Tag: French Society

‘A couple of paragraphs about Paris, Parisians and how to (not) be like them’

In a month and a half or so, our new academic year starts and among those coming (back) to Stirling will be the 20-odd students returning after their compulsory Semester Abroad in France or another French-speaking country. We have a very wide range of partners across France, as well as in Morocco, Switzerland and Quebec, and we’re always very pleased to be able to post reports on the Semester Abroad from those about to embark on their final year with us. From the Spring 2018 French Semester Abroad group, we’re starting things off with this post from Nicolas who spent his semester at Sciences Po in Paris, as part of his degree in International Management and Intercultural Studies: 

My semester abroad in Paris was amazing. It is a beautiful, vibrant and unique city. I don’t know another place like it.

2018 Nicolas Masdorp Pic IBeing in Paris for four full months gave me the opportunity to not just run through the standard tourist programme, but to dive in head first and learn to appreciate one of the original big cities. To me, Paris has become special. Wherever you go, the city feels alive and it will to you, too. It is a mix of past glory, current main stage French cultural and political theatre and future opportunities and struggles. When you take your time, and go to visit the historically-relevant sights, you gain an understanding of the grandeur and the heavy historical significance, and not only because every second building seems to have solid gold ornaments on it. For better or for worse, Paris is the centre of most of the francophone world’s current affairs: Government, parliament, media, high-society, low(-er) society, music and much more besides. It is a city that has seen much change in the past and, in my opinion, will see even more in the future. Paris is so much deeper than what you can see on the surface. Dig a bit and even those of you with the highest of expectations will never be disappointed.

2018 Nicolas Masdorp Pic V

Having been to Paris several times before on holiday, I felt like I had seen most of what the city had to offer. I was mistaken. Badly. My tip: there is nothing like going for a two-hour walk through a city, even if it is because you forgot to take change for your metro ticket back home. And get lost. Walk, sit and take your time. On holiday, you do the sightseeing. You sit in a ‘Parisian’ café and drink a cappuccino to feel more ‘Parisian’ while you look at (and possibly offer your kind thoughts on) passers-by. Maybe you try to become more like the locals yourself. I don’t feel any more ‘Parisian’ now than I did when I got there in January, despite trying, a little. I saw Paris for four months like the outsider I am now and always will be.

It’s a bit like when you feel like you’ve found your new all-time favourite song while, in the same moment, you realise you’ll probably never be able to sing it like the artist does yourself (at least not in front of other people). I learnt to enjoy and appreciate Paris despite not feeling like I’d ever be a Parisian myself.

I was trying to find an analogy for this feeling for ages and yes, this is the best I could come up with. Sorry.

2018 Nicolas Masdorp Pic III

I’m really not sure you can go to Paris and become a local. Maybe by living there for twenty years. Maybe not. To a certain degree, I believe the citizens of France’s capital are born, not made. I had four months to become totally French and city-slicker cool, but didn’t. The latter part was maybe more down to me than to the city. What I have learnt, in retrospect, was that I will not be like the people of Paris. I feel like I understand them and their home now, though. And both of them are exceedingly special and close to my heart. Weird and wonderful. In a good way, probably.

One thing I also learnt, though, was to not be one of the infamously obnoxious, selfie-posing, in-your-face tourists. I will try to take that with me, wherever I go next. And here’s an insider tip for my fellow German tourists: Please do not continue to actively reinforce the sandals with socks stereotype. You are not doing yourself and, crucially, the rest of us any favours.

2018 Nicolas Masdorp Pic IVOverall I would recommend spending time in Paris to everybody, if they have the opportunity. In my mind, there is nothing like it. Paris can be incredibly rewarding, if you put in the time, energy and patience to understand it. It is the centre of most things French and will most likely remain to be so for the foreseeable future. Like I said before, I don’t think becoming a local, if that is what you want, will be your choice. My last tip: Don’t try. Be curious, inquisitive and energetic when you explore this great city. And don’t forget the sandals with socks thing, either.’

Many thanks to Nicolas for the great blog post and pictures. We hope you enjoy the rest of the Summer and look forward to seeing you back in Stirling in September.

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‘Language Linking, Global Thinking’: The Life-Changing Impacts of Travel

As you’ll have gathered from this blog, a good number of our students opt to apply for English Language Assistantships every year, whether between their 2nd and 3rd years or as graduates. For the past few years, some of our ELA students have also participated in SCILT’s ‘Language Linking, Global Thinking’ scheme during their year as assistants and we thought it’d be good to get a sense of what this actually involves – from the perspective of the students involved – so here goes, with thanks to Laura who has just finished her time as an assistant and will be coming back to Stirling in the Autumn:

‘I am a Primary Education student at Stirling. I came to university straight from school. However, I had always wanted more life experience before beginning teaching. This was one of my main motivations for applying to work for the British Council. Teaching within the central belt of Scotland makes classrooms greatly diverse spaces with many nationalities, languages, experiences and backgrounds. Living abroad would not only enable me to better encourage modern language teaching, but also relate more to the experiences of many of my students in my future career.

Over the summer last year, the Languages department at Stirling University made me aware of an additional project I could take part in during my post abroad. This was called “Language linking, global thinking” and it involves a partnership between a British Council language assistant and a primary school. Throughout my year abroad, I would remain in contact with Doune Primary through an online blogging forum.

2018 Laura Burns Bethune Pic1Before beginning my post as a language assistant, I had only been to France twice. The first time was when I was 10 for a weekend in Paris with my family, and secondly a week skiing with my high school. This meant I had very little knowledge of what “normal” life would be like in France. I come from Edinburgh – a highly touristic, young, affluent city. This meant arriving in the northern region of France was a very different experience. I arrived alone, with very poor comprehension of informal French speaking leaving me feeling confused and isolated. I was an English language assistant in a very small village called Labeuvrière which was just outside of another town where I lived named Béthune. The history of the region is a difficult one and now it is left with a high unemployment rate and listed as the poorest region in France.

In Béthune, the level of English was extremely poor. I soon realised how much safety I had felt in university French classes knowing that everyone in the room would be able to help me with an English translation if it was needed. The first few months without this comfort blanket were a steep learning curve for me. Despite my initial fears, I now feel that living in Béthune gave me a more honest understanding of what it means to be in France today. Being far away from the more glamourous, touristic image of France was key in drastically improving my French and understanding for the challenges of 21st century French society.

I had never fully appreciated how much I relied on the subtleties of language to present myself and my personality. Specifically, how I use humour to make friends, and how I can unconsciously use tone to get across the subtleties of my meanings. I felt unfunny, unintelligent and personality-less in French. Even as my comprehension improved, I was still not feeling like me. This was a challenge I was unprepared for, but so important now in my appreciation of anyone I meet in Scotland who Is speaking English as an additional language. Now, I feel the key piece of advice I can give to anyone else venturing abroad to speak a second language is to prepare to feel unprepared. After January time I began to use different ways to get across meanings and make connections with people.

2018 Laura Burns Classroom Pic 2I was hugely lucky with my school. Being placed in a primary school was far more challenging on my French, but I had amazingly supportive teachers who were patient with my language development. As the English level in the school was very poor, this meant I wanted to make English fun and relevant to their lives. Throughout the year we created our own “Highland games, drama pieces, baking and parties. The children loved learning about my home, family and country. English lessons were always about more than just the language, they were about making connections and thinking beyond the small perspective of the village. For the children in Labeuvrière, many had never been abroad, or left the region. (This was particularly eye opening to me as the Belgian border was less than 30 minutes away). The children’s exposure to a language assistant massively helped their awareness of what it means to live abroad, and what it means to make deeper, more worldly connections beyond the constraints of monolingualism. This extends their world view and what language learning can do for them from a cultural, lifelong perspective.

I truly think it that the Scottish education system is missing a great opportunity for children to develop their deeper cultural knowledge and understanding. This is why – when it is not possible to have language assistants from abroad – projects such as LLGT are so successful. A class being able to follow an assistant and their experiences is a means of getting across these important ideas. With Doune Primary School, I was able to write to them first hand showing my experiences visiting in person the WW1 trenches, the Vimy ridge. I was able to show them the photos I took on my tours around the Belgian Christmas markets. Perhaps, most interesting was when the children were able to see the comparisons between the hugely different French schools and resources. Once I had returned to Doune Primary, we debated and discussed together the similarities and differences between the education systems.

“Language and culture are the frameworks through which humans experience, communicate, and understand reality”.  

A connection with a language assistant is a means of acknowledging the challenges which come from learning a second language and recognising cultural differences. However, crucially, it also acts as an opportunity to explore the many positives and life-changing impacts of travel, adventure and making greater human connections. It really is linking what we have in common, to a better, global way of thinking. Everyone can benefit from this.’

Many, many thanks to Laura for taking the time to send us this blog post and we look forward to welcoming you back to Stirling in the Autumn.

 

French Presidential Elections: One Month On

Back at the end of April, we posted an article by one of this year’s French at Stirling finalists, David Vescio, who went back to France after the end of teaching to vote for the first time in this year’s presidential elections. A little over a month on, with a new president now in office and David having had a chance to mull over that experience as a primo-votant and to see what France feels like under the new regime, we’re really pleased to be able to post this update from him:

“A month ago, Emmanuel Macron was elected President of France, with 66.1% of the votes, with Marine Le Pen taking 33.9% (not counting blank or spoilt ballot papers). Although this may seem like a huge victory for Macron, we cannot overlook the fact that more than 10 and half million members of the French electorate voted for the far-right candidate. The French, like the Americans, have had enough of establishment politicians and a vote for Le Pen was, in many cases, a protest vote against the current political system. So why did Macron win, you might ask. Well, in the second round, many of those who voted Macron were actually voting against Le Pen, to keep her out of the Elysée. Many left-wing voters who had voted Mélenchon or Hamon, but also voters who may have voted Fillon in the first round, chose the liberal, pro-Europe candidate over his extreme right-wing rival. However, there is a definite dissatisfaction with French politics nowadays considering over ¼ of the French electorate did not vote. Nonetheless, Macron’s win was an incredible success in terms of defying mainstream parties and creating a movement which brought together people of different backgrounds. He represents a new, fresh start for France which, many would argue, is what the country needs right now.

On election night, Macron’s victory was a great relief for the great majority of French people, triggering celebrations all across Paris and throughout France, with people chanting “Vive la France” in the streets and waving French flags. Macron gave his victory speech in front of the Louvre calling for unity, while Marine Le Pen was in Vincennes, a Paris suburb, where she spoke of the need for a renewal of the Front National. Despite the early euphoria of Macron’s victory, the new President now has to face critical issues such as high unemployment, secularism, pensions, immigration as well as terrorism.

The French hope Macron will be a modern and forward-looking leader. Indeed, it appears he has already started to shake things up by appointing an equal number of men and women to his cabinet. The new government includes people from left, right and centre which reflects his wish during the campaign to bring people together and avoid party labels such as socialist or republican. However, many still see him as a product of the system, a “banker in disguise”, especially given his choice of Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, former conservative mayor of Le Havre who, like Macron, is new to such high office in government. Furthermore, the new Prime Minister has taken a pro-nuclear stance in the past which, for some, shows Macron’s lack of commitment to the importance of environmental issues. While many see this choice as a reflection of his true colours, others think that this will lead to a certain balance of power within the government.

Interestingly however, President Macron recently responded to Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Agreement in a short speech, which he began in French and completed in English. This has been regarded as a gesture of friendship and partnership towards the United States and an invitation to Americans to come work in France. All in all, it is too early to see what exactly he has in store for us but why not give Président Macron a chance?”

Many thanks to David for this update on life since the presidential elections – we may well return to this topic in future topics so watch this space!

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.

Perspectives from Years 1 and 2

Following on from the profile of Mairi Edwards posted a little earlier today, another couple of profiles of current French at Stirling students. Doganay Cavusoglu is just completing his first semester of a BA Hons in French and Law, starting French in our Beginners’ stream, while Jasmine Brady is halfway through the second year of her BA Hons in International Management with European Languages and Society which means she is studying French and Spanish as well as Management.

It seems particularly appropriate to be posting these profiles of current students the day before our Winter graduations, news of which will follow!

2016-doganay-cavusoglu-profile-photo-nov16“My name is Doganay and I’m from Hertfordshire which is in the South East of England. I am currently a French and Law (BA) undergraduate at the University of Stirling. I have always had an interest in studying French but I did not know what I could combine with French. This led me to research a wide range of universities courses and I came across Stirling which was offering a varied selection of subjects such as French and Journalism; French and Business; French and Law and the list goes on.

My first impression of Stirling University was just ‘WOW’ on the Open Day. I mean the university speaks for itself – it has plenty of fresh air and lots of friendly people which makes it just a positive place to study and live. The University of Stirling has a very flexible degree program which allows students to study three modules per semester which I think is excellent as it gives the students the opportunity to study different modules. With regards to the French department, my experience has been really positive and the department are very organised with what they do and how they teach. We are now almost at the end of Semester I and I feel that I have learned and improved so much within a short period of time. Like many other French students, I am part of “Parlons Français”, which is Stirling’s French student society of Stirling. This society meets once or twice a week offering events such as cheese and wine nights, pub quizzes, French films, and many other opportunities to enhance your French and meet French native speakers. Overall, my experience at Stirling university gets better and better every day.” 2016-campus

“Bonjour! My name is Jasmine Brady and I am currently in my second year studying International Management Studies with European Languages and Society. I didn’t really know where I wanted to study before I chose the university of Stirling but as soon as I came here for an Open Day I knew it was the right place for me. The campus is absolutely breath-taking, a sight you certainly aren’t able to see on Glasgow or Edinburgh campuses. When I visited I had already researched the courses available and knew I needed to speak to the various (French and Spanish) departments to gain more information. Everyone I spoke to was friendly, knowledgeable and managed to answer every question I had… which was lots!

My experience with the department thus far has been great. The tutors are always there when you have a question, need help or just want someone to talk to. I have particularly enjoyed the culture element of the French modules I have studied as I had never studied French culture in much depth before. I would absolutely recommend and encourage anyone thinking about studying French at the University of Stirling to do so as I’m sure when I look back in years to come on the friends I’ve made from my French classes, that the good times we’ve had will be among them as some of the greatest memories I have of my university experience.”

Many thanks to Doganay and to Jasmine for these blog posts and we hope you enjoy a well-deserved Christmas break!