German and Japanese Personal Statement

Since primary school I have loved the idea of gaining fluency in other languages, which open up other parts of the world to me and are a gateway to new takes on events and ways of thinking. One recent example is the Brexit debate and decision which I followed through English-speaking news sources such as The Telegraph, as well as Deutsche Welle and Tagesschau. This boosted my independent study and understanding of current events, something that will be important if I am to get an in-depth knowledge of other cultures and languages.

What strengthened my desire to study languages was a girl I befriended when she came to Wales from Germany at the age of nine. I was desperate to communicate with my friend in her native tongue which led to my decision to join a new German club that had been set up that year. Early linguistic curiosity and discipline to study to reach my goals gave me a fantastic head start for what is now my favourite language and one that I would love to study at university alongside ab initio Japanese.

I was later inspired to search for a native German-speaking pen-pal so that I could put my German into practice. Now, three years after finding someone I clicked with on a site called Interpals, I have spent three weeks at his home in Nordrhein-Westfalen and my confidence and conversational German has improved greatly.

For work experience I spent two weeks working as part of Bristol’s Teleperformance M&S campaign, answering customer queries in German and talking with native speakers. This gave me confidence in both my language skills and my ability to work well with others and under pressure, which will be a great help for settling in at university as well as for practicing the languages I will study.
Through Interpals I also found Spanish speakers to chat to in order to make sure that I balance my study of two languages and manage my time correctly. These are skills that will be vital to my study of two languages at university.

I also realise that Japanese, being from a different branch of languages to the European languages, requires a lot of dedication. To allow me to keep up more easily at university I learnt the two Japanese syllabaries, Hiragana and Katakana, a few years ago. I have also started work on basic grammar, vocabulary and kanji by working through some of Tae Kim’s Guide to Japanese and the FluentU Japanese course. On top of this I have started to read about Japanese culture with the Routledge Handbook of Japanese Culture and Society written by a team of Japanese experts. The stand out part of this book to me was that it explained the reasons behind Japan being the way it is through discussion of history and politics and their contributions to modern day Japan, something I can’t wait to study at degree level.

An interest in languages very different from English also led to me setting up my own British Sign Language club during my last year of GCSEs. This improved my organisational skills (through organising the group’s meeting times, places and members) and showed that I am a reliable person, as I was trusted to purchase a good BSL course on behalf of the group using money the members had given me.

The club also helped me to decide my extended project: my own constructed sign language, Com(bined)Sign, which strives to unite the signing of young and old British signers who can currently barely communicate (as I learnt whilst reading books such as The Linguistics of British Sign Language by Rachel Sutton-Spence and Bencie Woll). This will aid me in learning Japanese as I have learnt to come to grips with new areas of linguistics. Making my own sign language also requires me to have a solid understanding of these concepts, as well as commitment to creating words and grammar to fill out my language to a high standard. This is something that I can definitely bring into use when learning German and Japanese grammar and vocabulary and will help me on my way to hopefully becoming a translator.

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This is basically a draft of my personal statement for early application in a few months. It would be really nice to get some feedback and ratings so I can edit a little more where needed, thanks! :)

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