Learning a Language: High School vs College

As a college freshman taking Spanish classes, there are a few differences I have noted between college and high school language learning. It may be different for different languages, but these differences are most likely universal. These are some of the things I wish I had known before taking upper-level foreign language classes.

Immersion in high school is sometimes a little bit easier because you’re in class every day for more than an hour. But in college, the class is generally two or three times a week, and for less than an hour. However, there are more options in college to immerse yourself in culture or language. You can join a language club for more speaking time, or volunteer to tutor others in your language. Some schools even have living-learning communities focused on speaking in your target language full time. So, even though there may be more consistency in high school, if you can motivate yourself to find immersion opportunities in college, it will be much more rewarding.

    Additionally, study abroad is much more accessible for college and can count towards credit to graduate. For students wishing to major or minor in a language, studying abroad can help them get ahead in their classes, as well as provide a super great life experience. Though there are some programs that high schoolers can do, there are many more opportunities and locations for college students, typically.

    There is also a difference between teachers in high school and college professors. College professors seem slightly less approachable than a high school teacher. It may be easier to make a connection with your high school teacher because they typically have many fewer students and can know their students much more personally. However, if you want to get to know your professor better and make yourself stand out, going to his or her office hours can make a huge difference!

    Another benefit to college-level language classes is being able to make friends with like-minded individuals who care about expanding their horizons and learn a new language. I have made many good friends in my foreign language classes already, and learning a language together is a great way to become friends very quickly.

    It’s super important to remember to stick with your target language because consistency is one of the most important aspects of learning a language, and it’s easy to get distracted from that while in college. I would encourage any fellow language learner to try and listen to a podcast in your target language every day, or do a duolingo exercise every day to maintain consistency in your language learning.