Choosing Arts subjects

By Cassandra Murphy


An arts degree can be a scary thing. Your options are endless and every class looks as tempting as the next.  You go in knowing exactly what you want from your degree and come out after the four years with a completely different outlook. For me, all of the above is true after just two years. I went into the joint honours programme at UL with a plan almost set in stone, but everything changed. That is the beauty of the degree.

I started in September 2014 with the notion of becoming a psychologist. All that was left was to choose what I wanted to do with it. I knew I wanted to do a language. I always loved the thought of being able to communicate t was now a case of deciding on which one. I had a love-hate relationship with French throughout secondary school.  I loved the language, but the teaching and examination methods were not for me. I knew I was behind the others and I was not prepared for the anticipated humiliation in the class. So next was Irish. I walked into the lecture hall with my roommate and we took our seats. After five minutes of non-stop Gaeilge I decided it was best for me to give it a miss and ran from the class as fast I could. I didn’t even consider German. It was a language I could never find time for. Japanese didn’t appeal to me in any way. Which left me with Spanish. So I ran with it.

Both Sociology and English made sense for me. Sociology complimented Psychology. Each helps you understand the other. English on the other hand complimented me. It was always one of my best subjects so it only made sense to keep it on. It meant it would lighten my workload throughout the year. The continuous assessment and lack of an end of term exam was also a huge bonus.

I had one class left to take. I considered the many options. Mathematics, public admin, media, Irish music and dance. All things that appealed to me. In the end it was Criminal Justice that won me over. I was hooked. I had a slight bit of knowledge about everything else. I came to UL to learn so that’s what I was going to do. I knew nothing in terms of the Irish Legal system. It was going to be interesting. I planned on making it one of my minor subjects and only doing it for a year. I was aware it was a time consuming subject.

Plans change though. Now in my third year of my degree I can happily say I am working towards a degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice. Where I want to go afterwards? Who knows! I like challenges and changing my opinion. That’s why I decided to spend a year of my degree in France. Give myself a chance to learn something different and fix my relationship with the French language. Arts degrees do not tie you down. Instead they help you find your wings.


About Cassandra Murphy:

I come from a little island off the South West coast of Ireland but moved to the big city of Paris for 6 months of coop. Normally I study psychology and criminal justice but at the moment I’m in France for Erasmus trying to string together a few sentences of French to avoid dying of starvation. It’s safe to say I like a challenge. 


Studying Languages: The social degree

By Elle Walsh

I chose to study languages at third level mostly because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and I knew for that I enjoyed French in secondary school, well I enjoyed talking… to anyone, in any language. I have been “blessed” with the gift of the gab. From the moment I learned to speak I have not stopped. I will to anyone, about anything. I have communication skills in capital letters all over my cv, and similarly too chatty on every school report.  By choosing to study two languages I have no widened my potential pool of potential conversations by 449 million people!

Studying languages at UL has opened so many doors for me. Last year I spent nine months working and living in France. Six of these were spent in the French Alps working in a ski resort and the other three consisted of living on the French island of Corsica looking after two children. I was also lucky enough to spend some time in Berlin, learning about the history and culture of the most amazing city in the world. Without my language skills I would never had put myself in these situations.  Some of which were the best times of my life!

And that is only the beginning of my travelling thanks to my degree, this coming January I will be packing my bags once again to move to Germany to work in a German company for six months. A compulsory part of my course! Then that September I get to study in France for a semester, also compulsory! These are things that so many people don’t have the opportunity to do, but with a language degree in UL it’s just the beginning! Every summer people most of my course migrate to different parts of the world to improve their language skills and soak up the culture! Trips like these are ones that create friendships and memories  that will last a life time.

Although I sit in German grammar classes and wonder what I ever did to deserve a fate like this I would never change my degree for the social benefits that come with it.  I chose to study languages without really knowing if it was right for me, I can say now that it definitely is.  My  degree has given me the ability to form friendships with people I would have never have spoken to and made me feel at home in a foreign country miles away from anyone I knew! This alone without even considering the advantages language graduates have, makes my degree worth while!

This week, the University of Limerick marks Languages Week – check out the full programme here:


Elle Walsh is a 2nd year Applied Languages student at the University of Limerick. Last year, Elle took a gap year to improve her language skills and travel around Europe. This semester she is back in Limerick studying French, German and Politics.

The Basics of Japanese Writing: For Beginners, By A Beginner

blogahss1By Sinead Cryan

So, you’re thinking about learning Japanese, either by yourself, or in UL as part of your course. Or maybe you’re just a bit curious about it, because it looks like a bunch of nonsensical squiggles when you see it around. Either way, you’ve probably heard that Japanese is one of the most notoriously difficult languages to learn, because of it’s non-alphabetical writing system. I know how you feel. It can be a bit daunting taking up a new language, especially one that doesn’t use ABC’s. And I thought it was too, and everyone I know probably thinks I’m a bit crazy for doing Business with Japanese. But in all honesty, after doing it for 10 weeks now, I can assure you, it’s not actually as hard as I imagined.

First of all, you need to know what the squiggles you’re looking at actually are. Japanese is actually written using three different systems. Yes, three. Don’t panic, please. The first one you need to learn is Hiragana. It’s the most basic of the systems and is used to guide pronunciation for beginners once you start Kanji. The second, Katakana, is similar to Hiragana, except that it’s used to write foreign “imported” words from other languages, such as Television (テレビ), taken from English, and pain, (パン), the French for bread.
Kanji, the third and final system, is a lopographic system adopted from China. This is the hardest part of learning to write Japanese, because unlike the Kana systems, which only have 46 letters each, there are thousands of Kanji. But again, don’t panic! You don’t need to learn that many to be able to read and write Japanese. (In fact, you could almost get away with never learning any, although I wouldn’t recommend it, especially for numbers.) In this post, however, I won’t be discussing Kanji, as this is only the basics to writing.

So, how on Earth are you, a beginner, supposed to tackle the mountain that is learning Japanese writing? Well, the best way to go about it is obviously to start with the two “Kana” systems, Hiragana and Katakana. I managed to learn these both in about three hours, and I mean really learn them.

I’ll let you in on my secret: associate every sound with an image that relates to it or to the letter itself.
Okay, so not in any way original, but it’s the most effective method out there for learning Japanese. It applies to Kanji too, but we’re just focusing on the first two for now. If you ask around, you’ll find that this is one of the most widely used methods too, because not only does it work, but it’s kind of fun as well.

While making up a picture for every single kana yourself would be a lot of fun, a quicker method is to use some online resources. My favorite one, which I found to be the most helpful, was from Tofugu. Tofugu is full of interesting resources, both for learning the language and about the culture, but a lot of the resources, such as their own textbook, have to be paid for. However, their guides to Hiragana and Katakana are free, so that’s what I used, because not only were they useful, they made some very clever associations, and some of them actually made me laugh. And who doesn’t want to have fun while learning?
The one for learning Hiragana is here. The way I learned them all in just over an hour was by reading the article a few times, and then playing this drag-and-drop game I found on Usagi-Chan’s Genki Resources. It’s a timed drag and drop game, and it gets very addictive if you keep trying to beat your own time. I knew I’d learned them well enough when I took 1 minute and 30 seconds to match all the characters to the sounds, and that was just because I couldn’t move the mouse any faster.
Once you’ve mastered Hiragana, you can move on to Katakana. The Tofugu article can be found here, and the drag-and-drop is here!

So, go forth and learn yourself some Kana! Words can’t describe how accomplished you’ll feel, being able to read comprehensions in Japanese after such a short amount of time! So, if you’re struggling to learn Japanese, or just want to try it out, give those resources a go and see what you think! I promise you won’t find Japanese as daunting once you’re done!


Untitled design (5)My name is Sinead Cryan, and I’m a first year student here in the University of Limerick. I study Business and Japanese, as well as an extra German module, so I’m actually a student of the Kemmy Business School, but it’s the languages I’m here to talk about.

Study tips for languages students

By Ross O’Connor

Untitled design (12)My name is Ross O’Connor and I come from the lovely fields of Athenry, and yes that song hurts my soul a little every time I hear it :p I am now a 4th year student of Applied Languages, yes that’s right I’ve made it to final year with no bumps in the road, and for that I’m already delighted with myself because it’s a really hard course.

I began the course with French, German and Spanish but after 7 amazing months in Germany and 5 brilliant months in France I decided not to pursue the three as I knew it would be a struggle. I love the course even though we have had our differences, there are no words to describe the opportunities presented for your year abroad.

It seems so long ago to think back to the Leaving Cert, or even first year for that matter, I was speaking to a first year yesterday who was struggling with referencing (a concept I’m still perfecting 3 years on) but it feels like it’s so long ago because I’m a “mature final year, who studies all the time and never has any fun”, yeah that’s me! It’s already proving to be a tough year but also one of the most fun years so far too. College is just about balance and getting it right.

So basically it’s week 10, can you believe it! Take me back to week 1/2 when we had nothing to do and exams seemed to far away. This semester has probably been the fastest of my semesters here in UL.

Week 10/11/12 are usually the most stressful for students as this when a lot of their assignments, presentations etc are due. If you are a languages student, this is made worse by orals. That’s an oral exam for every language you study in the same week. Don’t worry though, it’s completely manageable. You just need to be organised and put in the work when necessary. Here are some tips on managing everything:

1. Try to group your subjects, ie if you have an essay for French and a grammar test, do the study for that in the same session.

2. When you are signing up for your orals, leave one day in between each, so you have time to revise and you won’t have the other languages in your head.

3. Go to the library, there are loads of resources there. However, if the library is too busy for you, go to the LLH, it’s a nice quiet space.

4. In the LLH, there are discussion groups. GO TO THE THEM!  They will help you so much and put you at ease coming up to the orals.

5. Take breaks and relax, for those of you in first, remember this, these exams will not be as bad as you fear. You made it through the leaving Cert, at least you are interested in these subjects.

So guys, those are just some tips that I found useful when doing my study. Best of luck with the final weeks, but also remember to make the best of it.



What’s it like to study languages at university?

By Aoife Martyn

So you enjoy studying languages at school, but how do you know if you’d like to study them at third level? What is studying an advanced language at college like in comparison to the leaving cert? An Applied Languages student is here to give you the answers.

Studying languages at university is different to secondary school but the way in which it differs depends on your teacher at second level. I can only speak as a French student, but from what I can see the leaving cert curriculum is fairly vague (i.e there are no assigned texts) and gives the teacher a nice bit of scope to cover whatever they deem to be useful to give you a more proficient level of the language.

Many second level teachers don’t include literature in their leaving cert classes so you may not have even read a book in french by yourself before but this will be completely different at college where literature will be central to your language learning. Straight away you’ll be handed a French novel and told to read it in your own time which is something to consider. You’ll also have extra literature module options (you can get out of this by doing cultural studies if you wish), but if you’re considering teaching as a future career then you need all the literature credits you can get. Of course, it makes perfect sense that the more advanced you get in your language learning, the more literature you do. Sure, isn’t that exactly how our English language education goes?

There’s also a considerable emphasis on grammar and presentations are everywhere. This semester I have a four modules with presentations which count towards between 5-15% of end of semester grade. Personally, we didn’t do anything like that at school so this was also an adjustment for me, but one from which I have benefited greatly. Of course there are oral exams as well which are more off-the-cuff than the leaving cert ones (and minus the sraithpictuirí you’ll be glad to know).

For Applied Languages, you’ll also be studying linguistics which is defined as ‘the science of language’ and it’s taught through -gasp- English! This really gets into the nitty gritty of what a language is and structure and morphology and phonology and all that jazz, so again not hating grammar is helpful here. From my experience, my love of English at school has really added to my enjoyment of studying languages at college, something I didn’t foresee but of course, English is just another language so it all adds up really.

To sum up, I really enjoy all the various elements of studying languages at university. I always enjoyed grammar and literature and all of the orals and presentations have made me so much more confident speaking my other languages.

So now you know.

untitled-design-13Hey everyone! My name is Aoife Martyn, I’m nineteen and I’m an Applied Languages student from Mayo. I’m in second year and, a year and a half into the course, it’s safe to say I’m loving it!

Choosing languages at UL

By Róisín Leo

It’s hard to believe that two years ago I was wondering the same questions as many sixth years are wondering now, ‘Where to go to college?’, ‘What course to study?’, ‘What points do I need?’ and most importantly ‘When’s the next night out?’.

When I was filling in my CAO from the of 15 I had decided I was going to study medicine, after many years volunteering with the Limerick Red Cross I was sure that was what I wanted. Then sixth year came and I realised I absolutely hated studying with a passion. I really loved French for my leaving cert, it was one of the few subjects where studying didn’t actually feel like studying so I decided to study languages.

For those of you that don’t know how college works instead of subjects you study modules. So I study five modules- French, Spanish, German, French Literature and Language Technology. Do I love my course? Yes. Is my course hard? YES. My advice to people confused about what to do in college is do what you love and don’t think about the future, if you don’t like your course you’re not going to stay with it for four years in the hope that you will enjoy the job after.

I have to admit although I have my problems with U.L. (like standing for 15 mins waiting to use this computer) it is actually a great college.  Accommodation is a lot easier to find here than in Dublin, Cork or Galway and the campus is beautiful. One of the main reasons I would recommend U.L. to incoming students is the fact that on Thursday I am going for an interview to work in Hamburg for six months on co-op. Co-op is basically work experience during college to make it easier to get a job when you have your degree.

Untitled design (10)My name is Róisín Leo, I am a second year student in Applied Languages in UL and hopefully these blog posts will help you to make a decision on what to study next year.