’ll read some of the most famous works of literature, watch and analyse some of the most influential films, break down the language’s structure in linguistics, or learn why people who speak your languages vote the way they do. These modules are often called “content” or “culture” modules, and lecturers will assume no knowledge of the specialist fields! They’ll provide you with reading lists for introductory study in areas like history, linguistics or politics.

But it’s a good idea to start reading literature or watching films in your target languages, particularly the most influential works. For example, check out your A-Level syllabus for books or films that you’re not studying, and pick one or two books and films to read & watch over the summer. It’ll keep your mind engaged and keep your vocab development up!

4. Getting organised

When you start university, the best way to get into a good routine is to build a timetable for individual study around your classes. Depending on the number of languages you study, you’ll have around 14-22 contact hours per week, with time outside this for prep work, wider reading and assessments. Outside this, try and give yourself 20 minutes per day for vocabulary exercises (per language), as well as time to prepare for classes, and do some reading or watching some TV in your target languages. Getting into a good routine as early as possible makes it so much easier as you go through your degree.

You’ll also need to make sure you have the supplies to study languages! If you prefer pen and paper to PC learning, then it’s worth investing in the following stationery to get going:
– Index cards – write the word you want to learn on one side, and the English on the other
– Sticky notes & tabs – to mark out words you need to repeat
– A small book for vocab (one per language) – this is worth bringing to classes so you can note down any words your tutor uses & explains in conversation
– Coloured pens (a different colour for each language)

You can also check out Courteney’s post on preparing to study English for a list of stationery essentials for any student in the Arts & Humanities!

I hope this post gave you some ideas on how you can keep your work going over the summer to get you ready to start university in September!

If you have any other questions about Modern Languages at Birmingham, get in touch with me via Instagram @harvey_uob.

Thanks for reading, and stay safe!