My experience of learning a second language

learning-a-second-language3I am a BA Hispanic Studies student at the University of Nottingham. This year I have been living abroad in Spain, I spent last winter in Granada and then moved to Girona in the spring. This year has consisted of adventures (some good some bad!), new friendships, and self-discovery. I just hope I have managed to improve my Spanish along the way!

Being fluent in another language has always been an aspiration of mine; I have always viewed bilingualism (and beyond) as a sort of superpower that we are all capable of unlocking.

European countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands get it right! Learning a second language is viewed as a necessity. As a result, languages are proactively taught to children in schools from as young as 5. Unfortunately, the assumption that “everyone knows English” means that the British school system views languages as an extra-curricular activity that could maybe come in handy on holiday when a local ‘inevitably’ asks you to list all of the colours you spent so much time learning in their language (this is something I have yet to experience however).

In Britain we learn languages too little and too late, which is a shame because knowing another language is always advantageous, especially in today’s globalised world. Although the British school system did not provide the greatest launching pad for learning a language I still felt undeterred about perusing a language at University.

For me learning a language has been about repetition, repetition, repetition. That’s just how I learn. For the grammar side of Spanish I have to write out the rules until they stick, which can take a while!

With any language there are always exceptions to the grammatical rules which are the trickiest parts about learning them, in my opinion. You think you know how to conjugate a verb until you get to the exam and there is a question on irregular verbs in the third-person-plural-conditional-perfect-subjunctive-tense and everything you think you know goes out of the exam hall window. Gendered verbs, in another language, were also something I had to get my head around because they are not so prominent in English. I learnt this lesson the hard way after mixing up the gender of the word “papa” and ending up having a ten minute long discussion about the newly anointed Argentinian potato’s views on marriage equality instead of those of the Pope’s!

What I have ultimately learnt about studying languages is that they are constantly changing; therefore you can never be completely done learning them! If I were to give any advice it would be to learn, speak, and use as many languages as you can. Unlock that superpower!


Polly Dorrofield –ERASMUS STUDENT 2016