Month: February 2016

Language Learning, Teaching and Translating

Since graduating with a BA Hons in French in 2014, Jana Kautska has kept in touch with French at Stirling and we’re really pleased to be able to post this article by her about life as a student of French at Stirling and what can happen next:

“Scotland enchanted me during my first visit in 1996 and I have been in close touch with this country ever since. I wanted to discover more. I wanted to get closer to its inhabitants and I was hoping to be able to experience the real way of life there rather than visiting it only as an accompanying Tour Leader (the non-elegant sort of all-in-one coach guide/interpreter/translator ready to sort every single problem that popped up on the long journey from the Czech Republic to the U.K.). My clients were mostly teachers and students travelling to Scotland in order to enhance their language, cultural, historical and political knowledge. Malheureusement, while crossing several borders before reaching our final destination the chic France stood in our way. Whenever I tried to open up a conversation the response from the French part was one and the same: “Parlez-vous anglais?” Clearly it was either time to quit my attempts at French altogether or “Il fallait recommencer mes études de nouveau.” So I did. This is how une idée to study French in Scotland est née.

Stirling was my preferred choice because I found the university grounds very compact and I liked the fact that even the neighbouring village of Bridge of Allan or the town of Stirling were within walking distance. This connection was very important to me because of the train stations which enabled links with the cities of Glasgow or Edinburgh and their airports so easy to reach. De plus, the beautiful lake in the middle of the campus and the majestic Dumyat hill and its ‘friends’ took my breath away and they still do whenever I revisit the campus. This could be a perfect temporary home for a while I thought. The bonus was that the University Accommodation Services offered a family type of accommodation which I needed to secure for my small family of three and what´s more there was also a Playgroup run by the Department of Psychology on offer. What a bonus! I must admit that the university web and printed brochures contributed to my decision. The place seemed to be modern and dynamic; the library was on the spot, shops, bank, MacRobert cultural centre with cinema and theatre all in one.

What made me accept the offer from the Stirling University? First and foremost it was the possibility to dive into the desired French Studies. I found the combined degrees as well as the variety of modules possible to study quite amazing. I initially opted to study French in combination with Psychology but I ended up studying French only. This allowed me to sign up for linguistics, religion and cinema modules, as well as allowing me to undertake the semester abroad required by the French department which was one of the principal reasons for me to accept the offer. I was fully aware of the importance of study abroad. I knew that my spoken French and understanding of the real spoken language would not progress as desired without an immersion in French language and culture. The semester abroad was absolutely crucial. It was the fastest way to improve my comprehension as well as conversation.

2016 Kautska Paris Feb

I was granted the degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honours in French in 2014 and I thoroughly enjoyed every single module I took. Indeed, there are several modules I will never forget. At the beginning of my studies these were for instance Language and Society together with Foundation of Language presented by Andrew Smith. These were such good fun. Or for example Religion, Ethics and Society totally surprised me with its content as it was so amazingly linked to the current affairs in the world. The topics of Orientalism and Edward Said were so interesting to look into not only in connection with the issue of veil so often discussed in the press all over Europe that time. Post-War European Cinema, Transnational Identities, Québec Cinema and Introduction to African Literature and Cinema all on offer by the French Department are still my number ones though. These brought a completely different dimension into my life friendship-wise as well as on the internal level of thinking. For instance, I can still hear the beautiful soundtrack to a very moving film Mon oncle Antoine to name at least one. Thanks to an essay question related to this film Québec became so close to me although so distant in reality. On personal level these modules brought some very firm friendships into my life with francophone students from Africa and Switzerland who chose Stirling University as their exchange partner university and with whom I have been in contact ever since.

2016 Kautska Enjoy your studies Feb

And so this is how in 2010 I begun to live my dream LIVE thanks to the offer from the University of Stirling. I chose to study French here because I believed that there would be a different approach to studying a foreign language in Great Britain to the one carried out at the universities in the Czech Republic where I originally come from. I was right and I would not change a thing. Studies at Stirling were dynamic, modern, non-rigid and absolutely up-to-date in every sense. Language teaching in Stirling exceeded my expectations. I really liked the approach of having a lot on offer on one hand but having also a choice which helped me to cope with the immense load of work at the exam period or reading weeks. It is entirely up to each individual to explore what one wishes to find out and how deep into the topic s/he wants to go. I find this very democratic. There was no compulsory drill, no repetition, no memorizing as is often the case at the universities on the continent (France included as I learned through my personal experience).

The professionalism of the professors at Stirling is amazing and the flexibility of studies matched my needs perfectly. The expertise the professors possess is absolutely enormous. It is so nice to read a book written by someone who is actually giving lectures or seminars. Everybody is so supportive. For instance such a little thing as the French language café run by the Language Assistant, Bernadette Corbett (now retired). How useful and helpful this was! Thank you Bernadette! Or what an opportunity to get on board of a train and explore an Interpreting Event in Edinburgh Heriot Watt University together with other students and language tutor Jean-Michel Des Jacques. To witness student peers at another university how they sweat while training their conference interpreting skills at real inbuilt booths/cabins the partner university uses for teaching purposes was more than interesting.

And of course joining the Erasmus programme together with my daughter (then just 4) needs no comment. It was the most challenging of all assignments I had to fulfil but the very best and cleverest request the French department had on offer. If only I was a bit younger and British I would have joined my peers and gone for the English Teaching Assistantship programme supported by the University of Stirling and the British Council. All my friends who joined came back linguistically very well equipped to fulfil their final 4th year of their studies. They were also more than ready to face the real life challenges on the current job market.

2016 Lautska Tours le Jardin des Prébendes Feb
Erasmus in Tours


And what have I gone on to do with my French since graduating? My decision to accept the offer made by the University of Stirling has changed my life completely. Although I do not use French as a ‘working language’ when interpreting (my free-lance job) I found it extremely useful when working as an ESOL Home Tutor and Classroom Volunteer for Community based ESOL at the Edinburgh College. One woman there, an elementary student from Morocco, arrived in my classroom speaking no English whatsoever. Luckily she knew some French. You can imagine the sparkles in her eyes when I offered French translation to several key English words in order to comfort her and break the ice a bit. We even managed to joke! She says a big “HELLO” to me whenever I meet her in the streets and has no more fear to try her English skills with me. What a success thanks to French! To my amazement last spring time my volunteering work was appreciated by my nomination to Inspiring Volunteering Achievement Awards 2015 by the Edinburgh College. It was such an interesting experience for me to participate at this community event.

I can honestly declare that my language studies at the University of Stirling opened the door to my voluntary English teaching in Britain. This is quite an achievement for me as a non-native English speaker I must admit and teaching refugees and asylum seekers has been the most rewarding job I have ever done. My degree also made it possible for me to join several interpretation agencies and work free-lance. My French degree was fully recognized by one of the leading ones on the market and if I agreed I would be included on the list of the interpreters having French on offer! What a stress! Quelle horreur! I am convinced that I still have a lot to learn so I prefer to be modest for the time being and offer just English/Czech/Slovak and vice versa as my working languages. In my point of view learning any language is a life-long learning process which is one never-ending story I have decided to live LIVE.”

Thanks to Jana and we look forward to following the next stages of her career post-Stirling!

French Research News

Some news on the research front from various Stirling staff members. David Murphy‘s article ‘The Emergence of a Black France, 1985-2015: history, race and identity’ was published in Nottingham French Studies in 2015 (Vol. 54.3, pages 238-52). Aedín ní Loingsigh’s article ‘Tourism Devlopment and the Premier Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres’ was also published in the Irish Journal of French Studies in 2015 (Vol. 15, pages 77-95) and her chapter on ‘African Travel Writing’ also came out last year in The Routledge Companion to Travel Writing, edited by Carl Thompson. And Cristina Johnston‘s chapter on ‘Tehran, Vienna, Paris. The Cultural Geographies of Persepolis’ has just been published in a Routledge edited collection on Bicultural Literature and Film in French and English (edited by Peter Barta and Phil Powrie).


From French Student to Financial Crimes Analyst

It’s always good to get a chance to find out what our students end up doing after they graduate, and particularly interesting to get updates several years down the line. Paul Addison graduated back in 2011 and wrote a blog article for us two years ago about his experiences since finishing his studies at Stirling. Since then, though, Paul’s career has taken off in a rather unexpected direction as he explains here:

“I studied for a BA Hons in French and Spanish between 2007 and 2011 at Stirling University. I chose Stirling to study French for a number of reasons including the close knit student community I witnessed on the open day as well as the flexibility and variety of modules available for the cultural elements of the course. When I started university, I had very little idea about what career path I wanted to follow post-graduation and I felt Stirling offered me the best chance to develop an understanding of the language and culture in a variety of different ways.

I followed the normal path of language and grammar modules throughout my four years in addition to a number of modules focusing on the literature, cinema and current affairs of francophone countries. I really enjoyed modules focusing on French cinema, particularly a module called ‘Screening the City’, where I was able to develop my analytical skills which has undoubtedly helped me in my postgraduate career. I’m still a keen viewer of French films and TV shows and take great pride in the fact I was able to watch an entire series of Les Revenants without subtitles.

2016 Addison Place Stanislas Nancy
Place Stanislas, Nancy


One of the main highlights for any language student and I myself am no different is the opportunity to study abroad. As part of the ERASMUS programme, I chose to go to the University of Nancy 2 (I believe it is now part of the University of Lorraine) and spent six months studying modules alongside French students and other students on the ERASMUS programme. It was a memorable experience where I was able to travel across France, Belgium and Luxembourg during the weekends and I regularly keep in contact with the other French ERASMUS students I met during my time there.

I spent the first four years after graduating doing various roles within the recruitment industry where I was able to use my French skills to work with internationally based clients and candidates for a number of different roles. I also spent a brief amount of time working in the Welfare to Work sector where I provide interview training to non-English speakers across the Glasgow area.

About a year ago, I made a bit of a career change and have subsequently found a role as a Financial Crime Analyst in a large consultancy firm based in London where I get the opportunity to travel and work with financial services companies all over. My first project as part of this role involved travelling between London and Paris on a weekly basis as part of an international sanctions investigation and had the opportunity to brush up on my French language skills. It has certainly not been the kind of career I had originally envisioned for myself but something which I find both challenging and extremely rewarding.”

Thanks to Paul for this update and we look forward to following the next stages of his career!

Stirling PhD Success

2016 Verbeke pic FebCongratulations to our PhD student, Martin Verbeke, who passed his viva last week! Martin’s research examines ‘Rappers and Linguistic Variation: A Study of Non-Standard Language in Selected Francophone Rap Tracks’ and it was conducted under the joint supervision of Bill Marshall and Cristina Johnston. All the best to Martin for the years ahead and we look forward to following his career.


Stirling Postgrad Journal CFP

The editors of Stirling’s postgraduate journal Stryvling are currently looking for articles for an issue dedicated to the topic of ‘Quality of Life’.  The CFP closes in May 2016 and follows here:

‘The Stirling International Journal of Postgraduate Research is a peer-reviewed research journal published by postgraduate students at the University of Stirling. Its objective is to attract high quality, original, multidisciplinary research articles and book reviews for publication in theme-driven issues. The theme of our upcoming, third issue is ‘quality of life’. The journal is aimed at an international audience and will be published online in open access mode.

‘To read some analyses, you would think that [the protests in France of May] 1968 took place in the heads of a few Parisian intellectuals. We must therefore remember that it is the product of a long chain of world events, and a series of currents of international thought, that already linked the emergence of new forms of struggle to the production of a new subjectivity, if only in its critique of centralism and its qualitative claims concerning the quality of life’. – Gilles Deleuze

The Stirling International Journal of Postgraduate Research seeks articles on the subject of the continual political and technological mechanisms exerted upon the quality of life, and the varied human responses to these mechanisms. How have the sciences of politics, education, law, and the arts shaped quality of life and our very notions of it? We are looking for articles of between 5000 and 7000 words on the topic relating but not limited to the following fields: aquaculture, film studies, history, law, literature, nursing, philosophy, politics, physiotherapy, psychology, sociology and software engineering. The deadline for submission of abstracts of roughly 400 words is May 2016. Please email your abstracts to one of the following email addresses:,, or’

Submissions relating to France and the wider Francophone world are very welcome!

Language Learning in the Digital Era

Our Language Coordinators (Jean-Michel DesJacques for French and Jose-Maria Ferreira-Cayuela for Spanish) regularly attend meetings, conferences and workshops on a wide range of topics related to new developments in the field of language teaching and learning. For Jean-Michel, the first such event of 2016 has just taken place with a trip to Southampton last week:

‘I recently attended the now yearly e-learning symposium at the University of Southampton organised by LLAS, the Centre for Languages, Linguistics & Area Studies. Definitely the place to be if you want to sample the latest innovations and trends in e-learning. As a language teacher and pedagogue, it is always very interesting to see how other practitioners deal with challenges very similar to the ones you face. But I’ll come back to this later.

This year’s central theme was ‘Humans and the machine’. Is the algorithm the answer to everything? I know what you are thinking, I wish Jules Verne had been there too to pinch some ideas about his next roman d’anticipation. (Incidentally, according to UNESCO’s own Translationum, Verne is the second most translated author behind Agatha Christie in first place and, believe it or not, ahead of Shakespeare…)

Anyway, over the two-day event, I certainly wished that speech recognition technology had been fitted to my email box. In fact, there was a paper on marking using this very technique and some impressive attempts at tweeting relying on the same principle. So it is not too far-fetched to think that sooner rather than later, the most basic queries made to you by email will be dealt with by some avatar of yours, giving you more time for 121 feedback with some of your students or perhaps a well-deserved coffee break.

I mentioned challenges earlier on… It was obvious from the various workshops offered that we, as professionals, share similar issues such as Facebook vs VLE when it is obvious which platform students prefer; how to best prepare students for their time abroad (there were some particularly interesting ideas about role plays); on-line courses and whether they represent student empowerment or an economic imperative; the use of VLE for lexical retention; and finally the use of MOOCs and the delicate balance between an altruistic ideal as the world is your classroom and a marketing tool.

In the end, the symposium was about the love of languages. It was comforting to see so many dedicated and passionate people ready to share their digital experiences with others and offer an insight into what they are trying to achieve to improve their teaching.’