This episode of the Radio Lingua Club introduces the first in a series of learner interviews. We’re talking to Jessica who has the opportunity to practise the language she is learning every day because she is currently living and studying in Vienna, Austria. This content is available to members of the Radio Lingua Club only. Find out more how you can become a member here and access our regular learning tips and discount codes.

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RLN Club 08: Learner Interview – Jessica (part 1)


Mark: One of the things we wanted to with the Radiolingua Club from the very beginning was give you the learner’s perspective and in this episode I am going to be talking to Jessica. Jessica is Canadian, but she is currently living and studying in Vienna, Austria. So let’s find out about Jessica’s language learning story. Jessica would you like to begin by introducing yourself please?

Jessica: Hi everyone at the Radio Lingua Club. My name is Jessica and I’m from Halifax in Canada but right now I’m living in Austria.

Mark: So you’re from Halifax in Canada. Can you tell me, is that a part of Canada that is bilingual?

Jessica: No, it’s not. I actually just did a little mini-research project on this and Halifax is actually over 98% English speaking, but I was in a French immersion school system so up to high school education, so I can speak English and French.

Mark: OK, and which language to you feel most comfortable in?

Jessica: Definitely English, unfortunately! I haven’t practised my French very much in the past few years.

Mark: In Canada, do you feel that English and French are two equal languages?

Jessica: Well, officially they are. In the government everything is officially bilingual, but you definitely cannot go into a store, for example, in Halifax, and start speaking French and expect people to understand you, but if you go most places in Quebec that you go you can start speaking English and the person will understand you, even if their native language is French, so, officially it’s equal but not really.

Mark: OK. Now I believe you are learning both German and Spanish. Is that correct?

Jessica: Yes. That’s correct.

Mark: So can you tell us a little about how long you’ve been learning both languages for?

Jessica: Yes. I’ve been learning German for nearly three years now. I first came to Austria a few years ago to visit my boyfriend and then we went back to Canada because he was going to study there and that’s when I started really learning German, at the University of Ottawa, so I’ve been learning German here and there in different places for the past few years and also a lot on my own. I started learning Spanish in high school. I did three years and then didn’t do anything for a few years after that, so I forgot a lot of it. But then last year I actually lived in Madrid for a few months, so I learned a lot of Spanish when I was there.

Mark: And do you feel more confident in German or Spanish?

Jessica: Right now I definitely feel more confident in German because I use it a lot. I spend most of the day in Vienna, so I’m just doing everything in German, speaking to everyone in German. If you asked me the question a year ago I would have said Spanish because I was in the same situation in Madrid. So I guess it just comes down to which one you have the most exposure to. So right now, German.

Mark: OK. I think that’s something that anyone learning a language really appreciates: the possibility of being in the country where the language is spoken because you can really completely surround yourself in the language and wherever you go, you walk along the street and you see German, in your case in Vienna, you hear German being spoken and you’ve got the opportunity to practise it all the time.

Jessica: Yes, exactly. It’s like the whole world is a classroom.

Mark: Absolutely! Is there anything that you do to try and benefit from that opportunity that exists for you all the time? For example, how do you capture the German language that is around you all the time?

Jessica: Well, I make sure that I read everything. Like all the signs and the free newspaper that’s available everyday on the subway. Things like that. I get a lot of listening exposure from peoples’ conversation and TV, from radio.

Mark: One thing I always find myself doing, no matter what country I’m in, I always look at the words and phrases and if it’s perhaps a name, or the name of a business, or the name of a company or even a shop name, I say it to myself to almost practise my pronunciation in my head. Just to work out how a particular word would be said. Is that something that you find yourself doing?

Jessica: I actually haven’t but that sounds like a good idea.

Mark: For example tomorrow I’m heading off to Strasbourg in France with a group of students and it’s one of the things I’ll be telling them; say the things in their heads, as they walk around, say what they see in their head, and it will help them to internalise the pronunciation rules that they know from the words and phrases they have learned in school, but it’s something in real life. It’s something they can actually see for real. In the club we have spoken a lot about the idea of having a journey, of being on a journey of language learning. Where would you see yourself on you German journey at the moment?

Jessica: In my German journey I’m sort of, in a way, at the end because I’m reaching a pretty high level in German, like the actual name of the book in the course I’m in right now is called the Abschluss course, the ending course, but at the same time I’m also kind of at the beginning because I’m about to start studying here and so using the language in my studies and everyday life so it’s like I’ve put in all the work and I get to do the fun part and get to use it all the time.

Mark: Also vielleicht sollten wir ein bisschen auf Deutsch sprechen, ja?

Jessica: Ja. Das ist kein Problem.

Mark: Also, vielleicht kannst Du dich vorstellen?

Jessica: Ja. So, ich heiße Jessica. Ich komme aus Kanada aber jetzt wohne ich in Österreich. Ich wohne in Eisenstadt. Das ist ungerfähr dreißig Minuten entfernt von Wien. Ich lerne Deutsch, Spanisch und einige andere Sprachen. Ich habe ein Blog und es heißt “Ich estudio langues” und dort schreibe ich über Sprachen, Sprachenlernen und ja, ein bisschen über Österreich.

Mark: Ja, also. Vielen Dank.

Jessica: Bitte schön.

Mark: So you learned French at school. Did you do Spanish in school as well you said?

Jessica: Ah, yes I did Spanish in high school, but it was different because the way I did French was French immersion so I began doing all of my classes in French from a very young age. I think I was four when I started. That was different from learning Spanish. I think I was 14 because we were just learning the basics and from the beginning. The way I learned French I think it was better because I started at such a young age and obviously had more time.

Mark: And now you’re in a situation where you’re experiencing a language for real, as it were. You’ve been in Madrid. You’re now in Austria. How does that experience compare with the experience in the classroom?

Jessica: What I really enjoy is just seeing the language in real life and experiencing the culture and getting to use it and hear it everywhere, even it’s just speaking with someone over Skype on the internet from that country, it just makes it a lot more fun once you actually get to use the language and experience it in its original context, I guess.

Mark: One question which language learners often ask themselves at the beginning of their journey, is why they want to learn a particular language. Can I ask you why you wanted to learn German?

Jessica: Well I wanted to learn German because I assumed that I would be coming back here to Austria one day because I had spent one summer here with my boyfriend and we were always with his friends, his family and everyone around me was always speaking German and I didn’t understand a word so I thought OK, we’re probably going to come back next summer so I thought I’m going to start to learn it at school, so I can sort of speak to people. I mean everyone can speak English, but I would rather be able to understand most of the conversations all the time and participate in them. So I started learning German just so I would be able use it when I came back here, but I ended up just really enjoying the whole language learning process and learning a new language and that’s what started off my language “fanaticism” more. Whatever you can call it!

Mark: Your language fanaticism! I like it! Well let’s talk a little bit more about that in our next episode, that is if you are willing to come back and have another little chat about language learning with us?

Jessica: Yes, of course. I’d love to come anytime and speak more about languages and language learning.

Mark: So vielen Dank, Jessica. And if you would like to feature on the Radio Lingua Club, then let us know what your story is. We’ll be back with Jessica next week when we’ll hear a little more about her blog and how she uses blogging in her language learning process. Until then, thanks for listening.

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