As a languages student, I obviously am reaching for a near native, if not native level in the languages I study at degree level. I say native as the idea of fluency isn’t set in stone. There are many theorists and each one has a different definition for fluency. However, what most people envision when they say ‘fluent’ is having the same level in a language as somebody who speaks it natively. Equally, there are problems with this. I only have to look at myself as an example. My spoken English is horrendous when compared to that of someone who speaks RP. However, when writing I am like a different person. So, my native spoken level in English is lower than my written one. Yet, no one would argue with me and say I wasn’t a native speaker of English. Therefore, for argument’s sake, I will say that when I speak about native language level I mean that I can speak a language as if I was born in the country and were educated there minus any accent issues as this doesn’t impede on the actual level as such.
I will begin with Spanish, the language of 20 countries and one which has more native speakers than English. Spanish has roughly 470 million native speakers whilst English only has around 400 million native speakers. This is a language I have been learning in some form since Year 7. However, it wasn’t until part way through Year 10 that I had actually caught up with the majority of the national curriculum. I am now studying this language at university level and hope to be able to speak this language to a native level.
The other important language at my current stage is Italian. It is an official language in 5 countries and is spoken as a first language by around 85 million people. I started learning Italian in Year 13 so the idea of having to get to the same level as Spanish by the end of my degree is slightly scary. But, it is a task I’m willing to do. So, I also want to have a native level in Italian.
French is also a language I am currently learning. It is an official language in 29 countries and has between 77 and 110 million native speakers. I started learning French properly at university and have at this moment in time finished 2 modules in it. I would ideally like to achieve a C1 level in French if not a C2. I view French as more of a career move than I do Spanish and Italian as they are languages and cultures that I have fallen in love with. French on the other hand is a language I love the sound of but frustrates me. As I do not have the same passion for French, it is harder to overcome this frustration and continue learning it. This may also be due to the fact that I know considerably less French than Spanish and Italian so I can’t say what I want to quite often.
Next year I will be studying Catalan as part of my degree. Catalan is a romance language spoken by roughly 4 million native speakers in 4 different countries. However, there are closer to 9 million speakers when taking L2 speakers into consideration. At this moment in time, Catalan is just a module for my degree. I chose it because I love learning languages, especially at the beginner’s stage. I do not, however, have any plans to continue my study of Catalan after university. So, my aim is to reach A2 level in this language as this is what the module outcomes are. I would be very happy being able to have everyday conversations in Catalan at this level. My Italian level is supposedly A2 at the moment and I would be very happy to go to Italy for short periods of time and talk only Italian. Therefore, I don’t see this as a low aim for Catalan. Furthermore, I will happily maintain this level if I really enjoy Catalan, but I see no need to extend my knowledge past this when I have other languages to focus on, and when the majority of Catalan speakers also speak Spanish.
I currently work in a primary school and have done for the past four years. This year, I had the opportunity to go to a sign language concert with a group of children who were performing in it. This has definitely sparked an interest in me to learn BSL. I am not sure to what level I would like to do this as I am not familiar with sign language. However, I think it would be very useful and fulfilling to learn even some sign language.
A language I’ve wanted to learn for a while is Greek. It may only be spoken by 13 million people in Greece and Cyprus, but it intrigues me. It is written in a different alphabet to the Latin one I am used to. The idea of the challenge of this interests me because I often get bored very quickly if I find something easy. I understand that there are many other languages such as Arabic and Mandarin which would probably serve me better in the future. However, I believe that to learn a language you actually have to feel something for either the language or the culture. For me, I like Greek food and the Mediterranean lifestyle. Yes, two very superficial reasons to learn Greek but they are reasons none the less. For other languages, I just don’t have a linguistic or cultural drive to learn them. It would merely be an employment driven task. As I said earlier, if I have less of a passion for something it’s harder to carry on doing it. So, Greek it is. Greek has also contributed to many other languages such as English. My aim if I learnt Greek initially would be to achieve an A2 or B1 level in the language. If I needed the language for any other reason I would be inclined to improve to a B2 level.
Finally, Irish has always been niggling at the back of my mind. I would love to speak this Celtic language. Yes, I study in Wales but I don’t have any family connections here whereas I do in Ireland. For me, there is no rush to learn Irish and it’s for no other reason than I want to. I even started learning it on Duolingo for a while but stopped. I would love to be able to hold a conversation in the future in Irish. The level I achieve isn’t important for me as such, because I’m more interested in connecting with my heritage and the language my Grandad spoke.