Taking a Foreign Language while Abroad

Hi everyone!

This past semester when I was studying abroad I continued to work on my Japanese minor. While I really enjoyed taking the class in a different country and getting a different perspective, there were some unexpected challenges along the way! Here are some things to consider if you take a language class abroad.

1. Different pace or syllabus
I found that the class I took as a comparable class to Japanese 4 at FIT was a bit behind in grammar, but way ahead in vocab! I knew all the grammar concepts we covered, but definitely had to hustle to catch up on vocab we were expected to know. I would recommend checking the syllabus to see what will be covered, as each teacher has a different teaching pace.  Additionally, we were using a different textbook.  In a language, where everything builds upon itself, knowing where you stand in the classes comprehension is really important!

2. Similarities to local language
Japanese and Cantonese (the local language where I studied) have a lot of overlap in the characters used! Thankfully the professor understood that I hadn’t been writing in the system since primary school, and allowed me to use other systems of writing. I did try my best to study as many characters as possible while there, even though we were not tested on them like we are at FIT. If you find you’re behind in an area, be sure to discuss with your professor and do your best to catch up.

3. More opportunities to practice!
In NYC I barely get a chance to speak Japanese, but while I was abroad I got to travel and test my speaking abilities! This was by far the most beneficial experience for me, I learned I still have a long ways to go when it comes to numbers- which is good to know. I can now focus more studying on that.

It can be really difficult to take a language where local students have more experience in it.  My friends taking Mandarin ran into a lot of issues, since Cantonese and Mandarin are a lot closer than English and Mandarin.  They definitely had to work even harder to make sure they kept up!  Once you get past the first level of a language, the classes do get more challenging, but I think learning a second (or third!) language is worth the extra effort you have to put in.

Overall, I would really recommend taking a language as a minor at FIT, and working on it while you are abroad if you have the chance.  It is a lot of work sometimes, but it looks great on your resume, and being able to communicate with someone you might not have been able to is incredibly rewarding.

What language would you minor in?

Sam

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