5 reasons why you should learn a second language at university

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By in Extra Guides, Student Travel. Updated August 2016.

Hola, bonjour, nǐ hǎo! If you’re interested in learning a foreign language whilst at uni, you’ve picked the perfect place to start!
Second language at UniSo it turns out all those night-and-day sessions spent in the library, the numerous extracurricular activities and the weeks of unpaid interning are no longer enough. With competition on the job market getting tougher, it’s getting harder to blow employers away.

So how exactly do students make themselves stand out in a competitive job market and increase their employability? One of the best places to start is in learning another language!

While we’re on the topic, read this guide to find out how travelling will make you stand out to potential employers.

Why should you learn another language?

We’ll make this part easy by sliming it down to five all-important reasons to try learning a new language whilst at uni (although there are loads more!).

  1. Increase your chances of employment

    Graduate JobA lot of businesses either have offices abroad or are keen to branch out into the global market, meaning employees with more than one language are extremely valuable to organisations.

    This means that when you’re up against graduates with the same grades and experience as you – having a second language could be that deciding factor that lands you the job.

    Even if a company doesn’t explicitly require another language for the role you’re applying for, having a language demonstrates your ability to learn and adapt to new things as well as understand other cultures, oui?

  2. Earn easy money

    Take-cash-onlyNormally part-time student jobs include the likes of bar work or retail, but have you ever considered translating as an option?

    Many companies rely on translators to carry out their global communication, and as this is such an important task, it is often well paid.

    Not only that, but most translation jobs can even be carried out from the comfort of your bed – you simply read a piece that you’ve been sent and translate it over a cup of tea and a croissant [or insert appropriate international snack here]. For advice on how to get set up, read our guide to freelancing.

    Once you’ve mastered your language, you can also become a private tutor (and charge from £10+ per hour!) for others trying to learn your new language.

  3. Make travelling easier

    holidayHow many times have you been abroad and had to resort to makeshift sign language or engage in the English art of simply speaking slower and louder as if it’ll somehow trigger the English receptors within the brain?

    Learning another language will help you communicate with people when in a foreign country (yeah, we know, duh).

    Not only will this make life a whole lot easier for yourself, but it could alter your experience of the country entirely as it could mean catching word about secret bar or a small village festival that only the locals know about.

  4. Open up new doors

    open new doorsCredit: Hernán Piñera – FlickrLanguages have the potential to open a whole load of new doors you maybe never even knew existed. Sure, you might’ve set your heart on advertising as a career, but had you ever considered being a diplomat, ski instructor, a professional translator or a language teacher?

    Learning a language opens doors which could previously have been closed to you – you’ll never know until you try!

  5. Exercise your brain

    uselessbrainStudies show that with the increased use of the internet and social media, our brains are beginning to develop differently – with the left side of your brain becoming quicker but less able to retain what you learn.

    A great way to counter this is to learn something new, such as a language, as this helps to keep your learning processes and memory in check.

So you’ve taken on board this advice (and hopefully been convinced) – but how do you set about actually learning a language whilst at university? On to the next step!

How to learn a language at university

Once you’ve decided which language you’d like to learn, it’s time to sort out your plan of action. Many language-learning options are available whilst you’re at university, so it’s a good idea to do your research and take advantage of it while you still can.

Here are a few options that will be available – have a look through and decide which option works best for you, and get on it!

  1. Try a local Adult Education Course

    night class learningCredit: Isaac BowenMost local councils offer adult education courses, and languages are usually a permanent fixture on their timetables. Search for the local courses so that you can do an evening or weekend course whilst you’re at uni.

    Prices vary, but some councils offer discounted prices for low-income households or students so you may be able to get it extremely cheaply.

    If you’re living in Scotland, you can also get up to £200 as part of an Individual Learning Account (ILA) that can be put towards funding any adult learning courses – languages included!

    If your council doesn’t run courses, check noticeboards in local churches, charity shops or newsagents, as often language teachers will advertise their classes there.

  2. Take a language module as part of your degree

    studyingMany universities allow or even require that you take a unit or module outside of your main degree – so you can even learn a language as part of your degree as opposed to on top of all your coursework.

    In your first year, there are usually a wide variety of beginner’s courses in everything from French to Russian, so if you didn’t study it at school, it won’t be a problem.

    However, we’d recommend double-checking with your course advisor before term starts to make sure it’s possible on your course as open units are not always available on every course.

  3. Self-teach

    studyCompanies such as Rosetta Stone provide language software that uses images, text, sound, and video to teach you words and grammar in a new language.

    The beauty of self-teaching is that you can do it entirely at times that suit you: if you find you have a free evening or want a break from uni work, you can teach yourself from the comfort of your own home.

    However, with most basic language Rosetta Stone courses costing around £140, you might want to consider putting it on your Christmas or birthday wish list!

    Alternatively, there are also free online learning options such as Duolingo. Sites like this vary in the amount of languages taught but this is certainly more easy on the wallet if you’re keen on learning a European language.

    In addition to this, you could buy some cheap course activity books from Amazon or eBay and supplement your online learning with some written exercises.

  4. Join your university language society

    internationalstudentThis option should really supplement one of the three options above, as most language societies at uni don’t actually offer tuition.

    However, they’re also an ideal place to improve and build on your language skills as they offer a variety of activities from foreign language films to trips abroad to the country of your chosen language.

    It’s also a great chance to practise speaking, as most members of the society will probably be able to speak the language to some extent. Above all, language societies are a great social environment to make new friends and take language-learning to a level that involves more fun.

  5. Do a language exchange

    language exchange programIf your university has many international students, a language exchange should be pretty easy to sort out.

    There will be many international students arriving in the UK who are desperate to brush up on their English, and would be extremely grateful for an hour or two of your time each week to practice and ask any language-related questions they have.

    In exchange for your time, you could ask them to teach you their mother tongue! The key is in finding keen students who speak the language you want to learn – use uni notice boards and post on university forums to advertise your proposal – you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the response.

  6. Go abroad

    Work AbroadThe summer break is your prefect opportunity to go abroad for a month or more to learn a new language (whilst also getting a tan, of course).

    The benefits? Learning a language in the country where it’s spoken is the easiest and quickest way to learn, as you’re constantly putting every new word and expression into practise.

    Alternatively, do some research into whether your uni offer an erasmus program in the country where your language is spoken – this could be your big chance!

So, what are you waiting for? Add some va va voom (see what we did there) to your life and learn another language! Let us know if you have any great language-learning tips to share!

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