Student Blog: "What language should I learn?"
Whenever I tell someone I’m in the RC, the first thing they say is, “doesn’t that have a super hard language program?”
This is usually accompanied with a facial expression similar to smelling rotten fish and the follow up question, “why would you do that?”
At first, I would respond by saying it’s a requirement.
However, looking back a year later, there are so many benefits to being in the program beyond the classic “it’s a requirement so I have to do it.” What other program after only two semesters can people say they’re proficient in their chosen language?
Going into orientation, one of the biggest questions I had was what language should I take? I took Spanish in high school, so I assumed I would be placed in the second level of the Intensive program. However, upon arrival, I learned that I was placed in Intensive one. So, I had a decision to make.
Should I keep taking Spanish, or should I try a new language?
Both are acceptable options, and the correct choice is really up to you. I personally chose Spanish because I knew a lot of people whose first language was Spanish, and I wanted to be able to communicate with them in their native tongue. I know others who changed their language because they always wanted to learn German, and didn’t have that option in high school, or chose Japanese because they wanted to understand Anime.
The following is a step-by-step guide to choosing your language.
Choose the language you want to learn.
Yes, it’s only one step.
Sounds simple, but I know so many people who took the same language they did in high school only because they thought it would be easier than a new language they’ve never used before. Or took one of the RC programs instead of taking their preferred language in LSA. You’re not limited by the RC options!
If you want to learn Russian, don’t take Spanish. If you want to learn Italian or Chinese, don’t take Japanese.
Learning a language is harder when you have no interest in it, and it’s supposed to be FUN – what other subject can you read about what you want, write in an entirely new system the majority of your peers don’t know, watch Netflix and still be learning, listen to new music that you can understand, and talk to millions of new people? Make it even more fun by choosing the language you want to learn.
“But won’t it be harder if I don’t have any background in the language?”
Yes and no. Yes, because you are learning an entirely new language which you haven’t had experience in. That’s always going to be a challenge at first. However, once you get past the learning curve, you are going to do better because you are really interested in learning it and you’re going to be more motivated to learn and spend time learning.
Additionally, for RC French, German, and Spanish there are certain sections for new beginners – people who have no experience in the language before. These classes will make sure you have a solid foundation in the language before going into more complex structures. For RC Japanese and Russian everyone is assumed to have no experience before college.
Choose the language that motivates you to learn!
When I was stuck on a complex grammatical structure, or upset with a grade I got, or made embarrassing mistakes such as the difference between “mieda” and “mierda” (oops), I knew I was taking Spanish because I wanted to be able to talk with my native speaker friends and study abroad. The motivation made it easier to push through the difficult moments, times I would have completely given up had I chosen a different language that I wasn’t as interested in.
Whether it is because of having friends or family who speak the language, wanting to study abroad, or having an interest in its culture, start with motivation and the learning will follow.
About the author
Second year RC student Holly Price hails from New Baltimore, Michigan. Her RC language is Spanish, and she is interested in studying communications and creative writing. Her extracurricular activities at U-M include Seven Mile, Kappa Delta, and Dance Marathon. She joined the RC to make U-M smaller, and was drawn to the academic requirements, specialized courses, the passion of the students, advisors and instructors, and the well-roundedness of the RC community.