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Studying language in college?

post #1 of 55
Thread Starter 
I'm headed to college in the fall and considering what classes to take. Russian Literature (which I've only read in translation, as of yet) has always fascinated me, and my college has one of the strongest Russian departments in the U.S., so I've been toying with the idea of majoring in Russian there. The issue is, in order to really take advantage of the upper-level seminars and advising the department has to offer, I'd have to spend 4+ semesters taking Russian language classes.

Knowing Russian would certainly have its upsides: I'd love to look at the original structural nuances of the Russian novels I've read in translation, and it could be advantageous to know Russian if I ever get into diplomacy or international law.

But my major qualm about a Russian major is that it would would mean spending 4 of 32 total classes learning the alphabet, vocab, and grammar of a third foreign language (I've taken four years each of Latin and Germnan, and, while I've done decently well in both, I wouldn't consider myself a particularly 'natural' language-learner). I'm headed to the school I am (a small liberal arts college) because I see college primarily as a place to learn how to think, and I wonder whether I might end up doing deeper thinking about subjects that I already have strong foundations in (English, Latin, Econ) or ones that would require less memorization-based background knowledge (any non-language subject, really).

So, taking that all into consideration, any advice? Are the discipline and rigor of learning a language important counterpoints to the kind of thinking one might do in other liberal arts subjects? And can great professors go beyond teaching rigor and discipline in introductory/intermediate language courses?

Any input is greatly appreciated.
wmmk.
post #2 of 55
It's good that you're already concerned about the decision. It'll ensure that you make it for the right reasons in the end. I also majored in a language/area in college. One thing you might want to think about is that you will just get sick of Russian and Russia. Especially if you ever live there, there is the possibility the same insular concerns and debates, as well as the same things that Russians and outsiders disagree about, may wear down your interest.
post #3 of 55
I think it depends on what your goal is. If you just want to think, any language would be helpful for that. You'll do more than just memorization when learning Russian. But imo, ne of the best parts of college is a year or a semester abroad, and that is best if your language skills are good enough to allow you to matriculate directly and take regular classes with local students, rather than just language classes w/ other foreign students. Career goals and familiarity w/ one's heritage are other things to consider.
post #4 of 55
learning to think and all is good but you'll also want to get a job after school. i dont know what the prospects for russian majors are but keep that in mind. you can always take classes or learn a language w/o majoring in it. and +1 to study abroad - i wish i had done that now but i was too 'serious' at the time.
post #5 of 55
you already go to a 'small liberal arts college' and now you want to major in Russian, mostly to enjoy the literature. How many more barriers to employability do you want to erect around yourself?
post #6 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt View Post
you already go to a 'small liberal arts college' and now you want to major in Russian, mostly to enjoy the literature. How many more barriers to employability do you want to erect around yourself?

If he has talent and a true, unwavering interest in it I'm sure he could eek out some job in academia... if not, then well. Hahaha, good knowing you.
post #7 of 55
well, if nothing else, his poor, unemployed, tortured Raskolnikov ass will be able to communicate very well with his mail order bride. Till she Kareninas herself off an El platform anyhow
post #8 of 55
I did 4 years of Spanish in high school. I was placed in the most advanced Spanish class my freshman year. I plan on taking another Spanish class before all is said and done, but a minor in Spanish? Not likely. I'll sell out first.
post #9 of 55
Just be realistic about the timeline. German was a major of mine, and I also studied Spanish, Russian, and Lakota. Don't believe that after four semesters of college study you'll be able to breeze though Dostoyevski like a native speaker. College study is only one to two hours per day. People studying in all-day intensive language programs usually don't reach that level after at least one year of hard study (this is my line of work).
post #10 of 55
After four years of Russian you'll be able to understand more than you speak. You will have a terrible accent, and Russians are pretty unforgiving. Unfortunately, unless you are strongly multilingual and know a similar language, most of the effort will have to be chalked up to "for the experience," because you aren't going to really have much usable Russian. Maybe if you move to Russia for four years and completely abandon English, but you aren't going to be able to know the language on a level that would allow you to appreciate the great russian authors. Same as taking 4 years of french will leave you hopelessly overmatched against Flaubert. If anything, take more of what you're familiar with. Spanish is something every young american should be learning. I'd delve deeper into that if you can.
post #11 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt View Post
you already go to a 'small liberal arts college' and now you want to major in Russian, mostly to enjoy the literature. How many more barriers to employability do you want to erect around yourself?

+1



OP, what do you want to do when you grow up, that would be the question?


I can only think of one friend that studied a language that wasn't spoken in his home at college and made use of it - I have a friend who married a russian woman after studying russian at school. another friend studied japanese and, after 3 months working in a japanese office, has never used it. it isn't easy gaining fluency in a language learned in college.
post #12 of 55
also, you can get a fluent russian/english speaker for less than a buck on hour, in russia. that's what you will be competing with on the job market.
post #13 of 55
seems like it would be better to take a lot of Russian if you are interested, major in someting else, and then try to do internships over there where you can polish the language along the way, or after you graduate. That's what I did with Spanish and it opened numerous doors for me.
post #14 of 55
I really love learning language now that I understand how I best learn language. I also enjoy traveling and such. I studied some language in college, and it was hard for me then because college classes don't work for my style of learning.

Now, remember, I love learning language:

If you live in the USA, you are a dumbass if you major in a language during college. Language, science and mathematics are some of the most useless things to study in the USA. Employers do NOT in any way, shape, or form care about those topics and will not under any circumstances see you as employable.

So take the classes for fun, but major in something useful like engineering or accounting.
post #15 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Milpool View Post
If you live in the USA, you are a dumbass if you major in a language during college. Language, science and mathematics are some of the most useless things to study in the USA. Employers do NOT in any way, shape, or form care about those topics and will not under any circumstances see you as employable.

So take the classes for fun, but major in something useful like engineering or accounting.

Gee, that's funny. I'm currently in administration and probably wouldn't have gotten a position with my company had I not studied a foreign language.
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