Tag: French and English

Language Ambassadors: Encouraging Pupils to Learn Languages

Over the course of this Autumn/Winter semester at Stirling, we’ve continued to develop our work with secondary schools, sometimes focusing primarily on French, sometimes working in collaboration with our colleagues in Spanish, always underlining the advantages that come through studying languages. We’re hoping to post a few more updates about these activities over the coming weeks and, to start with, we’re pleased to be able to post the following article, co-written by Laura, who is in the final year of a BA Hons in English Studies and French, and Michael, who is in Year 2 of his BA Hons programme in Professional Education (Primary) with a specialism in Modern Languages. Laura and Michael’s day saw them representing French at Stirling as Language Ambassadors at Williamwood High School in Clarkston, East Renfrewshire.

For Michael: ‘When I was asked to be a part of the group of students going to Williamwood High School I was keen to accept the invitation. I thought that it would be a worthwhile opportunity to speak to high school pupils just beginning to think about their futures, about the possibility of going to university, and hopefully to encourage them to study a modern language. On the day of our visit, we represented the University of Stirling at a careers fair organised by the school’s modern languages department and got to speak to three groups of fourth year pupils who attended the fair. We started off each group with a presentation about the modern language courses offered at Stirling and the different pathways they could follow. Specifically, we covered the standard four-year degree structure; the possibility of a year or semester abroad; popular joint degrees with a modern language; and how a joint degree with Primary or Secondary Education differs from other courses. We were able to go into some depth about the differences caused by Education as a few of us, including myself, are doing a joint degree with Education.

At the end of the presentation, we had time to take some questions from the pupils. Most questions were centred on the countries and places you could go on a semester or year abroad, and what it was like to live in a foreign country. Other questions focused on the student experience and campus life. Our group from Stirling was comprised of second, third and fourth year students so we were able to give the pupils a number of perspectives.

All the pupils listened well and told us they found our presentation interesting. I myself enjoyed hearing about the experiences of the older students in our group. I was also glad that I could make studying languages at university something for the pupils to consider when thinking about their plans for after school.’

As for Laura: ‘As well as thinking about the content of what we presented it is also relevant to emphasise the reason why we did it. In my opinion, when we are young, we tend to think that our future is still very far away, and that we have got time to think about our future jobs; but when it comes to learning languages, it is never too early to start, and schools should always encourage students to study languages and show them the  different pathways they can follow after their high school. This is basically what we did at Williamwood High School.

From another perspective, I am a Catalan student in Stirling doing English and French and I found the idea of going to a school to talk about the language degrees opportunities, the importance of speaking more than one or two languages and the life in university all very important. Not only were the themes in our presentation important, but also the fact that we are students and we explained to them this information from our point of view and from our own experiences helped the pupils to think that they can also accomplish their career goals if we are also doing it.

When I was in high school, I was already doing English and French as foreign languages alongside Catalan and Spanish. Everyone kept telling us, study languages is always very important in life and for your future, but we were never told why it was important and what pathways we could take if we wanted to focus on languages. In order to motivate students to do and to accomplish something, I think it is important to show them examples and to have people explaining their own experiences as a way of motivating and encouraging students to follow similar pathways. Besides, schools should promote the idea that learning languages opens many doors in life and especially in terms of employability; in this way, they see that learning languages is not pointless and they can set their goals easily with examples.

Although I already had my future ideas very clear, unfortunately, my own school teachers did not prepare me for this, and this is why I accepted the invitation straight away so as to show students that what they are doing right now really matters for their future by illustrating my experiences as an example for them. It was important to present them the wide range of choices they have in terms of languages courses and degree combinations but also the opportunities the university gave us such as the mandatory semester abroad specially in the French case, it gives the chance to students to discover the real francophone culture that was represented in the textbooks and the news.

All in all, I think our message is clear: we want to encourage students of all ages to learn languages, to take advantage of all the opportunities that the French department (and Languages more broadly) in Stirling offers and to never stop learning languages.’

Many, many thanks to Laura and Michael for having taken the time to put together this blog and to them and all our Language Ambassadors for the great work they continue to do. And thanks to the pupils and staff at Williamwood for the warm welcome!

 

Language teaching and juggling acts

Among the various blog posts that have been lurking in my inbox waiting to make it onto the blog is the following update from Fiona who graduated in English and French from Stirling in 2012 and then came back to complete our MSc in Translation and TESOL in 2013-14. Since then, Fiona has undertaken teacher training and she has just started a permanent post in Renfrewshire where life remains as busy as ever:

2019 Nov Fiona Mears Pic IV‘Having gained provisional registration with the GTCS in June 2018, I embarked on the next stage of the ‘becoming a fully-fledged teacher’ process. I was placed in a school in Falkirk Council for my NQT year, and what a year it turned out to be! I was solely responsible for classes at all stages of secondary schooling, including a bi-level certificated class doing National 5 and Higher. I still vividly remember the agonising wait for exam results back when I was at school. I hadn’t, however, bargained on just how nerve-wracking results day is for the teacher! Thankfully the hard work put in by all paid off and my first ever certificated class did me and themselves proud.

The year was a steep learning curve. I had to hit the ground running and very quickly get to grips with all the administration and reporting that comes with teaching, never mind get used to putting schemes of work together and planning lessons. The expectations placed on me as an NQT were huge. I had to attend weekly CPD sessions run both by my school and by the council. I found myself involved in a range of activities outwith the classroom, from helping at a weekend-long team-building residential for senior pupils to attending the senior ceilidh and prom.

2019 Nov Fiona Mears Pic II also volunteered to help out with the school’s Duke of Edinburgh programme, which saw me frying sausages using trangias in Beecraigs Country Park, climbing Dumyat early one Saturday morning and spending several nights sleeping in a tent between expeditions to North Berwick, Aviemore and Arran. While it required a big-time commitment, including staying late after school for training and giving up weekends, my involvement with the Duke of Edinburgh programme without a doubt left me with some of my most treasured memories from my NQT year.

Sadly, budget cuts meant that my school was unable to keep me on and I had to move on to pastures new. In May, I secured a permanent position at a school in Renfrewshire Council, where I’ve been settling in well. On top of my teaching responsibilities, I’ve decided that this is the year to start the Certificate of Continuing Education in Spanish (basically a part-time undergraduate degree) to gain dual qualification in French and Spanish. The course is proving to be fast-paced and very full on, but mostly it’s a welcome return to studying and learning. How I’ll manage to keep up with the course during busier-than-usual spells at work remains to be seen, but for now I’m just about managing the juggling act between teaching, studying, socialising and a hefty commute.’

Many, many thanks to Fiona for finding the time to send us this update and the photos. All the best for the new job and we look forward to more blog posts in the future. And, who knows, maybe we’ll have a chance to meet some of your pupils at a future Stirling Languages Day…

Grammar books and summer holidays

And following our catch-up with Emily at the end of her 2nd year, another update. This time from Paige who, this time last year, was also just reaching the end of Year 1:

‘I’ve just finished my second year of university, which is crazy that I’m halfway through my degree already! This year was the first year since changing my degree programme from English Studies and Secondary Education to English Studies and French and I was surprised how well they linked.

French has been completely different to first year in the beginner stream. Rather than three classes a week which comprised of grammar and vocabulary; there was a Matière lecture, Matière seminar, Written language class, Conversation class and Langage Parlé class. I enjoyed the Matière lectures and seminars the most because they’re so different to anything available at high school – they are known as French culture classes but they are also a mix of French history and current issues.

There were more opportunities to speak French this year with two dedicated classes: Langage Parlé and Conversation classes. The Conversation class was more relaxed and informal which encouraged everyone to join in the discussion, whereas the Langage Parlé class was slightly more formal. I enjoyed the Langage Parlé class too, as every week there was a short topical article to read to prepare for the class and they were always really interesting and informative.

The only class I can’t say I enjoyed was the Written Language class which is a grammar class but I think it was because I was gently re-introduced to French after four years with Beginners’ classes so switching to the Advanced classes was a bit of a shock to the system. Suddenly the gaps in my knowledge (everything I forgot in the four years in between high school and University) became apparent to me and I felt I struggled in this class. So, this Summer my plan is to work through a grammar book and attempt to teach myself everything I’ve forgotten! University is all about taking responsibility for your learning and deciding on what degree classification you want, then putting in the necessary work to achieve it.

If anyone reading this blog is considering studying a language at University or doesn’t want to stop studying a language but hasn’t thought about doing a language degree (as was the case with me) I highly recommend going straight from high school or as close to it as possible! Otherwise it’s a bit of an uphill struggle trying to relearn everything to reach the same level of proficiency as everyone else on the course.

Last year I spoke about the opportunities available to those studying a French degree and my excitement to embrace the opportunity to spend a year in France in between second and third year, working as an English Language Assistant through the British Council. I have applied and in April I heard that I have been shortlisted! Now I have a nerve-wracking wait until the end of June to hear if I have been allocated a placement…’

Many, many thanks to Paige for this update. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for the ELA placement and really hope that works out!

“How I somehow got accepted to do a Master at Waseda University in Japan…”

As promised, following on from Charlotte’s post about life and work since graduating last month, another of our 2017 graduates, Julie Perruchon who just completed her BA Hons in French and English, has sent us an article about her plans for the next couple of years which will see her embarking on postgraduate studies in Japan:

“Like any other student, my final semester at the University of Stirling consisted mostly of essay writing, university applications and general agonizing about the future. I had decided that I was determined to go to Japan; either to do a Master, or as an English teacher at an ‘Eikawa’ (English Language Schools). I had done a lot of research, looking into the universities that offered Master courses in English, as my Japanese abilities only extend to surviving day–to-day life. To my mum’s chagrin, I stubbornly only applied to Universities and jobs in Japan. She might have been right in saying that it would have been sensible to apply to university in either Denmark or Scotland as well, but I happily ignored all common sense and threw myself into my preparations.

I can’t count the times I went to my tutors to ask them to write references for me (which I can’t thank them for enough), how many books I read about Japanese society and culture for my research plan, and how many excruciating hours I spent filling out an endless stack of forms. After being rejected three times (by the JET-Programme, ICU and the GABA Corporation), I got accepted to Waseda University’s Graduate School of International Culture and Communication Studies, where I will be studying under the study plan of Culture and Communication. To my (and my mother’s) huge relief! My directed research supervisor hails from a British University (and is in possession of a decidedly British name), so a little piece of the Isles will be waiting for me in the Far East. On the basis of my research plan, it has already been decided that I will write my Master thesis on the topic of ‘The Intellectual and Literary History of Japan’, focusing on how different societal traditional systems have affected the lives of Japanese youths living in urban areas. Quite a mouthful, and I cannot wait to get started.

Japan being seven hours ahead of Denmark, I could go online and check whether I had been accepted to Waseda quite early in the morning. I was almost certain that my application had been rejected, so it came as a huge surprise when I saw the tiny numbers on my laptop screen that represented my application number. And, as one does, I couldn’t sleep for excitement for the rest of the night and started planning my future venture in great detail (or as great detail as a sleep deprived brain can muster).

And then reality hit. I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever been to Japan, or lived there, but finding an apartment without a Japanese bank account or phone number is proving to be rather difficult (read: almost impossible). Thankfully, I have the invaluable help of Waseda’s International Office, and I’m sure (fingers crossed) that I’ll be able to find my own tiny 12 square feet apartment squashed away in some corner of Tokyo. In the situations where befuddling paperwork and the promise of earthquakes have me questioning my own sanity, I look back fondly on how easy it was to move between Scotland and Denmark. No visa, no Certificate of Eligibility, no huge language barriers, no earthquakes (yes, I am terrified), and only one hour’s time difference to my native country. Pure heaven.

2017 Julie Perruchon Japan Pic July17My hope is that two years in Japan will help me master the Japanese language, and bring me new challenges both in my personal and University life. Now that it’s sure that I am going over there, it seems quite surreal and I haven’t yet completely wrapped my head around the fact that in less than a month and a half, I will be walking beneath the neon lights of the Shinjuku district in Tokyo. It’s the complete opposite from small and idyllic Stirling, with the most beautiful campus in the world, and nature just around the corner. Japan, and Tokyo, is going to be the next big adventure, and I can’t wait to see where what this decision is going to bring me. It’s terrifying and exciting, and I am overjoyed that I got the chance to go there.

So really, all there is left to say is a huge thank-you to the University of Stirling and everyone there! Mille mercis.”

Many thanks to Julie for taking the time to write this blog post and we’re looking forward to tales of life (and language learning) in Japan over the next few years! Best wishes for the course!

French and English at Stirling: ‘I’m so excited for next year!’

2017 Paige Hepburn Student Profile PicWhat 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!

“To Infinity and Beyond…”: 2017 Finalists’ Future Plans

For our students who will be graduating with degrees involving French in June this year, the exams and assessment for French are now over, the essays have all been submitted, and we wanted to get a chance to share the plans of those who’ll be in our 2017 graduating class. They don’t all know what they’re going to do once they graduate and their plans may well change over the months ahead but, just as a snapshot of the range of directions our languages graduates end up going in, here goes, in no particular order:

Emily, who’ll be graduating with Single Honours French, is “planning to go into firefighting and just waiting for the next recruitment drive, doing whatever else pays the rent in the meantime. I don’t know where I’ll end up doing this in the long run, but I’m very happy to be able to have Montreal and the south of France as strong contenders.” Mareike, who’ll be graduating in Psychology with a European Language, is off to Bournemouth where she’ll be embarking on an MSc in Nutrition and Behaviour (and hopefully finding ways to keep going with French). Sarah, who will be graduating with Single Honours French, has already relocated to Italy where she is working as an assistant park manager for a company on a French campsite. She worked as an employee for the company for the last two summers in France and since finishing university has moved up the ranks thanks to earning her degree, and having more experience. She says this is “a great way to work abroad and meet new people whilst also giving you the chance to live and experience French culture outside of university.”

Lysiane, whose degree is in French and Spanish, is planning on doing a postgraduate degree at Stirling in Strategic Communications and Public Relations. Her plan is to be able to apply for jobs in the future with skills in languages and in another field such as marketing or public relations because “most of the jobs I have been looking at are looking for people with language skills along with something else. I think this postgraduate degree will give me more experience and knowledge so that one day I might be able to become a PR in the hotel business or the airlines.” As for Kitti, who studied French and Global Cinema with us, a TEFL course beckons and she plans “to move to Grenoble for a year or two to teach English and in the meantime work on my French until it’s perfect. At the moment I’m doing an interpreting job and I love it, but I feel like with Hungarian there are not enough opportunities, so it would be good to add French to the list. Plus, I would love to try teaching so I think this would be a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.”

For Hannah, who’ll be graduating in French, teaching also lies ahead but in a different context: “After graduation, my plan is to complete a PGDE Primary course at UWS. My very rough business plan for this summer is to start up a French club for babies/toddlers and their parents/guardians where they will be able to learn some nursery rhymes and basic numbers, colours, and animals in preparation for starting French in primary school.” Alex, who’ll also be graduating in French, “will be working an internship in project management/operations for Ironman (the triathlon company, not Robert Downey Jr. sadly!) until October and then I will begin work as a Management Trainee at Enterprise Rent a Car on their graduate scheme. At some point in the next 5 years, having gained some business experience, I will seek to do a Masters or MBA (likely at Stirling) in order to improve my chances with larger employers.”

Julie, who started studying Japanese (informally) alongside her French and English Studies degree, is keen to get the opportunity to develop those language skills further so has applied to “Waseda University and the International Christian University in Japan for a postgraduate degree (Comparative Cultures at ICU and Culture and Communication at Waseda). In case I’m not accepted, I have also applied for a job at two different teaching companies that provide English teaching in Japan (Aeon and Gaba). I also plan to apply at Interac, which is a company that hires Assistant teachers to help with English teaching at Japanese High Schools and Junior High Schools. I am quite determined to get to Japan in one way or another, so I’m hoping…” We’ll keep our fingers firmly crossed! And Luise, a student of French and Spanish, has similarly potentially intercontinental travel on the horizon, having been accepted for an English teaching assistantship in Colombia. For administrative reasons, that might or might not work out, and, in the meantime, Luise has a summer job in Deanston Distillery (as a tour guide): “If Colombia does not work out, I might just stay in Scotland until October and work, then return to Germany and work there (helping families with new-born babies. My au pair experience will come in handy here.) In spring I will look for another opportunity to teach English in South America or Asia, something will eventually work out. I am hoping to get a certificate for teaching German later on – but first I need some experience. Should I feel that I am not a good teacher, I will go into translation (English and Spanish into German).”

Another of our Single Honours French students, Rebecca, is delighted to have just found out that she will be “heading to Canada for the British Council in August. It was a lengthy process and a nerve-racking wait but I now have a position in a secondary school as an English Language Assistant.” And Colm, who has been studying French and Spanish with us, is planning to spend the Summer and possibly the next year working to save some money to be able to undertake a Masters in Translation and Interpreting the following year. And if that doesn’t work out, he and Kitti have grand plans involving taking photos of students proudly holding dissertations on the banks of the beautiful campus lake

We’ll update this post as and when we hear back from other students among this year’s finalists and, most importantly, we wish them all the very best of luck for the future, wherever it might take them!

Life as a lectrice in France (Part II!)

It’s four years now since our former student Fiona completed her BA Hons in English and French at Stirling, and two years since she did her MSc in TESOL with us. The intervening period has seen Fiona working at a Language School in Edinburgh and taking up a post as a lectrice (ie an English Language Assistant) at the Université de Franche-Comté in Besançon back in Autumn 2015. Having been asked to stay on for a second year, Fiona is continuing to juggle the University-level teaching with work in a local Language School and has sent us an update on her adventures in France and in language teaching:

2016-fiona-mears-update-photo-nov16“Life continues in Besançon much as I left it in April, but with one major change: my two closest friends from last year have left, so my social life has taken quite a hit! Between seeing friends who are still here, though, and juggling my two jobs, I’m kept pretty busy. The new semester at the university got underway in September without any hitches and work resumed as normal at the language school after my five-month absence. At the university, things have been easier this time around. I’m teaching many of the same classes as last year, meaning that I know what I’m doing, much of the material is already prepared and I knew a lot of my students from last year which, if nothing else, was a blessing as it meant I didn’t have as many new names to learn. After the mild panic of having to teach it last year, phonetics is a breeze this semester. Even ‘transversal’ classes – language classes for non-specialists – are going more smoothly because I know what works well in the brochure and what to adapt. The only disappointment is that I don’t teach my favourite class from last year: 3rd year listening comprehension and oral expression. You win some, you lose some!

At the language school, too, I’m finding that lesson preparation comes more naturally and takes less time. I can reuse material from last year and, with experience, preparing new resources has become much easier. Back in September, I also started to ‘work’ with a lovely family, tutoring two teenagers in English once a week. I say ‘tutoring’: both of them speak almost perfect English having lived in the UK for a few years, so my role is to help them maintain their level. I go to their house, chat to each of them for a while and then stay for dinner. To be honest, I see it more as socialising than working!

2016-fiona-mears-update-maison-blanche-nov16

Teaching at the university finishes at the beginning of December, so I have just a couple of weeks to go. After that, I’ll have some invigilation to do, speaking exams to help with and I’ll be working at the language school right up until I head home for Christmas. I have a friend coming to visit in December, so our plan is to soak up the festive atmosphere by indulging in a spot of Christmas market hopping before flying home together on the 18th for a much-needed break.”

Thanks once again to Fiona for this update and enjoy the well-earned Christmas break when it comes!