Notes: International Relations
My name is Ruaridh and I’m a recent graduate in Arabic and International Relations from the University of St Andrews.
What languages have you learned?
I first developed a passion for language learning at school after electing to study both Spanish and French.
I found learning both at the same time to be of great value and enjoyed learning and discovering the similarities and connections between the two languages which helped me to progress more quickly and gain a deeper understanding of the intricacies of the languages.
I studied both Spanish and French for the remainder of school however upon leaving school I decided to try and learn another language. I continued studying Spanish during my junior honours years at university however I also began learning Arabic.
From the outset learning Arabic was starkly different to my experience studying French and Spanish. French and Spanish appeared to come quite naturally to me whereas at the beginning Arabic was a constant struggle. However, after studying Arabic for two years I was lucky enough to have the opportunity in my third year to study Arabic abroad at Qatar University for a semester. The course was very intensive and from early on was immersive with most of the classes being conducted solely in Arabic. There was a steep learning curve however as the semester progressed my Arabic improved substantially.
Upon returning from Qatar I continued studying Arabic for the remainder of my degree and my learning is still very much in progress.
How have language skills helped you so far?
With only having recently graduated and my career still ahead of me I think the greatest benefit of having studied languages so far has been the experiences I’ve had and people I have met in the process of learning languages. Living and studying in Qatar I gained friends from around the world and had truly unforgettable experiences that wouldn’t have been possible without the language skills I possessed. Language skills allow you to meet and integrate with local people and understand their culture in a way that simply isn’t possible without knowledge of their language. From renting 4x4s and driving through the desert in the middle of the night to experience sunrise over the dunes with local friends to attending traditional Majlis, language skills gave me the opportunity to experience things that most cannot.
What benefit do you think languages will have on your future career?
I have always wanted to join the Royal Marines and language learning has, from the outset, been a part of my plan to achieve that goal. In the international setting in which Marines operate and in their recent operations and training in Afghanistan and the wider Middle East I believed that having a knowledge of languages and Arabic specifically would be immensely beneficial.
Do you have any advice for those looking to learn a language or study abroad?
I would say to anyone looking to learn a language to just give it a go and stick with it. I think its important to not worry about being perfect and just to use the language as often and in as many different forms as possible. For those looking to study abroad, I would simply say do it. My time studying abroad was the best experience of my life and would do it again in a heartbeat.
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