Month: May 2018

Grammar books and summer holidays

And following our catch-up with Emily at the end of her 2nd year, another update. This time from Paige who, this time last year, was also just reaching the end of Year 1:

‘I’ve just finished my second year of university, which is crazy that I’m halfway through my degree already! This year was the first year since changing my degree programme from English Studies and Secondary Education to English Studies and French and I was surprised how well they linked.

French has been completely different to first year in the beginner stream. Rather than three classes a week which comprised of grammar and vocabulary; there was a Matière lecture, Matière seminar, Written language class, Conversation class and Langage Parlé class. I enjoyed the Matière lectures and seminars the most because they’re so different to anything available at high school – they are known as French culture classes but they are also a mix of French history and current issues.

There were more opportunities to speak French this year with two dedicated classes: Langage Parlé and Conversation classes. The Conversation class was more relaxed and informal which encouraged everyone to join in the discussion, whereas the Langage Parlé class was slightly more formal. I enjoyed the Langage Parlé class too, as every week there was a short topical article to read to prepare for the class and they were always really interesting and informative.

The only class I can’t say I enjoyed was the Written Language class which is a grammar class but I think it was because I was gently re-introduced to French after four years with Beginners’ classes so switching to the Advanced classes was a bit of a shock to the system. Suddenly the gaps in my knowledge (everything I forgot in the four years in between high school and University) became apparent to me and I felt I struggled in this class. So, this Summer my plan is to work through a grammar book and attempt to teach myself everything I’ve forgotten! University is all about taking responsibility for your learning and deciding on what degree classification you want, then putting in the necessary work to achieve it.

If anyone reading this blog is considering studying a language at University or doesn’t want to stop studying a language but hasn’t thought about doing a language degree (as was the case with me) I highly recommend going straight from high school or as close to it as possible! Otherwise it’s a bit of an uphill struggle trying to relearn everything to reach the same level of proficiency as everyone else on the course.

Last year I spoke about the opportunities available to those studying a French degree and my excitement to embrace the opportunity to spend a year in France in between second and third year, working as an English Language Assistant through the British Council. I have applied and in April I heard that I have been shortlisted! Now I have a nerve-wracking wait until the end of June to hear if I have been allocated a placement…’

Many, many thanks to Paige for this update. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for the ELA placement and really hope that works out!

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Harry Potter, Spotify and Language Learning

This time last year, we posted an article by Emily who was just reaching the end of her 1st year studying French and History so, as we catch up with the authors of some of those posts to see how things have gone this year, here is Emily’s update:

‘Bonjour à tous! In my last post for the French at Stirling blog I talked about my first year studying for a BA Hons degree in French and History, and what a great start it had been to my university career at Stirling. The structure of classes in first year has been the same this year, with weekly seminars on written language, francophone culture and French speaking classes. This year we have also had a new class added to our timetable; half-hour conversation sessions. These new speaking classes have been a great way to get practice in our French conversation skills, as it’s a very relaxed environment and the conversations are usually spontaneous and on recent topics.

Another exciting opportunity available to us in second year is the chance to work abroad as an English language assistant (ELA) through the British Council’s scheme, spending a whole year in a French-speaking country. Although the time spent abroad doesn’t contribute credits towards my actual degree I feel it is an invaluable opportunity to learn about contemporary French culture and improve my language skills. Having recently received the good news that my application has been shortlisted I can’t wait to find out whereabouts in France I will be placed!

However, until I move to France towards the end of this year, I have to try and maintain my current level of French, which I have been doing through various different methods. A great way one of my teachers suggested to keep French fresh in my mind is to listen to French music. Spotify is a lifesaver here, as there are loads of French music playlists already created, so if you’re like me and have no clue who any popular French musicians are, you can easily discover different solo artists and bands that suit your music tastes.

Reading French regularly is another great way to maintain language skills, but I find it can be quite daunting at times, so to make things easier for myself I decided to revisit one of my childhood favourites; Harry Potter. I have found that reading stories in French that you have already read in English is much easier as you don’t have to focus so much on the plot and instead can concentrate on grammar and new vocabulary. Hopefully by using these methods to try and incorporate french into my everyday life I won’t forget everything that the French department at Stirling taught me this year!

To sum things up, my first two years studying French at Stirling have been fantastic, my teachers have been more than helpful in preparing me for life as an English language assistant in France, and I can’t wait to see what next year has in store!’

Many, many thanks to Emily for this update. We look forward to finding out where you’re posted next year and wish you all the best for the assistantship!

Gender, Film, Postcolonialism: Conference Time

If I’m quick, this might even go up on the blog before Bill Marshall’s Cinéma-Monde conference on ‘Film, Borders, Translation’ that starts this evening with a screening at the MacRobert of Chloé Leriche’s 2016 film Avant les rues. The conference continues over the next couple of days, with participants from across the UK, North America and Australia, and papers from three French at Stirling colleagues. David Murphy will be talking about ‘Filming the First World Festival of Negro Arts, Dakar 1966’, Elizabeth Ezra will give a paper entitled ‘TransFormations: Cinema’s Uncanny Origins’ and, as for me (Cristina Johnston), I’ll be talking about the ‘ruptures, cooperation and paradoxes’ of Franco-Iranian cinema.

It’s a busy time for conference over the next week or so, as Stirling is also running its annual Arts and Humanities postgraduate conference tomorrow on ‘Arts and Humanities Research Through a Gender Lens’ and our own French at Stirling PhD student, Fraser McQueen, will be there, talking about ‘Islamophobia as a gendered phenomenon in French radicalisation cinema.’ And then, next week, Fraser is off to the University of Birmingham for the SFPS Postgraduate Study Day where he’ll deliver a paper entitled ‘Borders between us and them in female radicalisation fiction.’

More research news to follow soon…

‘Talking to and learning from as many people as possible’

And finally, in today’s flurry of blog posts, Amy, another member of this year’s graduating cohort has sent this article looking back over what her degree has allowed her to do but also where it might take her in the years ahead:

‘I studied BA Hons Politics and French and going to University was the best decision of my life. University has provided a wealth of opportunities that would not have been afforded to me had I not gone. During my undergrad, I travelled to Tanzania to climb the highest free-standing mountain in the world – Mt Kilimanjaro. I then spent a year teaching in Blois, Loire Valley; a semester in Paris studying at Sciences Po and two summers managing staff and kids in a French campsite in the Ardèche, Rhône Valley. The experience and the cultural awareness that these opportunities provided were invaluable and they sparked within me an immense curiosity about people, the world and myself.

University is a melting pot of people from all over the world and a fantastic opportunity like no other to learn from people who have had different experiences from you. If you are like me and want to travel and see the world, then University is a great place to start. Gaining cultural awareness is far more than bag-packing in every country that your summer job can afford, it’s about talking to and learning from as many people as possible, wherever you are.

2018 Amy McIntyre Bill's last class May18My advice to future Stirling students: talk to your tutors and your lecturers. They’re people and there’s not the same hierarchy that may have existed between you and your teachers at school. University is a collective learning environment and both you and your lecturers have something to learn from one another.

Go to the cinema screenings that the French department want you to attend. Go to their mixers and free wine events. Go and talk to the local school kids about your study abroad experience. Sign up to be a Module Representative and, of course, offer to write a piece for Cristina’s blog. These actions of engagement are understandably daunting as a first year, but push yourself to do it.

University is more than studying; It’s more than reading books. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t advise attempting your degree without doing the aforementioned, but I can’t emphasize the importance of other factors at University enough. My advice to future students of Stirling: Get involved. Take advantage of every opportunity that interests you. Join a club or 5, hold weekly stalls in the Atrium and meet like-minded people and people who challenge your views alike.

2018 Amy McIntyre Logie Protest May18During my time at Stirling University I was Co-Convenor of the Socialist Society, Secretary for Stirling Students for Scottish Independence and I co-led Stirling Students in Support of the UCU Pension Strike protest movement which led to a 14-day Occupation of Logie Lecture Theatre.

My time in France

I took a gap year to participate in the British Council English Language Assistantship (ELA) Scheme in the Loire Valley, France. On reflection, I can honestly say I learned just as much from my kids as they learned from me. The simplicity, honesty and innocence of young people’s minds is interesting, inspiring and refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, prepare yourself for insults that are not intended as insults: “Amy, your nose is cool, it reminds me of a witch”. Thanks Pierre, you’ll have to excuse me as I’ve made plans to cry in the toilet…

2018 Amy McIntyre Pic May18

Tip to future language assistants: Get to know your ELA friends but don’t spend too much time with them. They are a great comfort to you when you are abroad but are inevitably a hindrance to your French language progression if you spend too much time alone with English-speakers.

In my third year, I studied at Sciences Po, Paris. I found that Politics in France is very different to the UK in terms of grassroots movements, protests and youth engagement with politics. Manifestations are as common as croissants in Paris and I was amazed at the crowds of youngsters who were politically active.

2018 Amy McIntyre Eiffel Tower May18

What motivates people to act the way they do? How do political institutions and societal factors impact their behaviour? And ultimately, how can we unite people, despite their perceived differences to come together and form a better society? These are questions that are ever-evolving and I suspect they will occupy my mind for the rest of my life, whatever avenue I choose to go down.

For the moment, I am fascinated by examining policies in different countries and finding out what works and what doesn’t. To change society for the better, I believe we need better policies at the heart of it. I hope to do a Msc in Public Policy and Management this year at the University of Glasgow. Ultimately, I want to make a positive contribution to the world, no matter how big or small that will be.’

Many, many thanks to Amy for this fantastic post and for the great tips for future students. We wish you all the very best for the MSc and the future beyond! And, of course, we would encourage as many as possible of our current (and former) students who might be reading this to take Amy’s advice and get in touch about future blog posts…

‘Savour the moment’

And from halfway through a degree via Mairi’s post to a month from graduation, thanks to this article by Chelsea who has just completed her BA Hons in Psychology with a European Language (French, in Chelsea’s case!):

‘I think, like a lot of people, graduating and planning for the future is a daunting experience. For me this will be the first time since nursery that I won’t be a student: the root cause of my restlessness these last few days. I feel it is important to savour the moment and let it sink in before attempting to plough ahead with grand plans. That said, I soon realised that once you have (almost) obtained your undergraduate you feel the need to return for a Master’s or PhD, not just as another stepping stone for your desired career, but because, for most students, this ‘freedom’ and non-student status is unfamiliar.

2018 Chelsea Soulsbury Demo Pic
Demonstration in Nice

Having studied Psychology and French, I have no idea where I am going to be in 6 months/a year, or whether I intend to pursue Psychology or French. I have just returned from a month in Nice, and I really enjoy the idea of travelling and revelling in my graduated glory. However, another part of me wants to find a job, even if just part-time, related to my degree and start saving towards future education. As it stands, I have thrown my name into the ring for a few care apprenticeships, in the hope of working with vulnerable adults and children, which will not only grant me experience, but also qualifications to enhance my prospects of returning to University. Perhaps I will find an even balance and manage to save and do some travelling soon.’  

 

Many thanks to Chelsea for this article – we wish you all the very best for the future and for the apprenticeship applications, and hope that travel does feature in the plans, too, somewhere along the way!

From Summer Schools to Shoe Selling: Languages are Everywhere

Another new week gets underway and another great batch of articles by some of our students (and soon-to-be graduates!), starting off with this post by Mairi who has just finished off Year 2 of her degree:

‘It is very bizarre to think that I am now half-way through my undergraduate degree at Stirling. Since my last blog post, back in 2016, I have changed my degree to French and Spanish and have been using my newly acquired language skills in various jobs.

Last summer I worked at an English Language School based here at the University of Stirling. I worked with young people aged 11-17 as an Activity Leader. In this job I often spoke Spanish as many of the students were from Santander and Valencia. I hadn’t realised just how good it felt when I was able to successfully communicate in a language that was not my own. This is when my confidence in speaking French and Spanish really began to improve. I wasn’t scared to make mistakes and even just using a few foreign words here and there helped me to better understand Spanish pronunciation.

The summer school isn’t the only place I’ve been able to practice my language skills outwith Uni. In the last few months, I’ve started a job in a shoe store. I didn’t think I would be speaking much French or Spanish but about a month ago I had a French family come in and the grand-mother didn’t speak much English. I overheard her speaking in French and before I could overthink it, I answered her English question in French. She seemed delighted and I think relieved to not have to tip-toe her way around English (as we all do when speaking a language that is not our own). The same day I had a Venezuelan lady come in with her son and again I was able to speak to her in Spanish. Her son was just learning English and she said he was too shy to practice, I told him, in what was probably grammatically poor Spanish, that I understood how he felt because I too was learning another language. I think that whenever you have the opportunity to practice your languages, you should because when you get something right, it really helps to boost your confidence. And, in my experience, people warm to you more when they see you are trying to communicate with them in their mother tongue.

In February I visited my old high school to discuss the importance of languages and my experiences studying them at Stirling. I spoke to students in their 4th and 5th years and answered questions they had about languages, student life and just generally gave them tips with applying to university. I met with my French teachers who had taught me since I was 12 and it was interesting to hear what they had to say about their experiences at Uni, it all felt quite grown up. All in all, it was good to share my experiences of learning French and Spanish with people who were just beginning to consider a career in it.

2018 Mairi Edwards Pic 1I think all French students would agree with me in saying that the teaching in the department is fantastic. Staff are more than happy to help and really to go the extra mile for their students. I have especially enjoyed parlé classes with Mathilde and Brigitte this year as well as matière seminars with Cristina. That’s not to say that it’s been an easy year what with the industrial action affecting teaching and just naturally the course being more difficult. It really has been an enjoyable year but I’m looking forward to some time-off!

2018 Mairi Edwards Pic 2One of the aspects that has really made my time at Uni wonderful is my friends in the French module. Because the module is quite small, everyone knows everyone which for me, makes classes a lot less daunting. I’ve been lucky to have met such lovely and like-minded people and I’m really looking forward to another year with them. Although it will likely be a difficult year for us, it’ll be exciting to spend a semester abroad in France (or Spain). That’s all from me for now, thanks for reading. À bientôt.’

Many thanks to Mairi for the great update – enjoy the Summer break and we look forward to seeing you again in the Autumn, and to finding out where Semester 6 will take you!

Bits of French where you least expect them

A momentary break from profiles of current and soon-to-be-former students just to say thank you to our Creative Writing colleagues at Stirling (French is part of the Division of Literature and Languages which is also home to Creative Writing) for organising the annual Fellows’ Lunch yesterday. I went along in between dissertation supervision, bookshelf tidying and various post-teaching admin tasks, looking forward to getting to hear our two Royal Literary Fund Fellows – Helen Grant and Linda Cracknell – and our Charles Wallace Fellow – Arjun Rajendran – reading from their work and I wasn’t disappointed. It was a really lovely way to spend a lunchbreak but made all the more pleasant by the surprise arrival of elements of French and French history via Arjun’s poems inspired by work he is doing on diaries from 18th century Pondicherry, one of which has made its way onto the windows of a corridor in our Pathfoot Building. So, thank you and merci!