Month: March 2019

Williamson Travel Scholarship: Approaches and attitudes towards migration

2019 Intropido Williamson Pic IV Nice Oct18The previous post about this year’s applicants for the Stevenson Exchange Scholarships, reminded me that I still had one other article lurking in my files, waiting to be posted, about a French at Stirling student’s success. In this instance, the scholarship in question is the University of Stirling’s Williamson Travel Scholarship which, last year, was awarded to Stefano, currently in the final semester of his degree in International Politics and Languages, along with his fellow student Christopher. Their joint research project was entitled ‘(Dis)integration in Southern Europe. A comparative observation of integration practices for migrants in Italy and France.’

2019 Intropido Williamson Pic III Nice Oct18Stefano and Christopher used the research they conducted under the auspices of their project to observe perceptions towards integration of migrants in two different European countries, namely Italy and France, through on field observations of integration practices at both local and regional level. Last July, they made use of their scholarship to spend two weeks in Southern Europe to carry out a comparative review of approaches to integration between two neighbouring countries which have been dealing with an increase of migrants in recent years, in order to enhance their understanding of the ways these countries can foster the integration of migrants in their societies. As well as examining national media representations of ‘the migrant question’, they also made contact with local civil servants and representatives of NGOs to further their knowledge and understanding of the situation. For example, they interviewed Dr Stefano Pasta, Adjunct Research Fellow at the Catholic University of Milan (Research Centre for Intercultural Relations), Journalist and senior volunteer at the Community of Sant’Egidio, a leading international NGO founded in Italy to support and integrate foreigners and migrants in Europe.

In their report on the project, Stefano and Christopher explained that having had the possibility to spend time in two European countries which have both been affected by the arrival of migrants since the start of the humanitarian crisis in 2015, ‘it has been deeply interesting to further investigate their different approaches and attitudes towards migration and subsequent integration within their societies’ and they hope their research will foster ‘awareness of the necessity for an ever greater deal of solidarity and cultural understanding in order for all of us to be oriented by the inspiring examples encountered along the journey.’ And they are, of course, grateful to the Williamson Trust for its trust in them and for its financial support through the scholarship.

Many thanks to Stefano for sending us the information about this project and for his patience while the article somehow sat in an email folder waiting to be posted!

Good luck to this year’s Stevenson applicants!

As ever, French and Spanish at Stirling have been busy over the first couple of months of the year working with the students who will be applying for Stevenson Exchange Scholarships for 2019-20, either to supplement the work they’ll be doing as English Language Assistants or to run alongside their integral period of Study Abroad. This year, we have three applicants to the scheme across the two languages: Eszter, Eilidh and Caitlin.  

Eszter’s proposed project would enable her to explore the role and representation of women in Spain’s creative industries. Caitlin would like to make use of a Stevenson Scholarship to explore the legacy of Gothic architecture in France, starting with Montpellier and its surrounding region. And Eilidh is interested in learning more about how smaller towns, museums and locations contribute to the ‘marketing’ of France and its regions to a tourist audience. 

Regular blog readers will know that French and Spanish at Stirling have a great track record of success with the Stevenson scheme and you can read more about previous Stevenson recipients and their projects here and here for starters. All three of this year’s students should learn whether they’re through to the next stage of the selection process over the next month and we wish all three of them the very best of luck with their applications!

 

‘Languages are so important in a globalised world’

And as well as responses from colleagues, the thoughts of students on the question of language uptake and what prompted them to become language learners also keep coming in, like the following post from Samantha who is currently in her final year of a BA Hons in French and Spanish:

‘I started learning Spanish after I moved house at 6 years old. I found my dad’s old Spanish vocab and grammar books from when he studied it in high school and, although I couldn’t read much of my native language at that age, it just amazed me that there were so many people out there that could speak and understand a language different from my own, so I wanted to break down that barrier and learn more because that fascinated me so much.

I had a very basic knowledge of Spanish until I went on holiday to Spain for the first time at age 10. I absolutely fell in love with the language, the culture and the country and decided to keep learning it until today. Then when French was introduced to our course in Primary 6, I could relate it to what I already knew in Spanish which, in turn, facilitated my learning and understanding of French. Around this time, a Polish girl came to my school and she couldn’t speak a word of English, so I learned some Polish and we became good friends, and I am still more or less conversational in Polish.

In high school I absolutely loved learning French, but we couldn’t learn Spanish until we were in 3rd year and I forgot quite a lot of it. I was always quite disappointed with the languages system in my high school as there was only the option to choose Spanish or French, and due to the fact that nobody in the two years below mine chose French, they had totally eliminated it from the curriculum and replaced it with Spanish, which I was really quite sad about. I then went to Uni at 16 to continue studying languages, and now I can speak Spanish, French, Italian, Polish and some German and Japanese.

I think languages are so, so important in a world as globalised as ours, and it felt so great to make friends with people that I may not have become friends with in the first place if I didn’t speak their language. We often seem to expect people to speak English when we go abroad, and I’ve witnessed first-hand British people going abroad and shouting repeatedly in English when a native of that country didn’t understand them, and it always annoyed me. So, personally, I felt like when going on holiday the natives of that country immediately had a lot more respect for me and were more open to conversing with/helping me when they found out that I could speak some of their language.

When I found out about the BBC study, I was so shocked. I think that due to language apps and online translation services as well as the expectation for people to speak English no matter their mother tongue, more and more people nowadays no longer feel the need to learn a new language. However, I think learning languages is essential for a variety of reasons, both for going on holiday or professional opportunities, as well as giving life new perspective and seeing the world in a different light through learning about other cultures and meeting people from other countries. I feel like learning a language helps bring people in this world together.’

Many, many thanks to Samantha for this great blog post and we hope you’ll continue with your current languages, and keep finding ways of picking up new ones over the coming months and years!

‘Hearing someone speaking another language always seemed slightly magical’

I’m delighted to say that responses are still coming in to the emails I sent out to colleagues and students last week asking about how and why they started learning languages… and how and why they’ve kept going with them. Emeline Morin is a Lecturer with us at Stirling, originally from France but now working in Scotland:

Like Mathilde, I started learning bits and bobs of English from songs. For instance, aged 5 or so, I vividly remember my mum telling me what “I will always love you” means from Whitney Houston’s song.

I only properly started to learn English in high school, aged 11, and I was very excited to start. I come from a very rural part of France and never really travelled as a child, so to me, hearing someone speak a foreign language, no matter which one, always seemed slightly magical.

I’ve always been a big reader, and when I think about it, my love for books definitely impacted my wish to learn languages. When I was 12, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire came out in English in July and would not be published in French until the end of November. I was so frustrated, I spent hours on forums searching for the (usually fairly rough) translations people wrote chapter by chapter. That’s when I became very dedicated to learning English because I decided that I just had to read the books in original from then on.

In high school, I also picked up Latin (which included a trip to Italy!) and Spanish. By the end of high school, I loved languages so much, I decided to do a degree in English and Spanish and I also picked up a bit of Mandarin, Russian, and German. (For some reason, German is the one language I have tried and just do not seem to be able to retain AT ALL).

This year marks the tenth anniversary of my move to Scotland. Being able to live abroad and to settle down here, to make friends and family has been incredible. Not only do I still feel that I am learning every day, I have also learnt a lot about my own language and culture while teaching it and confronting it to an outsider’s point of view.

Learning a language is not always easy, and is sometimes frustrating, but I don’t know of many things as rewarding either.’

Many thanks to Emeline for finding the time to send us this post – we’re hoping to find ways of following up on the references to songs and books and language learning over forthcoming blog posts!

From Stirling to Brussels…

As you’ll have gathered, one of the characteristics of students who graduate with degrees involving languages is that their professional lives often take them to new countries and continents, with travel forming a key part of careers and social lives alike. A great example of this comes with this post from Katja, who graduated from Stirling a few years ago on our International Management with European Languages and Society degree:

2019 Spanz Stirling to Brussels Pic I Mar19‘When I wrote my last post for the French at Stirling blog, I had just graduated with my BA (Hons) in International Management, French and Spanish and was about to start a postgraduate course at Durham University. That was almost three years ago, back in 2016. And even though a lot has changed since my university days, my passion for languages, getting to know new cultures and countries has remained the same.

After spending a year in Durham and finishing a MA in Politics and International Relations I was offered the Blue Book Traineeship – a paid internship with the European Commission – and started to work at the European Environmental Agency in Copenhagen in October 2017. The internship lasted until February 2018 and over the course of these five months I gained great insight into the workings of the European Union, the work of the EEA and some of the topics they deal with, especially, circular economy, bid data and integrated environmental assessments.

2019 Spanz Stirling to Brussels Pic III Mar19

From Copenhagen I moved to Brussels in March 2018, where I worked as a trainee in the representation of one of the regional governments of Austria, helping in the drafting of weekly newsletters on various political and social topics at the regional as well as EU level and attending conferences and events. The dynamics of this traineeship and the multinational and multilingual aspect of this work made me apply for a full-time position within my regional government and luckily enough I was successful. Since September 2018 I have been working for my regional government as part of the Department for European and International Affairs based in Brussels, which functions as the connecting office between the institutions of the European Union and the regional government back in Austria. This way I have found a job that combines both my interest in politics as well as languages. Having lived and worked in Brussels for almost a year now, I understand the importance of knowing several languages even more and am grateful I actually use the knowledge I have gained during my student years in my working as well as social life.

2019 Spanz Stirling to Brussels Pic V Mar19Since French is one of the main languages spoken in Belgium and one of the three European Union working languages, I believe that my training in Stirling prepared me for the environment and position I am working in at the moment. I am currently using French, my native German as well as English on a daily basis, which is exactly the working environment I was hoping for and envisioned when I decided to study a combined business and language degree at Stirling University.’

Many thanks, indeed, to Katja for sending us this fantastic post and we’re delighted to hear that things are going so well for you in Brussels – we look forward to more updates over the coming months and years and wish you all the very best.

A Year in Geneva: Translation, Football and Alpine Road Trips

As regular followers of the blog will know, most French at Stirling students will either spend a year working as an English Language Assistantship at some point over their degree (usually between Year 2 and 3, sometimes immediately after graduation) or a semester on Study Abroad at one of our range of partners across the French-speaking world. Every now and then, though, we have a student who manages to spend a full year on Study Abroad and that’s the situation Tom finds himself in at the moment, in the 3rd year of his BA Hons in French and Spanish:

2019 Lock Geneva Photo 3 Mar19‘This year I have had the opportunity to study French and Spanish in the Translation and Interpretation Faculty at the University of Geneva. Having recently completed a year of teaching in Colombia with the British Council, I headed to Switzerland back in the hot seat as a student again.

Having never previously visited, my initial thoughts of Geneva were a pleasant surprise – everything worked, things ran on time and the locals were kind, welcoming and accepting of my rusty French. I had a week to settle in before university started, giving me time to explore the city and the surrounding areas, as well as to find a regular game of football. After a few meet ups with ESN I met some great people from all over and I went from there.

2019 Lock Geneva Photo 2 Mar19University life here has been great, learning translation in both Spanish and French has given me great opportunities to test out a potential career path and what’s more is that the other modules on offer at the university also help me further my other interests such as history and reading. The best part, however, are the people you meet at the university and around the city – be they other ERASMUS students or students from other walks of life.

Geneva can be difficult for immersive language learning, as individuals come from a variety of countries to study, live and work there, making English the de facto language at times. Nevertheless, I found a variety of local cafés and bars that provided me with opportunities to improve my French and after a couple of weeks it had improved to the point where I could hold conversations.

2019 Lock Geneva Photo 5 Mar19

Geneva is famous for plenty of things but, after a year in a small Colombian town, the most notable for me is the high cost of living. It can be extortionate at times, but this has just encouraged me to explore a wider variety of places. My friends and I often get buses, cheap flights or rent a minibus to do weekend trips, ticking off places such as Milan, Lake Garda, Interlaken, Bern, Paris, and Berlin. That has been one of the best things about Geneva, its central location in Europe has given me the opportunity to get around everywhere. I can highly recommend taking road trips through the Swiss alpine countryside, you can see the whole landscape and get a real feel for the culture of each place.

2019 Lock Geneva Photo 1 Mar19Living in a different country has its positives and negatives, the comforts of home can be sorely missed, I’ve realised however that being proactive, doing activities and exploring your new home is the best antidote.

Overall, my experience has been a great one and my language skills have improved immeasurably (even if I sometimes forget how to speak English!). Although tough at times, these have been the situations where I’ve learned the most and I consider myself very lucky to have had this opportunity to meet new people, live in a new country and experience a different university.’

Many thanks to Tom for the great blog post and pictures – we’re delighted this year has worked out so well and look forward to welcoming you back to Stirling in the Autumn!

‘I’ve had a great and rewarding time learning languages!’

As I’d hoped, thoughts and responses keep coming in from students and colleagues alike about their experiences with language learning so, as promised, as long as they keep coming in, I’ll very happily keep posting them, starting this week with Nick, a final year student on our International Management and Intercultural Studies programme:

2019 Masdorp Pic 2 Mar19‘Not counting English as my second language (because I started learning that alongside German as an infant) my ‘actual’ second language was Latin. I chose to take it in high school when I was 9 because I wanted to be an archaeologist at the time. Despite a change in my career aspirations, I decided to stick with Latin until the end of high school, until I was 17. While I was never too bad at Latin, I wouldn’t consider it as a hugely useful language these days, other than for learning other languages such as French, which I started studying in grade 8 when I was 12. I have stuck with French until now because I have always enjoyed it, despite dropping it for a term in high school due to a teacher with a more challenging personality. Having spent a semester studying in Paris, I have decided that I very much enjoy French language and culture and want to continue engaging with it as much as I can, especially during my upcoming Master’s degree in Strasbourg.

2019 Masdorp Pic 5 Mar19

Apart from Latin and French, I studied Italian in primary school for three years and spent three months living in Italy after high school. I sadly don’t speak much Italian anymore, although I definitely want to pick it up again because I go on holiday to Italy regularly and always enjoyed speaking the language when I was younger.

2019 Masdorp Pic 4 Mar19Overall, I have had a great and very rewarding time learning languages, not at all only for any career considerations but more so because it has enabled me to live in the respective countries for work and study and to speak to the locals and exchange students in Scotland in their own language which always makes them feel more comfortable and is a very rewarding feeling. Additionally, it makes me feel like I could live and work in way more places after Uni than I could have done before!’

Many, many thanks to Nick for this great blog post and we wish you all the best not only for the last few weeks of this semester here but also for the year ahead in Strasbourg.