One of the combinations that hasn’t featured as often here is Psychology with a European Language, a programme that enables students to combine modules in Psychology with modules in either French or Spanish, so it was particularly good to hear from one of our recent graduates, Luisa, who completed precisely this programme a few years back:
‘After graduating, I went on to do an MSc in Health Psychology at Stirling, as I was torn between what to continue with. I’d say the biggest overlap between the two areas (French and Psychology) was that I used a psychological approach called Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis for my French dissertation and it was one of my highest grades that year. It was the first time I had combined the two subjects but it worked well. I also had to write a Psychology dissertation that was due about a week after the French one: definitely a good test of time management and pressure having to write both at the same time.
I have taken a year to work in retail and I am now applying for jobs related to Psychology. However, I have also looked into jobs relating to French, as I had been told by a fellow 2016 French graduate that an organisation in Stirling was advertising translation jobs. I have always enjoyed the prospect of having more options because of having a joint degree. I still try and use French whenever I can and I hope to re-integrate it into my life in the near future.’
Many thanks to Luisa for sending us this blog post and we wish you all the best with the job applications, whichever route they take you down.
As promised, then, as well as having gathered responses to questions about language learning (which ones, why, why not, why keep going with them…) from colleagues, we’ve also been delighted to receive (and to continue to receive!) a number of responses from our students. We’ll post a couple of these separately but, without further ado, here are some of the initial thoughts and experiences from students across different years and different programmes:
For David, who is in the first year of a BA Hons in French with us, French started at the age of 13 at secondary school but, in his words, he was ‘a bad student and count only count to 10 by the time [he] left.’ He then restarted learning French at the age of 50 and is now, as I say, in his first year with us. The motivation for taking up French again came from David having had to stop work and he says that ‘French is not an easy subject but a great challenge due to its difficulty, beauty and culture.’ He also did Beginners’ Spanish in an access course last year but didn’t continue with it because he found that it was too difficult to be learning two languages at the same time.
Catriona is also a mature student, studying French with us who explains: ‘I started learning French in 1st year at high school, aged 11. I think that was in 1968! I remember being delighted when I realised I could understand the French bit of the Beatles’ song ‘Michelle’!’ In her 3rd year, she took up German as well and did two years of Latin in 1st and 2nd year. Her mum had also enjoyed French and German at high school (both to Higher) so she wonders whether that influenced her though she points out ‘it didn’t have the same effect on my brother so maybe that’s not the cause!’ She liked French and found it fairly easy (‘probably because I liked it’) and the same applied to German. She would also have liked to have done Russian or Spanish but neither was available. Having done Higher French and German, Catriona then pursued a career in nursing but has done various continuing education courses in both languages over the years. She’s doing French now because ‘I still like learning it and don’t want to forget what I know. I like the country and the culture and like being able to speak to the people in their own language and read things I see when on holiday etc. I suppose I’ve got a bit of a fascination with foreign languages and learning them.’
Chelsea is a final year student whose dissertation happens to be looking at language learning, anxiety and motivation in secondary schools so she has been particularly interested in the news coverage. She started learning French aged 10 (in P6) and initially, very honestly, continued learning it because she had to study a language up until S4. Chelsea’s decision to study Higher French was largely based on getting good grades and she says: ‘I didn’t actually start to enjoy French until I was studying it at Higher.’ She went on to take it at Uni because she enjoyed learning it and was good at it but also because she wanted to improve her spoken French. She also took Beginners’ Spanish in first year but had to stop because it didn’t fit any more into the structures of her degree.
Chloe is in the first year of her degree in Primary Education with a Specialism in Modern Languages, having started learning French in P7 when she was about 10. Her initial motivation for continuing with it came partly from needing a qualification in French to get into her University course as she wanted to do languages teaching and enjoys learning languages. She travelled to Romania and had to learn the basics of Romanian to get by there but found that she would get it confused with her French so stopped it after that particular trip.
Like Chloe, Lauren is also in the first year of a degree with Education but, in her case, our Professional Education (Secondary) programme with French and Spanish. The first language she learned that wasn’t her own was French and she started learning it at 4 years old. At that age, her grandparents got her involved with a French class outside of school but she stopped aged 8 after her teacher fell ill. She started another one around a year later and her teacher was a franchisee of La Jolie Ronde. Lauren says she kept up with her languages due to the influence of her grandparents: ‘my 84-year-old grandpa often texts me in French and we have conversations in French at dinner times whenever I visit.’ Lauren decided to study languages at University as ‘it’s the one passion I’ve had since I was little that hasn’t changed and has been ever present in my life.’
As is the case for those of us teaching French at Stirling, those studying it with us come from a range of backgrounds, having taken up languages for all kinds of reasons. We’ll keep adding any responses that come in from other students over the days ahead and we’d like to thank all those who’ve already been in touch!
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.
As well as congratulations to our students who are about to graduate next week, it’s also the time of the year for other prizes to be announced so the perfect time to congratulate a range of French at Stirling prize-winners:
First and foremost, many congratulations to Jack who has just finished his second year in French and Spanish with us at Stirling where he is part of our Tennis Scholarship Programme. Jack has recently discovered that he has been awarded a Stevenson Exchange Scholarship which he will hold next Spring while he is on Study Abroad. The scholarship will enable him to study the internal structures of tennis development in France to understand how tennis within the United Kingdom might grow and what role he could play in that process. French at Stirling has a great success rate for these awards as you can see here and here! Posts from this year’s Stevenson scholars should appear on the blog over the next few weeks and we look forward to updates from Jack when he starts his Semester Abroad.
Congratulations, too, to the winners of this year’s Division of Literature and Languages prizes for French. Our annual Simone de Beauvoir prize which goes to the student who has achieved the Best Performance across their French Honours modules has been awarded to Jeanne who graduates in International Management with European Languages and Society next week. Our two other final year prizes with a French element go to Calum who graduates next week in French and Politics and has won our Translation prize for the Best Performance across the final year translation assessments and to Anne, one of the students on our Integrated Masters in International Management and Intercultural Studies, who has won our Languages, Cultures and Religions Research Prize for her dissertation. Strictly speaking, the dissertation is in Spanish but we’re happy to add to the congratulations here since Anne’s programme falls under the French remit!
And students at earlier stages of their degrees have also been receiving news of their prize successes… For the Best Performance by a student in our Year 1 Beginners’ stream, congratulations to Monika who is studying French and Spanish, while the Best Performance in Year 1 by a non-Beginner award goes to Yamina who is studying International Politics and Languages. The Year 2 prizes have gone to Jennifer Graham on our Primary Education and Modern Languages programme (for the Best Performance in our Advanced stream) and to Laura Castane Bassa who studies English and French (for the Best Performance in Year 2 by a former Beginner).
Extremely worthy winners all round and félicitations to you all!!
Just before the blog takes a little break for a couple of weeks, two great articles for you. The first one here is by Alex Hill who just graduated with his BA Hons in French in June and has gone straight from graduation to internship, with career plans beyond that. The second article is by Jeanne Nozahic who has been away in Spain for her Semester Abroad and who has been reflecting on the experience generally but also in particular about what her success at obtaining a Stevenson Scholarship meant for her. Alex first…:
“A few days ago, I was lucky enough to receive an email from Cristina asking if I’d like to share a few thoughts on my time doing French at Stirling and my plans for the future, which I then realised I had accidently ignored for more than a week due to being so busy! This got me thinking to myself about how time has flown by since finishing my degree; as I write this it’s 28 days since my graduation (2.1, get in!) and 103 since the end of a coffee-fuelled, sleep-deprived few months spent balancing writing a dissertation on French politics whilst also trying to get my head round the art of translation.
Since then it’s been all go, having started an internship with Oxford-based triathlon events company IRONMAN UK in the Operations team in early May; a job which saw me head over to France a few days in to get a taste of what to expect on the job. As I should have expected, I was designated the role of interpreter (read: food order-er), and, after ordering a few sandwiches and coffees for lunch, I was greeted with high fives and comments regarding how awesome it was that I was able to speak French. That’s one of the perks of being able to speak a foreign language – it’s a skill not many people have so it gives you the chance to show off and feel smug every once in a while!
Joking aside, studying a French degree really is one of the most useful and coolest things I have ever done. When I first decided to study French at university, it was a case of “it’ll be cool to say I’m fluent, plus I can probably get a job as a teacher or translator afterwards”. What I have discovered in the last four years is that it is worth so much more than that; you develop oral and written communication skills to an incredibly high standard, something highly regarded by employers and essential not only from a working perspective but also in life in general. As well as this, you strengthen your critical, analytical and research skills from studying French literature and get to put this to the test in engaging and interesting class discussions. These skills are crucial in almost every job market, which explains why French graduates not only get jobs as translators and teachers, but in business, journalism and diplomacy amongst other domains. Furthermore, French gives you an understanding of (political, social and economic) culture in a range of francophone countries. It’s not only francophone countries this will prove useful in; if you can learn French you can learn any language! This makes you employable not only in Great Britain, but across the world, which it doesn’t take a genius to work out significantly increases your chances of finding a job.
I really believe I made the right choice coming to Stirling to study French. The campus has to be one of the most beautiful in the world, which makes looking out the library on a sunny day that little bit easier. The people are all friendly, and at the end of the day it’s good fun and everything you need is nearby. The French course itself is run by a dedicated team of lecturers, who put in a great deal of time to make every last module exciting and appealing, resulting in a varied course that not once did I find boring. As well as this, the lecturers are always more than willing to help and provide useful answers to queries and feedback. If you are thinking of, or about to start, studying French at Stirling, I would recommend the Quebec cinema module, run by Bill Marshall, or the Francophone Detective fiction module, run by Cristina (hopefully these will still be around!).
Without doubt, however, the highlight of my time at Stirling was going on my semester abroad; it’s just such a different academic experience and results in your language skills coming on more than you thought possible. It improves your ability to adapt and improves your confidence, both as a French speaker and in general. You make lifelong friends and at the end of your time away, you feel a genuine sense of pride in yourself for coping with what at one point felt like a goliath-sized task.
As for me, once I finish my internship, I will be moving back up to Stirling to start a job on the Enterprise Rent a Car Graduate Scheme as a Management Trainee. After finishing that I plan to return to Stirling to do a Master’s, followed by hopefully finding work in the investment industry. Having said that, there are a number of jobs in a variety of industries I find interesting and would like to do, and I wouldn’t mind running my own business one day. Thanks to my French degree, I am lucky enough to have a world of possibilities in front of me and I’m very excited about what the future holds. In the words of my favourite film La Haine, “Le monde est à nous” (the world is ours). Just in case you were worried that I’m not getting much chance to celebrate graduating by entering the big bad world of work straight away, I get two weeks between my internship and full-time job, during which I plan to escape somewhere sunny!
Finally, one final big thank you to everyone at the French department at Stirling and all the other staff who work so tirelessly to provide every one of us with a fantastic student experience.”
Many, many thanks to Alex for this great post, all the best for the rest of the summer (internship and holidays!) and good luck with the next steps! And yes, the Detective Fiction option is back in the Autumn…
Claudia Legg graduated with a BA Hons in French in 2012 and is now working in the legal sector. Her memories of her time studying French at Stirling highlight the opportunities for study abroad and the range of topics studied over the course of 4 years:
“I went to look at Stirling University after friends in Scotland said I should. I didn’t really know what to expect and having visited Newcastle and Edinburgh Universities, both of which are city campuses, I never thought too much about a campus university. However, Stirling absolutely took my breath away (it was 20 degrees and sunny which always helps!), especially after only 2 hours sleep for the flight to Scotland.
I had always done a language at school and French was an easy decision for me. The course description and the variety of modules really sold Stirling to me. The fact that you could study subjects as opposite as politics and cinema and then combine it into your language modules was an incredible chance. So the course, coupled with the campus and the social opportunities made Stirling the ideal choice even if my parents were horrified during the 900 mile round trip they had to make!
My favourite modules were the postcolonial France modules, “Introduction to African Literature and Cinema” and the cinema module “Screening the City”. One film (5th Element) even came up in a pub quiz… the fact I got the answer wrong is no reflection on the course! My modules choices then formed my dissertation title and research, a major benefit of the Stirling course.
However the best part of studying at Stirling was the fact I could visit abroad- not once but twice. I spent my semester abroad at Limoges where I was able to easily get to Bordeaux, Oradour and other historical places. The Limousin is steeped in history and due to familial connections I was able to visit places that were not easily accessible to tourists otherwise. I was lucky enough to also go to Paris on a day trip to research my dissertation at the Cité nationale de l’histoire de l’immigration. If I had studied a different subject, other than French, I would never had the confidence to go abroad and do all these wonderful things.
Since I graduated in 2012, I worked for two years in retail where we had a few French customers and I was asked to help translate where there were problems with customer care. Since 2014 I have been working in two law firms where French documents have periodically come in and I have been asked to help translate. Already at my new firm my boss has said there are more French clients coming through and that I will need to brush up on my conveyancing French (not that was on the course… I’m not sure how often “drainage search” would come up in conversational French). I think, though, other than French, the skills the course teaches you are invaluable. Presentations, written skills, discussions and debates all occur in day to day life. Stirling not only prepares you for your degree subject but also for the working world. I wish I could go back and do it all again.”
Many thanks to Claudia for this blog post and best wishes for the future!
Another account of life since graduating from Stirling. This time from Mira Waligora who, like Saara, also graduated in French in 2014 and who, since graduation, has gone on to develop a career as an interpreter but who was very pleased to get a chance to reflect on ‘the Stirling bubble’:
“This summer it will be two full years since my graduation, I can hardly believe it, and even less so the fact that it’s been nearly 6 years since I’ve started University, now that’s crazy!
I came to Stirling, having chosen the university because of the attractive language courses it offered and the absolutely magical campus it occupied. Say what you want about big cities but no University in Scotland beats our campus. For me, Stirling was the perfect choice. Glasgow and Edinburgh are only a short train ride away, which is one of the best ways to relax and clear your head: listen to some music and watch the picturesque landscapes of Scotland pass you by.
I loved studying at Stirling. All of our French lecturers were wonderful, so very different but all so passionate about what they teach. Their excitement seeped through into the students. I am very fond of languages. Speaking four fluently, I am fascinated by how they work, like huge intricate puzzles. All with such different parts that fit together in such different ways. So, naturally I thoroughly enjoyed the grammar and translation classes. Having lived in France for a short while when younger I was somewhat familiar with French culture. The course however broadened my understanding of francophone cultures, through courses that explored the different parts of the world and history when French was spoken.
I found everyone in the French department to be very approachable and ready to help. Our lecturers, with their oceans of knowledge, were always ready to share it with us and advise us on the ideas we were exploring. I find this important because to a certain extent, having a department that is not helpful and lecturers you don’t feel comfortable with hinders studies.
Stirling offers some pretty attractive exchange programs and when it came time to choose where to go for my semester abroad, I decided it had to be Paris. We were free to study pretty much anything we wanted while abroad and I loved my courses at Sciences Po. I took “Philosophy of Friendship”, “Utopia” and “The cultural history of Europe” all en français bien sûr! I still have all my notes and books from these and I have no doubt I will be re-reading them. The teaching differed quite a lot from Stirling, I think because the dynamic between the students and the lecturers just wasn’t the same.
I must speak quickly about Paris. I didn’t know what to expect. My exchange took place from January until June, only six short months. Yet within these I built a whole new life. I made some amazing friends, whom I still see regularly now. My experience was bohemian and artistic, full of cheap wine and fresh baguettes, photographer friends who’d take beautiful pictures and bookshops with captivating events. Having studied much about France and French culture, it felt surreal to walk around Place de la République, or visit the Grand Palais and just stare in adoration at the beautiful architecture, and think how many people passed through these places through the century. Spending half a year somewhere lets you discover the “hidden” gems of the city, when first visiting Paris you will go to the Jardin du Luxembourg or the Tuileries but it’s places like Parc des Buttes Chaumont, that truly stole my heart.
I really enjoyed the final year of university, maybe because of the independence in study and writing that we had. Writing the dissertation meant you chose an area of interest personal to you and just plunged into it. Sure it was stressful, you had to be driven, organised and generally on top of things, but doing the research, analysing the information and creating a report was very satisfying and rewarding.
My friends and I always talk about the “Stirlng Bubble”, nothing is far away and after a year you pretty much know everyone and everything. Which makes you feel at home, safe and cosy, and that’s something big cities can’t offer. On top of it all Stirling has some really interesting young talents, community initiatives and creative events. The Filth and Aztec music gigs remain some of the best ones I’ve been to.
My time at the University of Stirling has provided me with skills and experiences that have led me to where I am today. I live in Scotland and work as a Polish interpreter. I currently work with: local schools, social work offices, health centres, the police and even the courts. In fourth year we went to a multilingual debate at Heriot-Watt University. The debaters all spoke different languages and their conversation was possible due to the final year students of an interpreting course. It was my first time witnessing the mechanics of interpreting in action and I was fascinated. Throughout our language classes I had amassed the skills to work with language. We worked thoroughly on each text we translated for practice, exchanging ideas and methods. We would discuss the intricacies of the language and the many connections that words create between each other. What meaning these connections of words convey and how to transfer that meaning into a different language. Realising that sometimes it is absolutely crucial to know where the words come from and how they are used in contemporary society in order to fully grasp the subtle differences in meaning between individual words. Learning that often you can only become truly fluent in a language if you understand the culture of the people that speak it. That is exactly what the French Degree at the University of Stirling equipped me with.”
Many thanks to Mira for sending this blog post and all the best for the years ahead!