The word 'Welcome' in Finnish, French and Southeast Asian

International Relations student, Samantha Chihuri, shares her experience of learning Spanish while studying for a degree.

  • 15 December 2021
  • 5 min read

Samantha Chihuri is a third year international student from Zimbabwe, learning Spanish while studying for a degree in International Relations.

I currently speak three languages – English, Shona (my native language) and French. Growing up in Zimbabwe, I was first exposed to English and French at school, taking them both up until A Levels. Since then, I have kept working on these languages everyday to become as proficient as possible.

My goal is to become a polyglot, meaning someone who is fluent in at least 6 languages. With three under my belt, I wanted to learn Chichewa, the main language spoken in Malawi (as I’m half Malawian) and two other languages. This is why, when I started at the University of Portsmouth, I decided to start learning Spanish.

Why learn a language?

It goes without saying that learning a new language is valuable.

Career benefits of learning a language

In terms of careers, you could apply for jobs which ask for certain languages as a requirement, opening up a whole world of opportunities for you. It makes your CV stand out amongst other applicants when applying for jobs, and shows that you have determination and drive to learn new skills. It’s also a great talking point in interviews.

Personal benefits of learning a language

 In terms of personal benefits, it will help when travelling to different countries and will enable you to connect with people from other countries using their native language. It also allows you to learn about other cultures, you’ll learn so much more from people when speaking to them in their native language.

There are also many cognitive benefits to learning a language, like improved memory, better concentration, critical thinking skills. Why wouldn’t you want to learn one?

How to learn a language

The University of Portsmouth offers free language courses which we can learn as a hobby or take up alongside our studies, for every level available. As someone who has had to learn two languages, I can say that sticking to it is not easy. Here are some tips I have picked up from my experience.

1. Use sticky notes

If rewriting and rereading vocabulary isn’t your thing, you can try sticky notes. This is my favourite way to remember vocab. You can write the name of the item in the language you’re learning, and then stick it on the item. Then, before you use the item, say the word. This helps to remember its name but also to practice pronunciation.

Student looking through a book

2. Read books in another language

Reading in a language is also extremely important, of course. Children’s story books are a great way to ease into it. You could work your way through to more sophisticated pieces of literature as you go.

3. Watch foreign tv shows and movies

Another tip would be to watch things in the language that you’re learning. There is a Chrome extension called Language Learning with Netflix that translates subtitles, and also gives context to words or phrases.

Looking at YouTubers who specialise in languages or the language you’re learning are also valuable. Listening to the news or music in your chosen language is also extremely beneficial.

Humanities books

4. Practice with friends and family

If you have friends or family who speak your chosen language, you can ask them to speak in it to you more often so that you can get comfortable with being conversational. This is key, as the whole point of learning a language is to be able to comfortably communicate with it.

Whichever way you choose to enhance your language learning, the main thing to remember is that languages are living, and they are best learnt when you live through them every day.