Tag: Communication

Stirling, Spain, Guatemala, Japan: Language teaching around the world

Every now and then, over the past few years since the blog started, I’ve been really pleased to be able to post updates (here, for example, and here) from Susan who graduated in 2011 with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish. Since then, I think I can safely say that I’ve really never been able to guess where the next update would come from so it’s been fun waiting to see this time and we’re certainly not disappointed by the result…:

‘I was in Spain last time I blogged and I am now in Guatemala after three months in Japan, so yes a blog update is needed.

2018 Susan Peattie Pic StudentsIn Japan, I was teaching at a University in Noda which is an hour north of Tokyo, mainly focusing on communication and presentation skills. With three of my students, we worked on a presentation of a business idea for the Hult Prize and they won an all expenses paid trip to the US for the next round.

Now, though, I’m actually teaching English at the school where I did my six months residency requirement for my degree, with a UK-based charity called Education for the Children. The plan was to only volunteer for two months and return to Japan. However, they were struggling to find a teacher for the upper grades, so I am here in a paid role until October. This is by far the most challenging job ever. The children are all from the slum areas and often their chaotic home lives can lead to discipline and behaviour issues in the classroom. So, planning to get back to the tranquillity of Japan in January, via Mombasa for the Children’s Home 20th anniversary party in November.’

2018 Susan Peattie Pic Sports day

Many thanks, indeed, to Susan for this latest update and we’re delighted to see the travelling (and the language teaching) continues, and that the Children’s Home is going strong! And, of course, we’re looking forward to more updates in the future.

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‘Making life-long friends from all over the world is something I’d never have done if I hadn’t studied languages’

As part of the process of catching up with recent-ish graduates, it was lovely to get this update from Dawn who graduated back in 2011 with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish which gives a great sense of the range of avenues down which our graduates travel once they finish their studies with us:

‘The summer after graduation I spent in Barcelona doing a six-week intensive CELTA course to qualify me to teach English as a foreign language all over the world. This is an internationally recognised qualification and can be taken at various locations in Scotland if you want to study closer to home. After my CELTA course finished I stayed in Barcelona for about a year and a half teaching English in private language schools to adults and doing after school tutoring.

I returned to Scotland and I got a graduate internship working with the local authority’s educational department. The role given to each of the interns matched with our background, interests and future career goals. My role was to develop the teaching of modern languages within primary schools. I was delighted! I taught some Spanish in schools, worked with pupils whose first language wasn’t English and acted as a mentor for foreign language assistants coming from abroad. I particularly enjoyed being a mentor due to having been a language assistant in France during my studies.

I moved to Glasgow a couple of years ago and I currently work for a third sector organisation which ultimately helps people with disabilities and health conditions to find and retain paid employment. I am a Networks Development Officer with responsibility for the west of Scotland. Although I am not directly using my language skills in this job, I am constantly using the skills I gained from my degree. The writing of a dissertation taught me how to accurately conduct research from various sources, collate information and present it in a way that someone with no knowledge of the subject would understand. This skill has been replicated in my job on multiple occasions.

Additionally, studying languages makes you a very clear communicator; you consider your word choice and phrasing before speaking. This is a transferable skill that has proved very important when speaking with clients who have communication difficulties or a learning disability.

Although I don’t use French and Spanish in my job I keep them alive by speaking with friends I made in Spain when I did Erasmus or friends in France when I was a language assistant. I read international magazines online and I still have a passion for foreign cinema. I look back on my time at Stirling University with very fond memories. I am grateful for the opportunities the degree gave me; working in France for a year and studying in Spain and making life-long friends from all over the world is something I’d never have done if I hadn’t studied languages at Stirling. Thank you!’

Many, many thanks to Dawn for taking the time to send this update and we look forward to more updates over the years ahead.

‘Language Linking, Global Thinking’: The Life-Changing Impacts of Travel

As you’ll have gathered from this blog, a good number of our students opt to apply for English Language Assistantships every year, whether between their 2nd and 3rd years or as graduates. For the past few years, some of our ELA students have also participated in SCILT’s ‘Language Linking, Global Thinking’ scheme during their year as assistants and we thought it’d be good to get a sense of what this actually involves – from the perspective of the students involved – so here goes, with thanks to Laura who has just finished her time as an assistant and will be coming back to Stirling in the Autumn:

‘I am a Primary Education student at Stirling. I came to university straight from school. However, I had always wanted more life experience before beginning teaching. This was one of my main motivations for applying to work for the British Council. Teaching within the central belt of Scotland makes classrooms greatly diverse spaces with many nationalities, languages, experiences and backgrounds. Living abroad would not only enable me to better encourage modern language teaching, but also relate more to the experiences of many of my students in my future career.

Over the summer last year, the Languages department at Stirling University made me aware of an additional project I could take part in during my post abroad. This was called “Language linking, global thinking” and it involves a partnership between a British Council language assistant and a primary school. Throughout my year abroad, I would remain in contact with Doune Primary through an online blogging forum.

2018 Laura Burns Bethune Pic1Before beginning my post as a language assistant, I had only been to France twice. The first time was when I was 10 for a weekend in Paris with my family, and secondly a week skiing with my high school. This meant I had very little knowledge of what “normal” life would be like in France. I come from Edinburgh – a highly touristic, young, affluent city. This meant arriving in the northern region of France was a very different experience. I arrived alone, with very poor comprehension of informal French speaking leaving me feeling confused and isolated. I was an English language assistant in a very small village called Labeuvrière which was just outside of another town where I lived named Béthune. The history of the region is a difficult one and now it is left with a high unemployment rate and listed as the poorest region in France.

In Béthune, the level of English was extremely poor. I soon realised how much safety I had felt in university French classes knowing that everyone in the room would be able to help me with an English translation if it was needed. The first few months without this comfort blanket were a steep learning curve for me. Despite my initial fears, I now feel that living in Béthune gave me a more honest understanding of what it means to be in France today. Being far away from the more glamourous, touristic image of France was key in drastically improving my French and understanding for the challenges of 21st century French society.

I had never fully appreciated how much I relied on the subtleties of language to present myself and my personality. Specifically, how I use humour to make friends, and how I can unconsciously use tone to get across the subtleties of my meanings. I felt unfunny, unintelligent and personality-less in French. Even as my comprehension improved, I was still not feeling like me. This was a challenge I was unprepared for, but so important now in my appreciation of anyone I meet in Scotland who Is speaking English as an additional language. Now, I feel the key piece of advice I can give to anyone else venturing abroad to speak a second language is to prepare to feel unprepared. After January time I began to use different ways to get across meanings and make connections with people.

2018 Laura Burns Classroom Pic 2I was hugely lucky with my school. Being placed in a primary school was far more challenging on my French, but I had amazingly supportive teachers who were patient with my language development. As the English level in the school was very poor, this meant I wanted to make English fun and relevant to their lives. Throughout the year we created our own “Highland games, drama pieces, baking and parties. The children loved learning about my home, family and country. English lessons were always about more than just the language, they were about making connections and thinking beyond the small perspective of the village. For the children in Labeuvrière, many had never been abroad, or left the region. (This was particularly eye opening to me as the Belgian border was less than 30 minutes away). The children’s exposure to a language assistant massively helped their awareness of what it means to live abroad, and what it means to make deeper, more worldly connections beyond the constraints of monolingualism. This extends their world view and what language learning can do for them from a cultural, lifelong perspective.

I truly think it that the Scottish education system is missing a great opportunity for children to develop their deeper cultural knowledge and understanding. This is why – when it is not possible to have language assistants from abroad – projects such as LLGT are so successful. A class being able to follow an assistant and their experiences is a means of getting across these important ideas. With Doune Primary School, I was able to write to them first hand showing my experiences visiting in person the WW1 trenches, the Vimy ridge. I was able to show them the photos I took on my tours around the Belgian Christmas markets. Perhaps, most interesting was when the children were able to see the comparisons between the hugely different French schools and resources. Once I had returned to Doune Primary, we debated and discussed together the similarities and differences between the education systems.

“Language and culture are the frameworks through which humans experience, communicate, and understand reality”.  

A connection with a language assistant is a means of acknowledging the challenges which come from learning a second language and recognising cultural differences. However, crucially, it also acts as an opportunity to explore the many positives and life-changing impacts of travel, adventure and making greater human connections. It really is linking what we have in common, to a better, global way of thinking. Everyone can benefit from this.’

Many, many thanks to Laura for taking the time to send us this blog post and we look forward to welcoming you back to Stirling in the Autumn.

 

Explaining the mysteries of whisky in French

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!

“Languages Open Doors”: From Stirling to a Traineeship in Brussels

A little flurry of blog posts will appear over the next couple of days as various plans and projects involving staff and students in French at Stirling take shape and I’m very pleased to be able to start the ball rolling with another blog post by one of our graduates from last year. Henry Caffarena finished his BA Hons in French and Spanish this time last year and has very kindly taken the time to send us this update on where life and languages have taken him since then:

2017 Henry Caffarena photo“I have nothing but good things to say about my time studying French at Stirling. I would say that the course is both diverse and challenging as it offers an ample approach to the language itself and its cultural spread across the globe. Furthermore, I also found the course very welcoming to students with different levels. Overall, it helped me improve my French and has definitely contributed to my success in landing a traineeship at the European Commission in Brussels, Europe’s political capital where speaking French is essential.

So far, these past 2 months at Commission have been a time of learning and networking. I am working in a multicultural and multilingual environment and everyday is different and challenging. Unfortunately, I can’t go into much detail about what I do because of confidentiality clauses and boring blabla, but all in all, I am happy. Speaking languages is a massive +1 when you are applying for jobs. Recruiters know they can train people to do the job in a few weeks/months, but teaching you a language that is vital to their business? That’s a different story.

At present, I am halfway through my Traineeship and have recently been interviewing with Gartner, the information technology research and advisory company. I know what you must be thinking – take a chill pill. To be honest, it was my intention to take a little break from work after my traineeship but they were looking for graduates who spoke French and I couldn’t resist. Hopefully I will get a call with good news soon. I guess what I’m trying to say is that languages open doors and there are doors all over the world! French is a very important language spoken in many different places and there are plenty of organisations in the private and public sector in need of your skills.”

Best of luck to Henry for the Gartner interview – keep us posted! – and thanks again for taking the time to send this post.

 

One Year On!

Last week, as I was in the process of (gently…) reminding this year’s French finalists to think about sending various bits and pieces for this blog, I was really pleased to get an email from Julian Osei-Bonsu who graduated in French and Law last year and who was emailing with an update on how things are going one year on which he has (very kindly!) turned into this blog piece:

“About a week ago, it suddenly came to me that it’s exactly a year since I completed all of my university tests and assignments. With the relief I felt, there was of course the sadness of having to part with places and people I’d grown to cherish over the course of my four years at university. And then there was of course the uncertainty that I felt about the future, I wasn’t entirely sure what would come next.

Shortly after graduation, and after having sent off several job applications, I happened upon an announcement while staying with my family in Germany. It was a casting call for flight attendants for a German airline. I went to the casting on impulse, underwent the interview and the exam with the airline psychologist and after a few uncertain hours received news that I had been given a training place.

My flight attendant training began in October and turned out to be the eight most intense weeks I’d ever experienced. We learned everything we needed to know for our jobs in the skies, starting with the particularities of each aircraft type, emergency procedures like evacuating a plane on land and water, first aid, how to handle unruly passengers and, of course, how to make the trip as comfortable as possible for our guests with the incorporation of excellent service. This was a highly stressful time but also an incredibly fun one mostly because I was in a class of eighteen hopeful flight attendants. We all endured the fears of not being able to memorise the exact words of the evacuation commands upon ditching on water. or forgetting which wines to recommend for each the various courses on a business class menu. And we celebrated together upon successful completion of each stage of training.

2017 Julian Osei-Bonsu cockpit view of oslo
Oslo Cockpit View

I became an official flight attendant in January this year and I do think it’s the perfect job for me right now. I get to see an incredible number of places within a short period of time and I’ve have met so many interesting people! I have also been lucky enough to meet with friends from Stirling who are scattered across the world and whom I wouldn’t have had the chance to see so soon after graduation. I have also had the opportunity of using the French I learned at Stirling, having flown to France a few times and having French-speaking passengers on most flights.

 

It’s interesting and exciting to see how much can happen in a year. Last year around this time, I had no idea what I’d be doing now, and I can say the same for a lot of friends who I graduated with.”

Many thanks to Julian for sending us this blog post and we look forward to following your travels and career over the years to come.

“To Infinity and Beyond…”: 2017 Finalists’ Future Plans

For our students who will be graduating with degrees involving French in June this year, the exams and assessment for French are now over, the essays have all been submitted, and we wanted to get a chance to share the plans of those who’ll be in our 2017 graduating class. They don’t all know what they’re going to do once they graduate and their plans may well change over the months ahead but, just as a snapshot of the range of directions our languages graduates end up going in, here goes, in no particular order:

Emily, who’ll be graduating with Single Honours French, is “planning to go into firefighting and just waiting for the next recruitment drive, doing whatever else pays the rent in the meantime. I don’t know where I’ll end up doing this in the long run, but I’m very happy to be able to have Montreal and the south of France as strong contenders.” Mareike, who’ll be graduating in Psychology with a European Language, is off to Bournemouth where she’ll be embarking on an MSc in Nutrition and Behaviour (and hopefully finding ways to keep going with French). Sarah, who will be graduating with Single Honours French, has already relocated to Italy where she is working as an assistant park manager for a company on a French campsite. She worked as an employee for the company for the last two summers in France and since finishing university has moved up the ranks thanks to earning her degree, and having more experience. She says this is “a great way to work abroad and meet new people whilst also giving you the chance to live and experience French culture outside of university.”

Lysiane, whose degree is in French and Spanish, is planning on doing a postgraduate degree at Stirling in Strategic Communications and Public Relations. Her plan is to be able to apply for jobs in the future with skills in languages and in another field such as marketing or public relations because “most of the jobs I have been looking at are looking for people with language skills along with something else. I think this postgraduate degree will give me more experience and knowledge so that one day I might be able to become a PR in the hotel business or the airlines.” As for Kitti, who studied French and Global Cinema with us, a TEFL course beckons and she plans “to move to Grenoble for a year or two to teach English and in the meantime work on my French until it’s perfect. At the moment I’m doing an interpreting job and I love it, but I feel like with Hungarian there are not enough opportunities, so it would be good to add French to the list. Plus, I would love to try teaching so I think this would be a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.”

For Hannah, who’ll be graduating in French, teaching also lies ahead but in a different context: “After graduation, my plan is to complete a PGDE Primary course at UWS. My very rough business plan for this summer is to start up a French club for babies/toddlers and their parents/guardians where they will be able to learn some nursery rhymes and basic numbers, colours, and animals in preparation for starting French in primary school.” Alex, who’ll also be graduating in French, “will be working an internship in project management/operations for Ironman (the triathlon company, not Robert Downey Jr. sadly!) until October and then I will begin work as a Management Trainee at Enterprise Rent a Car on their graduate scheme. At some point in the next 5 years, having gained some business experience, I will seek to do a Masters or MBA (likely at Stirling) in order to improve my chances with larger employers.”

Julie, who started studying Japanese (informally) alongside her French and English Studies degree, is keen to get the opportunity to develop those language skills further so has applied to “Waseda University and the International Christian University in Japan for a postgraduate degree (Comparative Cultures at ICU and Culture and Communication at Waseda). In case I’m not accepted, I have also applied for a job at two different teaching companies that provide English teaching in Japan (Aeon and Gaba). I also plan to apply at Interac, which is a company that hires Assistant teachers to help with English teaching at Japanese High Schools and Junior High Schools. I am quite determined to get to Japan in one way or another, so I’m hoping…” We’ll keep our fingers firmly crossed! And Luise, a student of French and Spanish, has similarly potentially intercontinental travel on the horizon, having been accepted for an English teaching assistantship in Colombia. For administrative reasons, that might or might not work out, and, in the meantime, Luise has a summer job in Deanston Distillery (as a tour guide): “If Colombia does not work out, I might just stay in Scotland until October and work, then return to Germany and work there (helping families with new-born babies. My au pair experience will come in handy here.) In spring I will look for another opportunity to teach English in South America or Asia, something will eventually work out. I am hoping to get a certificate for teaching German later on – but first I need some experience. Should I feel that I am not a good teacher, I will go into translation (English and Spanish into German).”

Another of our Single Honours French students, Rebecca, is delighted to have just found out that she will be “heading to Canada for the British Council in August. It was a lengthy process and a nerve-racking wait but I now have a position in a secondary school as an English Language Assistant.” And Colm, who has been studying French and Spanish with us, is planning to spend the Summer and possibly the next year working to save some money to be able to undertake a Masters in Translation and Interpreting the following year. And if that doesn’t work out, he and Kitti have grand plans involving taking photos of students proudly holding dissertations on the banks of the beautiful campus lake

We’ll update this post as and when we hear back from other students among this year’s finalists and, most importantly, we wish them all the very best of luck for the future, wherever it might take them!