Tag: Food

Jumping in at the deep end: Speaking French in Québec

Following on from Brett’s tales of life in Japan, more travelling French at Stirling adventures, this time courtesy of this great post from Stuart who has spent the past academic year working as an English Language Assistant in Québec:

2019 Close Snow Photo June 19‘Salut tout le monde! It’s been a while now since my last post which, as you know, has been due to working as an English Language Assistant on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in Québec, one of the last bastions of French in North America. With my nine months there over now, I’m excited to share a little bit about my experience with you.

First off, I want to address the elephant in the room here. Yes, les québecois do have a very different accent to the French we’re used to hearing in a European context. At the beginning this can be a major shock to the system and can leave you in situations like when, in the very first week, I had a 20-minute conversation with an elderly bus driver where I understood about 10% of what he was saying! However, by the end of the nine months, your ear starts to tune into it far better and you can feel yourself starting to accept the things they say and even repeat them without even thinking about it (those of you in my conversation classes next year will have this challenge to look forward to!).

When I was anxiously awaiting news of my placement in Québec last year, I had a few people tell me that it might be a detriment to my French dealing with the accent and all the slang (this ended up encouraging me more as I am rather stubborn!). I’ve since found out that this is what some French language assistants are told about coming to Scotland! I won’t lie: it is challenging, but challenging ourselves by stepping outside our comfort zone is a common occurrence when trying to learn a new language. Plus, at the end of the day, it is still French, albeit with many strange new phrases like fin de semaine (which they’re very proud of and like to ridicule their European cousins for saying le weekend ), c’est plate (that’s boring) and c’est correct (pronounced corr-eck and meaning the same as that’s good or that’s fine).

2019 Close Snow Scenes II Photo June 19The other thing you might have heard about Québec is that it snows a lot there. Let me tell you, words cannot do that justice, so I’ve included some photos to give you a sense of it. The average temperature was around -25C (even reaching -50C one evening with the help of some polar winds. So, bloody cold safe to say (or il fait frette en tabernak, asti! as I would often hear). The beautiful thing about Québec is that even faced with these temperatures and snow levels that would totally shut down most other countries (*cough* the whole of Britain during the ‘snowstorm’ March 2018), life goes on and then some in Québec. I’d safely say the most fun I had was in winter – skiing, snowshoeing and watching live ice hockey matches became part of daily life.

2019 Close Snow Scenes III Photo June 19

2019 Close Poutine Photo June 19If I was to write about my whole 9 months there, you’d be reading this till the end of next semester, so I’ll leave you with one little language learning victory. To make a long story short, the day in question had been extremely long and exhausting and I fancied a nice big poutine to make it all better (poutine is chips with gravy and cheese curds, and I’ll miss it dearly). I headed to a local fast food place with my heart set on the biggest format – Réguliere. In what I knew was good French. However, when the receipt came back it read: bébé… I knew that this just wasn’t going to cut it so I pointed it out to the cashier. He went into the kitchen (which was right in front of me so I could hear every word they were saying) and I could make out through the huffing and puffing the cashier saying in French : ‘Yeah I know man, it’s just that he speaks French so weirdly’. Normally, I would have brushed this off, but after the day I’d just had I couldn’t help myself. To the two guys and the entire queue forming behind me, I loudly announced ‘c’est parce que je suis écossais’ (it’s because I’m Scottish). I think they’d assumed I couldn’t understand what they were saying, because, after looking very taken aback, they changed the order to the big format at no extra charge! Learning a language pays!

While I wouldn’t quite say I’m fluent in French yet. I can definitely see an improvement from where I was last year and I’m excited to test it out back at Stirling this year. I hope you enjoyed my ramblings about Québec and maybe take some inspiration for where to go for your ELA year (which I highly recommend doing of course). Merci, et à la prochaine!’

Many, many thanks to Stuart for the fantastic blog post – we’re delighted to hear that things have gone so well and hope that you won’t miss the poutine too much when you’re back in Stirling…

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Study Abroad: ‘So many more places I want to travel to’

There’s a bit of a ‘Tours theme’ emerging in these recent posts, just based on the coincidence of what articles come in and when and what we’re all up to. What is particularly fun about this all is that we’re getting different perspectives on the Erasmus exchange process, from our colleagues going to Tours to Tours colleagues coming to us and now, after Mairi’s recent post about her first impressions, Rhiannon, who is also in Tours for the semester as part of her BA Hons in French, has sent her thoughts and some great photos of her travels:

2019 Quinn Tours Blog Post Cathedral Feb19‘Bonjour,

This semester I am doing my study abroad in a place called Tours in France. It’s in a region that is part of the Loire Valley meaning that it is surrounded by history with many castles and museums which I love because there are so many interesting things about France. For example, I learned more about the French revolution and Joan of Arc when I went to Orléans and actually stood in the very spot where she once stood, which admittedly gave me chills.

Since coming here, I have managed to do a lot of travelling. We had a week’s holiday during February, and I managed to go to Switzerland, Slovenia, Austria and the Czech Republic (all by bus) which was so surreal. I had the best time seeing places that I’d never thought I would ever get to see, in particular, Lake Bled in Slovenia. The scenery was just breath-taking, and we had an amazing view of the Alps in the background. The weather also seemed to work in our favour and surprisingly it didn’t rain.

2019 Quinn Tours Blog Lake Pic Feb19

Tours itself is very nice, and I have been able to try some amazing food. There are more bakeries than I can count so it is nice to always have a selection of cakes and pastries wherever I go. There is a huge cathedral that I am always in awe of whenever I am nearby as it is simply stunning. One thing that I do love is the transport system and how efficient it is. It is so bizarre to me that a bus can actually be on time.

I am enjoying my classes at the university and have found that all my teachers are lovely and very helpful and welcoming. All of my classes are for exchange students which I do very much enjoy as I am meeting people from all over the world and have made very good friends with people from countries such as the USA, Germany, England etc.

I am now nearing the half-way point of my study abroad and it has gone by so fast. There are so many more places that I want to travel to and I am thankful that this experience has given me the opportunity to do it all.’

Many, many thanks to Rhiannon for having sent this great blog post and we hope you’re able to continue taking full advantage of everything Tours has to offer, as well as travelling well beyond the city, over the remaining months of the Semester Abroad.

 

Semester Abroad: ‘Aix has begun to feel like home!’

The last day of our mid-semester break and it’s time to post a few updates, starting with this great post from Evelyn who is in the 3rd year of a BA Hons in French with us and is currently enjoying her integral Semester Abroad:

2019 McLennan Aix Pic II Feb19‘It’s now been a month and a half since I set off for Aix-en-Provence for my semester abroad at Aix-Marseille Université. The time has flown by and Aix has begun to feel like home which I didn’t think would happen in such a short space of time!

Whilst I had applied for and been granted a room in student accommodation, I wasn’t able to move in until the Tuesday of the first week. This meant that I had to stay in a hotel for the first few nights which, whilst annoying, did mean that I spent a bit of time in the centre of town and so got to know my way around quite quickly. When I was finally able to move into the halls, I was pleased to see how close they are to the university campus and it reminded me happily of my first year at Stirling when I could roll out of bed and make it to class in half an hour! Although basic, the halls are actually really nice, as long as you like aeroplane bathrooms and not socialising with your neighbours. There are thirty rooms to one kitchen, Geddes almost sounds like a dream in comparison, and people seem to enter, cook and leave with nothing more than a simple “bonne soirée”.

2019 McLennan Aix Pic IV Feb19The main university building is almost as much of a maze as Stirling’s Cottrell Building, but thankfully there are maps at the end of each colour-coded corridor to help you find your way. My first class was French to English translation where I quickly learnt that translating into your native language isn’t as easy as you might think! I had a few false starts with my timetable, ending up in one class where I hadn’t completed the first semester of the course and another that I was informed I didn’t have the right to be in; I was promptly asked to leave! It’s all worked out in the end though and I have a timetable of classes that are interesting and definitely developing my French!

I am very lucky to be travelling with my Stirling friend Charlotte who has family nearby in Marseille. Her family has been so kind in helping me to get settled and discover the area. This experience has brought us so much closer as friends as well as introducing us to other great people! We have a small but fun group of friends comprising other Erasmus students with whom we have explored a lot to discover the town and its culture.

2019 McLennan Aix Pic III Feb19There is a fair bit to do in Aix with a choice of three cinemas, lots of shops, several museums as well as multiple restaurants and bars. There are weekly parties organised by the Erasmus Student Network which give us the excuse to discover new bars and meet new people; although I have to say Aix’s IPN Club makes Fubar back in Stirling look pretty impressive! The ESN also organise cultural tours and events around Aix and Marseille which help to discover the local culture.

All in all, I am loving my time here in Aix-en-Provence and I can already tell that leaving in May will be very difficult!’

Many, many thanks to Evelyn for this great post and we hope you continue to enjoy all that Aix has to offer over the months ahead!

From Stirling to Sicily: ‘Why Italy?… Why not?!’

There’s a bit of a theme emerging across recent posts in the shape of travel and the opportunities for travel that come with the study of languages, from current students on Study Abroad to those who’ve come back from Semesters Abroad singing their praises to school pupils or colleagues on teaching exchanges… And, for many of our graduates, the travelling continues. Last time we caught up with David, he was working as an English Language Assistant at a University in Colombia so we wanted to see how (and where!) we is now:

“Hello again! I was off to Scotland again last week for a good ceilidh and some Irn Bru and thought I would give you a little update. In case you haven’t read any of my previous posts, my name is David and I graduated from the University of Stirling with a Bachelor of Arts in French and Spanish in 2017.

I was in Colombia last year working for the British Council as an English Language Assistant at the Universidad Catolica de Pereira (in the coffee region). It was an amazing experience which enabled me to improve my language skills and gain professional experience. For instance, preparing and teaching my own classes gave me the chance to gain independence as well as build my self-confidence. I was also able to collaborate with other university departments, such as Industrial Design, Comparative Literature, International Relations, etc.

Before working with the British Council, I never imagined I would go from planning speaking activities, to translating psychology and economics theses or that I would end up having a regular podcast on the university radio station on intercultural dynamics between countries. I found out how useful languages really are…! Working 18 hours a week left me plenty of time to travel around a beautiful country and discover a fascinating culture I had not really thought about before. In fact, it is thanks to the programme at Stirling, which focuses as much on Latin American cultures as on Spain, that I was so keen to experience life in Latin America.

When I left Colombia in May last year, I was quite sad to leave a community of friends and colleagues with whom I had spent so much time. However, I didn’t want to miss the chance to travel around Latin America. I saw places, and met people, that I will never forget! As I wasn’t quite ready to go back to Scotland yet and wasn’t sure as to what I wanted to do professionally, I decided to apply for another year as a language assistant, but this time in Italy!

Why Italy, you may ask… Why not? Having worked in Colombia and lived and studied in Spain during my year abroad, I wanted to learn a new language in order to set myself a personal challenge and widen my professional opportunities. I was appointed to a state secondary school in Sicily and I am loving it! It is sunny, the food is delicious and the people are very welcoming. From a professional point of view, I have gained invaluable experience in organising cross-cultural talks and have also added a new language to my CV!

At the end of this academic year, I will go to Glasgow to study for a PGDE in French and Spanish, do my probationary year somewhere in Scotland and then see what happens! Whatever you may be studying, as long as you enjoy it and believe in what you are doing, then you will be able to find a way in which to use what you’ve learned to your advantage. Everything you learn while at university, whether it be how to cook or how to write an essay, will come in handy one way or another!

So, to anyone who is struggling with exams and essays in their final year of uni, don’t worry, you are almost done! And to those of you who are just starting out, remember that Stirling is exceptionally flexible when it comes to your degree, so take your time deciding what you really want to study!”

Many thanks to David for another fantastic post and we hope you continue to enjoy your time in Sicily, and look forward to further updates over the months ahead!

 

A Semester in Nancy: ‘I’m looking forward to spending a few more months here!’

As Stirling enjoys a day of mist and snow, it seems a good moment to post another little article from one of this semester’s Study Abroad students, Margareta, who is at the beginning of her time in Nancy, in the East of France:

‘Salut à toutes et à tous!

Unfortunately, I don’t feel confident enough to write this post in French (yet). Recently, despite not having a singing voice, I accidentally joined the choir here (I zoned out in the middle of a meeting and said ‘oui’)…  However, I can tell you a bit about my Erasmus experience so far and maybe give some advice!

I’m currently doing my semester abroad in Nancy at the Université de Lorraine. I would describe Nancy as a smaller version of Paris with a lot of picturesque hilly streets and pâtisseries, only a bit cleaner. The location of the town itself is pretty great since you are about a 2-hour train ride away from Paris, Strasbourg, Luxembourg and many other places worth visiting.

2019roncevicnancypicijan19

The biggest problem I encountered before coming here was finding the accommodation as I tried to apply through CROUS, an organisation that operates uni accommodation on a national level in France. I found them to be quite ineffective and unresponsive. After a month and a half of trying to apply for the accommodation and them not giving me any feedback on my application, I decided just to look for a private room. [Side note: our Erasmus coordinator in France told me that CROUS called her sometime in mid-January and they were confused by me not coming. They didn’t e-mail me or communicate in any other way that they had received my application or anything else.]

2019roncevicnancypicivjan19This turned out to be great because I found a brilliant room in a house with garden and next to the river canal. There’s also a wee cat. Another advantage is that all 3 of my flatmates are French and refuse to speak English with me. They have also invited me to make salted crêpes and cheese fondue. The point is, find French flatmates if you can! They are great, friendly and it’s an amazing opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture and make new friends!

For example, I knew French had great wine, but beer? Turns out the house that I live in, in Maxeville, was a part of a brewery. Lorraine has a brilliant tradition of beers and pretty much wherever you go, you’ll find mini-breweries. Local beer or wine, cheese from farmers’ markets and some fresh bread – delicious!

2019roncevicnancypiciiijan19So far, this is my 5th year living away from home, so I’m not feeling extremely homesick or anything like that. It is very nice to have Jennifer here with me, especially when going to classes for the first time and trying to figure out our schedules. Lectures and seminars are very similar, almost identical to Stirling and there’s a big list of modules to choose from. We’re also taking an intensive French course with other Erasmus students and I’m very happy with it so far. It’s much easier to enjoy French when your professor laughs at his own jokes and explains everything 3 times – until we definitely understand it.

All in all, Nancy has been welcoming and a pleasant surprise. I would recommend everyone to consider it for their semester abroad. All the bureaucracy in the first semester was well worth it and I’m looking forward to spending a few more months in this place!’

Many thanks to Margareta for taking the time to send us this post and we hope you continue to enjoy your time in Nancy!

2019roncevicnancypiciijan19

‘Parlez-vous franglais?’: Starting a Semester Abroad in Tours

Much sooner than I anticipated, following on from the promise last week that we’d be posting some articles by students embarking on their semester of Study Abroad, I’m delighted to be able to start that particular series with this great post from Mairi:

‘I have been in Tours for almost a week now and it has been a very overwhelming and exhausting week. I arrived on Thursday evening, 12 hours after leaving my home in Scotland. I travelled with my friend and course mate Rhiannon who is also studying in Tours with me this semester. Both of us were tired, exhausted and nervous to start our new life in France. We checked in to our hotel and went to McDonalds which is somewhat ironic when you are in one of the best places for food in the world and you choose to go to a fast food chain, but we were starving and it was just around the corner from our hotel.

2019 edwards tours pic ii jan19

The next day we went to collect our keys for our accommodation in student halls of residence which required using buses, trams and taxis. Not an easy task when you’ve never visited Tours before, and you’ve overestimated your level of French. Nevertheless, after numerous conversations in franglais (a made-up combination of French and English) we moved in and unpacked our suitcases that we had spent so long packing. After that we explored the city and tried to get our bearings, again not simple but we’re slowly getting there.

2019 edwards tours cathedral pic jan19On Saturday we did some more exploring and visited Tours Cathedral, one of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve ever seen – similar to Notre Dame with its gothic architecture, high ceilings and stained-glass windows. It was simply breath-taking and provided myself and Rhiannon with a few moments of welcome peace after what had been a very stressful and emotional few days. Later in the evening we went to meet with some students from the International Society, we got chatting with a few girls (Sam, Emily and Marie) and then went for pizza with them afterwards. Emily and Marie were here last semester so they knew their way around the city very well and were able to recommend places to eat as well as directing us on our way home.

In the last few days I’ve done lots of exploring, shopping and tasting delicious French cuisine (there is a reason France is known for its bread and cakes). It has not been easy, what with adapting to a new culture, trying to understand and speak French, as well as becoming familiar with an unfamiliar city. It takes time but as the days go on it gets easier to understand the city around me. Next week I start classes which will be a welcome routine to get into and I’m looking forward to all the trips and travelling that I have lined up. More coming soon.  A bientôt.’

2019 edwards tours pic i jan19

Many thanks to Mairi for this great article (and I would add that Mairi has her own blog about her travels! We hope the semester continues to go well and look forward to updates over the weeks ahead.

Erasmus+ Teaching Exchange in Limoges

As we mentioned in the previous blog post, this year’s French at Stirling Study Abroad cohort are just starting their semester at one of our many partner institutions across France and the wider Francophone world. Most of them will be doing so as part of an Erasmus+ exchange so, as they start that particular chapter, we wanted to post an article by Aedín ní Loingsigh who also benefitted from the Erasmus+ programme just before Christmas but, in her case, in order to undertake a teaching exchange with one of our partners:

“In December, I spent a week teaching at the Université de Limoges as part of the Erasmus + staff mobility programme. The location of Limoges in west-central France meant I was able to fly to Bordeaux and spend some time there before beginning my teaching. I had lived in Bordeaux as a student many years ago (I won’t say how many…). Although the city has changed a lot since my time there, it was wonderful to stroll around and recall the thrill of discovering the possibilities that France seemed to offer as I was coming to the end of my undergraduate studies.

I left Bordeaux early on the day that a large Gilets jaunes protest was planned. Driving inland to visit some friends in Agen, I encountered a small number of protesters at various roundabouts. These were all cheerful encounters and did nothing to prepare me for accounts I later heard of the violence that had broken out in Bordeaux after I had left. Chatting with people later, I noticed that the Gilets jaunes was an ‘event’ that people wanted to explain to me just as they wanted me to explain the story of Brexit dominating the news in the UK.

These topics of conversation did not disappear when I got to Limoges. If anything, Gilets jaunes/Brexit became the ‘must-be-acknowledged’ issue to broach, however briefly, each time I encountered somebody new. Some of the most interesting conversations were with the students I taught. They were particularly keen to learn how the Gilets jaunes movement was being interpreted in the UK and what I had understood was happening since my arrival in France. In my responses, I noticed how they ‘corrected’ what they thought was ‘inaccurate’ and how they sometimes disagreed amongst themselves as they tried to ‘explain’ the reasons behind the actions of the French protesters. In my own attempts to ‘explain’ Brexit, I became highly aware that my own views on the subject invariably coloured the version of events I was providing for my French listeners.

2017 oct dodds downey limogesIn the end, I saw that this was a really interesting way into some of the key principles of translation theory that I had been asked to teach during my visit. The key point I had prepared for discussion with the postgraduate Translation Studies students in Limoges was the question of ‘translator stance’, i.e. the idea that translators/interpreters are not neutral figures who simply transform the ‘same’ story into another language. As translators translate, they are also trying to explain. But it is inaccurate to imagine that as translators do this, they somehow remove themselves from the reality of the world they live in and become neutral figures. In other words, it is wrong to think that bias becomes lost in translation. Discussing this idea with the students in Limoges was really rewarding, especially once we had established how our own ‘stance’ can influence our explanation of events across different languages and cultures. As well as thinking about how we translate ourselves, we looked at different examples of translators/interpreters in the colonial era and tried to find evidence of their ‘stance’ in things like footnotes, 2017 quentin hotel-ville-mairie-limoges marchprefaces, diaries and personal correspondence.

The seminars I taught were longer than I am used to in Stirling (two of the seminars I taught were 3 hours long) and the students weren’t quite as used to working in groups as students in Stirling are. But they were enthusiastic to work in new ways, they were well prepared, and they had lots of ideas they wanted to share. They were also happy to be active translators in the classroom and willingly helped me to find equivalents for any terms and concepts I couldn’t find in French. In the end, the length of seminars went unnoticed. Moreover, with my teaching largely timetabled for the morning (8.30am starts are quite common), I had plenty of time to go to the university restaurant for a delicious three-course CROUS lunch for less than 7€ — students pay even less. In some respects, the university buildings and teaching facilities in Limoges were less well maintained than in Stirling but the emphasis on healthy, affordable food and communal eating was really inspiring and made me wish it was done so effortlessly in our own university.

My time in Limoges was too brief. I only managed to see a little of the city centre and had no time to explore the beautiful countryside I had seen on my long train journey from Agen. But I saw enough to want to go back and make teaching in France something I try to do more often. Learning from the students in Limoges, translating at the same time as I was teaching about translation, and being confronted in real time with the complexity of communicating ideas back and forth between English and French was deeply enriching. I had many wonderful experiences in Limoges but what it reminded me above all else was the importance of exchange: of engaging with other ways of doing things, of learning about/from differences of culture and opinion, and of striving to be open at all times to new experiences.

Finally, two discoveries from my week in France might be useful to students in Stirling reading this blog as they prepare for discussion of topical matters related to France this Spring:

  1. This podcast from France Culture called L’esprit public. It comes out every Sunday and is a really clear and accessible discussion of the big political events of the previous week.
  2. This short text from Édouard Louis, Qui a tué mon père. It is a very moving, personal account of this young author’s relationship with his father crossed with a more detached, sociological attempt to understand the cultural and economic factors shaping working class life in North East France. Although it doesn’t directly address the ongoing political upheaval in France and the significance of the Gilets jaunes, it was the best ‘translation’ I came across of the deep frustration and anger that is underpinning this movement.”

Many thanks to Aedín for the great blog post and to our partners at Limoges for their hospitality!