Runner-up of the student award 2010: Encouraging school pupils to study languages, linguistics or area studies at university

Author: Sarah Louise Badrock


Sarah Louise Badrock, a 1st year Middle Eastern and Modern European Language student at the University of Manchester, was a runner up in the Subject Centre's undergraduate student award competition 2010.

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Sarah Louise Badrock

A Middle Eastern and Modern European language: Turkish and Portuguese

When I reached my final year of sixth-form college I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I was supposed to be starting university the following year but I didn’t know what to study; in reality nothing particularly appealed to me. It certainly never occurred to me to study a language; I had never been particularly good at languages at school and I didn’t know anyone who had studied them at university.

I decided in a panic to study what I had always been good at, despite the fact that I didn’t really enjoy it, and I enrolled on a degree course in English Literature. Big mistake. I decided pretty quickly that it wasn’t for me; I left my course and not knowing what to do next I headed to Portugal with a friend to do some travelling.

A year and a half later I was still in Portugal, I had fallen in love and the object of my affection was completely unexpected. I was in love with a language. I knew for sure what I wanted to spend the next four years of my life doing and after completing an A-level in Portuguese and enrolling on a degree course at the University of Manchester I have never looked back.

I discovered my passion for language was not limited to Portuguese. I am studying Turkish as part of my degree and I have taken classes in Arabic, Spanish, French and Catalan in my spare time. I must warn you, languages are addictive; once you have felt the thrill that comes with understanding and being understood by someone who doesn’t speak English, you will never look back.

I can order a meal in a restaurant in Portugal, converse with Portuguese friends in their own language, watch a film without subtitles, and read Portuguese literature in the language in which it was written. I even get the opportunity to use my language skills in Manchester sometimes. I have given directions to a Portuguese couple, eavesdropped on some Brazilian cleaners in a lift, and even stepped in once to help translate at an airport.

It’s not only the language but the culture that really brings the language to life. One of my best memories is of being in Porto in Portugal during the São João festival with some Portuguese friends ... drinking sangria, eating sardines, setting off home-made paper lanterns with little tea-light candles inside to join the hundreds already floating through the night sky, being hit by about a hundred brightly-coloured plastic hammers while walking back to the centre through the narrow streets after watching a firework display over the river Douro.

My love of languages has even led to the opportunity for me to travel to China. I spent four weeks over Easter in China taking Chinese classes and learning about Chinese culture, as part of a government funded programme called Study China. Without my aptitude and passion for languages I am certain I would never have been allowed such an opportunity.

..."you get to see the world from a whole new perspective"...


Learning a language is unlike studying any other subject. It is exciting and inspiring, and you get to see the world from a whole new perspective. As part of your degree you get to travel abroad; I will be dividing my third year between Istanbul in Turkey and São Paulo in Brazil. How many courses give you those kinds of opportunities?

I know that I made the right choice. I absolutely adore my course which, believe me, is rare at university. Studying a language is not like anything else, it is not just a course but it becomes an integral part of your life. You are learning how to communicate with people from a different culture, how to live in a different way and how to see life from a completely different perspective.

The lecturers and tutors are passionate about what they are teaching, you can see that these people fell in love once too and they still have the same enthusiasm for their subject. Language classes are accompanied by modules on culture, history, literature, and politics and you find yourself immersed in the culture of the country from which your language originates. My interest in Portuguese and Middle Eastern culture has infiltrated my life; in my spare time I find myself reading books about the Palestinian situation, listening to Brazilian Bahia music and watching Portuguese game shows.

As I have chosen to study two completely different languages I get to take modules from two different departments: Middle Eastern Studies, and Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, which means that in the morning I can be studying Brazilian literature, followed by a language class in which I am being introduced to Turkish cuisine and then later on learning about the oil situation in the Middle East. It is certainly never boring.

Learning a language and experiencing a whole new culture is completely inspiring. As I am making my way between classes and thinking about what I have learned that day and I consider that next year I will be taking classes in Istanbul University or walking through the streets of São Paulo, I know that I made the right choice and that a whole new world has opened up to me. I find it really exciting that when I finish my course I could end up anywhere in the world, in a career which lets me do what I really love every day, and not just in some boring office job.