Tag: French Society

2019 Prize Winners!

It has been a busy few weeks for French at Stirling from the success of our taster days for secondary schools all the way to graduation last week via some unexpected challenges in the shape of flooding in our building. All of that has taken precedence over keeping up with the blog for a little while but, as many of us head off in different directions for holidays before coming back to prepare for the new academic year, we wanted to just post a few updates starting with congratulations to the recipients of this year’s prizes for French at Stirling.

A number of awards have been made this year, recognising outstanding performances across the board by students on degrees involving French. Amy, who is at the end of Year 1 of our Professional Primary Education degree, with a specialism in Modern Languages, is the recipient of our prize for the best Year 1 performance in the Beginners’ stream for French. The prize for best Year 1 performance in the non-Beginners’ stream was awarded to Mihaela who is studying for our BA Honours programme in International Management with European Languages and Society.

The prize for best performance in Year 2 has two joint recipients this year. Like Amy, Marc is also on our Professional Primary Education programme, specialising in Modern Languages. For him, ‘having this opportunity to study the language to such a high level alongside my main degree is extremely beneficial to my future career. Having never been to France before, the department structures French studies in such a way which enables me to not only learn the language, but also the historical and cultural context of France and the French empire which is something I’ve found particularly interesting.’ Marc’s co-recipient of the Year 2 award is Victoria who is studying International Politics and Languages with us and will be off for Semester Abroad in the Spring next year. Victoria moved to Stirling from Germany for her degree and, before moving, says that she couldn’t have imagined ‘the possibilities my studies would bring about but I must say that I am really happy to be given the opportunity to learn French in such an international environment. I am aiming to spend my spring semester next year in Morocco and am thankful for all the support the French faculty has given me so far in order for this to be made possible.’

As always, competition was fierce for our Simone de Beauvoir prize which is awarded to the final year student with the strongest performance across their French modules but this year’s recipient is Bethany who has just completed her BA Hons in International Management with European Languages and Society. Bethany was also the very deserving winner of our final year Translation prize and she kindly took the time to send some thoughts on her time at Stirling:

‘Studying Advanced French and Francophone cultures at University enabled me to gain a more profound and realistic understanding of French identity and cultural issues that I had witnessed first-hand in France itself. It was just incredible to discuss current challenges with a rational step back from the social situation and critically analyse what is occurring in society today. I realised that French studies was deeply aligned with my interests as studying felt seamless and effortless. The tutors constantly deepened my interest and made me engaged with the topics raised, making me want to learn more, grow more and gain more from the University experience. Walking though the French corridor in Pathfoot always filled me with butterflies in the pit of my stomach, anticipating the next lesson or debate. I felt it provided me with a bold emotional attachment that united me back to France throughout my time at University and made me desire to return to my adoptive country and undertake future studies to generate change to overcome some of the negative issues that France is tackling. Winning two Prizes for French filled me with an immense feeling of pride, recognition and gratitude towards all my lecturers and tutors who I cannot thank enough.’

2019 Prize Winners Natalie Photo ICongratulations, too, to Natalie, who has also just graduated in International Management, having studied both French and Spanish throughout, and who was the recipient of the equivalent final year prize for her work in Spanish. Natalie was ‘overjoyed to have received the Jose Blanco White Prize for Spanish. It has been a wonderful way to end what has been a fantastic four years at Stirling. As well as studying Spanish, I have enjoyed learning about French and Francophone cultures through exploring literary texts, films and engaging in fascinating discussions. I believe that my passion for the French culture and language was enhanced by the support and commitment of all the tutors who work incredibly hard to promote languages within the University.’ A particular highlight for Natalie was the opportunity to work as a Student Ambassador for Languages to promote French and Spanish in local secondary schools and during our Open and Applicant Days: ‘I feel proud to be part of a team who play a fundamental role in inspiring our young people to learn foreign languages. Another of my highlights would definitely have to be my semester abroad in Strasbourg which I spent at EM Strasbourg Business School: a fantastic opportunity to use my French skills in real-life situations and to become more confident in my abilities. I feel extremely proud to have been part of a wonderful faculty and I am incredibly thankful to all of the tutors who have helped me along the way!’

And finally, congratulations to Stefano who has just graduated with his degree in International Politics and Languages and who was named one of the University’s Students of the Year in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the University over the past four years. In particular, Stefano has been recognised for his energy and commitment to helping others feel part of a welcoming, inclusive academic community.

Félicitations à toutes et à tous!

 

Schools Day Success

As regular blog readers will know, this week the time had finally come for our Languages event for S5 and S6 pupils from schools from all across Scotland. On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, we welcomed a total of around 300 pupils to the Pathfoot Building and colleagues from French & Francophone Studies and Spanish & Latin American Studies led them through a day of mini lectures, culture and language classes, CPD sessions for the teachers and a series of presentations by current and former students, as well as our Faculty Employability Officer, on the benefits of time abroad as part of a degree (whether within Europe with Erasmus+ or well beyond), English Language Assistantships and the many, many doors that languages open up in the wider world beyond University.

davAfter a brief welcome from the Faculty Dean Richard Oram, and the event organisers, Pete Baker and Cristina Johnston, the pupils were split between French and Spanish activities for a short opening lecture and then for the classroom activities. Those doing French enjoyed a lecture on ‘Race, Religion and the Republic’ by Aedín ní Loingsigh before heading off into smaller groups for culture classes examining extracts from Autour il y a les arbres et le ciel magnifique led by Cristina Johnston, Emeline Morin, Aedín ní Loingsigh, Elizabeth Ezra, Hannah Grayson and Beatrice Ivey. At the same time, those doing Spanish enjoyed Pete Baker’s lecture on Frida Kahlo and further discussion of Kahlo’s work in culture classes led by Pete and his colleagues Inés Ordiz and Ann Davies.

After lunch, it was back into the classrooms for some written language and listening work, led by Jean-Michel DesJacques, Mathilde Mazau, Fraser McQueen and Cristina, Emeline and Aedín for French, and Jose Ferreira-Cayuela, along with Pete and Inés for Spanish. And while the pupils were hard at work in their culture and language classes, their teachers were being led through CPD activities focusing on feedback and assessment, as well as the challenges that arise in the transition from secondary to HE, by Emeline and Aedín. The CPD sessions also included an opportunity for the teachers to benefit from a guided tour of the AHRC-funded Experiences of Exile exhibition by Beatrice Ivey.

All the pupils and teachers were brought together for the final session which included presentations by a group of Languages graduates, as well as current students at different stages in their degrees, and our Employability Officer, Elaine Watson. They all spoke passionately about their experiences of Study Abroad, teaching English as a Language Assistant, travelling during time abroad, career paths they have embarked on or are considering as a result of having studied a language and, in the words of Meg, one of the speakers, the confidence that comes from knowing that ‘if you can navigate France through train, plane and University strikes, you can do anything!’

2019 ASMCF Logo IIAll in all, a great chance for us to get to talk to a fantastic group of pupils and teachers, and an opportunity for those pupils, in particular, to get a real taste of what University and Languages at University is like and where it can lead you. Many thanks to all those who came along, to all the colleagues who led sessions over the course of the two days, to the students and graduates who gave up their time (and sent photos!) to come and speak to our visitors, and to the Division of Literature and Languages and the Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France for their support.

Staff news: conferences and new colleagues

Many of our recent blog posts have centred on the fantastic achievements and activities of our students (past and present) but it occurs to us that it’s a while since we’ve posted an update on what French at Stirling staff are up to so here goes…

Firstly, as regular blog followers will know, we’ve made some new appointments in French at Stirling over the past few months. That has meant saying goodbye to valued colleagues (Bill Marshall at the end of August last year, David Murphy at the end of December) but it has also meant welcoming and getting to know new colleagues. Beatrice Ivey has settled well into her Research Assistantship, working with Fiona Barclay on the AHRC-funded project ‘Narratives and Representations of the French Settlers of Algeria’ (if you haven’t seen it yet, their exhibition is still on in Pathfoot); Emeline Morin is already a semester into her 2-year post with us and doing a brilliant job; Aedín ní Loingsigh joined us halfway through the Autumn semester on a permanent lectureship across French and Translation and is also doing brilliantly; and Hannah Grayson has now also joined us – as of 1 January – on a permanent lectureship and is, of course, settling in really well. Lots of changes – all for the good!

Secondly, many of us will be popping up at a range of conferences and invited talks over the months ahead, starting with Hannah Grayson who will be co-convening a seminar stream on responding to violence in postcolonial African literature at the American Comparative Literature Association at Georgetown University in March. Hannah will then be presenting on Véronique Tadjo (an author whose work she teaches on as part of our Cultures of Travel modules this semester) at the 20th and 21st Century French and Francophone Studies International Colloquium in Oklahoma City. And, when she’s back in the UK, on 3 April, Hannah will be speaking at an evening of remembrance in St Andrews, to commemorate 25 years since the genocide in Rwanda.

Cristina Johnston will be giving a paper on the 20th anniversary of the PaCS legislation at the annual Society for French Studies conference at Royal Holloway in early July, and then a paper on the representation (or lack thereof) of lesbian characters in contemporary French cinema at the MLA International Symposium in Lisbon at the end of July.

2019 Tours Conference EE PosterElizabeth Ezra will be giving an invited talk at the University of Tours at the start of April at a conference called ‘On the Ruins and Margins of European Identity in Cinema.’ Her talk is titled ‘Out of Bounds: The Spatial Politics of Civility in The Square (Östlund, 2017) and Happy End (Haneke, 2017).’ Elizabeth also has an article on ethics and social relations coming out in May in the journal Children’s Literature called ‘Becoming Familiar: Witches and Companion Animals in Harry Potter and His Dark Materials.’

Elizabeth also travelled to France in December to examine the PhD thesis of Literature and Language’s PhD student Fanny Lacôte, who has taught on various modules in French at Stirling. The viva was a public event, which attracted a significant audience composed of friends, family, and members of the public and Fanny passed with flying colours so many congratulations to her!

And, finally for the moment, following on from Aedín ní Loingsigh’s successful Erasmus+ teaching exchange at Limoges late last year, we’re currently finalising arrangements to welcome our colleague Joëlle Popineau from our partners at the University of Tours who will spend a week on an Erasmus+ staff mobility with us in early March. We’re very much looking forward to welcoming Joëlle to Stirling in a few weeks.

More to follow shortly, I’ve no doubt!

‘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.

‘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.