uni.liScotland I

Scotland I

2nd Blog: coping with the foreign language

coping with the foreign language


After being in Scotland for almost three months, I can say, I am doing pretty well in terms of language. Of course, the Scottish accent is still hard to understand, but it depends on where the person is from. For example, the accent of people from the southern part of Scotland is easier for me to understand than the accent of the people from northern Scotland. I do get used to it. Other than that, I am able to follow the classes; I can hold conversations, subject related once and informal once. With a bit of preparation, I can hold short presentations in front of the tutor-group and I do understand almost everything from the tutors’ feedback. There, I have to confess that the lectures with the Scottish accent are not always that easy to understand.


difficult vs. easy


As I already mentioned in the previous paragraph, coping with the Scottish accent is not always that easy. Additionally, at the beginning of my exchange, it was surprisingly difficult for me to have an instant small-talk. With that I mean, getting asked unexpected questions and people who wanted to have a small-talk with me out of nowhere. It took some time for me to “improvise”. In school, one learns these standard phrases, but in reality, they are not that applicable. However, the more conversations you hold, the more fluent it gets. One automatically learns situation-specific phrases which can be used; one would never learn this in class; at least, I did not. Furthermore, I struggled with mixing up similar-sounding words. Sometimes, I still do it. For example, represented with replaced and it is sort of annoying because I do not always realize it. Therefore, the other person gets confused when I do not correct myself. Another issue I had at the beginning was that the readings the tutors handed out for history, and theory class were quite tricky for me to read. Luckily, I developed my reading skills, and now it is not as tough as it used to be.


The one thing, which was astonishingly easy for me, was giving a presentation in English. Therefore, one has to know that I even struggle to hold a presentation in my mother tongue. However, speeches in English here seem to be no problem when I do some preparation in advance. Writing essays in English is not as hard as I expected it to be. It is doable in an appropriate time, but still, they are a challenge. 


helpful strategies


One strategy I am using when I don’t understand something which has been said is not be be afraid of asking the other person if she could repeat it or explain it differently. Secondly and most crucial, I keep working on my language skills. Whether it is trough reading, actively speaking or writing. My English teacher said once “Nothing comes from doing nothing” and that is very much true. To overcome difficulties in conversations, I feel I have to push myself. Besides using these “old school” vocabulary cards, I find including English into my everyday life helpful. For example, writing my grocery-list and the notes during the day at university in English. I am just trying to avoid German and integrating the foreign language whenever possible. In addition, as an architecture student I am using self-explaining sketches and diagrams which makes it way much easier to describe certain things when I am not that familiar with the specific terms and phrases.


what will remain


What I want to hold on to is the integration of the foreign language in everyday life even if it is just writing the grocery-list in English. I do find it quite effective because it creates a connection between the term and the actual thing, which helps while having conversations. The other strategy I try to keep up is reading English books to keep the vocabulary present and up to date and producing self-explaining sketches and diagrams.


Katharina Bitschnau