France recognises a 60-year-old massacre: Fiona Barclay on France 24

2022 marks the 60th anniversary of the end of the Algerian War, arguably the moment that defined the end of France’s imperial ambitions when the state withdrew its forces after almost 8 years of war, and almost a million settlers of European origin fled Algeria for France. It also happens to coincide with the Presidential elections, which take place in two rounds in April. Traditionally, the leading candidates have felt the need to reach out to prospective voters by pronouncing on various aspects of France’s colonial history, and this year is no exception.

On Wednesday 26 January, Emmanuel Macron gave a speech in which he acknowledged a massacre that took place on 26 March 1962 in the rue d’Isly in Algiers, in which 46 French civilians were shot dead by soldiers of the French army, and around 200 were injured. It’s an event that has become emblematic for the settler community, who regard it as a decisive moment that demonstrated that the settlers could no longer be safe in Algeria. As such, many credit it with precipitating the mass exodus to France. Despite the number of casualties, the families of the victims feel that the massacre has never had the kind of official recognition that they sought: they see it as analogous to Bloody Sunday, the infamous shootings that took place ten years later in Derry, and demand a public enquiry similar to that which led to the Saville Report. Macron’s speech, in which he said that the massacre was ‘unforgivable’ for the French Republic and called for a reconciliation with the repatriated settlers, or pieds-noirs, goes some way to acknowledging the long-held hurts but is unlikely to satisfy everyone.

Our colleague, Fiona Barclay, who is a specialist working on representations of the French settlers of Algeria, and who recently published an article on the rue d’Isly massacre, was interviewed on France 24 about Macron’s speech. You can find more of France 24’s coverage of President Macron’s hugely significant speech here.

Language Ambassadors (Virtually) Out and About

Back in November we posted about our fantastic Language Ambassadors who, despite Covid restrictions, were finding ways to engage with our great network of contacts across Scottish secondary schools. Well, as the new semester gets underway, they’re off again! Still online, for the moment, but working with a range of pupils across different schools to develop their interest in language learning and its many, many benefits!

Towards the end of last year, this had involved, for example, Ambassadors answering questions from S2 pupils at Dalziel High School via a series of online Q&A sessions. It also saw our Year 2 student, Cerys, who studies Psychology and French, recording a video about her experiences learning a language for pupils at Elgin Academy. As Elgin’s Principal Teacher in Modern Languages, Jérôme Lestienne explained, the impact of this kind of contact with our Language Ambassadors is crucial for young language learners because it gives them a chance to show examples of people using their language skills beyond school: ‘I usually invite local business leaders and/or former pupils to speak to our S3s about the importance of language learning. However, this year, we were not allowed to have guests so I put together a series of videos including Cerys’, former pupils’, current senior pupils’ and other videos from SCILT. All our pupils were very attentive as they seemed to be taken by the reality and opportunities linked with language learning. I now hope this results in a higher uptake into S4.’

And now, as we start our Spring semester, we’re working with many of the Language Ambassadors who had already volunteered in the Autumn, as well as having recruited new Ambassadors from across French and Spanish, from all years of our degrees, representing lots of different subject combinations. Next week, they’ll be helping out with Glastonbury Goes Global, a day-long event being organised for languages pupils at Dunblane High School, working with the English-based social enterprise Business Language Champions. The aim of the day is to enable pupils to combine language and communication skills with the organisational and management skills required to get a (virtual) festival off the ground. The event is part of Dunblane’s activities for Languages Week Scotland which is being celebrated across the country (and about which there will be more on the blog next week…). We’re also finalising arrangements for our Ambassadors to talk to pupils at different stages of their language learning over the coming weeks and are excited to see what new partnerships with schools will emerge.

We’ll post more about these events as they take place but, in the first instance, huge thanks to our Ambassadors for their hard work and enthusiasm, and to our school partners for their hard work and for making us feel so welcome!

First blog post of 2022!

It’s possibly getting a little late in the month for this but, nevertheless, bonne année à tous et à toutes! Our semester is about to get underway at Stirling and we’re looking forward to welcoming back our students after the festive break. We’re also looking forward to hearing from our students on Study Abroad in their various corners of the Francophone (and, in some cases, Hispanophone) globe and hoping to be able to post tales of their travels over the coming months.

In the meantime, we just wanted to say bonjour and to let you know that there’s lots going on in French at Stirling and lots of news to share, from new articles by colleagues to news about Erasmus teaching exchanges via exciting upcoming activities involving our fantastic Language Ambassadors and many other things besides so keep an eye on the blog.

And, to kick things off, if one of your New Year’s resolutions happened to involve plans to continue to brush up on your languages (whether that means French, Spanish or something else), we wanted to remind you that you can take advantage of the new year with Language-Swap, Stirling’s language-learning initiative, created by our colleague Fiona Barclay, which puts you in touch with native speakers of other languages right here on campus. The idea is simple: you learn a new language or improve on an existing one with a native speaker and teach them your language in return! It’s a fantastic way to meet new people and learn about their culture. You can swap messages and arrange to meet in person at a time that suits you. It’s free, flexible, and fun!

If you’re interested in becoming a Language-Swap member, click here for more information and to register.

More news to come soon but, in the meantime, bon weekend!

Lilian Thuram’s Latest Book

Congratulations to our honorary graduate Lilian Thuram whose latest book (La Pensée blanche) has just been published in English (White Thinking: Behind the Mask of Racial Identity), translated by Cristina Johnston, Aedín ní Loingsigh and our former colleague, David Murphy. It’s been a great privilege to be involved in the translation and we’re looking forward to seeing the first hard copies of the book very soon!

In the meantime, you can read more about the issues it deals with in David’s article for The Conversation here and in a new interview with Lilian Thuram just published in The Guardian.

Africa in Motion 2021

Today marks the opening of the 2021 Africa in Motion film festival and, as ever, the festival’s programme is filled with fantastic screenings and films, all online this year, and accessible to viewers across the UK. Their ticket prices operate on a sliding scale and there are festival passes that give you access to more films. Among the festival strands this year are ‘Craft Insights’ which includes masterclasses and pre-recorded Q&A sessions, ‘Imaginarium’ focusing on the embodied experience of blackness and the environment including work in response to COP26, and ‘Premieres’ which, as the name suggests, includes dozens (66 in total…) of premieres of films from across Africa and Black diasporas. As ever, lots to choose from and so many brilliant films to watch! Check out the full programme here.

Happy National Poetry Day!

Last time we posted anything on the blog, we were celebrating the European Day of Languages and the linguistic diversity of our students and staff. Today is National Poetry Day in the UK which prompted us to think about the ways in which poetry (French-language poetry, in particular) is part of our teaching, research and general areas of interest in French at Stirling. We don’t have specific modules that focus on French poetry and yet it pops up across a range of our courses, from a bit of Baudelaire in Year 1 to Paul Éluard’s ‘Comprenne qui voudra’ in Year 2 as our students examine competing memories in relation to 20th-century French history, all the way through to Prévert in Elizabeth Ezra’s option on Children’s Literature and the poetry of figures like Georges Brassens in Nina Parish’s option module examining la chanson française.

What has been interesting over the course of the day, as colleagues have exchanged emails between classes and meetings about their thoughts on French and Francophone poetry, has been the extent to which it forms part of our own experiences for so many of us in French at Stirling. Of all of us, Nina Parish’s research has most directly involved poetry, from her own doctoral studies right up to more recent work including, for example, her article on ‘Translating Contemporary French Poetry’ co-written with Emma Wagstaff and their edited collection Writing the Real: A Bilingual Anthology of Contemporary Poetry in French. Nina has also just been invited to join the editorial board for the Cahiers Francis Ponge and, in response to my email this morning asking for people’s thoughts on French poetry, it was to Francis Ponge’s prose poem L’Orange that Nina turned, sending me his description of an orange pip:

‘’Mais à la fin d’une trop courte étude, menée aussi rondement que possible, — il faut en venir au pépin. Ce grain, de la forme d’un minuscule citron, offre à l’extérieur la couleur du bois blanc de citronnier, à l’intérieur un vert de pois ou de germe tendre. C’est en lui que se retrouvent, après l’explosion sensationnelle de la lanterne vénitienne de saveurs, couleurs et parfums que constitue le ballon fruité lui-même, – la dureté relative et la verdeur (non d’ailleurs entièrement insipide) du bois, de la branche, de la feuille: somme toute petite quoique avec certitude la raison d’être du fruit.’

As for me (Cristina Johnston, usually the author of bits of these posts), poetry hasn’t formed part of my own research, as such, but I was involved, many years ago, in collaborative translations into French of the fantastic Scottish poet, Edwin Morgan, some of which were published in literary reviews in France. And, in the dim and distant past, I did also teach on the translation of poetry, using some poems in the regional dialect of Ticino (the Italian-speaking canton of Switzerland) by Elena Ghielmini and Raymond Queneau’s mind-blowing Cent mille milliards de poèmes with postgraduate students.

For Jean-Michel DesJacques, our Language Coordinator, the reference to National Poetry Day prompted a recollection of his German teacher from school, telling his pupils that they were learning German ‘because it’s a beautiful language’, and a more recent Radio Arte Franco-German broadcast of a poem by Paul Celan that Jean-Michel particularly enjoyed and that you can listen to here. For Fraser McQueen, National Poetry Day means more than just ‘conventional’ poetry but expands to include contemporary French rap music and artists including Kery James, Youssoupha, Médine, Rocé, or Scylla. And for Aedín ní Loingsigh, poetry (French and in other languages, too) has been important as a means of getting through good times and bad over the years. She was particularly reminded, for example, of Christiane Taubira readingDit de la force de l’amour’ by Éluard at the funeral of Tignous, after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Aedín also mentioned that she still remembers coming across Éluard for the first time, while she was at school, thanks to an excellent teacher telling them they could be anything they wanted in a poem and getting the class to read ‘La Terre est bleue’ by way of example.

So many different ways that poetry finds its way into our teaching and our lives and that’s before we mention things like the women’s poetry review Soeurs that came out during lockdown and that is a great way of finding out about what’s happening in contemporary French poetry. Or our former colleague, Lou Sarabadzic’s poetry, some of which we’ve been lucky enough to use in our Bridging Materials, but which was also published earlier this year in a collection entitled Éloge poétique du lubrifiant.

With all of that in mind, then, we hope this prompts you to go off and explore the world of French-language poetry and we wish you a Happy National Poetry Day!

Happy European Day of Languages

Sunday 26 September marks the European Day of Languages which regular blog readers will know we take as an excellent excuse to take a snapshot of the wide range of languages spoken by students and staff across our French modules at Stirling. Once again this year’s responses so far give a fantastic idea of just how diverse and multilingual our students (and colleagues!) are. More languages will be added, I’ve no doubt, but in the first instance we have speakers of: Greek, Norwegian, English, French, Latin, German, Farsi, Italian, Czech, Spanish, (Scots) Gaelic, Hungarian, Napoletano, Turkish, Arabic, Korean, Polish, Ladino, Kiswahili, Franconian, Bulgarian, Welsh, Russian, Valencian, Serbian…

To everyone who has replied so far, many thanks or: Ευχαριστώ, Takk skal du ha, thanks, merci, gratias tibi, danke schön, Motschakeram, grazie, Děkuji, gracias, Tapadh Leibh, Köszönöm, teşekkürler, شكرًا, 감사합니다, Dziękuję, de gra, asante sana, Dangschee, мерси, Diolch yn fawr, cпасибо, Gràcies, Hvala…

Sciences Po: Online and in Paris

Ordinarily, at this point in the semester, we take the opportunity to welcome back our finalists, most of whom would usually have spent the previous semester on Study Abroad. We’re still really pleased to be welcoming them back, of course, but this year fewer of them are returning from time abroad. That said, as you’ll have gathered from posts over the past few weeks, they have, nevertheless, been undertaking Semesters Abroad online (in most cases). Every now and then, as restrictions have eased, some of them have found ways to visit our partner institutions in real life, as has been the case for Clemens who is entering Year 4 of our International Management and Intercultural Studies programme:

‘Last semester, I was very fortunate to attend Sciences Po in Paris for my semester abroad. However, it wasn’t quite as straightforward as that, as the semester abroad took place online, which meant I wasn’t in Paris, but instead sitting in front of my laptop in Stirling (something that was difficult to explain when I told people I was on my semester abroad – yes, I’m in Stirling, but not in Stirling).

Even though it was online, I was very lucky to choose any seminars I wanted, without fearing that I would miss out on something, as Sciences Po opted for online learning for the whole semester. The first seminars were a bit of a shock. I was sitting in front of my laptop and could not understand a word the tutor was saying, such was the speed of the conversation. I had to concentrate to be able to follow the class – or to at least understand roughly what was going on and after the first week, I had never felt this exhausted after a week of university seminars. 

Luckily, my fear of not having the opportunity to speak the language and thus not being able to improve my language skills, did not materialize. All seminars included group work and a presentation, which meant that I was more or less forced to speak and present in front of the class, something that improved my speaking skills immensely. As the weeks went by, I noticed I was able to follow the class more easily and towards the end of the semester, I could even do other things whilst listening to the tutor. That for me, was a sign that the semester abroad was successful.

I also enjoyed the seminars very much. As a Politics geek, Sciences Po was the right place for me, as it is THE political university in France (the last four French Presidents attended Sciences Po). My seminars focused on political communication, elections, the European Union, and French newspapers, all of which I very much enjoyed and were right up my street. The seminars were also an inspiration for my independent research project, which I had to hand in at Stirling. My research focused on the depiction of the French commune by editorials of French newspapers of the time. I was able to put my French skills and the knowledge I had acquired over the course of the semester to good use for that project, which made me really happy.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed my semester abroad, some things obviously were missing. It was not the same as being in-person in Paris, which meant I missed out on all the things that come with a semester abroad beyond the academic side. In the grand scheme of things, this is a small nuisance and didn’t really worsen my experience of the semester abroad.

As I originally come from Stuttgart in Germany, I was actually able to visit Sciences Po this July to get a look and feel for the campus (and to stock up on Sciences Po branded stationery). Despite the circumstances it was a great semester abroad, as I learned a lot and was able to improve my French which I hope will come to good use now in my fourth year.’

Many, many thanks to Clemens for having sent through this great post and pictures, and we’re really pleased you managed to make it to Paris, even if it was after the actual Semester Abroad bit of the Spring. And welcome back!

New Semester Greetings

We’re back! On est de retour ! Semester started up again on Monday 13 September at Stirling and all of us, in French at Stirling, are delighted to be welcoming our students back to campus and to be welcoming all the new students who are starting out with us, with around 130 students across our Beginners’ and Advanced Semester 1 modules. We’re back in the classrooms of Cottrell and Pathfoot for much of our teaching, getting used to some of the new technology (for those of us doing the teaching… many thanks to our very patient students!) and getting back into the swing of in-person learning and teaching.

It really is great to see our students again and we’re particularly pleased to also be welcoming students who are here on exchange, either for the semester or for the year, after an academic year where that was so complicated. We’re looking forward to getting to know them more as the semester progresses.

As ever, we’ll be trying to keep the blog updated on a reasonably regular basis, with news about all things French and Francophone at Stirling! If you’re a student (new or continuing) reading this and have ideas for possible articles, please do get in touch. We’re always happy to hear from new blog contributors.

In the meantime, though, welcome back and we’ll be back in touch again soon with more news!

Online summer schools and insights into international business

Although, as you’ll have gathered from recent posts, experiences of Study Abroad have been very different for many students over the past 18 months or so, Study Abroad has still been happening. It’s just been taking different forms and not always involving physical travel abroad. However, we have been really pleased at Stirling to see our students finding ways of benefitting as much as possible from the opportunities that presented themselves. And it’s very much with that in mind that we’re delighted to be able to add the following article by Muirne, a Business Studies and French student who is about to enter her final year:

‘At the start of the summer, I participated in a summer school programme hosted by the EM Strasbourg Business School within the Université de Strasbourg. The course itself was very insightful and educational. Undeniably, it would have been more beneficial if the course had taken place in person and I had been able to visit the beautiful city of Strasbourg rather than solely complete the course online. Nevertheless, I was delighted to have the opportunity to take part in the course.

After hearing the devastating news that I was not able to complete my semester abroad to Perpignan, I tried my best to find another opportunity to study abroad as I was hopeful by the time the summer school was going to start, the COVID restrictions would have eased enough to permit travelling. I was thrilled when we were offered this summer school program, it looked optimistic especially as they had one month where they specified it would be in person. Clearly, sadly, this was not the case in the end but the course seemed perfect for me, since my degree at Stirling is in Business and French and it was fascinating to be able to get a better insight into international business while using French.

The course overall lasted about a month and it was rather intense with multiple classes every day during that month all lasting between 2-3 hours. Of course we had weekends off, although there was always something to be done for the classes, be it French homework or prep work for the other classes. Due to intense style of this summer school we were able to cover a lot of topics and I feel I learnt a substantial amount in such a short period of time.

Along the way through the course, I was able to make lots of new connections with people from across the globe. It was intriguing to learn more about each individual’s culture and country. This was done during the French classes where each person had 10 minutes to discuss their country and after was questioned about it. This helped to promote more natural and spontaneous responses. This was a great experience to build intercultural awareness and develop the ability to work in teams with people form multiple different cultures.

Unsurprisingly, although it was clear a lot of thought and planning went into the course, there is always room for improvement. It was challenging for everyone as this year was the first year it was available online and it is important to acknowledge that this did have some benefits for some, because it was a lot more accessible to those who would have not been able to travel over to France.

It was an eye-opening experience which I will be able to take with me into the world of work as it is something I would like to continue with. I would fully recommend this course to others looking to pursue a career in international business or to anyone who fancies trying something new for the summer. It is a great course for broadening your horizons and meeting new interesting people. And hopefully next time the summer school will be in person!’

Many thanks to Muirne for sending through this post. We’re pleased you were able to take this opportunity, despite the challenges of the year, and that you’re so positive about it as a potential avenue for future students. And, of course, we’re looking forward to welcoming you back to Stirling for the new semester!