The ingenious author Douglas Adams introduced me to these marvellous (and sadly fictitious) creatures in his book ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’. Its defining characteristic is that it is able to bestow upon an individual the ability to understand any language, simply by putting the creature into their ear! Taking part in language lessons and living in Frankfurt over the past month with students from all around the world has made me really want one of these amazing animals!
Short of being able to get hold of a babel fish, taking part in language lessons is definitely the next best thing. As part of the Frankfurt Summer School we have attended German language lessons and managed to get from knowing absolutely no German whatsoever, to being able to introduce ourselves, ask for directions and discuss our hobbies. As part of our lessons, we have occasionally been asked to test out our newly acquired skills on any Germany students we find roaming the corridors of the faculty building. As daunting as this suggestion always is, the unsuspecting German students have always been really friendly and happy to answer our questions and it’s a really fun way to practice.
I really think that learning another language (or languages!) is one of the most rewarding things you can do in your spare time. Being able to speak multiple languages enhances and broadens your career prospects, enables you to talk to and discuss ideas with more people from different backgrounds and cultures. I also think it makes travelling a lot less daunting and opens up countless other opportunities such as studying abroad.
During my first year I took part in post-beginner French lessons; a course which is run by Languages at Leicester, in the Attenborough building on campus. I had tried to keep up the French that I’d learnt at GCSE by using exercise books, language CD’s and apps on my phone, but the one thing that’s missing from these methods of learning a language is the ability to practice what you’ve learnt with others and have your pronunciation checked. This is part of what made my lessons so valuable; being able to practice my French with other students.
Languages at Leicester offer courses at all levels for several different languages. You can find out more about the classes on their website: http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/modern-languages/lal
I am planning to continue to learn and practice French and German because I think that being able to speak and use different languages will prove to be nothing but useful!