If somebody were to ask me what my favourite subjects are this year then I most certainly have a definite answer. In the 4th year Chemical Engineering, apart from the compulsory core subjects and six optional modules, we are also required to take two broadening materials (subjects which might not be strictly related to Chemical Engineering). My most favourite subject is one of the broadening materials that I’m taking: Foreign Language, more specifically, French.
Cambridge University has a language centre where you can learn foreign languages in small classes, but you have to pay. However, there is also a Language Unit in the Engineering Department, which is more geared towards the scienc-y bit of the languages instead of aspects like literature. Us 4th years have an option to do a foreign language for free here. It’s examinable of course, and if you want to learn more than one language then you do have to pay for it. I chose foreign language because I don’t like the other choices: entrepreneurship (eurgghh!) and product design. It turns out; this is the best decision I’ve made this year.
The course lasts for two terms, Michaelmas and Lent. Considering how I learnt Arabic in school for six years and am still unable to speak it in the end, I don’t know what to expect from this course (although to be fair, I think it’s more of the teaching method in my previous schools that are ineffective rather than anything else). However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed the course. A lot. And frankly speaking, after six months I can converse far better in French than in Arabic.
One thing that really helps, in my opinion, is the abundance of resources on the web. There are translation tools, French dictionary, French Wikipedia etc. The one that I use the most is probably the BBC website. It has a language section and for French, there are several flash slideshows/videos depicting everyday situation, together with grammar notes and vocabulary exercises. I’ve finished the beginner’s bit of the French section and now I’m moving on to the post-beginner one, Ma France. So if you’re learning French (or German, Spanish and others) this is a great complementary material.
We had a written and an oral exam last week. I think I did alright in them, though you can never really tell. Also, that means the end of the formal classes. I’ll miss them, but I’ll continue learning on my own, I guess. And since I’m still at beginner’s level, if I get the chance to go back to Cambridge again I’ll definitely go and register for the intermediate class. Come to think of it I’ll register for the Japanese class as well, since that’s the second foreign language that I want to learn.
That’s all for now. I’ll tell a bit about my second favourite subject in the next post.