Many thanks to Alexia, Claire and Pedro from our current final year cohort, and to Céline who is spending a semester on Erasmus exchange at Stirling, for having given up their time last week to meet with local school pupil Kimberley and to talk to her about studying Languages at University. Kimberley is currently in her final year at St Mungo’s High School in Falkirk where she is working on her Scottish Baccalaureate in Languages Interdisciplinary Project comparing undergraduate degrees in Languages at Scottish Universities with those offered by Spanish Universities. The meeting gave Kimberley a chance to ask questions about our students’ experiences of Study Abroad, their thoughts on Languages and employability and their own sense of how their language level has progressed over the course of their studies, all of which will feed into the overall project. Thanks to all for their time and good luck to Kimberley with the project!
The past couple of blog posts have focused on French at Stirling students’ achievements and activities – now it’s time for an update on what staff have been up to and what’s coming up for us over the weeks and months ahead…
Congratulations, firstly, to Fiona Barclay who has just learned that she has been awarded a prestigious AHRC Early Career Researcher Leadership Fellow award which she will hold for 23 months from July 2018 onwards. The award will enable Fiona to work on a major project entitled ‘From colonisers to refugees: narratives and representations of the French settlers of Algeria.’
Back in December, David Murphy was invited to serve on the fiction jury at the 8th Algiers International Film Festival: ‘an intense but fascinating week, watching lots of films and meeting filmmakers, actors and other creative artists from all over the world. There was even time for a visit to the famous Casbah, which will be familiar to students from La Bataille d’Alger. Our special jury prize went to a wonderful Algerian film En attendant les hirondelles by a young Algerian director, Karim Moussaoui. You should be able to catch it in Scotland later this year.’
David is also the main organiser for the Scottish tour of the exhibition ‘Putting People on Display’, a pared-down version of a major exhibition (‘Human Zoos: The Invention of the Savage’) organised by the French colonial history research group, ACHAC, which was held at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris in 2011/12. Three additional posters focusing on the Scottish context have been specially commissioned for this Scottish tour and a longer blog post will follow…
At the end of last year, Cristina Johnston was involved in organising the Stirling-based component of ATLAS’s week-long translation workshops. The workshop brought together a group of translators working between French and English, giving them an opportunity to focus on the translation of a range of articles and chapters under the ‘Translating History’ umbrella and under the expert guidance of Stirling’s Emerita Professor Siân Reynolds (translator, among many other things, of the crime fiction of Fred Vargas) and experienced translator Diane Meur. Workshop participants were also given the opportunity to talk to students on our postgraduate Translation Studies programmes and to visit Stirling’s own Pathfoot Press, courtesy of Kelsey Jackson Williams.
The dossier on ‘Cinema and Childhood’ Cristina coordinated with contributions from a group of Stirling undergraduates (past and present) was also published towards the end of last year in Intellect’s journal of undergraduate film scholarship Film Matters. The dossier contains articles on representations of ‘Orphan Annie’ by Hayley J. Burrell, a comparison of La Vita è bella and The Boy in the Stripded Pyjamas by Floriana Guerra, an examination of children and the destruction of innocence in WWII films by Laura Jones, analysis of ‘children as the uncanny’ in The White Ribbon from Regina Mosch, Ralitsa Shentova’s exploration of girlhood, fairytales and reality through Atonement and Crows, Lewis Urquhart’s essay on ‘concealed childhoods’ in Caché and Conor Syme’s reflections on childhood faith in science fiction. A fantastic set of articles by some impressive future film scholars!
Elizabeth Ezra’s book The Cinema of Things was published by Bloomsbury in early November last year, and her updated chapter on ‘The Cinemising Process: Film-Going in the Silent Era’ is in the 2nd edition of The French Cinema Book just out from the BFI. And, as Elizabeth launches her new option module on Children’s Literature, we’re particularly pleased to be able to sing the praises of her children’s novel Ruby McCracken: Tragic without Magic which was named by The Herald as ‘One of the Nine Best Books for Children and Teenagers’ in its Christmas 2017 round-up. The novel also won the 2016 Kelpies Award for New Scottish Writing for Children.
Bill Marshall – whose ‘Cinéma-Monde’ conference will take place in Stirling at the end of May – was recently invited to the University of Vienna where he gave a talk entitled ‘Quebec Cinema as Global Cinema?’ and, later this month, he will be at UNISA (South Africa) where he will deliver a keynote on ‘Deleuze, Guattari, Hocquenghem: Anti-Oedipal Texts and Minor Cinemas’ as part of their February Lectures on ‘Queer Life in the Global South.’
And our Language Team (Jean-Michel DesJacques, Mathilde Mazau and Brigitte Depret) continue their hard work updating our language programmes, including our new format of oral and aural teaching for final year students which enables them to benefit from weekly 15-minute paired sessions, as well as more standard classroom-based conversation practice.
More to follow on much of the above as the blog continues its revival!
One of the topics that frequently comes up in conversation at Open Days and Applicant Days, as well as with our current students, revolves around the question of the jobs that Languages students go on to do. As many of the posts on this blog show, there are more answers to that question than you might expect, ranging from language teachers to commercial coordinators for major wine exporters, from translators to financial crime analysts with much, much else in between. For many of our students, the benefits of languages in terms of their employability become clear while they are still studying and find themselves taking on part-time or vacation jobs where their languages make them a real asset to a particular company or workplace. And, in return, that workplace-based experience of using language skills brings its own benefits to students in terms of their fluency, confidence, communication skills and all-round employability.
To give a sense of what this can actually mean in practice, we’re very pleased to get a chance to post the following article by Andrea Kolluder who is currently in her 4th semester and who has a part-time job working for a local distillery:
‘Learning French has had its many challenges. I have often found it difficult to improve my spoken French, simply because I had a great fear of speaking French words out loud. The fear of pronouncing things wrong, and making terrible mistakes with grammar would pull me back from speaking any of the French I knew. I would have never thought that it would be the subject of whisky that would eventually break my wall of fear of the spoken language. Yet, in May last year, when I started working for a whisky distillery, I gained some much-needed confidence in my spoken French.
When asked at my interview about whether I thought myself capable of doing guided tours around the distillery in French I said yes without hesitation. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. The concept of speaking French to native speakers – tourists with many questions no less – was terrifying at first. But like with many things, once you do it the first time, the next time becomes easier, and so after the first French conversation, the next one suddenly seemed a lot less frightening.
Thankfully my interactions have all been positive, which really helped. French-speaking visitors seem to always be glad to find a French speaker willing to explain the mystery of whisky to them in their native language. In return for a French tour, they were always patient and understanding even when it took me a lot longer to explain certain things to them. They would help me find words I couldn’t find off the top of my head or wait until I finally realised the words I was missing. The best part was that in the end, despite pronunciation or grammar mistakes, I could get meaning across. People were actually understanding my French. And of course, the best motivator of all, was that little praise that my French was very good, just as they were saying goodbye.
A job in tourism is a great one for making you realise how much you can communicate even without words. When you do know a few words though, the quality of the conversation grows for both sides. After many challenging language situations from disinterested teenagers to very curious families, I have built an interesting set of miscellaneous vocabulary about whisky in the French language. And now, I look forward to using it even more often.’
Many, many thanks to Andrea for taking the time to write this blog post and for patiently waiting for me to actually get it online!
The blog has been a little silent of late – busy Autumn semester, hectic start to the new Spring semester, Christmas break in between – but we’re back now, with plenty of news and updates on life in French at Stirling. And given that we’re resurfacing on a rather grey and cold Scottish Tuesday, it’s particular pleasing to be able to kick off our 2018 with a post about far sunnier climes thanks to current final year student Fergus who, this time last year, was starting his Semester Abroad in Morocco:
“When it came around to choosing where to go for my semester abroad there wasn’t really much of a choice for me. Both academically and personally I felt in somewhat of a rut and needed a big change. Somehow, I misconstrued how the applications went, wrongly assuming that the choices were ranked on merit or academic performance, so when I saw I was (the only one) going to Morocco I was a wee bit surprised, albeit elated.
I filled out all the application forms with an equal degree of anxiety, excitement, and haste. It took a while to hear back from EGE Rabat, which as I quickly found was normal upon my arrival there, and I started to get organised to go. I went out almost month before the term actually started to try to get accustomed and it only dawned on me that I was going to Africa whilst I was sat on the plane. After arriving in Tanger via Malaga, I got a taxi to where I was staying, met the owner of the flat, then went out to look about sans phone, map etc which was fun. I bought a sim card and had some tea, got lost, then went home for an early night before the 4-hour train journey to Rabat in the morning.
Everything had happened pretty quickly up until this point where it all slowed down and I experienced ‘Moroccan time’ as I was to become very accustomed to during my time there. The train was almost empty on departure but 3 hours in we sat waiting until another train stopped next to us, all its passengers joined us and I found myself standing for the rest of the journey. Tall, blonde and impossibly pale, packed in like a sardine, and not understanding a word around me – I’d found the change I was looking for.
If I felt at a loss upon arriving, that feeling quickly disappeared as I started university and made friends. Everyone I met – teachers, international students, and especially Moroccan students – were extremely friendly and welcoming. The warm and welcoming nature of people in Morocco is one of the fondest memories that stays with me. Unlike the UK or large parts of Europe, where no-one has time for anyone else it seems these days, almost everyone I met, friends to be and strangers alike, had time to stop and chat. Whether that chat was helping with directions, proudly telling you of their country, or being eager to learn more about yours, there was always a smile and a ‘mharba’ [welcome] offered.
Although L’École de Gouvernance et d’Économie, is primarily focused on economics, politics, and international relations, I had the opportunity to follow some amazing courses such as Anthoplogie des Religions and Genre, Féminisme et Sexualité, which previously I hadn’t had the chance to take. As well as this, there was Classic Arabic and Moroccan Arabic [Darija] classes offered for everyone from absolute beginners like myself to experienced speaker. These classes were a wonderful help during my time there, as it was amazing to learn some Arabic as well as dialect specific to the country, but it also went a long way when out and about interacting with people.
We were able to get out and about every weekend, and with plenty free time from university, there was plenty opportunity to explore the country. Exploring Rabat itself, there is so much to do, whether wandering through the medina and trying the various foods being produced in the street, visiting the various historical sites, surfing, or just hanging out at a café, there is no shortage of things to do and see. Outside of the capital, Morocco has so much to offer! I was taken aback by how varied the country is. Every 100km the landscape changes, from beautiful beaches with huge waves to vast cityscapes, to the spectacular snow-capped Atlas mountains, or the western Sahara desert, it has it all. Most exchange students I met were always keen to get out and visited different parts of the country whenever possible, my first weekend I found myself visiting a snow-covered, European looking town in the North dubbed the ‘Switzerland of Morocco’!
Particular highlights for me where, trekking in the desert and staying overnight with the berber guys we were with, enjoying an amazing home cooked meal with me class at our French teacher’s house, surfing constantly for two weeks after term finished, and changing a flat tyre at 2500m above sea level in the Atlas mountains (believe it or not), and arranging an exchange of sorts with the guy that helped as way of a thank you, as well as a week-long solo trip around the North after everyone else had left. All these times and more, combined with the real and lasting friendships formed during my time there helped to make the experience unforgettable. I couldn’t recommend a semester abroad enough, or just visiting Morocco otherwise, in case you couldn’t tell already.”
Many, many thanks to Fergus for sending us this blog post and for patiently waiting for me to get round to adding it! With many of our Year 3 students currently off on their Semesters Abroad, we’re looking forward to being able to post more tales of travels and languages over the weeks ahead.
French at Stirling is delighted to announce that a series of films from the annual French Film Festival will be screening at the MacRobert on various dates over the course of November. Building on the success of last year’s festival screenings, the MacRobert’s Film Programmer Grahame Reid explains: ‘For the second year in a row, we are delighted to partner with French at University of Stirling and be part of the UK-wide French Film Festival to bring more screenings from the crème de la crème of French-speaking cinema than ever before!’
Screenings start this Thursday (2 November) at 7.30 with La Fille de Brest, followed by Patients on Thursday 9 November at 7.30. On Monday 20 November, there’s a screening of Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge and then, on Thursday 23 November, the screening of Mercenaire will be preceded by a public lecture by Professor Bill Marshall at 5.30 and a reception sponsored by Erasmus@30 and Stirling’s International Office. The season of French Film Festival films will come to a close with L’Amant Double on Thursday 30 November.
Full details of all the films and screenings can be found on the MacRobert Cinema webpages. All screenings are open to the general public.
There’s no teaching this week at Stirling but that doesn’t mean everything stops and our Language Coordinator, Jean-Michel DesJacques, along with his Spanish counter-part Jose Ferreira-Cayuela, Fiona Buckland from our International Office and a few of our students have been at Holyrood to represent the University at a celebration of 30 years of the Erasmus programme. Dozens of our students – across French and Spanish – benefit from our involvement in the Erasmus programme every year, spending a semester at one of our extensive range of Erasmus partners that stretches from Caen in Northern France to Granada in Southern Spain.
As Fiona Buckland explains, ‘the Higher Education Institutes of Scotland held a joint celebration at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 24 October to celebrate 30 years of the Erasmus Programme. Students from the University of Stirling were invited to attend and contribute an article to a brochure for the event and be filmed for a video explaining what Erasmus means to them.
Erin Cawley who is doing a BA in International Management with European Languages and Society (and spent a semester at the Universidad de Santander), Suzanne Buiter, who is in the final year of her BA in International Management with European Languages and Society (and spent her Semester Abroad at the Universidad de Navarra) and Alex Sorlei, who has just started the final year of a BA International Politics and Languages (with a Semester Abroad at Sciences Po, Paris) attended the event with Jean-Michel DesJacques and Jose Ferreira-Cayuela. Speakers included the Deputy First Minister John Swinney, Alan Smith Director (Erasmus Bureau of the European Commission [1987-92]) and student participants.’
For Jose and Jean-Michel, the event was an important way to mark the role that Erasmus plays within languages degrees both for staff and students. As Jose puts it, ‘the event was a reflection of what Erasmus+ is all about: meeting people from all over Europe, exchanging ideas and experiences and a great opportunity to taste food/drink from different places. The setting was also great and the presence of very important figures of the Scottish Government proved that exchanges with Europe are a priority for Scotland in the future. Whether we still call it Erasmus+ or something else, is a different issue.’ Similarly, for Jean-Michel, the sense of community that Erasmus creates is crucial: ‘It was great to be amongst friends for the 30-year anniversary of the launch of the Erasmus programme. I felt a bit jealous at the wealth of opportunities young students – in fact young people in general – have to go abroad. For a short while, we managed to forget the uncertainty of it all and decided to celebrate one of the greatest schemes to come out of the European institutions.’
Thanks to Fiona, Jean-Michel and Jose for their contributions (and photos!) and to Erasmus+ for helping our students over the years. Many, many tales of Erasmus+ experiences to be found among the pages of this blog!
French (and Spanish) at Stirling students in their second year and in their final year were recently given the opportunity to attend a meeting with a representative of the British Council to find out about their English Language Assistantship scheme. We have a great success rate with ELA applications at Stirling and, every year, 20-30 of our students end up being offered contracts to teach English across a range of schools and universities in the wider Francophone and Hispanophone worlds. One of last year’s French at Stirling graduates, David Vescio, applied for an ELA during his final year and has just sent us this account of the start of his year teaching in Colombia, as well as plenty of pictures to brighten up a rather grey mid-semester break…
“Panicking about what you are going to do after university? Don’t worry; I have graduated and I am still not sure… and lo and behold, I am alive and well!
During my last year at university, I was trying to keep my options open so I applied for a PGDE in French and Spanish in Scotland as well as a teaching assistantship in Latin America through the British Council. I was lucky enough to be offered both and after careful consideration I decided to go with the latter and go to Colombia. Why opt for the less secure option when I could have studied for my postgrad in education, become a qualified teacher in a couple of years and found a stable job in Scotland? It’s simple: I just wasn’t ready.
Most of my fellow graduates still aren’t sure about what they want to do long-term and the secret to having a relatively stress-free last year as an undergrad is to keep your options open and have a back-up plan. Still stressing? Don’t worry, you have your dissertation to look forward to!
I would definitely encourage students to go away for a year after university with the British Council, especially if you are interested in travelling, teaching and languages. If you go off to teach for a year it doesn’t necessarily mean you will end up teaching for the rest of your life but it is an opportunity to gain experience doing a ¨real life¨ job in a relatively relaxed atmosphere while still having some freedom to travel as you will be working part-time.
I was appointed to the Catholic University of Pereira, a relatively small town located in the coffee region of Colombia. Before leaving for Pereira, I attended an induction session in Bogota with all the other language assistants in Colombia which was a lot of fun as we were provided with free food and accommodation for 3 days. This was a really nice opportunity to meet everyone taking part in the programme as well as the language assistants from other countries such as France, Germany, India, etc. Language assistants are posted all over Colombia so it is a great opportunity to go travelling with them and visit this wonderful country and beyond!
When I got to Pereira, my tutor helped me find accommodation and the university staff have been really helpful! Although I definitely stick out like a sore thumb, Colombians are always welcoming and curious to know where I come from as well as what I am doing here. Lots of people have invited me to their homes for dinner and despite the bad reputation Colombia has had in recent years, I would definitely recommend it as a memorable place to visit.
I have only been here for about 2 months and I don’t think I have ever travelled so much! Since I only work 18 hours a week, this leaves me plenty of time to explore the region and I have been to some pretty incredible places as you can see in the pictures. I have been to Bogota, Medellin, Salento, Guatape, Manizales, Cali and Bucaramanga so just imagine all the places I will have been to after spending a whole year here! People ask me if I miss my family and friends and of course I do, but there are so many new places to go, things to do and people to meet! So the good things definitely outweigh the bad. I am still, however, struggling with Irn Bru withdrawal symptoms…
I think being a language assistant has really helped me become more adaptable. For example, I never expected to be asked to be teaching technical terms in industrial design classes, but I have managed to do so and I have even learnt a wee bit about industrial design in the process! I have had the opportunity to take part in an International Relations class every week where I talk to students about the differences between the U.K. and Great Britain and the different nations within the former as well as explaining to them the concepts of Scottish Independence and Brexit, but also the topics of multiculturalism and freedom of religion as well as less cheerful subjects such as terrorism and the Grenfell tower fire.
I have started up a conversation club for students and another for teachers where we discuss current local and global affairs and have also been recording a weekly radio show where I talk about my experience here in Pereira and compare it to life in Scotland. Believe it or not, quite a few people don’t know where or what Scotland is! But let’s be honest, how many people reading this right now actually know where Colombia is? One of my students even asked me last week what ¨I dinnae ken¨ meant because apparently they were watching a Scottish YouTuber… the joys of teaching!
With all of that, plus the hot weather (and despite the accompanying Scottish ¨tan¨) as well as the incredible variety of exotic fruits, I am really glad I decided to take a break from studying as, let’s face it, travelling is a form of education in itself.
So, to all fourth year students who may be reading this blog piece, remember to enjoy your last year at university and to keep your options open.”
Many, many thanks to David for finding the time to send us this post and we’d echo his advice – of course – about keeping open all the options a languages degree offers!!