A typical day in the life of a languages student

by Nathan Gaskill

Hi, I’m Nathan! I began studying BA (Hons) French Studies and Spanish Studies at Lancaster in 2019 and am now in my second year. Prior to coming to Lancaster, I had studied French at A-Level, but had never had the opportunity to learn Spanish, so I was eager to start it from scratch as part of my degree. In this blog, I’ll explain what I get up to in a typical day as a student in the Department of Languages and Cultures (DeLC) at Lancaster University.

Travel to campus

During the week, I get the bus from my apartment in Lancaster city centre and head to campus. Once there, I usually set up base for the day in the Library, the Learning Zone, or DeLC’s Resource Centre.

Vocabulary flashcard on laptop
Vocabulary flashcard

Preparing for class

I start the day just before 9AM with a light bit of admin to get myself organised: checking my emails, completing my diary, and doing odd jobs for my university society in a capacity as Media and Publicity Secretary. I then have a quick browse of recruitment websites for a work placement in France as part of my International Placement Year. As a joint-honours language student, I will spend the first half my placement year in France, then the second half in a Spanish-speaking country (hopefully Mexico!). Afterwards, I prepare for my classes by reviewing my vocabulary flashcards concerning the topics I will be studying today and checking over the work I have already prepared in advance.

Soon it’s time for my first class of the day: Spanish written skills. Written skills classes focus on reading, writing, and translation. Translation is of particular importance in DeLC as many members of staff have a professional background as translators. In this class we are reading an article about online activism and petitions in Spain, then working to translate it into English. We also take time to focus on a particular grammatical feature of the article.

Independent study

Once my Spanish written skills class is done, I get back to my independent study. Between classes I try to do wider reading around my modules, complete my homework, or work on the assessments I have been set. I work well during the day, so I aim to get everything done before I return to my flat for a chilled evening to unwind.

During my lunch break, I head along to Spanish lunch club for an hour. Language lunch clubs are an informal setting to practice your language with fellow students and members of staff, all whilst eating your lunch. DeLC organises a programme of lunch clubs throughout the week for all five languages taught in the department. At this week’s Spanish lunch club, we are discussing what Spanish TV series we have recently been watching. Lunch clubs are just one of the many extra-curricular activities language students at Lancaster can get involved in. Outside of the classroom, there are language evening classes, cultural events, trips abroad … and the renowned departmental event that is international karaoke: you can sing whatever you like, so long as it isn’t sung in English!

Textbook with pen and highlighters
Bicycle on French street
Iconic Parisian architecture, flanking a wide network of interconnected boulevards, is the product of Haussmann’s renovation of the city

Cultural modules

After lunch, it’s time for my favourite part of the course: cultural modules. Besides solely learning the language, a languages degree at Lancaster also includes the study of the culture of the countries where it is spoken. I thoroughly enjoy these modules as I am really interested in the Francophone and Hispanic worlds. Cultural modules help me to better understand them, and I will see what I have learned in action during my International Placement Year. My cultural class today is for the module ‘Shaping Contemporary France’, and we are studying the effects of Georges Eugène Haussmann’s architectural renovation of Paris in the 19th century on the Parisian cityscape. We also examine broader cultural themes such as literature, film, art, history, politics, philosophy, and sociology.

French oral skills

My final class of the day is a French oral skills class. These classes are typically taught by native speakers and are an opportunity to develop your speaking and listening skills. They are very interactive and involve a lot of group discussion based around a topic presented in an audio clip. In today’s class, we are discussing French regional accents and their perceptions. I remember my encounter with a French-Canadian couple when I travelled round France prior to starting my degree, and to this day I still struggle to understand the Quebecois accent! Developing my oral skills is of particular importance to me as I am hoping to work as part of my International Placement Year, so I aim to get them to a professional level by the end my second year.

Lecturer presenting

Once all my classes are done, I catch the bus back to my apartment, and have a chilled evening with my flatmates after a day of work on campus. Whilst eating my dinner, I enjoy watching French or Spanish news channels to keep me up to date with current affairs in the Francophone and Hispanic worlds and develop my listening skills at the same time.

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Nathan is a second year undergraduate at Lancaster University, and is studying French Studies and Spanish Studies.

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