Laoi is a girl after my own heart. Or, possibly, a boy after my own heart — the name is not a dead giveaway in terms of gender. Anyhow, Laoi loves foreign languages and wants to study tons of them. I was, and still am, the same way.
If you speak foreign languages competently, you’ve got a great step up on your competition for just about any job out there. Couple that with the fact that Google Adwords advertising and Facebook advertising now allow you to advertise directly to people in any country you wish, and you’ve got endless business opportunities at your feet if you speak other languages.
Plus, the ladies dig it. Anyhow, here’s Laoi:
Hi, my name’s Laoi (pronounced Lee, I know, it’s odd). This Fall I’m going to a four-year university after having gone to a community college for two years. I don’t have any debt yet, thanks to that.
Fantastic! An outlandishly intelligent way to do your first two years of college, as I’m often heard saying around these parts.
So, I’m going to be taking about 16 credits, 4 of those being Advanced Beginning Japanese.
Good luck. Japanese is rougher from the get-go than most other languages, partly due to the two extra alphabets you have to learn. But I suspect you know that already.
Now, I love foreign languages. I want to learn as many as I possibly can, my ultimate goal being to learn a language from every continent except Antartica (only aborginal languages count, of course).
I don’t know what you mean by that, but OK.
Which is why one of my questions is “should I take another language class this year?” If I did it would be German or Spanish because those are the only ones that don’t overlap with my other classes.
I took German and Japanese at the same time in college, actually (you definitely wrote the right guy! :). And it’s not that bad. They’re actually pretty easy to take together, because there are no similarities between them that trip you up in your mind. Same is true of Spanish.
It’s harder when you’re taking two Romance languages (Spanish, French, Italian, Portugese, or of course Latin) at the same time, because they’re so similar and it’s easy to confuse yourself. However, this isn’t a problem with Japanese and — well, any European language, that’s for sure.
However, I do want to participate in campus life, find a job, do things with friends, etc. I don’t know how much of my time would be taken up by this extra class.
If it’s a beginning class — not much. Spanish 101 and German 101, remember, are designed for the absolute beginner, and even at tough schools don’t become terribly rigorous. Sure, you may have to study vocabulary and basic verb conjugations and whatnot, but that gets easier with every additional language you take, IMHO.
Yet, I only have two more years before I would graduate. If I wait until next year to take another language, then I’d only be able to take a beginner class and would not be able to get to intermediate. Should I or not?
Yeah, sure. Doesn’t matter that you won’t get to intermediate levels — if you choose, you can still continue to learn on your own after you’re out of school. And that’s true now more than ever with all the free language podcasts and Internet resources out there.
ESPECIALLY with Spanish. First of all, the alphabet is easy and there are no crazy sounds that you’ll need a teacher reminding you how to say. Second, even in the hinterlands of America, you have wide access to Spanish-language TV stations (a great way to learn) and in larger cities, Spanish newspapers.
Third, there are built-in Spanish translations of a gazillion words available to you every time you go shopping — most boxes of food at the grocery store, for instance, have the Spanish translation right below the English one. Not everywhere, but lots of places — even Wal-Mart up here in super-white South Dakota does.
And lastly, of course, we have tons of Spanish speakers around the country to help you learn if you want to. I used to go to bars in Phoenix and would end up chatting up Spanish-speakers who were delighted to help a gringo practice his Spanish over beers.
Long story short, here’s the advice I can give you from my experience: Use your time in college to study the HARDEST languages — Japanese, Russian, Chinese, etc. Those are the ones where you’ll need the most support from your professors and classmates.
If you have time after that, take a beginning semester of an easier language(s) like Spanish, French, German, etc. — one semester of learning the absolute basics with a teacher will be plenty to get you rolling and able to continue studying on your own, post-college, if you want to.
My second question fits into this by asking, “Is Grad school a good idea?” I’m going in for linguistics, not yet decided what career I want, though I am thinking anthropologist.
Just to clarify — a master’s in linguistics is NOT a degree full of advanced foreign language study. You’re studying, in considerable depth, how people learn and use language, how language changes over time, how language use varies with sociological factors, as well as syntax, phonology, etc.
If I go to grad school, obviously I’d have more time to learn more languages.
Probably not, actually — see above. Remember, grad school doesn’t grant you extra “time” for anything (the clock is always ticking wherever you are and whatever you do) — it just requires you to pay a lot of money during a short period of that time. 🙂 And it also fills that time with work assignments, which would preclude you from studying languages.
What do you think? Any answer would be appreciated. Thank you very much!
You’re very welcome. The question of whether you should go to grad school is a big and sprawling one, but my answer usually boils down to this: if you have a compelling reason to attend graduate school that you feel justifies the financial cost, time, and opportunity cost of going — then by all means, go. And just a quick refresher:
Financial cost = the money you pay for the program
Time = the time out of your life it takes to complete the program
Opportunity cost = the opportunities that may or may not arise for you while you’re completing the program which you must turn down because you’re in the middle of completing the program and don’t want to ditch it.
It doesn’t sound like, just based on this email, you’re quite there yet, because you’re not yet sure about what profession you want to enter (and therefore, you can’t weigh the career benefits of a master’s against the three factors I just mentioned).
Finally, and not for nothing, I suppose I should mention the Armed Forces and their language learning programs. You’ll learn languages a hell of a lot faster there than you will in any classroom — the pace is much faster, obviously, because your competency is a critical need, not just a nice-to-have. And they’ll actually pay you to learn them, and give you free housing and insurance and benefits and all that jazz, too.
Of course, you’ve gotta live the military life for a while, which can of course be dangerous, but not always so much. The Air Force, which is the branch of service where you have the least chance of getting killed in battle, has linguistic positions available if you score highly enough on the ASVAB, and they’re in exotic languages like Arabic, Pashto, etc.
Just sayin’, for a fellow language lover, it’s worth pointing out.
That’s all the advice I have today. Fellow language lovers/haters/teachers…any thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.