Tag: French music

Some suggestions for reading (mainly in French)

As well as our usual articles and updates, we’re also trying to keep posting further suggestions for reading, blog articles, etc that might be of interest for a range of different reasons so here goes with today’s selection:

Those of you looking for something in French (and related to the current situation) might be interested in an article in Vanity Fair written by our own Brigitte Depret’s sister that examines the question of philanthropy in the French context (available open-access here).

Those looking for something in French but that’s more about movement and physical activity than reading, Fraser McQueen has tweeted a link to home workout routines that former French boxing world champion Sarah Ourahmoune has been posting  on a daily basis.

And for anybody who fancies some excellent French music, in honour of Nina Parish’s final Chanson française class of the semester (online, not face-to-face), there’s always Brigitte Fontaine and M!

And last but not least on the French/Francophone front, thanks to Emeline Morin for posting a link to the Culturethèque of the Institut Français, a digital library of French-language resources of all kinds that they’ve opened up subscriptions to until 30th May (free via this link for GB-based readers).

And finally, for those who want something that is only tangentially related to French (insofar as the person concerned is our excellent colleague in Spanish and Latin American Studies, Inés Ordiz), there’s an interview (in English) with Inés via the Stir Women 2020 blog here.

Bonne lecture!

 

Old dog, new tricks!

With the start of the new semester (and all good wishes to those enrolled on our wide range of French modules and programmes, and to our students off on Semester Abroad or working as Language Assistants…), it’s time to post a new profile of one of our French at Stirling graduates, Kerstin Rosée, who has sent us this great article:

2020 Jan Rosee EuroDisneyBonjour, mes amis! French has always been a part of my life, with a last name like mine, this is hardly a surprise. I knew how to spell out my last name to people before I could write it myself and I could confidently say accent aigu before ever attending a French class in my long history of attending French classes.

Language teaching in Germany (where I originally come from) used to be taken more seriously than in the UK. At least until the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland which put a new and enthusiastic emphasis on learning not one, but two foreign languages with many pupils now starting at primary school age. Going back to the 80s and 90s in Germany, English was introduced in 5th grade and in 7th grade you would pick another foreign language, usually a choice of either French or Latin. Why Latin? Well, in Germany to do any kind of degree in medicine, dentistry or veterinarian studies, you need at least your small Latinum (that’ll be 4 years of study) – makes sense if you consider that most of your textbooks will be full of Latin words. Since the thought of having to put down somebody’s pet guinea pig put me off veterinarian studies quite early, I decided to go for a more practical approach in studying French. Foreign holidays were beckoning and at that time I had already visited France with my family several times.

When the time came to pick a career and to think about what kind of training would be necessary, I found myself stumped by the idea that I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grow up. I still don’t, and I’m getting the feeling that I’ll probably be retired before I figure out what I’ll do with my life.  But… I was good at English and French and ended up at an academy training to become a trilingual executive secretary, adding Spanish to my portfolio en route.

Sadly, the job I took after leaving the academy was with an American organization and while my English improved my French and Spanish were neglected. I missed the golden opportunity to spend my holidays in French and Spanish-speaking countries and along the lines of ‘use it or lose it’, well, I lost it.

In my late 20s I relocated to Scotland and, being armed with a good grasp of the language and a willingness to delve into the local lingo (thank you, guy at the chippy, you were my trial of fire), I continued in my field of work but suddenly minus the trilingual aspect. Why? Mostly because many people speak English anyway and there were very few jobs for people with language skills in the Central Belt unless you wanted to settle in call centres. I tried, I escaped.

Having dabbled in part-time study for a while, I finally started a full-time course at the University of Stirling: Primary Education with Modern Languages. The course was brand new to the university at the time and we were the willing guinea pigs together with a cohort studying Primary Education and Environmental Science. I had just turned 38 when I started my degree at Stirling and my daughter had just joined P1. Great, I thought, we’ll learn together. To cut a long story short: I did not end up being a teacher. It turned out that I really didn’t like the classroom. Unlike my new just-from-school study buddies, I loved the semesters and hated the placements; I loved the languages but never really warmed to the pedagogy. For myself, the mix of classes, lectures and tutorial groups in French were a winning combination. Grammar: the necessary evil. Passé simple you say? Yeah sure, it rings a bell. Spoken language with Bernadette, the Spoken Language Tutor at the time: simply hilarious. Lectures and culture tutorials opened a whole new world to me. A word of warning though – reading, writing and talking about 2nd wave French feminism may come with strange side effects if you are an adult returner, for instance: flares of anger and bursting out into tears.

I graduated in 2012 and, thanks to my last-minute degree change, I was the only student to graduate with a BA in French on that day amidst a sea of Education students. I cannot thank the BEd Primary Education cohort enough for my round of applause when I entered the stage while everybody else in the room probably wondered whether I had showed up on the wrong day.

Everybody’s question was: what next, then? I’ll be honest, if you are in your forties and tied to the Central Belt as a location, career prospects in Languages are somewhat limited. If you have done the Call Centre gig and have no intentions of ever returning to it and if you need to plan your workday around the school hours, it makes it just that little bit harder.

Will I be using French for work at some point in the future? Well, this brings us back to ‘use it or lose it.’  The sad thing is, if you don’t use your languages regularly, you will forget a lot of vocab and grammar. The silver lining is that it will be easier for you to pick it up again, every time you do pick it up again, as long as you have a decent foundation. My current exposure to French language and culture is singing along loudly to Les Misérables and Plastique Bertrand while scouring Netflix for French crime shows I can binge on. The beauty of Netflix is that it provides you with crutches; I love to listen to the original French actors but using English subtitles to make sure I don’t lose the plot (literally) but you could swap this around if your reading skills need to be honed.

To make matters worse, a certain referendum 4 years ago which is intent on ending our opportunities for free travel to work in any of 28 European countries without a lot of red tape may be a further deterrent for pupils to even consider modern languages as a subject for their university studies. Businesses may decide that the UK is no longer an attractive location for them and those precious few jobs that open up opportunities to graduates in modern languages may leave the country. I am still cautiously optimistic that Brexit will turn out to be undeliverable and we will all just forget about this embarrassing episode in recent UK history – I guess we’ll see.

2020 Jan Rosee BretagneIn the end, all is not as gloomy as it seems, and you must look for opportunity where it presents itself. My plans are to convince the family to holiday in Canada and spend some time in Québec: find out how different from metropolitan France it really is, sample some of the lifestyle and speak French, a lot of it, possibly very basic. After that, I might try to duplicate my experience of moving to Scotland and visit Bretagne – I was there on a holiday when I was 5 years old, armed with only once sentence: Je ne parle pas français!

Surely, it has to be better than that by now!’

Yes, we’re sure that it is! Many, many thanks to Kerstin for this great post and for the fantastic pictures of childhood holidays in France. And we wish you all the very best for travels to Quebec and to Brittany, and to many other Francophone locations beyond!

News from a former PhD student

2019 Verbeke Blog Pic 4 May19Many of the articles on this blog over the past months and years have given an overview of what our undergraduate students go on to do after graduation and we’re hoping to continue that particular stream of posts in the weeks ahead. For just now, though, a slightly different perspective, in the shape of this article from Martin who completed his PhD with us, under the supervision of Bill Marshall and Cristina Johnston, a few years ago now, working on language and French and Francophone rap:

‘Since the end of my PhD in June 2016, I have focused primarily on teaching and publishing my PhD research. Although my main area of study was French at university, I started working full-time as a Dutch and English teacher in a Belgian secondary school in September 2016 because of the shortage of such teachers. My Bachelor’s degree in Translation and Interpreting combined with my time spent in Flanders (for my Master’s degree) and Scotland made me a very sought-after candidate for such vacancies.

Of course, I would have preferred to teach French right away, ideally in a high school or a university (both types of higher education in Belgium), but there are many French teachers on the job market. Even with a PhD, it is hard to stand out when applying for a vacancy. This was made even more complicated by the introduction of a new law regulating the degrees needed to teach in secondary schools. Since September 2016, it has become mandatory to possess a teaching degree from a university (called agrégation). Without this degree, it is hard to find a teaching position, you get paid less, anyone with a teaching degree, even fresh out of university, will be prioritised over you regardless of your years of service, and it is impossible (actually illegal) to get a permanent contract.

2019 Verbeke Blog Pic 3 May19As I had been made aware of this upcoming legislative change, I enrolled in a French teaching degree at the Université catholique de Louvain in September 2016, right after my PhD. This course normally takes one year to complete, but I took it over two years while working full-time. It is only worth 30 credits on paper but takes a lot of time and effort and represents many more credits in practice. In fact, if you take it within a Master’s degree, you are allowed to take a 6-credit ‘empty course’ as compensation because they do realise that it would be too hard otherwise. Unfortunately, they do not offer such a privilege to people who only follow the teaching part of the degree. Things were made even more difficult by my father’s passing away in October 2016. Despite all of this, I somehow managed to finish the degree with the highest distinction (18/20 average) while having a second daughter and publishing 5 articles based on chapters from my thesis. My hair was thinning before and now I am completely bald… Go figure!

This new degree has created opportunities for me. It allowed me to start working part-time as a French teacher in a secondary school last September while continuing to teach English to ‘immersion’ classes (with students who have certain courses in English despite being in a French-speaking school). Next school year, I am very likely to work as a French teacher full-time. My goal is to do this for a few years and to eventually find a more fulfilling position in a Belgian high school or maybe university if I get the right opportunity. A big reform is about to take place with regards to teaching degrees, which means that high schools and universities will be looking for new teachers. The director of the French teaching degree at the Université catholique de Louvain told me that he will get in touch with me then, as I impressed him during my studies. I’ve had interviews with other high school directors who told me that my profile would be very interesting then. I do enjoy teaching in secondary schools, but students can be unruly and the school programs uninspiring at times. Furthermore, it does not make long-term sense, in my opinion, as my PhD is not valued at all (nor even taken into consideration).

In any case, we will see what the future has in store for me! I will make sure to let the University of Stirling know. In the meantime, you can read some of my publications on non-standard vocabulary in Francophone rap if you want to: in French here, and in English here, here, here and here!’

Many, many thanks to Martin for having found the time among so many other commitments to write this blog post for us and we look forward to hearing how things work out in the next academic year, and send you our best wishes!

Harry Potter, Spotify and Language Learning

This time last year, we posted an article by Emily who was just reaching the end of her 1st year studying French and History so, as we catch up with the authors of some of those posts to see how things have gone this year, here is Emily’s update:

‘Bonjour à tous! In my last post for the French at Stirling blog I talked about my first year studying for a BA Hons degree in French and History, and what a great start it had been to my university career at Stirling. The structure of classes in first year has been the same this year, with weekly seminars on written language, francophone culture and French speaking classes. This year we have also had a new class added to our timetable; half-hour conversation sessions. These new speaking classes have been a great way to get practice in our French conversation skills, as it’s a very relaxed environment and the conversations are usually spontaneous and on recent topics.

Another exciting opportunity available to us in second year is the chance to work abroad as an English language assistant (ELA) through the British Council’s scheme, spending a whole year in a French-speaking country. Although the time spent abroad doesn’t contribute credits towards my actual degree I feel it is an invaluable opportunity to learn about contemporary French culture and improve my language skills. Having recently received the good news that my application has been shortlisted I can’t wait to find out whereabouts in France I will be placed!

However, until I move to France towards the end of this year, I have to try and maintain my current level of French, which I have been doing through various different methods. A great way one of my teachers suggested to keep French fresh in my mind is to listen to French music. Spotify is a lifesaver here, as there are loads of French music playlists already created, so if you’re like me and have no clue who any popular French musicians are, you can easily discover different solo artists and bands that suit your music tastes.

Reading French regularly is another great way to maintain language skills, but I find it can be quite daunting at times, so to make things easier for myself I decided to revisit one of my childhood favourites; Harry Potter. I have found that reading stories in French that you have already read in English is much easier as you don’t have to focus so much on the plot and instead can concentrate on grammar and new vocabulary. Hopefully by using these methods to try and incorporate french into my everyday life I won’t forget everything that the French department at Stirling taught me this year!

To sum things up, my first two years studying French at Stirling have been fantastic, my teachers have been more than helpful in preparing me for life as an English language assistant in France, and I can’t wait to see what next year has in store!’

Many, many thanks to Emily for this update. We look forward to finding out where you’re posted next year and wish you all the best for the assistantship!

Informal French Conversation Session

Last week of teaching here and two of our PhD students, Fanny Lacôte and Fraser McQueen, are running a new informal French conversation group that will be meeting for the first time on Thursday 1st December in Pathfoot C22. It will take place between 6:00 and 7:00 PM, after which there will be an even more informal meeting with the Let’s Speak French Society at the William Wallace pub in Causewayhead for those who want to stay longer.

In order to make it easier for people to talk the group will have a theme, which on this occasion will be contemporary French music. There will be music chosen by the organisers to discuss, so those who aren’t sure what to talk about and just want a chance to practice their spoken French should feel free to come along!

Thanks to Fanny and Fraser for organising this and we hope there’ll be more meetings in the Spring.

From Stirling to Amsterdam via Aix-en-Provence

With teaching over, and the oral exams for French already a thing of the past, it’s time to catch up a little bit with blog posting and for another few posts from recent French at Stirling graduates, starting with Saara who graduated with a BA Hons in French almost two years ago:

‘I came to Stirling University to study Business Studies but eventually decided to change my course and graduated with a degree in French in 2014. The reason why I chose to study at Stirling University was because I wanted to move abroad from Finland, where I’m originally from, and was keen on studying in English. I then decided to visit a few universities in Scotland. As soon as I had seen Stirling, I decided that it was my top choice as the campus was stunning and the modules offered seemed very interesting.

2016 Saara Sippola St Andrews April
Trip to St Andrews

I still receive questions on why I wanted to study French in an English-speaking country but I always tell people that it was one of the best decisions I made. Not only did my English improve but I also made lifelong friends, studied a variety of interesting modules and was taught by excellent tutors and lecturers. Scottish people were warm and welcoming and I never experienced a culture shock, a feeling I have encountered in other countries I have lived in.

2016 Saara Sippola Monaco April
Monaco

My favourite part of the degree was my semester abroad. I chose to study at the Aix-Marseille University in Aix-en-Provence. I was very nervous when I moved there as I didn’t know anyone but I quickly got to know to other Erasmus students and we became a close group who would travel around the French Riviera. The university in itself was very different compared to Stirling. There was less freedom when it came to choosing modules, for example, and in the beginning it was a challenge to follow the courses in French but it did get easier.

What I enjoyed the most in the South of France were the food and the weather. After my Erasmus was over, I decided to stay in France and agreed to work as an au pair in a French family. My language skills improved quickly and I learnt colloquial French – this was very important as I felt that I understood the culture better. As much as I enjoyed my time in France, I was very happy to return to Scotland.

2016 Saara Sippola Aix-en-Provence April
Aix-en-Provence

When I returned, it was time to start writing my dissertation on North African Immigration in France. The reason why I chose this topic was because of my experience in Marseille and in other cities in France that have a high number of immigrants. As much as I would have liked to cover the whole topic, I understood that it was too vast and decided to tie immigration and French rap music together. I was very motivated when writing my dissertation as I noticed it improved all the time. The meetings with my supervisor, David Murphy, were very beneficial as he gave me a lot of support and was always available for my questions. The dissertation inspired me so much that I am hoping to study a Master’s course in Immigration Management soon.

My French degree has helped me to get different positions in international companies and I now work in Booking.com’s Amsterdam office and manage the company’s Freelance Translators. Even if I do not translate myself, I understand the translation industry completely and it has also made me interested in working as a freelance translator in the future.

Overall, I’m very happy I chose to study at Stirling University. The quality of teaching, the approachable tutors and lecturers and the other students interested in the same topics are the key factors why I would choose Stirling again. Even if I enjoy my time in Amsterdam, Stirling is still very special to me and I’m hoping to return very soon.’

Thanks to Saara for this article and best of luck for the future!

New Book on French Popular Music

Post-War French Popular Music by Adeline Cordier
Post-War French Popular Music by Adeline Cordier

Congratulations to our former colleague, Adeline Cordier, on the recent publication of her book Post-War French Popular Music: Cultural Identity and the Brel-Brassens-Ferré Myth. Adeline’s study examines the work of Jacques Brel, Georges Brassens and Léo Ferré, three emblematic figures of post-war French popular music who have been constantly associated with each other by the public and the media. They have been described as the epitome of chanson, and of ‘Frenchness’. But there is more to the trio than a musical trinity: this new study examines the factors of cultural and national identity that have held together the myth of the trio since its creation.

Welcome to French at Stirling

Bonjour! Hello! And welcome to French at Stirling!

This blog aims to create a space for news about life and events on the French programme at Stirling University, as well as to give those of us who teach on the programme a chance to say a bit more about our own research and teaching.

French sits within the Division of Literature and Languages, alongside Spanish and Latin American Studies, Religion, Global Cinema, English Studies, Publishing Studies and Creative Writing. At undergraduate level, our students can either opt for Single Honours French or can combine French with a range of other subjects from History to Management via Education, Politics, Philosophy and much more besides. We also contribute to a variety of postgraduate teaching on our MRes Humanities, MLitt in Film Studies, taught MRes in Translation Studies and MSc in Translation with TESOL, and we have PhD students working on topics as diverse as the sociolinguistics of French and Belgian rap music and Moroccan urban cinema.

The blog is very much a ‘work in progress’ and any questions or suggestions for items we might include can be sent to Cristina Johnston (cristina.johnston@stir.ac.uk).