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Which language should I study?

Posted at 4:01 pm July 9, 2012,

There are several reasons for continuing to study a language that you have already begun studying in high school (or elsewhere).

  • You can fulfill your language requirement in one semester, whereas if you start a new language you will have to take two semesters.
  • You can advance much farther in your ability to actually use the language.
  • Studying at a slightly more advanced level can be much more rewarding, and actually a lot more fun, than starting over with the basics in a new language.

On the other hand, there can be reasons to start a new language. But many of the reasons that commonly motivate students to start a new language are not really good reasons.

  • You think it will be easier to start over at the beginning level, even though it means taking an extra semester. 
    • For most people, this is probably not true. If you had two or more years of a language in high school, even if you didn’t do really well and you’ve forgotten a lot, you have learned a good many basic structures and vocabulary items. Why start all over with how to say your name and the words for “pen” and “chalkboard,” when you could be building on what you know and moving on to much more interesting topics? TAKE THE PLACEMENT TEST, and see how you do. Chances are, it will confirm that you know more than you think and are ready for further study.
  • You took three years or more of a language in high school, but feel that you performed so poorly and learned so little that you are unqualified for anything beyond Elementary I, which you are not allowed to take for credit after taking three years in high school. So you feel you must start a new language.
    • You could be right, but you could be underestimating your abilities and overestimating the difficulty of the next level. TAKE THE PLACEMENT TEST, and see how you do. If you really do place into the beginning level, you will have to decide whether to take one semester for no credit and then continue the language, or to start a new language.
  • You are really interested in a different language for academic, personal, or future professional reasons. 
    • By all means go ahead and start a new language.

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