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How to Learn a New Language in University

Maximizing your college language classes

Learning a new language in college can be daunting and challenging. I am a University student who has been taking French classes for the past 3 years. When I was a criminal justice major, I took a beginning French class to fill my language credit, but I ended up liking French so much that I changed my major to continue learning it! Here is my advice if you are taking up a new language in college and want to maximize your language classes.


Get to know your language professors and utilize their expertise

In my experience, most language professors will do anything in their power to help you learn the language. They have dedicated their career to teaching a language and want you to be able to speak the language too. Sometimes it can be intimidating to talk to professors about how to improve but trust me when I say that professors love to see that you are putting in the effort to learn. Go to their office hours and ask for help whether you are having a hard time with a certain lesson, want more resources, or just want to have a conversation with an expert in that language.

 If you are taking several language courses in University, then odds are you will have some repeating professors. This makes getting to know your professors even more important! I cannot stress enough how much my French has improved after I started talking with my professors after class. One of the most important things when learning a language is simply speaking the language. Ask your professor to have a 5–10-minute conversation with them in your target language and with time, you will be amazed to see your improvement.

Go the extra mile outside of class

Most university classes are only 3 hours a week. If you truly want to learn a language and not just get class credit, you are going to have to study and immerse yourself in the language after class. Depending on your level, find resources on YouTube, books, Quizlet, and podcasts. If you are a beginner, spend time watching videos on the alphabet, numbers, basic greetings. If you have a higher level, find some YouTubers or podcasts in your target language to work on your oral comprehension.

Do not get discouraged

It is important to remember that everyone learns at their own pace. I have been in French classes thinking that I was way behind everyone else. Trust me, I know how discouraging it can be when you feel like you did not understand any of the lessons. I had to realize that it was okay if I was behind and that I just had to go the extra mile to catch up.

It is also important to realize that many students taking a language in college are native speakers or have experience taking classes in high school. If you are feeling behind, it might be because you are behind people that have been studying the language longer than you and that is okay! If you put in the extra work outside of class and work with your professor on what you need help with, you will be surprised at how fast you will catch up.