Tag: Brigitte Depret

Happy Holidays! Joyeuses fêtes!

Teaching ended here last Friday and our students have just finished their oral exams and handed in last essays of the semester so – apart from now waiting for feedback and grades… and the occasional exam in other subjects – it’s time to settle into the festive break until the new semester in January. To mark the occasion, our Language Assistants Brigitte Depret (for French) and Maria Sanchez (for Spanish), organised a pre-Christmas get-together for Year 3 and 4 students yesterday and Brigitte has very kindly written the following post with plenty of positive thoughts on the semester that’s ending from those in attendance!

‘As the semester is drawing to a close, and the exams are over, a Christmas party co-hosted by our Spanish colleagues, was the perfect opportunity to ask our 3rd and 4th year students what the highlights of the semester have been for them.

Kirsten and Charlotte

Charlotte, in the final year of a BA Hons in French and Journalism, “enjoyed the semester very much even if it was a lot of work. Working on translation (both from English into French and French into English) really enhanced my skills. We also have a lot of support from staff.” For, Kirsten, who is in Year 3 of our BA Hons in International Management with European Languages and Society, the semester was “hard work, but well worth it. Fiona, our lecturer, helped me a lot and gave me all the support I needed, especially in translation.”


Colm, a final year BA Hons French and Spanish student, has found the shift back to Stirling after his Semester Abroad in Spain challenging but says “we were lucky to have extra oral classes this year. These were really helpful to me. We are also lucky to have very friendly staff here, and interesting classes to keep us motivated.” Colm’s fellow final year French and Spanish student, Luise says she is “really happy with the language class where the students are encouraged to take part. Our small classes are ideal to work in and it makes learning French a very enjoyable experience.”

Colm and Luise

David, Lysiane, Conni and Jennifer, who are all also taking both French and Spanish in their final year, were equally positive about the past semester. David enjoyed both the weekly written and spoken language classes this semester: “With Mathilde, in our Spoken Language class, we speak about current affairs, French culture and French society, which keeps us up-to-date with everything we should know about France. It’s a class-based discussion, with lots of interaction in a relaxed atmosphere. I was lucky to have Cristina for written language. As a teacher, she is very approachable and always there to help. Anytime you need support, she’s there.” For Lysiane, “Talking about current affairs, politics have been especially helpful to understand the French society. My teachers were all lovely, especially Cristina who did help a lot in translation. It has helped me to expand my vocabulary and gain more confidence. It was also a great human experience. At Stirling, there’s a real feeling of community.” And Conni and Jennifer are clear that “Our confidence has improved a lot, thanks to great tutors.”

Alongside the weekly oral classes, our French Language Assistants, Brigitte and Mathilde, also scheduled shorter individual and paired slots for further opportunities to speak French throughout the semester for our Year 3 and 4 students, something that seems to have been particularly appreciated by Brett: “I really enjoyed the course, because it opens lots of room to progress, especially because of the extra one-to-one language slots we were offered this year. I am glad I had the opportunity to improve in a well-structured environment and thanks to small classes.” And for Anna, a Year 3 French and Spanish student, the “highlight was the written class which I enjoyed very much. The articles we read in class were really interesting. They widened my knowledge in the realm of politics and French society.”

Michael and Thomas

Determined not to be out-done, our Year 2 students also got into the festive spirit, deciding to wrap up the semester with a Xmas Jumper challenge during their Language Class. The idea came after they talked about fashion as one of the topics of the Language class in November. They wanted to do something funny and memorable, and then the idea of a Hawaiian shirt came up… Alas, weather not permitting, they had to give up on that idea and Xmas jumper, it was! Two students arrived dressed as Santa with some balloons and nice treats for everybody, while the majority, including our tutor had on their very fashionable jumpers…

Year 2 Christmas Jumpers

For Jack, who is in the 2nd year of his BA Hons in French and Spanish with Professional Secondary Education, the “Langage Parlé sessions have been relaxed, fun and informative. I greatly look forward to this class every week where we just sit down and spend an hour speaking French. Whether it’s stereotypes or Siberian Skiing, fashion or Facebook, the LP class has given me the opportunity to improve my ability to express my opinions and I feel more confident using French in conversation.”

Another group of dynamic students was also up for the Xmas jumper challenge. On that occasion, Rebecca (in the middle, below) went the extra mile to bring us chocolates, cupcakes and biscuits. Who said we can’t speak  French, learn and have fun at the same time?!!


And finally, for Amy, who is in the 2nd year of her BA Hons in Primary Education with Modern Languages, “French this year has been great. I really enjoy the written grammar classes as it gives me the opportunity to practice the grammar that is so necessary for us during exams. Langage Parlé classes are also really good as you get the necessary practice speaking French in a very relaxed and unpressured setting. It’s been a really helpful and fun semester.”‘

Amy, Shana and Holly

Many thanks to Brigitte for putting together this blog post and to the students for their positive and kind words! Enjoy your break and joyeuses fêtes! We look forward to welcoming back our Year 4 students (and Year 2 and 1, of course!) in the New Year and to hearing tales of Semester Abroad adventures next Autumn from our Year 3 students.

Reaching the end of Semester I: ‘I’m excited to see where the rest of the year takes me!’

Only a couple of weeks until teaching and the inevitable oral exams and essay deadlines come to an end and this seems as good a time as any to update our series of profiles of current French at Stirling students with the following post by Semester 1 student Mairi Edwards:

“Salut, my name is Mairi and I am a first-year undergraduate student at the University of Stirling studying French and Religion. When I was asked by the French department if I was interested in writing an article for their blog, I jumped at the chance, but I also had no clue what to write about. So, I started to think, what would I have wanted to know a year ago when I was applying to study French at universities across the UK.

One of the first things that came to mind was the course content. This is an obvious one but something I think is very important. French at Stirling, at least in first year, is comprised of one lecture per week along with three seminars to improve speaking, writing and culture knowledge. I had studied all of those except the latter at school. So far, I have very much enjoyed learning about the history of France and some of the novels and films it has to offer. One of the main reasons I picked the University of Stirling was the flexibility the institution offered. I wanted the option to be able to study lots of different things during my time at university, and Stirling is perfect for that.

However, the main reason I chose Stirling was not because of the course flexibility or the distance from home; it was in fact the campus. From the age of eight I have wanted to come here. It all began with a school trip to see a pantomime that the university Drama Society had put on. I remember being so amazed by the university and how beautiful the campus was. Ever since that day, I was determined to attend university here. I can say wholeheartedly that my instincts were correct. Stirling is fantastic!

I’m lucky enough to be living on campus, which means on my way to class I get to take in the picturesque surroundings that the university has to offer. This is one of the many qualities that I love about Stirling. The campus is stunning, and I think it’s one of the most beautiful universities in the UK, but maybe I’m a little biased. I’ve met some wonderful people here at Stirling, and I think I’ve been very lucky to have such great flatmates. We get on really well, which was something I was apprehensive about before coming to uni. I wasn’t entirely sure if moving out was the best idea for me, but it has honestly been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Of course, it has not all been easy. I had to get used to cooking for myself, cleaning up, and doing my own laundry. I have always considered myself to be quite an independent person, but university made me realise how much I relied on my parents. Simple things like deciding what to eat and what food to buy was something I struggled with a lot in the first couple of weeks, and still do.

University is not easy; in fact, it’s very difficult but I’ve had so much out of it already. The first week of classes was a shock to the system. The idea of having to prepare notes and do reading before class was something I couldn’t quite wrap my head around. At first, it didn’t make sense to me. University is very different from school, in that you must be your own motivator. The tutors will not nag you to do the work; it’s up to you to study. However, compared to what some of my friends at other universities have told me, Stirling is a lot more ‘hands-on’ than other institutions. The lecturers will go the extra mile to help you out but you must ask first. They aren’t psychic, so they can’t read your mind when you have no idea what’s going on. This was something else I struggled with at first: asking for help. At one point, I just had to admit to myself that I was confused, so I emailed my tutor and she was more than willing to help. I’m only a few months into my first semester at university, so I’m still very much new to the student life but I think it is starting to make sense.

Anyway, back to French. Languages have always been a passion of mine and they really interested me. I like the idea of being able to communicate with lots of different people and learning about new cultures. I have really enjoyed the French course so far. I was apprehensive about the culture side of the programme, as I had never studied this at school but it is one of my favourite parts of the course. The parlé section is also really fascinating, and I have learned many colloquial statements including ideas about sheep in waves (I don’t remember the exact translation) and numerous discussions about finding other words for ‘interesting.’ I’m sure Brigitte (my parlé tutor) will understand what I’m talking about…

It’s very strange to think that I have been at university for over two months now. It has gone by so quickly and before I know it, first year will be over. I’m very excited to see where the rest of the year takes me, and I’m looking forward to continuing my studies here at the University of Stirling.

Thanks for reading, à bientôt!”

Many thanks to Mairi for this blog post and enjoy the well-earned Christmas break!

Life as a Lectrice: New Linguistic Adventures

2016 Mathilde photoToday is the last day of undergraduate teaching at Stirling for this academic year and it seemed like a good point to post an article by the newest addition to our teaching team, French Language Assistant Mathilde Mazau (who also happens to be one of our RATE nominees for this year):

“I was born and raised in France and came to live in Scotland in 2007. I absolutely love my new country and I can’t believe it will be 10 years next year. I live in Glasgow with my two little trilingual girls (English/French/Gaelic) so languages and multi-culturalism are an integral part of our daily life.

I started teaching English 14 years ago in France, and I have loved every single aspect of it. I also work from home as a freelance translator, specialising in contemporary art translations. Teaching and translating are the perfect balance for me. I started teaching English at University level 12 years ago, in Normandy and then French here in Scottish universities in 2009.

Teaching my own language has been a fascinating journey and one that made me realise that you never really stop learning about your mother tongue: languages are incredible and teaching them has really become a passion. I started as a lectrice here in Stirling in September 2015 and I feel very fortunate to be part of the French team, on such a beautiful campus. My colleague Brigitte Depret and I share an office and we continuously discuss our teaching methods and experiences, which I find very stimulating and enriching.

My job as a native lectrice is to teach written and spoken French. Written tutorials focus on the grammatical aspect of the language and we all know how challenging it can be sometimes, but who doesn’t love the subjunctive or the fact that all adjectives agree in gender and number? Spoken tutorials are usually based on articles or topics seen in French news, and will lead to discussions and debates, in French bien sûr, where everyone is encouraged to take part. I love seeing my students improve their skills over the months/years and it never ceases to amaze me when they can finally have a long, structured conversation.

As this semester comes to an end, I am really looking forward to seeing my students again next September for new linguistic adventures.”

Thanks to Mathilde for the blog post and fingers crossed for the RATE awards!

Award Nominations for Students and Staff

Great news for four students at different stages of degrees involving French at Stirling who have all been invited to attend an interview for a Stevenson Exchange Scholarship for projects they plan to undertake while abroad over the next academic year. We hope to be able to give more details on the projects and the students’ successes after the interviews in late-April but, in the meantime, they know who they are and we wish them the best of luck for their interviews! (In the interests of full disclosure, 3 of the 4 have submitted proposals for projects in Spain but all are students taking French…)

Great news too on the staff front with news of nominations for this year’s RATE awards (Stirling University’s student-led prizes for excellence in teaching) with Fiona Barclay, Brigitte Depret, Mathilde Mazau and Cristina Johnston in the running for a range of awards including the ‘I love my tutor’ award, for ‘Excellence in Teaching in the Arts and Humanities’ and for ‘Outstanding Professional Mentoring and Personal Development’. Again, more news on these nominations to come later this month but congratulations to all colleagues who’ve been nominated and thank you to the students who did the nominating – it’s very much appreciated!

What’s it like being a ‘lectrice’ at Stirling?

At all levels of study in French at Stirling, our students have weekly oral and aural classes, in small groups, taught by our native Language Assistants, Brigitte Depret and Mathilde Mazau. Given the key role they play in our students’ progress through their studies, we thought it’d be good to start the year with their take on what it’s like to be a lectrice at Stirling. Here’s Brigitte’s view of things:

2016 Brigitte Photo

‘Since first being introduced into universities the lectrice or lecteur has become essential to students’ language learning. Despite the considerable versatility of the job in terms of responsibilities, most of us have teaching qualifications or a university degree. I had a previous teaching activity in France where I taught English. Now, my main activity consists in teaching my native language at university level, being a free-lance translator and in my rare spare time, writing a book. As teachers, through peer reviews and seminars, we are given the opportunity to improve or even maintain the quality of our teaching, to update, evolve and meet the increasingly varied demands of students.

The content and the level to which I teach can vary significantly. Firstly, at undergraduate level, I teach the technical or grammatical knowledge of the language, through the teaching of syntax, focusing on competence in writing or comprehension and production. I also teach oral/aural language classes at the same level. Here, the focus is on oral/aural competence. Occasionally, I offer specific language seminars where I teach or give talks to post-graduate students in the realm of translation studies. Finally, my role goes beyond teaching too. All teachers’ roles have an administrative side too. Before the start of a semester, my work includes putting together an exercise work pack here, several oral language work packs there. On a weekly basis, it includes preparations, corrections, marking, sampling, feed-back, invigilating, replying to emails, meetings and a couple of feedback and guidance hours when students can pop in if need be.

We cannot evoke our beautiful French language without mentioning its thorny grammar. Ah, French grammar! All our students have to get through it and the grammar remains a very technical and confusing part to especially our English native speakers who tend to have learned their own grammar intuitively. Through the first couple of years, in weekly seminars, our students will be taught and explained our daunting French grammar that is full or rules and exceptions, which will often times leave them scratching their heads. They will complete exercises where grammar is taught in context, so it is not just theory. The seminars aim at enhancing the students’ technical language skills so they can confidently apply what they have learned in writing their own piece.


To be able to teach French grammar, doesn’t only require a very accurate knowledge of my native language, but also the ability to walk in the students’ shoes so I can offer them clearer explanations. It does involve a lot of patience and creativity! Indeed, sometimes one explication won’t suffice and I will have to find strategies, tricks and more examples to ensure that they all have understood the point.

As far as the speaking skills are concerned, these are the hardest skills to work on as the success of the course strictly relies on the students’ implication and will to communicate. The differences in level (we have some bilingual students, false beginners, shy students…) and the fact that we welcomes more and more students whose native language is not English, make an oral language class, an interesting ‘dance’ where the participants sometimes try hard to follow the steps not to lose the rhythm. The various themes we work on with our students, range from cultural aspects (humour, politics, ecology, feminism, cinema, songs, comics) or linguistic aspects (colloquial French and slang).

It’s the personal choice of the lectrice to decide which material to choose to support our activities. It varies, but usually, these are press cuttings, videos links, extract of a book etc. They are put together in a work pack for the students’ use.

In a spoken language class, I often question my practice: ‘Am I speaking too fast? Did they get what I said? Should I repeat in English for those who are lost? Should I ask someone to rephrase my question?’ In fact, I think I question myself more than the students dare ask me to repeat! Don’t we all have this awkwardness when we don’t understand a sentence and feel very uneasy to ask ‘Vous pouvez répéter, s’il vous plaît?’

The fluency in the oral language is the most difficult skill to perfect as it regroups all the fine competences required to be able to communicate on a satisfactory level: listening, comprehension, vocabulary, grammar, syntax structure and last but not least, intonation and rhythm. This is a heavy load on the beginner’s brain. At the beginning I often ask my students to try repeating in a chorus. It works well. I feel like a conductor and they are my musicians, training together first, in a view to letting them play solo at a later stage.

It’s good to see the students gaining confidence, but sometimes the lectrices alone cannot perform miracles. This is what saddens me the most in my practice when I don’t see quick positive results. However, all is not lost! Students who have had the opportunity to study abroad in France or another French-language country are proud to come back and show us how their French has improved. Most importantly, the mastering of a language, really comes together when the students have no other choice than to speak French when they find themselves in total immersion.

This is why I truly believe the perfection of their oral practice is not all down to the teachers. We strongly encourage our students to expand their knowledge by reading, listening to radio shows, watching the news or movies in French outside of the classes, since we cannot spoon feed them at that level. The students have numerous tools at their disposal in this big era of the social and digital media. We have a Facebook page on which we post relevant pieces from the French press on a daily basis for the students to read.

Finally, one of the last things I wish to mention about this job I do absolutely love, is that I have had the chance to organise a few cultural or celebratory get together with my students. Beyond teaching, to connect with them outside of the class through my language, or when they email me news from France writing in a perfect French, to tell me about their experience and how nicely they have progressed, that in itself is enough to make my day and want me to keep teaching as long as I can.’

French at Stirling News Round-Up

Another new semester is well underway with lots of French-related news to report…

Welcome, first and foremost, to our new intake of Year 1 students – whether you’re starting from our ‘Advanced’ stream or in our Beginners’ classes, whether you’re here to study French with Human Resource Management or Education, with Spanish or Mathematics, with English or with Business Studies, welcome to Stirling! And a particular welcome to those of you here as part of our double degree partnership in International Management and Intercultural Studies with the University of Passau – we hope you enjoy your year in Scotland!

On the staff front, following the retirement of our former Language Assistant Bernadette Corbett, we’re delighted to welcome Mathilde Mazau to French at Stirling. Mathilde previously worked at the University of Glasgow and will be teaching spoken and written language classes across all years of our undergraduate programmes, working alongside Brigitte Depret.

And welcome back, of course, to our Year 4 students returning from Study Abroad, readjusting to life in Stirling after a semester at Sciences Po in Paris, in Perpignan, Limoges, Clermont-Ferrand or elsewhere, and to Year 3 students coming back after a year on the British Council’s English Language Assistantship scheme! As ever, a new group of Stirling students are about to embark on a year as English Language Assistants as part of the British Council-run scheme so best of luck to them and we look forward to hearing about your year when you come back. We’ve also got around 20 students waiting to find out in the next week where they’ll be spending their Semester Abroad in Spring 2016…

Following on from an extremely interesting workshop organised by our Language Coordinator Jean-Michel DesJacques and led by Petra McLay of SCILT focusing on the transition from Higher French to University French just before the start of semester, we have a whole range of French-related events to look out for over the coming weeks and months.

The Africa in Motion Film Festival – founded by former French at Stirling PhD student, Lizelle Bisschoff – celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and the packed programme of events (screenings, exhibitions, concerts and much more) can be found here.

As part of the Division of Literature and Languages’ regular research seminar series, we’re particularly looking forward to two papers by colleagues from the University of Aberdeen and the University of Glasgow later in the semester. Ed Welch (Aberdeen) will be giving a talk entitled ‘Image, Imagination and Power: Visualising Urban Futures in Post-war France’ on 25 November and Jackie Clarke (Glasgow) will give a paper entitled ‘Consumer Culture in Post-war France’ on 2 December.

And our own Bill Marshall will be giving a paper on 21 October on ‘The Uses of Prehistory’, developing work he conducted during his recent research leave, a project for which he has also been awarded funding via a British Academy Small Research Grant with a Stirling workshop coming up over the next few months. Bill’s success as one of the joint recipients of the Prix du Québec from the British Association of Canadian Studies will also enable him to go to Montreal in early 2016 to conduct research for an edited book on Quebec Cinema: Texts and Contexts, and on Quebec bande dessinée for an article on images in that medium of the First French Empire.

French Programme Director Cristina Johnston and her Spanish counterpart, Ann Davies, have been successfully awarded Cohort Development Funding by the Scottish Graduate School for the Arts and Humanities for a series of workshops aimed at Modern Languages PhD students on ‘Writing for an Interdisciplinary Audience’. The workshops will take place at the Universities of Edinburgh, St Andrews, Stirling and Glasgow, involving colleagues from all those partner institutions. More details will follow in due course.

Stirling staff remain as active as ever in giving papers and keynotes at various locations throughout the UK and well beyond. David Murphy is giving a seminar on ‘The Performance of Pan-Africanism’ at the University of Edinburgh in November 2015 and Bill Marshall will be delivering a keynote lecture at the World Cinema and Television in French conference at the University of Cincinnati in September 2016. Bill will also be giving the annual Christianson Lecture at University of Bristol in March 2016. Elizabeth Ezra will be introducing and leading a discussion with director Jean-Pierre Jeunet at St Andrews University in October 2015 and has been invited to give a talk in November at the University of Aberdeen on her forthcoming book, The Cinema of Things. And Jean-Michel DesJacques continues to represent Stirling at regular UCMLS meetings throughout the year.

Following the successful EIAE Conference in Glasgow earlier this month, we’re also continuing to look at our range of Study Abroad partner institutions with a view to expanding our network. In this context, we were delighted to welcome colleagues from the Ecole de Management de Strasbourg to our campus, as well as colleagues from our partners ESSEC at Cergy and the Ecole de Gouvernance et d’Economie in Rabat and we’re looking forward to welcoming Annie Birks (Université Catholique de l’Ouest) in October to give a paper to our Translation students.

We’re also really looking forward to finding out more about our students’ French Society events for the coming year and will be posting more about them over the weeks and months ahead. And there’ll be plenty of events organised for French students coming up too, including a get-together for future and returning Study Abroad students from Stirling as well as visiting French and Francophone exchange students, and an employability event organised by Frances Sessford from Publishing Studies with a range of participants talking about what to do with a degree in Languages.

And last but not least, on the teaching front, we’ve got option modules running this year in French Crime Fiction, Quebec Cinema, The French Atlantic Slave Trade and the Cinema of the Fantastic and, for the first time, we’re offering an option module in Translation Theory at Honours level. French at Stirling staff will also be contributing teaching to a range of Stirling TPG courses including Translation Studies, Translation with TESOL, Gender Studies and our Film Studies programme.

Lots more news and updates to follow!

French film and televsion

The mid-semester break is about to start here at Stirling and, next week, some of our students will be in Glasgow, watching the recording of a new French-language quiz show. I hope to be able to post tales of the recording after the break but, in the meantime, I wanted to add an account of a trip undertaken by a group of our students with our Language Assistant, Brigitte Depret, at the end of last year. With thanks to Brigitte for sending this, and to Nadine Wall (one of the students) for the photo!

2015 Brigitte Film Trip Big Wheel

“In December 2014 some of the first and second year students studying French were given the chance to take part in a day out in beautiful Edinburgh, courtesy of French at Stirling who had offered free tickets to go and see a movie during the annual French Film Festival.

We went to the Dominion Cinema, one of the oldest in Edinburgh, first opened in January 1938. If you ever want to go and watch a film somewhere that you really feel at home, this is definitely the place to go. With its comfortable individual sofas, footstools and side tables, the students fully enjoyed the cosiness of the venue where we were offered wine and food tasting from Provence, prior to the screening. Indeed, it was all about Provence!

I will not dwell on too much on the film we saw on that day: Our Summer in Provence (2014). Sadly, the latter was not the perfect example of the French grand cinéma, rather, a family-friendly entertainment that swung in between drama and comedy. The plot was quite thin. Luckily, we had the beautiful sceneries of Provence to make up for too many low-grade shenanigans, and, of course,  the subtitles for my students who were delighted to have grasped some of the ‘finest’ French expressions.

When watching the movie, I couldn’t help but thinking I had spent almost two decades near the very place where the film was shot. The smell of Provence, the heat of the summer, the markets, the cicadas… but also I thought about some words (even if now some came up distorted), Provence gave to the English language (one of our many gifts that contributed to the rising of the English language as the Lingua Franca).

Did you know the word amour used in middle English and found now in the expression amour propre, comes from Old Provençal? And speaking about amour could you imagine a cavalier back from a croisade (crusade) who would sing a ballade (ballad) for you.? Then he would invite you to a picnic, offering you a salade (salad) seasoned with a nois muguede (nutmeg) to spice up your al fresco lunch. Oh, and why not add a delicate truffe (truffle) whilst we are at it? Wouldn’t you like too, the taste of a juicy figue (fig), sitting in the shade sheltered from the sun and finish up with a fine nougat?

Moving on in time you could even imagine listening to a fidgeting Harlequin or a troubadour singing some sonnet especially for you. How nice!

And in our modern era you may enjoy being whisked away in a limousine sitting next to a French man wearing a beret, telling you stories or could it be a clever charade? He would stop at a boutique and buy you an expensive parfum (perfume) and why not a ring? In his beautiful lingo (lingua), he would propose and you would say OUI!

And then on your way to your honey moon, the lovely cabine (cabin) on the boat will feel like the sweetest cocon (cocoon) ever. There, in a foreign land you will buy a mascotte (mascot) that will become your precious beloved good-luck charm.

The lingo (lingua) apparently lived happily ever after…”