Only another couple of weeks before teaching comes to an end for this semester at Stirling but there are plenty of blog posts to keep us going, starting this week with another profile of one of our Year 1 students, Marta, who started her BA Hons in English Studies and French in September:
‘I was born in the Canary Islands, Spain. ‘Canarian’ or ‘Spanish’, as equal terms or with different values, suit me well. I identify as both. But I’ll have to recognise that being Canarian comes with some specific aspects that being Spanish does not cover. And one of them is clear: Canarian means I grew up in an island, which have always made me conscious of the limits that surrounded my reality, as well as curious and hungry for discovery beyond those limits. However, my Spanish heritage is very prominent is most of the things that I do, and one of them may be my writing style. So hopefully this post is enjoyable despite that.
It is well known that the Canary Islands serve as a touristic destination, and tourism is their main economic driver. Because of that, language learning is key skill for life for Canarian children. We all start with English, but I discovered in my early study that I loved languages passionately, and I decided I wanted to learn more. My journey with French started when I was around 8 years old. My school offered extra lessons for French in order to prepare for the compulsory subject that it would be in two years, and my parents, being very interested in my desire to learn languages, decided that it would be a master move for me to already have a basic knowledge in French beforehand. However, the lessons weren’t memorable, and I didn’t really learn good French until I started attending my city’s School of Languages. I learned very fast how to speak French and became quite fluent thanks to the marvellous teachers that I had there.
When I was 15, I decided that I wanted to go to university able ,at least, to speak two languages fluently, as well as my mother language (Spanish). By investigating a little bit, I found a programme for the Baccalaureate called “Bachibac” (Spanish bachillerato + French baccalauréat), a bilingual programme between Spain and France that permitted its students to obtain two certificates at the end of their school journey: Spanish and French Baccalaureate. And I finished it, so I have both diplomas. During this last stage of my education I got into much more than French as a language, but French as a cultural meaning. I had to learn about French literature and history, as well as philosophy both in French and Spanish. I grew more interested in literature than I already was (a lot) and it gave me a more global perspective about cultures (since ‘la Francophonie’ carries much more cultures apart from metropolitan French, many others all over the world), as well as new inspiration for my writing. Plus, I was quite lucky to win a scholarship and I lived in France for three months with a family in Toulon (nothing to do with the topic at hand, but I bonded with them and I miss them quite a lot). I integrated with the culture for a while and I obtained first-hand experience of French life. And it meant a lot for a small island girl to see what’s beyond the horizon.
I already knew I wanted to study English for my degree since it was my first foreign language and I wanted to develop my knowledge in any way I could. French, however, became a last-minute option (in some ways at least, though I actually thought about it the minute I entered the Bachibac), so I integrated both in one. I had both personal and professional reasons to continue with French. I believe that the key to improvement of humankind lies in communication and understanding each other, and learning how to speak a language well, as well as the culture and history it carries, makes us better human beings as better communicators. Plus, I love French, and I wanted to make it part of me the best I could. And, well, French teachers, translators and other jobs similar to these are always going to be needed, because French is a very influential language in the world.
This is my first year in Uni studying English and French Studies and, to be honest, I guess it’s not what I expected (but don’t worry. It’s Covid’s fault!). It’s hard to learn a language without communicating (languages are communication mechanisms; it’s like learning how to run while sitting down), but I have to recognise that the effort that is being made makes this experience of online learning easier. But I still want to meet people (in person, please) and be able to speak French again.
Hopefully this was interesting. Bonne journée!’
Many, many thanks to Marta for this great post and I think many of us will recognise the image of learning to run while sitting down as it applies to some aspects of online language learning. We look forward to meeting you – and all this year’s First Years – in person as soon as possible and, in the meantime, we wish you all the best for the rest of this semester and beyond.