Tag: Division of Literature and Languages

‘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.

 

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‘After all the hard work, my options are unlimited’

In just a couple of weeks, this year’s French finalists will become this year’s French graduates so, first and foremost, congratulations to all concerned! There are a few more posts to come over the next little while that will give you a sense of the many different directions our soon-to-be graduates are planning on taking over the months ahead, starting with this post by Lucy who is about to graduate in French and Spanish:

‘As I write this, Stirling has just confirmed degree classifications for its graduating students and, while the wait was nerve-wracking, it gave me an opportunity to reflect upon and appreciate where I started this whole journey compared to now, five years later with degree in hand and moving on to the next challenge.

Before starting a B.A. (Hons) in French and Spanish, languages were something I was always good at in school (and more importantly something I really enjoyed) so naturally I drifted down the course of modern languages at uni. I say “drifted” because I never really knew where it would lead me or what to expect, both of the course and of myself.

2018 Lucy ODonnell San Vicente de la Barquera IISoon enough, after two years at Stirling, I was applying for a position as an English Language Assistant via the British Council which took me to a primary school in the north of Spain for ten months. Being absolutely honest here, it was the most difficult thing I have ever done (not least because the average age of my town was 86!). However, it was without a doubt the most rewarding and beneficial experience that I could ever have hoped for and I truly wouldn’t have changed a thing. It toughened me up (kids are apparently brutally honest about pointing out your acne), my self-confidence sky-rocketed, I could converse easily in Spanish and, most importantly, I learned the right way to make a perfect sangria!

In all seriousness, I was mentally and emotionally challenged throughout the whole experience but I know for certain that I would not be at the proficiency and confidence level I am now had I had a different experience. A quick word of advice for future Stirling students undertaking an assistantship in Spain: don’t even try to contend with Spanish bureaucracy – becoming its victim is part and parcel of the experience! Keep calm and have a vino.

2018 Lucy ODonnell Tours IIMy next challenge was Erasmus which I would eventually do in Tours, France. I spent five months at the Université François-Rabelais where I mostly studied translation classes and French language classes. I lived in noisy student halls and exclusively ate pasta and toasties and, speaking as someone who has always lived at home during term-time, I appreciated the opportunity to experience authentic student life!

Tours and its university was a great place for students and I highly recommend it. The teachers were extremely supportive and helpful for Erasmus students and their classes were genuinely very useful and engaging. There was also ample opportunity to meet and socialise with French students, several of whom I still keep in contact with today. They were all so friendly and really interested in us as people and in the Scottish culture (I encourage anyone to explain to a French person why a Highland cow looks the way it does, it really challenges your language skills!).

2018 Lucy ODonnell Tours IAside from discussing our weird and wonderful creatures, I really enjoyed living in France and I truly gained invaluable experience in learning how to improvise and think on your feet linguistically. Studying French/Spanish as a fourth year student at Stirling is challenging and really encourages you to push yourself and your skills (as I’m sure is the case with any uni) so my advice is to get a head start and do as much of this as possible while you’re studying on Erasmus and say yes to every opportunity while you’re surrounded by the language. You’ll really feel the benefit on your return to uni, which leads me to my final nugget of wisdom for all language students that I only really started to understand in fourth year: having confidence and believing in yourself is half the battle to becoming fluent. The rest will come with hard work and perseverance.

As for my next step, I’ll be moving on to the University of Strathclyde to study an MSc in Business Translation and Interpreting. I was impressed by how flexible and broad their course structure is in terms of the areas of translation you can study and I’m looking forward to putting all my skills into practice in something I really enjoy doing. I’d eventually like to be an interpreter for the justice system, whether in Scotland or further afield, but it’s a good feeling to know that after all the hard work, my options are unlimited.

I don’t think it has really sunk in yet that my time here has come to an end. I have been given opportunities like no other by Stirling and I really feel that I personally have completely changed for the better. I’ve learned an incredible amount thanks to the excellent teaching staff in the French and Spanish departments so, finally, I’ll take this as my opportunity to thank them for all their support over the years. Merci/gracias!’

Many, many thanks to Lucy for the great blog post and we wish you all the very best for the MSc and life beyond!

ACHAC’s ‘Human Zoos’ Exhibition: Scottish University Tour

As was mentioned way back in a February 2018 blogpost, these past few months David Murphy has been coordinating a poster tour, called ‘Putting People on Display’, which has visited 5 Scottish HEIs: Glasgow School of Art, Edinburgh, Stirling, St Andrews and Aberdeen. ‘Putting People on Display’ is 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 were specially commissioned for this Scottish tour.

2018 David Putting People on Display Scottish National ExpoThe exhibition is made up of 22 banner-style posters charting the history of ‘putting people on display’. It covers a range of historical periods, geographical locations and national contexts, raises many questions about putting people on display, and the forms of observation these practices involve. Drawing on the rich iconography surrounding the phenomenon, it also forces us to address the ethics of display and the extent to which access to often challenging imagery is essential to understanding this historical practice and its contemporary afterlives. The exhibition was developed in association with the Lilian Thuram Foundation, and is part of a wider commitment to understanding the historical roots of contemporary racism – and to contributing to anti-racist education.

Each of the events held in conjunction with the exhibition has been very well attended. We had an audience of 100 at our launch event at Glasgow School of Art, and we organised a series of lunchtime tours in Stirling and St Andrews. Particularly fascinating was an event in St Andrews featuring speakers from the ‘Friends of Saughton Park’ in Edinburgh which was the site of a major ‘human zoo’ during the Scottish National Exhibition of 1908. The park will reopen in May 2019 after a long period of refurbishment, and it is likely that our ‘Putting People on Display’ exhibition will be included in the events to accompany the grand re-opening. So watch this space for more news as plans develop.

Harry Potter, Spotify and Language Learning

This time last year, we posted an article by Emily who was just reaching the end of her 1st year studying French and History so, as we catch up with the authors of some of those posts to see how things have gone this year, here is Emily’s update:

‘Bonjour à tous! In my last post for the French at Stirling blog I talked about my first year studying for a BA Hons degree in French and History, and what a great start it had been to my university career at Stirling. The structure of classes in first year has been the same this year, with weekly seminars on written language, francophone culture and French speaking classes. This year we have also had a new class added to our timetable; half-hour conversation sessions. These new speaking classes have been a great way to get practice in our French conversation skills, as it’s a very relaxed environment and the conversations are usually spontaneous and on recent topics.

Another exciting opportunity available to us in second year is the chance to work abroad as an English language assistant (ELA) through the British Council’s scheme, spending a whole year in a French-speaking country. Although the time spent abroad doesn’t contribute credits towards my actual degree I feel it is an invaluable opportunity to learn about contemporary French culture and improve my language skills. Having recently received the good news that my application has been shortlisted I can’t wait to find out whereabouts in France I will be placed!

However, until I move to France towards the end of this year, I have to try and maintain my current level of French, which I have been doing through various different methods. A great way one of my teachers suggested to keep French fresh in my mind is to listen to French music. Spotify is a lifesaver here, as there are loads of French music playlists already created, so if you’re like me and have no clue who any popular French musicians are, you can easily discover different solo artists and bands that suit your music tastes.

Reading French regularly is another great way to maintain language skills, but I find it can be quite daunting at times, so to make things easier for myself I decided to revisit one of my childhood favourites; Harry Potter. I have found that reading stories in French that you have already read in English is much easier as you don’t have to focus so much on the plot and instead can concentrate on grammar and new vocabulary. Hopefully by using these methods to try and incorporate french into my everyday life I won’t forget everything that the French department at Stirling taught me this year!

To sum things up, my first two years studying French at Stirling have been fantastic, my teachers have been more than helpful in preparing me for life as an English language assistant in France, and I can’t wait to see what next year has in store!’

Many, many thanks to Emily for this update. We look forward to finding out where you’re posted next year and wish you all the best for the assistantship!

Gender, Film, Postcolonialism: Conference Time

If I’m quick, this might even go up on the blog before Bill Marshall’s Cinéma-Monde conference on ‘Film, Borders, Translation’ that starts this evening with a screening at the MacRobert of Chloé Leriche’s 2016 film Avant les rues. The conference continues over the next couple of days, with participants from across the UK, North America and Australia, and papers from three French at Stirling colleagues. David Murphy will be talking about ‘Filming the First World Festival of Negro Arts, Dakar 1966’, Elizabeth Ezra will give a paper entitled ‘TransFormations: Cinema’s Uncanny Origins’ and, as for me (Cristina Johnston), I’ll be talking about the ‘ruptures, cooperation and paradoxes’ of Franco-Iranian cinema.

It’s a busy time for conference over the next week or so, as Stirling is also running its annual Arts and Humanities postgraduate conference tomorrow on ‘Arts and Humanities Research Through a Gender Lens’ and our own French at Stirling PhD student, Fraser McQueen, will be there, talking about ‘Islamophobia as a gendered phenomenon in French radicalisation cinema.’ And then, next week, Fraser is off to the University of Birmingham for the SFPS Postgraduate Study Day where he’ll deliver a paper entitled ‘Borders between us and them in female radicalisation fiction.’

More research news to follow soon…

‘Talking to and learning from as many people as possible’

And finally, in today’s flurry of blog posts, Amy, another member of this year’s graduating cohort has sent this article looking back over what her degree has allowed her to do but also where it might take her in the years ahead:

‘I studied BA Hons Politics and French and going to University was the best decision of my life. University has provided a wealth of opportunities that would not have been afforded to me had I not gone. During my undergrad, I travelled to Tanzania to climb the highest free-standing mountain in the world – Mt Kilimanjaro. I then spent a year teaching in Blois, Loire Valley; a semester in Paris studying at Sciences Po and two summers managing staff and kids in a French campsite in the Ardèche, Rhône Valley. The experience and the cultural awareness that these opportunities provided were invaluable and they sparked within me an immense curiosity about people, the world and myself.

University is a melting pot of people from all over the world and a fantastic opportunity like no other to learn from people who have had different experiences from you. If you are like me and want to travel and see the world, then University is a great place to start. Gaining cultural awareness is far more than bag-packing in every country that your summer job can afford, it’s about talking to and learning from as many people as possible, wherever you are.

2018 Amy McIntyre Bill's last class May18My advice to future Stirling students: talk to your tutors and your lecturers. They’re people and there’s not the same hierarchy that may have existed between you and your teachers at school. University is a collective learning environment and both you and your lecturers have something to learn from one another.

Go to the cinema screenings that the French department want you to attend. Go to their mixers and free wine events. Go and talk to the local school kids about your study abroad experience. Sign up to be a Module Representative and, of course, offer to write a piece for Cristina’s blog. These actions of engagement are understandably daunting as a first year, but push yourself to do it.

University is more than studying; It’s more than reading books. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t advise attempting your degree without doing the aforementioned, but I can’t emphasize the importance of other factors at University enough. My advice to future students of Stirling: Get involved. Take advantage of every opportunity that interests you. Join a club or 5, hold weekly stalls in the Atrium and meet like-minded people and people who challenge your views alike.

2018 Amy McIntyre Logie Protest May18During my time at Stirling University I was Co-Convenor of the Socialist Society, Secretary for Stirling Students for Scottish Independence and I co-led Stirling Students in Support of the UCU Pension Strike protest movement which led to a 14-day Occupation of Logie Lecture Theatre.

My time in France

I took a gap year to participate in the British Council English Language Assistantship (ELA) Scheme in the Loire Valley, France. On reflection, I can honestly say I learned just as much from my kids as they learned from me. The simplicity, honesty and innocence of young people’s minds is interesting, inspiring and refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, prepare yourself for insults that are not intended as insults: “Amy, your nose is cool, it reminds me of a witch”. Thanks Pierre, you’ll have to excuse me as I’ve made plans to cry in the toilet…

2018 Amy McIntyre Pic May18

Tip to future language assistants: Get to know your ELA friends but don’t spend too much time with them. They are a great comfort to you when you are abroad but are inevitably a hindrance to your French language progression if you spend too much time alone with English-speakers.

In my third year, I studied at Sciences Po, Paris. I found that Politics in France is very different to the UK in terms of grassroots movements, protests and youth engagement with politics. Manifestations are as common as croissants in Paris and I was amazed at the crowds of youngsters who were politically active.

2018 Amy McIntyre Eiffel Tower May18

What motivates people to act the way they do? How do political institutions and societal factors impact their behaviour? And ultimately, how can we unite people, despite their perceived differences to come together and form a better society? These are questions that are ever-evolving and I suspect they will occupy my mind for the rest of my life, whatever avenue I choose to go down.

For the moment, I am fascinated by examining policies in different countries and finding out what works and what doesn’t. To change society for the better, I believe we need better policies at the heart of it. I hope to do a Msc in Public Policy and Management this year at the University of Glasgow. Ultimately, I want to make a positive contribution to the world, no matter how big or small that will be.’

Many, many thanks to Amy for this fantastic post and for the great tips for future students. We wish you all the very best for the MSc and the future beyond! And, of course, we would encourage as many as possible of our current (and former) students who might be reading this to take Amy’s advice and get in touch about future blog posts…

‘Savour the moment’

And from halfway through a degree via Mairi’s post to a month from graduation, thanks to this article by Chelsea who has just completed her BA Hons in Psychology with a European Language (French, in Chelsea’s case!):

‘I think, like a lot of people, graduating and planning for the future is a daunting experience. For me this will be the first time since nursery that I won’t be a student: the root cause of my restlessness these last few days. I feel it is important to savour the moment and let it sink in before attempting to plough ahead with grand plans. That said, I soon realised that once you have (almost) obtained your undergraduate you feel the need to return for a Master’s or PhD, not just as another stepping stone for your desired career, but because, for most students, this ‘freedom’ and non-student status is unfamiliar.

2018 Chelsea Soulsbury Demo Pic
Demonstration in Nice

Having studied Psychology and French, I have no idea where I am going to be in 6 months/a year, or whether I intend to pursue Psychology or French. I have just returned from a month in Nice, and I really enjoy the idea of travelling and revelling in my graduated glory. However, another part of me wants to find a job, even if just part-time, related to my degree and start saving towards future education. As it stands, I have thrown my name into the ring for a few care apprenticeships, in the hope of working with vulnerable adults and children, which will not only grant me experience, but also qualifications to enhance my prospects of returning to University. Perhaps I will find an even balance and manage to save and do some travelling soon.’  

 

Many thanks to Chelsea for this article – we wish you all the very best for the future and for the apprenticeship applications, and hope that travel does feature in the plans, too, somewhere along the way!