“French is a global language”: from whisky tasting in Belgium to language teaching in Portugal

And, following on from Beth Young’s article, tales from another of our graduates, John McCallum who completed his BA Hons in International Politics and Languages in 2012 and whose language skills have seen him crisscrossing Europe for work ever since.

“My first role after graduating from the University of Stirling in 2012 in French and International Politics was as a sales and marketing executive with a whisky distillery, Springbank, in my hometown of Campbeltown, Argyll. During that year I had the chance to travel in Europe and work several times in francophone Belgium, visiting French-speaking stockists and taking whisky tastings in French. It was a great experience to be able to talk about your town and a local industry to people in their own mother tongue.

Using French in a professional situation can be different than just practising socially, especially when there is industry-specific vocabulary to learn to help you do the job better, and more time pressure on you to deliver it. On completing my studies I felt at a really strong level, though, and that is testament to the range of material we studied and the opportunity for conversation on various topics while in a classroom setting at Stirling.

Another reason for having the confidence to speak in the language was having spent a semester abroad in Paris, an unforgettable experience. As well as having the opportunity to attend Sciences Po, the popular pathway for some of France’s past and present political elites, I joined a football club and spent my Sunday afternoons in various banlieue towns in the Val de Marne area, learning a different style of football and what can only be described as ‘français des vestiaires’ on a thrice-weekly basis. I would echo another 2012 graduate Jonny Terrell’s post in saying I wish it could’ve been for the whole year!

But at Stirling too I always felt that my degree drew on great expertise in both languages and politics departments. I consistently had the support I needed and met lots of great people when studying there, from not only Scotland but from an international background.

After time spent working in newspaper reporting in Argyll, the odd weekend stint as a purser on a passenger RIB from Campbeltown to Ireland, and working with another distillery on the isle of Islay for a year under a French parent company, I have had lots of opportunities to use my language skills, both in the workplace and when simply wanting to make conversation and practise everyday French.

For the past six months I have been working as an English-language teacher in Braga, in the north of Portugal. I am working on improving my Portuguese, and although it is a complex language itself with tough grammar and pronunciation, I would like to try becoming a lusophone too, even when back living in Scotland. However, French is a popular lingua franca here given the immense movement of people and familial links established between the countries during the past 60 years and has saved me a few times when the other person in the conversation hasn’t had a word of English!

It shows that learning a global language like French can have practical uses much more diverse than you originally imagined. I would thoroughly recommend Stirling as a place to learn the language.”

Many thanks – obrigado! – to John for sending this article and we look forward to finding out where your languages will take you next!

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