Fiona Barclay and Cristina Johnston have just co-edited a mini special issue of the journal Modern and Contemporary France examining the topic of ‘Generations.’ The issue includes an introduction by Cristina and Fiona entitled ‘Qu’est-ce qu’une génération?’, a historical note by Siân Reynolds, and articles by Maggie Allison, Barbara Lebrun and Jim Morrissey covering topics including feminist generations and evolutions of the press, 21st century chanson and the Kourtrajmé collective of film-makers.
Month: April 2014
To celebrate ‘the outstanding, path-breaking scholarship it has published in the ten years since its 2004 relaunch’, Liverpool University Press has made a selection of what it describes as its ‘milestone books’ available for £10 during April 2014. We’re delighted to see Bill Marshall‘s The French Atlantic: Travels in Culture and History appear as one of the first books to be selected. The book can be purchased for £10 here!
Back at the start of April, our Language Coordinator, Jean-Michel DesJacques, accompanied a small group of current final semester French students to the annual Multilingual Debate at Heriot-Watt University. The students thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon and the experience of watching their peers demonstrate high-level interpreting skills. We’re hoping our students will attend again next year – those who went along this time certainly seem to have come away buzzing!
For Mira, currently in her final year of a degree in French at Stirling, “the event was an interesting experience, the university had organised it well and there were no mock-ups, everything started, ran, and ended very smoothly. The topic debated was: “This House believes that the fragmentation of existing member-states could endanger the future of the EU.” Some very interesting points were flagged up, amongst them the importance of regional languages in areas desiring independence. However, what was of most interest is the interpreting done by the students.
The students interpreted from English, Spanish, French, German and Chinese, into French, English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and German. The difference in language structures could be easily noticed as French, English and Spanish interpreters could speak at more or less the same pace as the speakers from whom they were interpreting. It could be noticed that the students interpreting Chinese had to wait more often than not, until a full sentence was said before they could translate it. One of the English speakers gave all interpreters a challenge by using, metaphors and idioms, such as “luxuries in the pound shop of life”, referring to the regional languages spoken in areas of Europe. However, potentially the most impressive interpreting was done by the BSL representatives, who at times when a speech was given by a Chinese speaker, had to listen to a translation by one of the students and further translate that into BSL.
The students had been well briefed and prepared on the topics they had to work with. Listening to their work, you could hear mishaps and confusions; this is not to criticize the students’ work, which was, in itself, extraordinary. This remark is more directed at the art of translation and interpreting in today’s world in general. Language is a complex and beautiful thing. Translation is truly an art. The debate made me reflect on what really gets lost in translation. In this case in the world of politics where world leaders discuss sensitive subjects, language is of the deepest essence and the importance of an accurate and clear translation can make all the difference in the world.”
For Jana, who is also currently in her final semester of a degree in French, “participating in this event has been extremely useful as it allowed us all to peek into the profession of interpreters, for which the students at the Heriot Watt University are trained (at undergraduate as well as postgraduate level). I realized that only thanks to the hard work of the simultaneous interpreters (who must keep up with the pace of the speaker and switch promptly between the languages) does the otherwise inaccessible information become available within seconds. In addition, the complexities of switching between certain language codes became extremely apparent. For instance the code-switching between English and Chinese seemed to be very challenging as opposed to English versus German, for instance. However, although tempted for years, the ‘cosiness’ of the booth is not for me. I find conference environments rather stressful to deal with as the speakers often forget that they are being interpreted, which makes the work of an interpreter unbelievably hard. I would like to conclude by stressing my deep admiration towards the skills of the students-linguists who performed at the event. They were all very professional and considering they are still students without any real-life practice, their performance was fantastic.”
Finally, Antonella, in her final semester of a joint degree in French and Spanish, felt that ‘it was such an honour to attend the Multilingual Debate held at the University of Heriot-Watt representing Stirling University languages students. As a languages student, what I found interesting was, first of all, the high level of interpreting provided by the same Interpreting and Translation postgraduate students who were working with impressive dexterity from and into English, French, Spanish and German simultaneously. Also, the group of European languages was joined by students interpreting from and into Chinese and into Arabic, which contributed to make it even more fascinating. I am glad to remark that half of the team of interpreters was made up of international students, which shows the increasing level of expertise and willingness to rise to the challenge among those whose native language is not English, and yet come to study to the UK for language specialized courses.
Secondly, on a personal level, I found myself caught up by the different approaches taken by the panellists in their mother tongue (be it French, English or Spanish) whilst eavesdropping the booths with my auricular to follow the translation provided, moved by a genuine curiosity toward the process of simultaneous interpreting and how specific speech situations would be tackled on the spot.
Following the debate, I had a discussion with my fellow classmates about whether we would prefer to test our own language skills by providing an accurate written translation or by having the thrill of ‘’bridging the cultural gaps’’ live from what it looks as a rather cosy booth. It seems that Stirling language students would always go for the translation challenge. Although someone did suggest: “How fascinating would it be if we got to do some Interpreting studies here too?” Maybe Heriot-Watt University has already unconsciously started to lead the way and inspire future interpreters, besides the current professional translators, made in Stirling. Let it be!”
Thanks to Jean-Michel for organising this, to the students for their comments, and to Finn for the pictures!
If you’re interested in sport and identity in the French and Francophone context, check out David Murphy’s new article in a special issue of French Cultural Studies dedicated to ‘Sport, Media and Identity in France and the Francophone World’, edited by Hugh Dauncey, Jonathan Ervine and Cathal Kilcline.
David’s article is on ‘Sport, culture and the media at the Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres de Dakar (2010): Sport and the democratisation of culture or sport as populism?’
David has also just given a paper on ‘Race and the Legacy of the First World War in French Anti-Colonial Politics of the 1920s’ at the University of Chester’s conference on Minorities and the First World War.
One of the new faces among our Teaching Assistants this year is a former MSc student at Stirling, Brigitte Depret. After studying and graduating in English and Literature and also completing a BEd in France, Brigitte moved to Scotland in 2009 and, in 2012-13, completed our MSc in Translation and TESOL. For her final dissertation project, for which she obtained a First, Brigitte worked on ‘Keeper’, a journal by Andrea Gillies.
She has been teaching English and French for 28 years and has continued to build her teaching skills and responsibilities since Autumn 2013 by working as a Teaching Assistant on our undergraduate modules in French, as well as continuing to work as a free-lance translator and interpreter.
Here’s what she has to say about life in French at Stirling: “A teacher is always in the process of learning, (I’m still learning from my students!) and if we want to help them make it to the top, we have to get them from where they come from and encourage them onto stepping stones together. What I know for sure is that not only can I talk with no bias about my experience as a student at Stirling but I can, now, as a member of the teaching team, have a very accurate picture of our French department from the inside. And, most importantly, the view from the inside remains faithful to the one I had from the outside – one that allows me to belong to a place of openness, culture and language discovery with dedicated people working with enthusiastic students.
You may think that, because I’m French, I’m biased and you expect me to try convince you how it would be great for you to embark on a degree in French at Stirling…
But, first things first: I have studied in various universities in the course of my life. Some were just like mere factories set in the heart of a city, in a dull and concrete environment where I dealt with a generation of academics, who, for the most part were as rough and dull as the concrete of the buildings, brandishing their wand of knowledge, charging against us, making us feel how small us, poor freshers, were. Somehow, despite their obvious academic skills, the magic of creating the sparkle amongst us, of quenching our thirst for the know-how and know more, was hampered for most of us. As a result, about 70% of the students dropped out of language classes, and their future was doomed. (By comparison, I still have 80% of the beginners who started last semester. So, do you think I’m still biased?)
Stirling is also recognised as one of the most beautiful campuses in Europe making it the ideal place in which to study. The University’s beautiful, unique, enticing settings are grassy, leafy, ‘golfy’, hilly, watery (not only thanks to the occasional rain… but, more importantly, thanks to the lovely loch with its swans and mallards… but I digress!).
What you will get with us
At Stirling, I’ve been on either side of the road. First, as a student and now as a teacher. What I’ve found at Stirling, and especially within the language department, is a community where teachers and students work in concert. What you will find at Stirling are lecturers/teachers/language assistants who do not necessarily want to promote France or Frenchness (we are way beyond these stereotypes). We, as a team, want to help you to get the skills, the interest to speak and understand how the French-speaking world works. We want to expand your mind, whether it be through the very initiation of French, its history, its society or its literature. Bear in mind that in our department, our post-colonial specialists will invite you to embrace French as a world language, because ‘French’ literature isn’t only the prerogative of the natives of metropolitan France, but far beyond (Senegal, Morocco, Quebec…), while our film studies dynamic and specialists will open your horizons with their passion for the French-language cinema.
We will give you all the necessary feedback to improve yourself, to help you progress along the road and maybe have the pleasure to welcome you as a post-graduate student! So follow the signs… and we will guide you.”
Thanks to Brigitte for sharing her experiences of French at Stirling. If you’re interested in coming to study with us, you’ll find plenty of information about our undergraduate courses here and our postgraduate course information can be found by following the links here.
Bill Marshall will be giving the opening keynote address at a 2-day conference on ‘City Margins, City Memories’ to be held at the Institute of Modern Languages Research in London on 7 April. The conference is organised by colleagues at Bangor University, including our former Stirling colleague, Gillian Jein, and includes papers on topics ranging from the Cité Universitaire in Interwar Paris to freed slaves and discursive constructions of space in early 19th-century New York.
Bill’s paper (‘Charms and Perils of Verticality’) will explore tensions in the concept of the vertical to be found in theorists such as Benjamin and de Certeau as they apply to the contemporary (counter)-cultural urban practices of parkour and buildering. The former will be examined mainly in its representations by (participant) photographic artists, for its resistance to a panoptic, totalising view of the city in favour of a view not only from below but one that drills down into domains of haptic perception but also where past and future potentially converge, awakening memories but also discovering new pathways through the city. The related phenomenon of buildering (along with its photographic representations) seems to stray into panoptic territory, but when it is combined with urban sculpture it may point to new arrangements of art, built environment, perception and bodies.
Bill was responsible for the organisation of a 2-day parkour event at the University of Stirling in June 2013 which included public lectures, parkour displays and a longer-term exhibition of photography.