Tag: French language

French at Stirling Stevenson Successes

Félicitations to Annika, Nicolas and Stefano – three French at Stirling students who have just finished their 2nd year and who have each been awarded a Stevenson Exchange Scholarship to help them undertake a project of research during their Semester Abroad next Spring. This is a great achievement for all three and we’ll post updates on their progress while they’re away on Study Abroad but we wanted to share their success.

The Stevenson Exchange Scholarships are awarded competitively each year with applicants from across all the Scottish Universities who have to submit an application including a research project outline and then attend an interview at Glasgow University. The range of topics Annika, Nicolas and Stefano will be exploring thanks to their scholarships gives a really good sense of the variety of research interests across undergraduate Languages students.

Annika is interested in the development of French social structures with particular focus on the relationship with the EU and the scholarship will help her, among other things, travel to Marseille to visit the Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée and to Roubaix to spend time researching in the Archives nationales du monde du travail.

Nicolas’s project aims to build on time he has already spent working in the fashion industry near Milan in order to further pursue his interest in fashion and the development of the fashion industry in France. As well as attending events around Paris Fashion Week, he intends to visit the Musée de la Mode in Albi and the Musée de Tissus et des Arts Décoratifs in Lyon.

As for Stefano, he wants to use the scholarship to enhance his knowledge of Human Rights, with a particular focus on those of refugees in France. The key components of his research project include planned trips to Mechel (Belgium) and to Geneva (Switzerland), to visit, respectively, the Kazerne Dossin–Mémorial, Musée et Centre de Documentation sur l’Holocauste et les Droits de l’Homme and the Musée International de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge.

This year’s trio will be following previous Stirling Stevenson successes, including Jeanne who is currently in Granada for her Semester Abroad, having been awarded a Scholarship through Spanish at Stirling. Having already undertaken a good deal of research into the question of the teaching of ‘untold’ histories through discussions with teachers at school and University-level about their experiences teaching on aspects of Franco’s Spain, Jeanne is now planning to focus to expand her research to include visits to historical monuments. “I will visit the Centro Federico García Lorca, where there is a library, to see if the War and the dictatorship are depicted and if so, how. I will also visit the rest of the Provincial Prison of Granada, almost fully destroyed, and the Campana prison for political opponents during Francoism, and the Cartel de las Palmas (where torture used to be carried out). She’s also planning a trip to Madrid, to see Guernica, and to Toledo, to visit the Museum of War.

Félicitations once again, to both the new Stevenson Scholars and those currently completing their projects from this past year!

“Immerse yourself in the language”: Reflections of a French and Psychology Graduate

As our 3rd week of the new semester gets underway, it’s time to post another profile of one of our recent graduates, Meghann Richardson, who has some great advice here for current (and future!) languages students:

“I was at the University of Stirling from 2009-2014 where I studied Psychology and French. Out of all the Universities in Scotland, it was Stirling’s beautiful, wild campus and great on-site facilities that made me choose it.

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My time at Uni was great. One of the biggest highlights was definitely the fact that working abroad for 7 months was a course component for French. I so enjoyed being abroad teaching English and would recommend it to anyone who is able to take a year out during their degree to go and do it. I particularly liked that it was between my 2nd and 3rd years of Uni as when I returned to start my 3rd year, I felt like my batteries had totally been recharged. I was really motivated to start studying hard again, plus, my French language skills had improved a lot making the transition into 3rd year much easier.

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To anyone who is studying French and feeling a bit discouraged by the challenges of speaking and understanding the language, it will get easier! When I arrived in France for the start of my year abroad I felt like I could hardly string together a decent sentence, but after a while of just listening to people speak French and myself, trying to ask questions and contribute to conversations, the rhythm of the language, words and expressions just began to sink in without me even noticing. Sometimes words or phrases that I didn’t even know the meaning of would just be stuck in my head – proof that the language was starting to stick to me.

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To help immerse yourself in the language and have the sensation of unknown words buzzing around your head while studying in Stirling, I would recommend any of the following:

  1. Read a book that you enjoyed in English in French. For myself, it was any of the Harry Potter books. The more familiar you are with the sounds and appearances of words in French, the easier it will be for you to learn and acquire the language.
  2.  Listen to the radio. You can download French radio Apps to your smart phone or computer. Good stations are FM radio, NRJ, France Inter, or rfi. FM radio is fun to listen to because it is dedicated to playing French music only.
  3.  And, finally, practise your vocabulary. To help you do this in a more hands-on interactive kind of way, you could record yourself reciting vocabulary in French and English onto your computer or smart-phone, save the recordings as sound files, and upload them to any device you use to listen to music. Listen to them whenever you have a spare moment. This has always been one of the most helpful ways for me to learn and memorise vocabulary.

It is important to be patient with yourself and with the speed at which your life is progressing. It may take you a while to sort out what you want to be doing and where you want to be. Sometimes the only way to figure out what you do want is by trial and error, and more often than not, by figuring out what you don’t want. Keep trying different and new things and try not to become complacent. All the people you meet and experiences you have along the way will teach you more about yourself and eventually lead you to where you want to be and, ultimately, to the career you want to be doing. And if you find you want to change your direction again after that, go for it! That’s my philosophy anyway.

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Before I close, I would like to leave you with a few revelations I have had since graduating:

  1. This month it’s 2.5 years since I graduated. In these 2.5 years I have worked in a nightclub, a call centre, and as a healthcare assistant in a hospital, which is where I am now. At this point in time, I am trying to pursue the Psychology part of my degree and hope to be hired as an Assistant Psychologist within the next year. I would, however, like to highlight that it has taken me nearly 2 years after completing Uni to finally make a solid decision about the direction I would like to go in. For a long time I was just unsure about what I wanted to do and at the back of my mind kept thinking if I don’t figure out what I want to do soon I’ll just go to France and find a job on a campsite or something – And it remains at the back of my mind even now! So, I’m pretty sure I will end up back in France at some point, I just want to get some endeavours in Psychology out of the way first.
  2. Also, be selfish about your learning. Don’t be scared to ask your tutors for help, advice or feedback. Get as much information out of them as you can.
  3. French aside, in more general terms, while you are at Uni make sure you get to know some of your tutors well. This will stand you in good stead should you ever need any kind of advice, academic reference, or help finding work experience during or after your degree. The most challenging part of the degree journey can be the moment you complete it. At this point contacts will come in handy!

Thanks for reading and I hope you have found some of the above information useful and encouraging. I wish you all the very best of luck, fun, adventure, success and happiness throughout your degree.”

And thanks to Meghann for having taken the time to reflect on having studied with us and for such great advice for other students. And best of luck for the future – we hope France and French makes its way back into your plans at some point.

Happy Holidays! Joyeuses fêtes!

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.

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Kirsten and Charlotte

Charlotte, in the final year of a BA Hons in French and Journalism, “enjoyed the semester very much even if it was a lot of work. Working on translation (both from English into French and French into English) really enhanced my skills. We also have a lot of support from staff.” For, Kirsten, who is in Year 3 of our BA Hons in International Management with European Languages and Society, the semester was “hard work, but well worth it. Fiona, our lecturer, helped me a lot and gave me all the support I needed, especially in translation.”

 

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.”

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Colm and Luise

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.”

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Michael and Thomas

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…

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Year 2 Christmas 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?!!

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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.”‘

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Amy, Shana and Holly

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.

From Erasmus and Assistantships to Project Management: Languages and Opportunities

Clare Condy graduated with a BA Hons in International Management with European Languages and Society in 2015 and we’re delighted to get a chance to post this article on both her memories of studying Languages at Stirling and where life after graduation has taken her:

2016-clare-condy-graduation“I graduated from Stirling just over a year and a half ago now, with a degree in International Management with French and Spanish. That day feels like just yesterday, it’s only now that I have been asked to write about what I have done since that I have taken some time to think back and suddenly Stirling actually feels like it was a long time ago.

So, what do you do after graduating? This is the question that starts to become that little bit more daunting as the years at university progress. Suddenly you must start to put together a plan, a plan of how to step out of the comforts and familiarity of student life and into an unknown ‘adult’ world.

Today I am living in Liverpool, working as a Project Manager with Amey as part of their Management Graduate Programme. Here is what happened between university and now. So, let’s rewind…

Studying two languages with business provided me with what I can only explain as a well-rounded degree. I loved the language components of my course; this part of my degree was what I really felt passionate about. Ever since I was in primary school, from the moment French was first introduced to me, the thought of learning a new language excited me, and it still does. So, choosing to study French and Spanish at university was an easy decision. The business part of my degree allowed me to put concepts we had discussed in French or Spanish classes into real business examples. Due to this, I was really able to get a valuable insight into each of my courses, no matter how different they were from each other.

Due to studying two languages, I had the opportunity to live in both France and Spain. I chose to do the British Council Language Assistant programme in France, and subsequently carried out my Erasmus in Spain. Both of these were fantastic experiences that, as cheesy as it may sound, really changed me as a person: I gained more confidence, improved my language skills and became more aware of other cultures, to name a few! After spending a total of 18 months abroad during my degree, I knew for sure that the country hopping life was soon becoming my aspiration for when university finished. I returned each time with a new bout of the want to travel and I soon started to picture myself more and more living in France or Spain or any other European country. So, I returned after my Erasmus to complete my final year with a feeling of satisfaction that I now had an idea of what I wanted after graduating.

During 4th year we were made aware that applying for the British Council Language Assistant Programme was an option. I didn’t have to think twice, my way back to France was here. A relatively easy application was all it would take to potentially have another go at being a Language Assistant. I found out further into the year that I had been accepted, and been offered my first choice of Strasbourg. I was so relieved, relieved to have a plan, and to be able to fully focus on final year rather than looking for jobs. I just had to wait until after the summer!

When I arrived in Strasbourg I was overwhelmed with its beauty. The half-timbered houses, the little beer taverns, the canals and its bridges were like nowhere I had ever lived before. As I lived in Paris last time round, I really was looking forward to seeing a whole other side of France. And that is exactly what I saw! I found it to be a really interesting place, with its German influence and the Alsatian culture and language; at times it didn’t feel relatable to France at all! I actually lived in one of the traditional houses in the centre of town which added to the experience of understanding the culture and the way of life in this town.

2016-clare-condy-strasbourgI worked between two high schools, in the north of Strasbourg in a town called Haguenau. The teaching side of things honestly did not go how I planned it would. I always saw teaching as a way to travel and to live in other countries, and maybe I didn’t actually consider the job for what it really was and wanted the lifestyle that came with teaching rather than actually the job itself. I realised only a few weeks into my new role that I no longer saw myself as being a teacher in the long term. But it being so early on, I hoped that feeling would pass.

Christmas in Strasbourg was amazing, I have never seen so much effort put into lights, markets, food stalls, everything revolved around it. The city lit up and the crowds filled the streets.

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Later on in the year, around February/March time I started to question whether I wanted to continue living away from home or not. As this was the third time trying to set up a life in a foreign country, the thought of home was, for the first time, seeming to be more and more attractive. I was tired of not really having any close friends around me or family, and the feeling of not being settled was now, ironically, giving me itchy feet. Maybe it was due to the fact that I had moved around for the last few years, or because the other times had always been for short periods of time, and this time was more of a potential permanent move away from Scotland, or maybe because I was not enjoying being a teacher any more. I missed the feeling of being challenged. Going from an intense final year at university, to a job that was no longer satisfying me made me realise that I missed that feeling. Whatever it was, it was unsettling, and I decided in the end that I wanted to be closer to home and to look for a job in the UK.

2016-clare-condy-liverpoolOnly a couple of months passed at home before I was offered my position that I am in now with Amey. It is a two year programme which is rotational throughout the UK. My first placement, which I am on now, is in Liverpool as a Project Manager. I am honestly so pleased with my new job and with my decision to come back home. I was looking for a challenge and I definitely have found that in this role!

Having that time in France after graduating gave me the time I needed to realise what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be. I can now understand that even though you may feel like you know yourself and know what you want from life, you never know when those feelings will change as experiences will always change us and make us learn more about ourselves.

I have to say a final word to Stirling. My time at university was everything I could have ever wished it to be. From the friends I have met there, the beautiful campus and the inspiring teachers; it will always be a home for me.”

Many thanks to Clare for this blog post and all good wishes for the future. We look forward to more updates in due course!

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French film and televsion

The mid-semester break is about to start here at Stirling and, next week, some of our students will be in Glasgow, watching the recording of a new French-language quiz show. I hope to be able to post tales of the recording after the break but, in the meantime, I wanted to add an account of a trip undertaken by a group of our students with our Language Assistant, Brigitte Depret, at the end of last year. With thanks to Brigitte for sending this, and to Nadine Wall (one of the students) for the photo!

2015 Brigitte Film Trip Big Wheel

“In December 2014 some of the first and second year students studying French were given the chance to take part in a day out in beautiful Edinburgh, courtesy of French at Stirling who had offered free tickets to go and see a movie during the annual French Film Festival.

We went to the Dominion Cinema, one of the oldest in Edinburgh, first opened in January 1938. If you ever want to go and watch a film somewhere that you really feel at home, this is definitely the place to go. With its comfortable individual sofas, footstools and side tables, the students fully enjoyed the cosiness of the venue where we were offered wine and food tasting from Provence, prior to the screening. Indeed, it was all about Provence!

I will not dwell on too much on the film we saw on that day: Our Summer in Provence (2014). Sadly, the latter was not the perfect example of the French grand cinéma, rather, a family-friendly entertainment that swung in between drama and comedy. The plot was quite thin. Luckily, we had the beautiful sceneries of Provence to make up for too many low-grade shenanigans, and, of course,  the subtitles for my students who were delighted to have grasped some of the ‘finest’ French expressions.

When watching the movie, I couldn’t help but thinking I had spent almost two decades near the very place where the film was shot. The smell of Provence, the heat of the summer, the markets, the cicadas… but also I thought about some words (even if now some came up distorted), Provence gave to the English language (one of our many gifts that contributed to the rising of the English language as the Lingua Franca).

Did you know the word amour used in middle English and found now in the expression amour propre, comes from Old Provençal? And speaking about amour could you imagine a cavalier back from a croisade (crusade) who would sing a ballade (ballad) for you.? Then he would invite you to a picnic, offering you a salade (salad) seasoned with a nois muguede (nutmeg) to spice up your al fresco lunch. Oh, and why not add a delicate truffe (truffle) whilst we are at it? Wouldn’t you like too, the taste of a juicy figue (fig), sitting in the shade sheltered from the sun and finish up with a fine nougat?

Moving on in time you could even imagine listening to a fidgeting Harlequin or a troubadour singing some sonnet especially for you. How nice!

And in our modern era you may enjoy being whisked away in a limousine sitting next to a French man wearing a beret, telling you stories or could it be a clever charade? He would stop at a boutique and buy you an expensive parfum (perfume) and why not a ring? In his beautiful lingo (lingua), he would propose and you would say OUI!

And then on your way to your honey moon, the lovely cabine (cabin) on the boat will feel like the sweetest cocon (cocoon) ever. There, in a foreign land you will buy a mascotte (mascot) that will become your precious beloved good-luck charm.

The lingo (lingua) apparently lived happily ever after…”