Hi! I've just started to find all these wonderful language blogs and I noticed that you are studying language at a university. I was wondering what it is like to do such. I want to major in computer science, but I also want to consider majoring in some langugages as I absolutely love languages and I wish to become a polyglot. What are some of your experiences and/or advice regarding foreign language and college?
Well I (for the most part) really enjoyed (wow this is weird in the past tense) studying languages at uni but I knew from at least a year and a half before going that that was definitely what I wanted to do, I didn’t have anything else that I was that passionate about so the decision was easy/already made for me.
Studying languages at university level is advantageous in many ways. You’re working in serious and academic environments and you get a good handle for “formal” language (though for everyday spoken language you’re basically encouraged to work on that on your own), and you’ll often have a good support network and resources available and extra electives for other languages and stuff like that, not to mention there’s the chance to make friends with other people who are interested in languages too (which can be p hard to find otherwise, at least in an anglophone country) and even native speakers depending on the student demographic and language related social events going on in your area. If there’s grammar and stuff you have problems with you can get explanations off teachers/professors, who know how to TEACH the language rather than just speak it, so even when they’re not natives their explanations will likely be smoother, more succinct, and generally more helpful. It’s easier to feel you’re making progress in a language if you get regular tests/proofs rather than just ‘generally improving’ if you do it alone.
Furthermore, studying languages at uni almost always brings with it the possibility of study abroad.. At least in most places in Europe it’s all but compulsory I think, I’m not sure if it works quite the same in America (just assuming that’s where you’re from because of “college” and “major”, correct me if I’m wrong) since you don’t fall under the ERASMUS area but hey, I met many Americans during my time abroad so I know it’s a thing.
The other thing about languages at uni is you pick up social skills/’real world’ things along the way as well, because you can’t speak a language without having something to say in it. You learn about different styles of writing for different registers and target audiences, you do work with translation (going both ways), summarising and synthesising, reading and listening comprehension, how to find key points and understand inferred meaning quickly, debating skills, how to support an argument, presentation giving/public speaking - the kind of thing that once you’ve done in one language you can apply to many, even your own.
However. Studying languages at university is not the ONLY way to do the polyglot thing, if you’re passionate and dedicated it’s perfectly achievable to do it on your own too, whereas a major in computer science would not be something I’d think you could attain without taking classes in it, really. If you get your language skills up alone there are proficiency exams and certificates run internationally by various organisations from the countries where the language is spoken (which it could argued are potentially more prestigious/weighty that a degree from your home institution if you’re looking for work in that country in any case?)
In the end you’ll have to pick the one that you’re most interest in/that you feel will be most relevant to your own future.