Hiya! My name’s Greta (she/her) and I’m a second year German and Linguistics student at Oxford University, but I’m from Cardiff originally.

People often don’t know exactly what Linguistics mean – it’s actually a science that focuses on the way that languages work! It involves studying things like how sounds are created and how they travel, how language works in your brain (creation and processing), how grammar differs across languages (words and sentences) and so much more! I love studying Linguistics because it gives me the chance to study languages from a scientific perspective*, which is so different from how people generally think about languages i.e. from a humanities* perspective.

Back when I was in school, I always thought about language learning as something you did in the classroom with either paper or digital copies of vocab* lists, which I found pretty boring if I’m being honest. I think it’s a real shame that something as exciting as learning a new language and culture can be limited to just long word lists! Language learning offers so much more than this, but I know that young people’s attitudes towards languages are often heavily influenced by the classroom teacher and their teaching style. I started to see another side to languages when I began learning German on my own at home. I was going to Germany in the summer to meet my cousins for the first time, so I decided to learn some German so I could try and speak with them in their mother tongue*.

My German language learning journey started when I received a German gift on my birthday (the Rocket Languages app). So, for 20 minutes every morning, when I was getting ready for school, I would listen to the ‘lessons’ on the app instead of listening to music. I learnt how to have simple, realistic, and useful conversations, and I found it so much easier to learn through listening and speaking, instead of reading and writing. I’d sometimes listen when I was out and about walking or even travelling on a bus – I must have looked a bit funny talking out loud to myself saying things like ‘Können Sie mir ein Restaurant in der Nähe empfehlen?’ (can you recommend a nearby restaurant?!). I really enjoyed learning in this interactive* and stress-free way, and I think I learnt the language a lot quicker because of this. I recommend everyone learns a language in this way, as the language you speak is, after all, a lot more natural.

My cousins really appreciated all my efforts learning German and we laughed a lot listening to some of the funny lessons together.  My favourite lesson was ‘die Verlobung’ (the engagement)…

I never would have thought that I would be studying German in university all these years later, but I really did get bitten by the language learning bug! Being able to speak with my family in German was so exciting, and even ordering a strudel* in a cafe felt like a small victory to me!

I really enjoyed learning German and it actually made me realise that I wasn’t just interested in German language and culture, but rather how language works in broader terms, so this is what sparked my interest in linguistics. Linguistics doesn’t focus on any one language in particular, but rather on languages as a whole. This isn’t something that is offered as a subject in school, so I had to do lots of research before applying to study it in university.

I remember thinking that I wasn’t quite sure how it would work – how would it be possible to study every language in the world at the same time? I’ve since been amazed to learn how incredibly similar all human languages actually are!

I really didn’t expect that at all as I always remember being told that languages and cultures across the world were so different. But the truth is that all the world’s languages and cultures are much more alike than they are different. In terms of sound, there are only so many possible sounds that the mouth can produce, and they’re produced the same way around the world. Even grammatical structures follow certain rules as they’re hierarchical*. When traveling across the world, we often come across cultural practices* that are not so different from our own; music, performance, stories, poems, cooking and food, celebrations of love, storytelling and much more. Although the specific practices are different, the basic ideas are very similar. Having a rich identity and culture is a human thing, which belongs to us all. I find it incredibly exciting that we can learn more languages whilst drawing on the connections and the similarities between them. The ability to make connections between lives that seem, at first glance,  so different from our own on the other side of the world, is absolutely amazing!

Learning about languages ​​has changed the way I see the world around me, as well as the way I think; it’s definitely not something that is limited to a classroom or an essay. It’s meant that I’ve been able to broaden my mind to understand different structures and ideas, cultures and perspectives. It’s a never-ending journey, as there’s always more to learn, about German, about other languages I’m learning like Japanese and Ancient Greek, and even about my mother tongue, Welsh!

Here’s a photo from my trip to Japan, where I was lucky enough to experience a new culture and meet lifelong friends.

Learning a language is an exciting and colourful journey (which is sometimes a literal journey), which has not only changed the way I think, but also opened doors to my future.

I’m tired of the frustrating idea that language only leads to a career in teaching or Translation. Whilst there is no doubt that these are great careers, it is completely wrong to suggest that these are the only careers available to those that study languages, when there are all kinds of rich and varied opportunities on offer. Languages ​​are central and relevant to politics, business, health, technology, law, philosophy, climate change and so many more sectors. In the future, I’m really keen to work on linguistic research in the development of AI. This is a vast and growing field, and language plays an important role in it.

Language learning offers endless possibilities because languages ​​encompass everything that makes us human; our way of thinking, our way of communicating, our identity and learning about this is a never-ending journey.

·        Perspective – point of view

·        Humanities – learning about human culture like literature, history, art, music and philosophy

·        Vocab – short for vocabulary, meaning words

·        Mother tongue – the language you grow up speaking from childhood

·        Interactive – communication between people or flow of information between a device and a person

·        Strudel – a dessert made out of thin pastry filled with fruit

·        Hierarchical – people/ things arranged in order based on their importance

·        Cultural practices – behaviours or values shared within a community