Following on from our graduate Natalie’s reflections on where her languages have taken her over the past few years, it’s time for another profile from a student just starting out on that journey with us. Jegan is in the first semester of a BA Hons in French with us, in the Advanced stream for his French modules:
“When I first came to the decision to study French, I did so on a whim. My best friend’s girlfriend at the time was a Parisian, teaching French as a foreign language to secondary school students in Glasgow. I remember having a conversation with her over coffee one afternoon about language learning and mentioning I was under the impression that, being twenty-four years old at the time, it was probably already too late for me to learn a language to fluency. She quite rightly told me that I was talking rubbish, and that bilingualism was within anybody’s grasp if they were willing to put in the work.
It feels strange thinking back to that conversation now. It’s one of the few moments that I can single out as having changed my life’s trajectory. Up until that point, my only real passion had been music. For four years I’d been pulling pints and pouring coffees in part-time hospitality gigs to support my work in the Glasgow music scene. I’d never had any interest in learning a second language and my only exposure to French had been two lacklustre years of Standard Grade French during which I had spent more time doodling in notebooks than memorising conjugations. Still, I left the café that afternoon fired up, excited about the prospect of a new challenge.
Four years, two textbooks, forty-eight conversation classes, and a-million-and-one podcasts later, here I sit, a student of French at the University of Stirling. My life has taken many twists and turns, but I would never have thought, even after falling in love with the language, that I would one day pursue French at a degree level. This is doubly the case given I’m now considered, much to my chagrin, a mature student. After my first five weeks of classes though, I’m confident that I’ve found myself on the right path. If you’re reading this as a prospective student of French, weighing your options and trying to decide if this is the right choice for you, then hopefully my opening thoughts on the course here might be of some use.
I came to Stirling already having some background in the language, but by no means being fluent. I have found the early advanced stream language classes extremely helpful in solidifying the basics of grammar rules. If you’re already confident with French, you might still find the revision useful but, if not, the seminars progress through different topics at a fast pace, so you shouldn’t get too bored. On the flip side, if you’re not confident with French, or even if you have no experience with French whatsoever, don’t let that put you off! Everyone has come into the advanced stream with varying skill levels and everyone’s improving quickly. There’s also a beginner stream where you’ll be able to spend more time getting to grips with the basics before joining the advanced classes. Help is easy to come by as I’ve found all of our tutors to be friendly and easy to get a hold of. It would be disingenuous of me to say that the language portion of the course is a walk in the park. Everyone is responsible for ensuring that they keep up with the material and, as with all things, you get out what you put in. That being said, I fully believe that with a good work ethic and a genuine enthusiasm for the language everyone will thrive in this environment.
The culture classes have been super interesting. France is a country with a rich history and strong values in regard to how their society functions politically and ideologically. Already I’m starting to feel that as we discuss more and more aspects of French culture, the context is helping me make more of my time engaging with French media. The news makes more sense. The books I’m reading are becoming easier to tease apart and analyse. Conversations with my French language partner are getting richer as we’re both able to discuss topics relating to one another’s countries with greater contextual understanding.
This brings me onto another important aspect of my time in Stirling so far: the Language-Swap program, a scheme offered by the Uni that allows language learners to connect with native speakers of their target language who are studying in Stirling on exchange programs. They help you improve your target language, while you offer them help with English in return. In my experience there really is no substitute for conversing with native speakers when trying to improve your foreign language fluency. If you decide to study here I’d encourage you to give it a shot as it’s a fun way to learn and it’s a great way to make new friends!
So far, I’ve had a very positive experience during my first few weeks at Stirling. The classes are challenging and engaging without being discouragingly so and people have been incredibly friendly so far. Despite being ten years older than the majority of my classmates I’ve found I haven’t had any issue fitting in and making friends. The campus is a beautiful place to live and study, with forests and fields stretching out for miles in every direction and the uni amenities (library, gym, cafes etc.) are all excellent. Perhaps my only word of warning would be, if you’re fond of a night out, Stirling Uni may not be your best choice as the campus is a little isolated from the city centre and, from what I’ve heard, the city doesn’t boast the same bustling nightlife as Glasgow and Edinburgh. All in all though, I’ve found Stirling to be a great place to restart my uni career and I’m looking forward to seeing where the next four years of study can take me.”
Many thanks to Jegan for taking the time to write this blog post! We’re delighted you’re enjoying your classes so far and hope that continues to be the case as the semesters go on. We’ll look forward to hearing how you’re doing a little later in your degree, I’ve no doubt.