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8 Problems All Modern Foreign Languages Students Have Faced

For many, a languages degree is an exotic choice. The culture, the travelling, the flair.

All those mathematicians and medics toiling away often see modern languages through rose-tinted glasses, but they just don’t understand.

They can’t possibly know what we have been through as linguists. Maybe if they read this they’ll understand…

1. Having to prove your degree.

Historians never get asked to spout random dates, and you would never ask a medic to operate on your leg, but for some infuriating reason people always demand proof that a linguist can indeed speak the language they profess to study.

This can happen at the dinner table, on holiday or simply whenever you meet a Spaniard in the street. People expect you to know every single word off by heart and they want to see the receipts.


2. Struggling with the accent.

You spend years trying to customise and cultivate the perfect accent only for it to remain distressingly unconvincing.

If your accent is strong it can be the shield that your shaky grammar can hide behind, but overdo it and it just sounds plain silly. A fine line to tread.


3. Cultural issues on the year abroad.

Generally, the year abroad is a glorious thing. A chance to experience another country and all its culture. But every 3rd year linguist has had that moment when they have felt a very, very long way away from home.

Sometimes the customs, or phrases used take a little time to get used by which point you’ve already made an embarrassing blunder.


4. Foreigners being better at English than you are at your degree.

No matter how much time you spend refining your French or German, the depressing fact is that the locals still have a better grasp of languages then you do.

You may have spent 12 years studying French but somehow they watch a couple of English movies and hey presto, they are fluent. Beyond frustrating.


5. Google Translate.

How simple would it be if there was the perfect translator that did all your work for you?

Unfortunately, many students have been undone by the inaccuracy of Google Translate which tends to misinterpret the needs of the user.

Be better, Google. Be better.


6. Not understanding the lecturer.

As any university student will tell you, trying to concentrate for the duration of a lecture isn’t always easy. Trying to concentrate when a lecture isn’t in your first language is even harder.

If you think trying to keep up with the slides is difficult, try desperately attempting to translate everything as you go along. One misunderstood word is all it takes for you to end up on a completely different page to everyone else in the room.


7. Still needing the subtitles.

You may be a degree level languages student, but chances are you still rely on subtitles to get you through foreign films.

We’ve all tried to get by without them, but at the end of the day, understanding the content is always more important. Slang, turn of phrase and regional accents make films a tough way to learn. Thank god for subtitles.


8. And finally, endless competition between languages students.

The great debate: which language is the hardest?

German grammar is the hardest, apparently. Russian is the most alien. The Spanish language is the fastest and French is the toughest to grasp.

All students want pity for the difficulty of their degree, but in languages this often leads to a lot of squabbling.


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