Language Linking, Global Thinking

This week, our Semester 3 and Semester 7 students will be getting together for the annual Information Meeting about the British Council English Language Assistantship scheme. Anywhere from 20 to 30 of our students successfully apply for ELAs each year and, as next year’s potential assistants are thinking about their applications, this year’s cohort have just started their postings. Among them, this year, is Gemma Matthews who is studying English and French and who, as well as working as an English Language Assistant for the year, is also representing Stirling on the Language Linking, Global Thinking programme. We’re looking forward to posting news from Gemma throughout the year and here’s the first instalment of her adventures:

Amiens Cathedral

“Hi, I’m Gemma. I’m an English and French BA (Hons) student at Stirling, and this year I’ve taken a year out to work as an English Language Assistant in France through British Council. I’ve also been able to be a part of a scheme called Language Linking, Global Thinking through my role as an ELA. Set up by Scotland’s National Centre for Languages (SCILT) at Strathclyde University, the programme works with students completing their year abroad with Erasmus or British Council, and also with young people taking part in Project Trust. The aim is to get children and young people in Scottish schools enthusiastic about learning another language, which by all accounts is not a particularly easy task! So, how does it actually work? In practical terms, those involved in the project are linked with a school (or two in my case) in Scotland, and become the link between Scotland and whichever country they are in. We are encouraged to make at least six contacts with the school through blog posts and other media and to encourage the pupils at home to learn about cultures different to their own. I am linked with Callander Primary School and Hutchesons’ Grammar School, and so far have been able to update them through blog posts from across the pond. I would definitely encourage anyone thinking about doing British Council to have a think about doing LLGT too!



As for the assistantship itself, it’s going well. I’ve been placed in three different primary schools in suburban Amiens and am teaching children aged five to eleven. It’s definitely good experience for anyone interested in teaching, as I have already been trusted with lesson plans and leading classes on my own. I have only just started work (thanks to the formalities of French paperwork) and so can’t comment on the full experience just yet, but from what I’ve had so far it looks set to be a very interesting year.

You can follow my progress here. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about British Council, ELA or LLGT.

À bientôt!”

Thanks to Gemma for this article and keep us posted on how things progress over the year!

“Languages can take me wherever I want…”

It’s particularly pleasing to be able to post this blog piece from a very recent graduate on a relatively grey Friday here in Stirling, for from thoughts of parks, croissants and ice cream… Stephanie Rogers graduated in June of this year with a BA Hons in French and Spanish and is just starting work as an English Language Assistant in the suburbs of Paris:

“As I write this, I’m sitting in the Jardins du Luxembourg, with the sun shining and the sounds of people laughing and chatting. This reminds me of sitting in Stirling University, by the lake, seeking motivation to start writing an essay.

A year ago, I had no idea that I would be teaching English and living in the Parisian suburbs, meeting people from all over the world who are here to teach their own language. It is amazing to see how love for travel and learning languages can be so widespread, giving people the chance to make friends in all sorts of places, to experience so many things.


Through speaking foreign languages, I’ve forced myself to be more confident and a lot more relaxed when I meet new people. If grumpy Parisians speak to me in English, I respond in Spanish to confuse them, then the conversation quickly returns to French. Getting lost is no longer something I dread, instead, it is an opportunity to see a new place.

After graduation in June, I spent the rest of Summer working in Italy as an Au Pair for a lovely family in Falconara, on the Adriatic coast. I had my first experience of teaching English to a ten and an eight year old, though I think I learnt more about how to bargain with children to stop attacking each other. Thanks to the French and Spanish I know, I picked up some Italian, which was useful when you are lost in the forty degree heat of Bologna searching for the best ice-cream store.


Studying languages has been one of the best decisions I have ever made, because they can take me wherever I want. My Mexican flatmate wants me to go back with her when I leave France, but she also recommends several southern cities in the U.S. because I can practice Spanish there. Perhaps next year I will do a masters, although I may be applying for jobs or I may go and teach English in another country. But no more thinking about the future for now, I’m off for a croissant.”

Thanks to Stephanie for this blog post and we hope to be able to add updates on her year as an assistant, as well as tales from other graduates from the class of 2016, over the weeks and months ahead.


From Cincinnati to Saarbrücken: Stirling’s September

As well as heralding the start of a new academic year for our students, September also saw French at Stirling staff giving invited lectures at conferences in Germany and the US.

2016-bill-cincinnatiOn 6 September, Bill Marshall was invited to give a guest lecture at Saint Louis University entitled ‘Rethinking Francophone Film: World Cinemas and World History’ and a keynote at the World Cinema and Television in French Conference at the University of Cincinnati. These talks sought to link the question of cinéma-monde to the longue durée of world history, via four films: A tout prendre (Jutra, 1963), Quest for Fire (Annaud, 1981), Avant les rues (Leriche, 2016) and Stavisky (Resnais, 1974).

From 29 September to 2 October, Fiona Barclay was an invited speaker at the 10th annual conference of the Francoromanistes allemands, which took place at Saarbrücken in Germany. Dr Barclay was invited to speak on the subject of ghosts and haunting North Africa, and her lecture was accompanied by a number of papers on the same broad theme delivered by delegates from across Germany, the United States, France and Morocco. The conference also benefited from the presence of Kebir Mustapha Ammi, the Moroccan-born novelist, who participated in the scholarly debates, and who gave a well-attended reading of his work during one of the evening events. Intriguingly, Kebir Ammi cites Scotland as his favourite area of the UK, and the work of Robert Louis Stevenson as one of the earliest influences on his writing. Perhaps Stirling will have the opportunity to invite him to renew his ties with Scotland in the near future!

In coming weeks, Stirling colleagues will be giving invited papers in Liverpool, at the Africa in Motion film festival, in Dakar and in Montpellier… And French at Stirling staff will be giving lectures and introductory talks at public and schools screenings as part of the annual French Film Festival at the MacRobert in November. We’re also hoping to welcome one of our Erasmus partners, Laurence Gourievidis, from Blaise-Pascal University in Clermont-Ferrand to Stirling in early-December. News on all of these to follow…

European Day of Languages: Student Ambassadors at Wallace High

As part of our activities to celebrate the European Day of Languages, three of our current final year students (Ellen Ingram, Charlotte Cavanagh and David Vescio) went along to local secondary school Wallace High to talk to pupils and teachers there about studying languages at University. Here’s their account of the day:

“To commemorate European Languages Day 2016, we went along to Wallace High School to promote the benefits of language learning to the pupils. Having all had a ball working and studying abroad, we were keen to talk to the pupils and encourage them to stick in with their modern language studies.


The school organised many different workshops, speakers and activities throughout the building across different departments, including a French cuisine sample session arranged by the Home Economics department. Our workshop was designed to work with small groups of students and tell them about the opportunities that learning a language have opened for us. Working in small groups allowed the students to ask us questions and also tell us their ideas about their future and if learning a language would be part of their plan.

For Ellen, it was particularly good to “hear the thoughts of the different pupils and it was interesting to hear how many of them felt that language learning might enhance their job opportunities in the future. Many pupils told me that they would like to be able to speak another language but they find their language classes very difficult. Having studied French since high school, I have been through (and I am still going through) the struggle of language classes and the difficulty in grasping certain concepts, so I hope that I encouraged them to be tenacious and power through. In my opinion, the biggest piece of encouragement that I gave the students was that language allows you to travel. I told them about my experience working as a language assistant in France and my study abroad semester in Quebec and how I would not have been able to do those things without studying French. We talked about all the places that you can go if you have a basic understanding or even a few words of French and Spanish to show that there is more to learning these languages than just visiting France and Spain.

I really hope that I have inspired some of the pupils to continue learning a modern language and that they can see the benefits that I have gotten out of learning French and the experiences that I have had. To this day I still find learning French very difficult but it is my love for the language and my interest in experiencing other cultures that make it worthwhile.”

For Charlotte, “as a subject that means a lot to me, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to talk to the pupils of Wallace High School to promote the study of languages. What struck me the most was that although many pupils liked the idea of learning another language, they were put off by the idea that it takes a lot of time and effort to master and that they found learning languages extremely challenging. I really enjoyed discussing these thoughts and concerns with pupils, and I hope that by sharing my own stories I have reassured them that although learning a language is not easy, there are so many advantages to studying languages and that it can provide them with so many opportunities.”

David is planning a career in secondary teaching when he graduates so, for him, “it was fascinating both to talk with individual teachers and prospective language students, as well as to try to engage with pupils with no interest in languages whatsoever. Although they were quiet at first, some eventually started asking questions and I could see that they knew there was something to gain. I loved trying to explain to the pupils how languages gave me the opportunity to travel as well as meet new people. Although I thought that speaking of my own experience would not captivate the pupils’ attentions at first, I eventually noticed a spark of interest and one question led to many more. I think what it really showed me was that the pupils see a language only as an academic subject rather than a way to communicate. This truly opened my eyes as to how teachers not only have to teach a language but also have to engage the students. I left the school more determined than ever to become a teacher!”

Thanks to Ellen, Charlotte and David for having given up their afternoon to meet with the Wallace High pupils and staff and for this blog post. We’re hoping to continue to develop our connections with schools in the local area and beyond over the weeks and months ahead so, if you happen to be reading this as a secondary or primary Languages teacher, do feel free to get in touch!

Africa in Motion 2016 Programme Launch


It’s that time of year again! Founded by our former PhD student, Lizelle Bisschoff, and now into its 11th year, the annual Africa in Motion film festival has just launched its 2016 programme. Details here and, as ever, a fantastic array of films from every genre imaginable, as well as Q&A sessions with leading figures from African cinema, workshops, exhibitions and much more! Events in Glasgow and Edinburgh from 28 October to 6 November.


“Languages live through the people who speak them”

Kathrin Opielka graduated from our Integrated Masters in International Management and Intercultural Studies – in partnership with the University of Passau – in 2015. Originally from Germany, she is now living and working in Scotland and has sent us the following post about her experiences in Stirling and beyond.

2016-opielka-photo“I have always enjoyed discovering the unknown, adapting to new, unfamiliar situations and questioning my perspective on what I have taken for granted.

I think many language and culture students will agree with me that the fascination of this subject lies in its ever-changing, dynamic nature. Languages live through the people who speak them, through literature, art, and conversations. And is there any better way to learn and experience a language than through being surrounded by it every day?

During my studies, I have focused on English, Spanish, Polish and French as foreign languages. I was lucky enough to spend a couple of months in both Spain and Poland during my B.A. and was eager to live in an English-speaking country for a while. When I heard about the International Management and Intercultural Studies programme between the universities of Passau and Stirling, I knew immediately that it would be perfect for me.

Not only did the University of Stirling offer excellent academic courses such as Spanish language, translation, politics, and management; it also meant that I would be able to discover this exciting country and vividly experience the Scottish culture! My expectations of the programme were not only met, but highly exceeded. The level of care and guidance by the university staff and professors were exceptional, and I loved every single class I took during these two semesters. Also outside university, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the Scottish country and hospitality of its people.

I started to understand the Scottish saying “visitors of Scotland cry twice – once when they arrive, and once when they leave”. Albeit I heroically managed the first incident of crying (the weather really wasn’t exactly in my favour when I arrived), it soon became clear to me that I wouldn’t be able to face good-bye yet. I fell in love with and in Scotland, and after I graduated in May 2015, I decided to move to Edinburgh.

I started working in bars and cafés and was grateful for the translation classes I took in Stirling as I was freelancing as a linguist for Global Voices on my days off. I thoroughly enjoyed translation work but was concerned by the volatile nature of freelancing – I had hoped that the times of all-nighters would have been history after the point of me graduating.

After a couple of months, I found a great graduate position in a small, multilingual marketing agency in Edinburgh. Even though I only stayed there for three months due to the office being re-located to Barcelona (yes, I love Scotland THAT much), it was an amazing stepping stone into the industry and enabled me to gain some experience in various sides of digital marketing. I soon realised that I wanted to specialise in content marketing as it would allow me to combine my interests in creative writing, marketing, psychology and language.

I am now working as an Inbound Marketing Campaign Executive at Storm ID, a digital transformation consultancy in Edinburgh. My job is extremely diverse and creative; I am involved in both strategic campaign planning and operational, day-to-day activities such as blogging, social media marketing, and SEO. Most importantly, I am learning something new every day. Writing in English has helped improve my language skills significantly (although I still drink the occasional “litter of water”) and I am additionally enrolled at Google Squared through my company, an amazing part-time online course focusing on digital marketing and leadership.

As language graduates, there are many opportunities to apply our skills and knowledge in the professional world. I have discovered a niche in marketing which allows me to make use of my creativity and passion for writing but there are many other industries which require intercultural communication skills.

I definitely have found my place for now, although I haven’t given up on my plan to do a PhD in the field of Indigenous Cultures in South America – a topic I discovered in a seminar held by Dr Sabine Dedenbach Salazar-Sáenz in Stirling. I am sure that the experiences I gathered both at the University of Stirling and in my current job will help me pursue this dream sometime in the future and am excited about those yet to come.”


Many thanks to Kathrin for sending us this blog post and we hope life in Scotland continues to treat you well!