Tag: English

Women in Translation Month

August is Women in Translation month (#WITmonth) and, this year, we thought we’d like to mark the month somehow on the blog. First off, we’re delighted to be able to point you in the direction of an interview with our fantastic colleague, Nina Parish (and her colleague and collaborator, Emma Wagstaff), about their translation work with a particular focus on poetry in/and translation.

Obviously, we spend a lot of time encouraging our students to read more in French but we are also avid readers of work in translation across a wide range of languages and genres so this seemed the perfect opportunity to throw in some suggestions from French at Stirling for great reads to celebrate WIT Month. Elizabeth Ezra’s tip would be the short stories of Russian author Teffi, translated by Rose France, and available in such collections as Shadows of Days: Russian Emigre Short Stories from Bunin to Yankovsky (Penguin Press), 1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution and Rasputin and other Ironies (both published by the brilliant Pushkin Press). Nina Parish has just finished The Polyglot Lovers by Lina Wolff, translated from Swedish by Saskia Vogel and published by And Other Stories who have lots of great literature in translation. Nina’s next read is also in-keeping with the theme: Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein.

Cristina Johnston has just started reading the Icelandic novel Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, translated by Brian Fitzgibbon, and, over the summer, has revisited Astrid Lindren’s Pippi Longstocking in bedtime reading to small children, translated from Swedish by Edna Hurup. Cristina also thoroughly enjoyed Roseanne Watt’s bilingual poetry collection Moder Dy which is in Shetlandic and English. And Aedín Ní Loingsigh‘s favourite lockdown read was the German author Anna Seghers’ 1942 novel The Seventh Cross which was retranslated in 2018 by Margot Bettauer Dembo. It’s a really tense read that follows a German Communist who escapes from a concentration camp in the early years of Nazi Germany and must determine who amongst his old acquaintances he can trust to help him. In-keeping with the translation and languages theme, Aedín has also just ordered Liam Carson’s 2012 novel Call Mother a Lonely Field. It’s a memoir of a bilingual childhood in Belfast and Aedín is hoping it will prompt me to return to a more academic book by Sherry Simon, Translating Montreal: Episodes in the Life of  Divided City where she speaks of the long-term influence on her own thinking of ‘setting up a house on the border between languages’.

And it wouldn’t be a proper French at Stirling post about Women in Translation Month without also highlighting the work of our own Siân Reynolds as translator of Fred Vargas’s crime fiction (including Sous les vents de Neptune which we’ll be teaching on again this coming semester in our French detective fiction option…) and of Georges Simenon and much else besides.

Plenty of tips for good reads here, with more to follow, and, if you’re interested in women writing in endangered languages, Hannah Grayson would particularly recommend this article by Alison Wellford.

Bonne lecture!

Happy European Day of Languages!

For the past few years, to mark the European Day of Languages, the French at Stirling blog has given a snapshot of the range of languages spoken and being learned by students and staff across all our modules. This year is no different so, for the past 10 days or so, we’ve been emailing colleagues and students at all stages of their degrees to ask about the languages (regional or national) of which they have some knowledge (from very patchy beginner to bilingual) and here is this year’s list. As well as French and English, we are proud to have among our staff and students learners and speakers of, in no particular order…

German, (Irish) Gaelic, Mandarin, Spanish, Turkish, Flemish, Dutch, Catalan, Italian, Norwegian, Brazilian Portuguese, Polish, British Sign Language, Danish, Romanian, Urdu, Czech, Bavarian, Wolof, American English, Hungarian, Armenian, Scottish Gaelic, Modern Greek, Korean and doubtless many others besides – if your language isn’t on the list, do get in touch!

Also in keeping with tradition, thanks to all those who took the time to reply to the emails: vielen Dank, Go raibh míle maith agat, 谢谢, Gracias, teşekkürler, dankjewel, dankuwel, Gràcies, Grazie, tusen takk, obrigada/o, dziękuję, tak, Mulțumesc , شکریہ, Děkuji, Dank da recht schee, Jërëjëf, Thank you SOOOO much!, köszönöm, Shnoragalyem, Tapadh leat, Efxaristo, 고마습니다 and…

2019 BSL Thank you

And a Happy European Day of Languages to everyone!

Languages: ‘A vital part of who I am!’

As regular blog readers will recall, the BBC published an article a few weeks back that focused on a decline in language learning in UK schools which prompted us here on the blog to post a series of articles by and about our staff and students, and their experiences of language learning. Those conversations have been continuing over the intervening few weeks and I’m delighted to get a chance to post another series of thoughts on the joys and challenges of language learning, this time by Stefano:

2018 Intropido Pic I‘I am really glad to have this opportunity to write again on this topic here on the French at Stirling Blog, as I cannot recommend studying languages enough! In fact, if it wasn’t for languages, I wouldn’t even be able to write this post at all; but… is it really all about articles and academia? No, there is so much more to it!

When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to be in a school, back in Italy, where I could already start learning some bits of English from a very early age (I think I was 4 when the teachers started organising some playful and funny activities so that we could learn nursery rhymes and games in English). Although I am not too confident now with my knowledge on kids’ songs, I am sure that this joyful approach made me keep going with English in primary school, where I also started some extra-curricular English courses to engage more and more with this beautiful language. My ongoing passion for the subject then pushed me to carry on with English all throughout my schooling years, right until the very end of high school, where I found myself to be a bit of “anglophile”; as Emeline mentioned earlier, even just the chance to read books and watch movies in their original language uncovered a whole new world of possibilities (and yes, the new Harry Potter books did play a crucial motivational role in this, I must say).

After so many years of learning and practising English in Italy I’d say I never got bored of it, but I started feeling the curiosity for going to English-speaking countries to put the theory into practice; I liked English so much that I ended up working as a Group Leader for younger Italian pupils abroad during their summer camps in the UK and those travelling experiences made me realise how far even a young student could go just thanks to a foreign language! And when it was then time to apply for universities, moving to Scotland simply seemed to me like the best choice to carry on along this path.

A bit of a warning here: studying a foreign language might be contagious…

Not only does it make you connect with (and be inspired by) so many new people, but once you start learning something as eye-opening as a foreign language, it is really hard to stop!

In my case, the “language-bug” made me study French, starting when I was 11. It could have been something temporary, as in Italy you are only required to pick up a “second” European language (usually French or Spanish or German) between the age of 11 and 14. However, once again, I became ‘too’ fascinated by this new wonderful language and I stuck with French all way throughout my 5 years in high school in Italy and (spoiler alert!) even at university level here in Scotland.

When I arrived here I realised how differently you can learn French in these two countries; whilst in Italy a much greater focus is on France’s history and literature (I have lost count of the classic French novels and plays we had to study in school…), here in Scotland attention is mostly put on language skills, as well as postcolonial and contemporary studies, which makes the two countries’ approaches perfectly complementary!

Looking back, I still struggle to believe how far I have come just thanks to French and the number of experiences I have gained through it. Some examples include: school trips and holiday in France (yeah I know, this might sound obvious, but as soon as you learn how to order French food it is really hard to resist!), an unforgettable Summer School in Strasbourg, an even more memorable Semester Abroad in Paris, a research scholarship to travel across the South of France2018 Intropido Pic I and many more.

As I have been travelling around Europe, people have often asked me if I am now a “trilingual” student. I am finally happy to say, a bit more confidently, that I am now fluent in three languages (although my parents make fun of my now broken Italian sometimes, but that’s another story), but especially I am really happy and grateful for all the places I have seen and the people I have met along my journey thanks to these languages.

Anyway, as you might have guessed, this “language-bug” thing is not getting any better… I should indeed mention, perhaps, that I also studied Latin for eight years in school and, guess what, I simply loved it! Call me boring, but I had so much fun with Latin as well that I managed to be selected for a national competition in the North East of Italy; no, I didn’t win, but yes, I had a great time, everything was included for the journey and I managed to meet some other great people even in that occasion. Therefore, let me just go against a well-established stereotype on “dead languages”: not only do they help you learn modern ones, but they take you around more than what you would think!

To conclude, I do believe that languages are not just subjects, but rather constitute a vital part of who I am; they represent wonderful key to access our world! And if you think you have got a “language-bug” yourself, don’t worry, it can only get “worse” 😉

Now I really have to go though, I have just seen a flyer about a Spanish course…’

Many, many thanks (merci, grazie, thank you!!) to Stefano for this brilliant post and for the infectious enthusiasm for languages.

Teaching Award Nominations

It’s the time of semester when the nominations are announced for Stirling’s annual RATE Awards or the ‘Recognising Achievement in Teaching Excellence’ awards, to give them their full name. The RATEs have been running since 2010 with students nominating staff across a wide range of categories from Faculty awards for Excellence in Teaching to the Fantastic Feedback Award. As in previous years, French at Stirling staff feature among the nominees, with Jean-Michel DesJacques, Mathilde Mazau, Brigitte Depret, Fiona Barclay, David MurphyElizabeth Ezra and Cristina Johnston all having been nominated. As well as offering an opportunity to blow our own trumpets a little, this is also a chance to say a collective thank you to the students who took the time to vote (both for us, as individuals, and just generally!). Merci!

And congratulations, too, to our Literature and Languages colleagues who’ve been shortlisted for a range of awards. Beatriz Basso, in Spanish and Latin American Studies, and Katie Halsey and Angus Vine in English are all on the shortlist for Excellence in Teaching in Arts and Humanities. And Angus has also been shortlisted for the Professional Mentoring Award, along with our Religion colleague, Alison Jasper. Good luck to them all – the award ceremony itself takes place on 19 April.

Students’ Experience of Multilingual Debates

Back at the start of April, our Language Coordinator, Jean-Michel DesJacques, accompanied a small group of current final semester French students to the annual Multilingual Debate at Heriot-Watt University. The students thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon and the experience of watching their peers demonstrate high-level interpreting skills. We’re hoping our students will attend again next year – those who went along this time certainly seem to have come away buzzing!

2014 HW Conference

For Mira, currently in her final year of a degree in French at Stirling, “the event was an interesting experience, the university had organised it well and there were no mock-ups, everything started, ran, and ended very smoothly. The topic debated was: “This House believes that the fragmentation of existing member-states could endanger the future of the EU.” Some very interesting points were flagged up, amongst them the importance of regional languages in areas desiring independence. However, what was of most interest is the interpreting done by the students.

The students interpreted from English, Spanish, French, German and Chinese, into French, English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and German. The difference in language structures could be easily noticed as French, English and Spanish interpreters could speak at more or less the same pace as the speakers from whom they were interpreting. It could be noticed that the students interpreting Chinese had to wait more often than not, until a full sentence was said before they could translate it. One of the English speakers gave all interpreters a challenge by using, metaphors and idioms, such as “luxuries in the pound shop of life”, referring to the regional languages spoken in areas of Europe. However, potentially the most impressive interpreting was done by the BSL representatives, who at times when a speech was given by a Chinese speaker, had to listen to a translation by one of the students and further translate that into BSL.

The students had been well briefed and prepared on the topics they had to work with. Listening to their work, you could hear mishaps and confusions; this is not to criticize the students’ work, which was, in itself, extraordinary. This remark is more directed at the art of translation and interpreting in today’s world in general. Language is a complex and beautiful thing. Translation is truly an art. The debate made me reflect on what really gets lost in translation. In this case in the world of politics where world leaders discuss sensitive subjects, language is of the deepest essence and the importance of an accurate and clear translation can make all the difference in the world.”

For Jana, who is also currently in her final semester of a degree in French, “participating in this event has been extremely useful as it allowed us all to peek into the profession of interpreters, for which the students at the Heriot Watt University are trained (at undergraduate as well as postgraduate level). I realized that only thanks to the hard work of the simultaneous interpreters (who must keep up with the pace of the speaker and switch promptly between the languages) does the otherwise inaccessible information become available within seconds. In addition, the complexities of switching between certain language codes became extremely apparent. For instance the code-switching between English and Chinese seemed to be very challenging as opposed to English versus German, for instance. However, although tempted for years, the ‘cosiness’ of the booth is not for me. I find conference environments rather stressful to deal with as the speakers often forget that they are being interpreted, which makes the work of an interpreter unbelievably hard. I would like to conclude by stressing my deep admiration towards the skills of the students-linguists who performed at the event. They were all very professional and considering they are still students without any real-life practice, their performance was fantastic.”

2014 HW Debate

Finally, Antonella, in her final semester of a joint degree in French and Spanish, felt that ‘it was such an honour to attend the Multilingual Debate held at the University of Heriot-Watt representing Stirling University languages students. As a languages student, what I found interesting was, first of all, the high level of interpreting provided by the same Interpreting and Translation postgraduate students who were working with impressive dexterity from and into English, French, Spanish and German simultaneously. Also, the group of European languages was joined by students interpreting from and into Chinese and into Arabic, which contributed to make it even more fascinating. I am glad to remark that half of the team of interpreters was made up of international students, which shows the increasing level of expertise and willingness to rise to the challenge among those whose native language is not English, and yet come to study to the UK for language specialized courses.

Secondly, on a personal level, I found myself caught up by the different approaches taken by the panellists in their mother tongue (be it French, English or Spanish) whilst eavesdropping the booths with my auricular to follow the translation provided, moved by a genuine curiosity toward the process of simultaneous interpreting and how specific speech situations would be tackled on the spot.

Following the debate, I had a discussion with my fellow classmates about whether we would prefer to test our own language skills by providing an accurate written translation or by having the thrill of ‘’bridging the cultural gaps’’ live from what it looks as a rather cosy booth. It seems that Stirling language students would always go for the translation challenge. Although someone did suggest: “How fascinating would it be if we got to do some Interpreting studies here too?” Maybe Heriot-Watt University has already unconsciously started to lead the way and inspire future interpreters, besides the current professional translators, made in Stirling. Let it be!”

2014 HW Students III

Thanks to Jean-Michel for organising this, to the students for their comments, and to Finn for the pictures!