University: what it’s like to study a language

studying a language at university

I’m not gonna pussy-foot around saying that it’s a lot of hard work. Because it is. Trufax. Studying any language to any degree of fluency takes an awful lot of time – it’s not an instant gratification kind of thing. 

But studying an East Asian language at university is so different to studying a European language at GCSE, it’s actually quite laughable. 

studying a language at university


First up, you don’t just study the language – a concept which may seem blindingly obvious, but some people do think that’s all it is. You get your language modules, but you also study the country’s history, society, and international relations, plus those of its’ neighbours. It means you end up with a working knowledge of the region. 


It doesn’t matter if you’ve never studied the language before you get to uni, as the courses start from scratch. It might help to familiarise yourself with writing systems and basic words before class starts, but it isn’t  a requirement the same way an A Level in French is to study French. 

Language class wise, you’ll have grammar, speaking, reading and translation each week as contact hours, and a weekly homework so you can practice at, well, home. If you need help, you can always chat to a tutor in their contact hours


There is no easy way to say that language learning, especially for an East Asian language, takes an awful lot of time to become proficient. It’s very much a case of not practicing until you get it right, but practicing until you can’t get it wrong. The key to doing well is self study – memorising vocab, grammar patterns, endless amount of translation. 

And that’s just for the language side of things. For the studies modules, you’re looking at a minimum , depending on the number of credits a module carries, of 60 hours of reading or a minimum of 170. Language degrees require a ridiculous amount of self discipline and organisation so that you can do the very best you can. Sad fact of life is, if you’re doing a dual (Korean with Japanese, Korean and music, Chinese and French, Korean/Japanese/Chinese and Business, the list goes on…) you will basically have no free time. Soz. 


The good news – the books aren’t usually as expensive as law (personal sister experience).  There are also a lot of extra resources you can find online to help that will definitely not hurt your bank balance. 

Studying a language at university is also stressful. It’ll play with your emotions when you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, and there will be times when you want to give up and switch degrees. You’ll probably end up missing a few nights out to fit in that vocab before midterms/finals, or pulling an unreasonable amount of all nighters because you have essay deadlines and forgot about something language related. Also, exams. 


The experience of being able to hold a conversation in a different language is brilliant. Also, languages are super duper useful to help get a job – plus you have a whole ‘nother country to go and explore after graduation that could potentially give you work. Also, year abroad. The employment prospects afterwards are also pretty neat – which tends to be a brilliant motivator when the going gets tough. 

Languages are a great degree choice if you’re inclined. It’s stress and hard work, but rewarding and a great skill to have. If you have any specific questions about studying Korean, then ask away – since I’ve tried to keep this as ‘language generic’ as possible. 

Have you ever thought about studying a language at degree level before? If you have or do, what are your experiences? 

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25 responses to “University: what it’s like to study a language”

  1. jadiee bevan says:

    hey there!! I have been following your blog for a while now and I am really enjoyed it 😀 I have shared this post !! 😀 keep up the great wouldcome say hi Jadiee'sLittleBlogJade

  2. Prompts By Dee says:

    I always wished I could learn Korean. I love watching dramas from there and sometimes it gets so annoying when you have to keep reading the subtitles! haha! I'm slowly trying to learn some sign language so does that count? 😉 xxDee |

  3. Y Magro says:

    I relate to this since im currently learning latin and greek which are so difficult!Stay fabulous x

    • Fii Cridland says:

      Oh wow, my little sister was taught latin at school and I sometimes helped her study, it's such a difficult language, despite being the root of most european words. I hope your studies are going well :Dxo

  4. Megan McMahon says:

    My best friend is doing French and Italian (learning Italian from scratch as well!) at uni next year so I've shared this post with her – thank you!Megan x

  5. Natalie Simm says:

    Loved this post. I studied French at GCSE and really enjoyed it, I just wasn't good at it. Have you ever heard someone attempt to speak French, with a Northern English accent? Hilarious. How I passed my oral exam I do not know! I've tried to learn through apps but I don't think I have the willpower! Good luck though :)Natalie Big Society Girl

    • Fii Cridland says:

      I really enjoyed Frech at GCSE too, though I think the way it's taught in schools needs to be changed… buuuuuuut that's a different post entirely aha 😉 Thank you!xo

  6. Lizzie Schofield says:

    I left uni 3 years ago and I found this so interesting! You don't hear much about language courses great post :)

    • Fii Cridland says:

      Ah thank you! There isn't much about in regards to language info, other than what's available on the uni's websites. Especially East Asian languages, as they're such niche degrees :)Glad you found it interesting 🙂 xo

  7. Jessica Edmunds says:

    Wow I think you are amazing, I don't think I would have the dedication to time but I can definitely see how rewarding it is and brilliant for job applications- go you! xxx

  8. Hale Saaw says:

    Oh wow, I would love to study a language that isn't the usual French, German or Spanish in primary and secondary schools! Aleeha

    • Fii Cridland says:

      I really wish they had a wider range of languages available to study from a younger age… tbh I wish that we were taught languages from a younger age too… but THAT's a different post entirelyxo

  9. Martha Edwards says:

    Sometimes I regret not studying a language at university. I do have a language requirement for my course, as it focusses on world literature, but it means that I have to do one module a year based on a piece of Spanish literature, seeing as it's the language I know. I self taught myself the basics of Japanese speaking and writing when I was younger, but I've forgotten it all now and I really do envy you for being able to speak what I think is such an incredible language! I know you have to be really dedicated to study a language that's so different to English, so you must really love it! xMartha Jane |

    • Fii Cridland says:

      It's incredibly stressful but so rewarding! Self teaching is such a massive Self studying needs a heck of a lot of motivation though, so that's an achievement! xo

  10. ayme nicole says:

    Are you studying Korean?! Back when I had a lot of free time, I would study Korean on my own via books and websites and meet up with my friends who would teach me conversational Korean. With Korean, the alphabet was pretty easy to learn, it was actually using it in conversation that was hard. I also tried to learn Japanese but that was just too difficult. Good luck on your studies!coffeeslagCOFFEESLAG Rocksbox Review

    • Fii Cridland says:

      Ahh yes I am! Conversational Korean is definitely not as easy as Japanese (those vowlessss) But ahh wow well done for trying! It's such a pretty language :DThank youxo

  11. Dannie - Famous in Japan says:

    Oh wow 🙂 I had no idea you studied Korean! I would love to hear more about your degree if possible :)Dannie x

    • Fii Cridland says:

      yes I do! I'm going to be doing more posts on it this year, but I'm always up for a chat about it on twitter :))))xo

  12. Mel Davies says:

    i LOVE this post, it's inspired me to write my own about my course :)Lillies and Lipbalmxx

  13. Cecilie Bode says:

    Loved the post :)I'm actually thinking about studying an east asian language at university myself. For me your post was really informative and useful. It gives food for thought. I am thinking about studying japanese, chinese or korean, but right now I just can't choose, because I want to learn them all. But luckily I have two more years to think about it. Just wanna say that I really liked your post, and that I would love to read more about your degree. xo

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