As well as posting updates from students who are in the middle of their degrees with us, we thought it’d be interesting to get some ideas of what our final year students are planning for life after graduation as they look forward to the ceremony next month. To start things off in this series for this year, Alexia (who is just about to graduate with her BA Hons in French) has sent us the following post:
‘In December I was accepted onto the University of Glasgow’s PGDE Secondary French course, a career path I have always intended to take throughout my time at Stirling. I thoroughly enjoyed learning French in secondary and higher education, and would love nothing more to spark a passion for languages in pupils, in the very same way my teachers and tutors inspired me.
Working as an English Language Assistant in Angers through the British Council between Year 2 and Year 3 of my degree further inspired me as I gained confidence in engaging with young people in a classroom environment and was shown how challenging – yet rewarding – a job teaching is. My time in Angers was also enriching as I was given the opportunity to meet people from across the globe, many of whom I still maintain contact with, as well as reconnecting with family in Brittany and Nantes.
While I chose to focus on French at Stirling, I plan to develop my knowledge of Modern Languages by learning Spanish and therefore gain an additional teaching qualification. I am under no illusion that teaching will not be without its difficulties, but feel that I am ready for the challenge ahead and cannot wait to impart the knowledge I received from Stirling’s French Department on Scotland’s future.’
Thanks to Alexia, firstly, for the positive thoughts on your time studying with us at Stirling and for taking the time to send us this post. All the best for the teacher training – and the career beyond – and do keep in touch!
What better way to start the new week than with another student profile? Paige Hepburn has just finished the first year of her BA Hons in French and English and has sent us this post with her thoughts on the past year and the semesters ahead:
“My name is Paige Hepburn and I have just finished my first year at Stirling University. I had my heart set on Stirling since high school because of the option to do a combined degree. I want to become a high school English teacher so the idea of doing Education alongside my English degree really appealed to me.
In first and second year at Stirling University you have the opportunity to choose three subjects, which is the perfect chance to explore your options and pursue your interests. I chose French as my optional module because I thoroughly enjoyed studying it at school and because of my personal ambitions to be fluent in French, but I had never thought about doing a French degree.
I chose the Beginners’ module because I had been out of education for a few years before attending University and was worried I’d forgotten everything. I’m so glad I did! The Beginners’ modules are designed to bring a complete beginner up to the appropriate level. For me, the course was a fast-paced refresher and consolidation of everything I had learned so far. My seminar tutor, Brigitte Depret, was fantastic. She was so enthusiastic and really brought the French to life, and the fact that she was a Native French speaker was a bonus!
By the end of my first year I realised I had enjoyed French so much that couldn’t imagine not studying it in the future so I changed my degree to a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in French and English Studies. French has opened my eyes to the option of teaching English as a foreign language, in France of course! At the end of next year, I will have the opportunity to spend a year in France, working as an English Language Assistant through the British Council which, as a future teacher, would provide invaluable classroom experience as well as the perfect setting to immerse myself in the French language. Studying French at Stirling also gives you the opportunity to study abroad in France or a French-speaking country as part of your course. I can’t wait to embrace these opportunities. I’m so excited for next year!”
Many thanks to Paige for sending this post and we’re looking forward to seeing where the next few years will take you, both in terms of time abroad and on the modules that lie ahead!
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.
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.”
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.”
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…
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.”‘
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.
This week, our Semester 3 and Semester 7 students will be getting together for the annual Information Meeting about the British Council English Language Assistantship scheme. Anywhere from 20 to 30 of our students successfully apply for ELAs each year and, as next year’s potential assistants are thinking about their applications, this year’s cohort have just started their postings. Among them, this year, is Gemma Matthews who is studying English and French and who, as well as working as an English Language Assistant for the year, is also representing Stirling on the Language Linking, Global Thinking programme. We’re looking forward to posting news from Gemma throughout the year and here’s the first instalment of her adventures:
“Hi, I’m Gemma. I’m an English and French BA (Hons) student at Stirling, and this year I’ve taken a year out to work as an English Language Assistant in France through British Council. I’ve also been able to be a part of a scheme called Language Linking, Global Thinking through my role as an ELA. Set up by Scotland’s National Centre for Languages (SCILT) at Strathclyde University, the programme works with students completing their year abroad with Erasmus or British Council, and also with young people taking part in Project Trust. The aim is to get children and young people in Scottish schools enthusiastic about learning another language, which by all accounts is not a particularly easy task! So, how does it actually work? In practical terms, those involved in the project are linked with a school (or two in my case) in Scotland, and become the link between Scotland and whichever country they are in. We are encouraged to make at least six contacts with the school through blog posts and other media and to encourage the pupils at home to learn about cultures different to their own. I am linked with Callander Primary School and Hutchesons’ Grammar School, and so far have been able to update them through blog posts from across the pond. I would definitely encourage anyone thinking about doing British Council to have a think about doing LLGT too!
As for the assistantship itself, it’s going well. I’ve been placed in three different primary schools in suburban Amiens and am teaching children aged five to eleven. It’s definitely good experience for anyone interested in teaching, as I have already been trusted with lesson plans and leading classes on my own. I have only just started work (thanks to the formalities of French paperwork) and so can’t comment on the full experience just yet, but from what I’ve had so far it looks set to be a very interesting year.
You can follow my progress here. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about British Council, ELA or LLGT.
Thanks to Gemma for this article and keep us posted on how things progress over the year!
“To commemorate European Languages Day 2016, we went along to Wallace High School to promote the benefits of language learning to the pupils. Having all had a ball working and studying abroad, we were keen to talk to the pupils and encourage them to stick in with their modern language studies.
The school organised many different workshops, speakers and activities throughout the building across different departments, including a French cuisine sample session arranged by the Home Economics department. Our workshop was designed to work with small groups of students and tell them about the opportunities that learning a language have opened for us. Working in small groups allowed the students to ask us questions and also tell us their ideas about their future and if learning a language would be part of their plan.
For Ellen, it was particularly good to “hear the thoughts of the different pupils and it was interesting to hear how many of them felt that language learning might enhance their job opportunities in the future. Many pupils told me that they would like to be able to speak another language but they find their language classes very difficult. Having studied French since high school, I have been through (and I am still going through) the struggle of language classes and the difficulty in grasping certain concepts, so I hope that I encouraged them to be tenacious and power through. In my opinion, the biggest piece of encouragement that I gave the students was that language allows you to travel. I told them about my experience working as a language assistant in France and my study abroad semester in Quebec and how I would not have been able to do those things without studying French. We talked about all the places that you can go if you have a basic understanding or even a few words of French and Spanish to show that there is more to learning these languages than just visiting France and Spain.
I really hope that I have inspired some of the pupils to continue learning a modern language and that they can see the benefits that I have gotten out of learning French and the experiences that I have had. To this day I still find learning French very difficult but it is my love for the language and my interest in experiencing other cultures that make it worthwhile.”
For Charlotte, “as a subject that means a lot to me, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to talk to the pupils of Wallace High School to promote the study of languages. What struck me the most was that although many pupils liked the idea of learning another language, they were put off by the idea that it takes a lot of time and effort to master and that they found learning languages extremely challenging. I really enjoyed discussing these thoughts and concerns with pupils, and I hope that by sharing my own stories I have reassured them that although learning a language is not easy, there are so many advantages to studying languages and that it can provide them with so many opportunities.”
David is planning a career in secondary teaching when he graduates so, for him, “it was fascinating both to talk with individual teachers and prospective language students, as well as to try to engage with pupils with no interest in languages whatsoever. Although they were quiet at first, some eventually started asking questions and I could see that they knew there was something to gain. I loved trying to explain to the pupils how languages gave me the opportunity to travel as well as meet new people. Although I thought that speaking of my own experience would not captivate the pupils’ attentions at first, I eventually noticed a spark of interest and one question led to many more. I think what it really showed me was that the pupils see a language only as an academic subject rather than a way to communicate. This truly opened my eyes as to how teachers not only have to teach a language but also have to engage the students. I left the school more determined than ever to become a teacher!”
Thanks to Ellen, Charlotte and David for having given up their afternoon to meet with the Wallace High pupils and staff and for this blog post. We’re hoping to continue to develop our connections with schools in the local area and beyond over the weeks and months ahead so, if you happen to be reading this as a secondary or primary Languages teacher, do feel free to get in touch!
Lots of things happening already in this new semester: meetings with local Modern Languages teachers, buddying schemes being set up, French Film Festival screenings coming to the MacRobert, more tales of the experiences of our current students and recent graduates… More on all of this and much more to come over the next day or two but, in the meantime, a very Happy European Day of Languages to you all!