Tag: French

Languages: ‘A vital part of who I am!’

As regular blog readers will recall, the BBC published an article a few weeks back that focused on a decline in language learning in UK schools which prompted us here on the blog to post a series of articles by and about our staff and students, and their experiences of language learning. Those conversations have been continuing over the intervening few weeks and I’m delighted to get a chance to post another series of thoughts on the joys and challenges of language learning, this time by Stefano:

2018 Intropido Pic I‘I am really glad to have this opportunity to write again on this topic here on the French at Stirling Blog, as I cannot recommend studying languages enough! In fact, if it wasn’t for languages, I wouldn’t even be able to write this post at all; but… is it really all about articles and academia? No, there is so much more to it!

When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to be in a school, back in Italy, where I could already start learning some bits of English from a very early age (I think I was 4 when the teachers started organising some playful and funny activities so that we could learn nursery rhymes and games in English). Although I am not too confident now with my knowledge on kids’ songs, I am sure that this joyful approach made me keep going with English in primary school, where I also started some extra-curricular English courses to engage more and more with this beautiful language. My ongoing passion for the subject then pushed me to carry on with English all throughout my schooling years, right until the very end of high school, where I found myself to be a bit of “anglophile”; as Emeline mentioned earlier, even just the chance to read books and watch movies in their original language uncovered a whole new world of possibilities (and yes, the new Harry Potter books did play a crucial motivational role in this, I must say).

After so many years of learning and practising English in Italy I’d say I never got bored of it, but I started feeling the curiosity for going to English-speaking countries to put the theory into practice; I liked English so much that I ended up working as a Group Leader for younger Italian pupils abroad during their summer camps in the UK and those travelling experiences made me realise how far even a young student could go just thanks to a foreign language! And when it was then time to apply for universities, moving to Scotland simply seemed to me like the best choice to carry on along this path.

A bit of a warning here: studying a foreign language might be contagious…

Not only does it make you connect with (and be inspired by) so many new people, but once you start learning something as eye-opening as a foreign language, it is really hard to stop!

In my case, the “language-bug” made me study French, starting when I was 11. It could have been something temporary, as in Italy you are only required to pick up a “second” European language (usually French or Spanish or German) between the age of 11 and 14. However, once again, I became ‘too’ fascinated by this new wonderful language and I stuck with French all way throughout my 5 years in high school in Italy and (spoiler alert!) even at university level here in Scotland.

When I arrived here I realised how differently you can learn French in these two countries; whilst in Italy a much greater focus is on France’s history and literature (I have lost count of the classic French novels and plays we had to study in school…), here in Scotland attention is mostly put on language skills, as well as postcolonial and contemporary studies, which makes the two countries’ approaches perfectly complementary!

Looking back, I still struggle to believe how far I have come just thanks to French and the number of experiences I have gained through it. Some examples include: school trips and holiday in France (yeah I know, this might sound obvious, but as soon as you learn how to order French food it is really hard to resist!), an unforgettable Summer School in Strasbourg, an even more memorable Semester Abroad in Paris, a research scholarship to travel across the South of France2018 Intropido Pic I and many more.

As I have been travelling around Europe, people have often asked me if I am now a “trilingual” student. I am finally happy to say, a bit more confidently, that I am now fluent in three languages (although my parents make fun of my now broken Italian sometimes, but that’s another story), but especially I am really happy and grateful for all the places I have seen and the people I have met along my journey thanks to these languages.

Anyway, as you might have guessed, this “language-bug” thing is not getting any better… I should indeed mention, perhaps, that I also studied Latin for eight years in school and, guess what, I simply loved it! Call me boring, but I had so much fun with Latin as well that I managed to be selected for a national competition in the North East of Italy; no, I didn’t win, but yes, I had a great time, everything was included for the journey and I managed to meet some other great people even in that occasion. Therefore, let me just go against a well-established stereotype on “dead languages”: not only do they help you learn modern ones, but they take you around more than what you would think!

To conclude, I do believe that languages are not just subjects, but rather constitute a vital part of who I am; they represent wonderful key to access our world! And if you think you have got a “language-bug” yourself, don’t worry, it can only get “worse” 😉

Now I really have to go though, I have just seen a flyer about a Spanish course…’

Many, many thanks (merci, grazie, thank you!!) to Stefano for this brilliant post and for the infectious enthusiasm for languages.

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French and Psychology: ‘I still try and use French whenever I can’

As you’ll have gathered over the months and years of the French at Stirling blog, our degree combinations are many and varied ranging from, for example, French and Spanish to French and Philosophy via French and a range of subjects taught within the School of Management (Marketing, International Management, Human Resource Management…), French and Maths, French and Computing Science, and French as part of the range of Education degrees we run (Primary and Secondary).

One of the combinations that hasn’t featured as often here is Psychology with a European Language, a programme that enables students to combine modules in Psychology with modules in either French or Spanish, so it was particularly good to hear from one of our recent graduates, Luisa, who completed precisely this programme a few years back:

‘After graduating, I went on to do an MSc in Health Psychology at Stirling, as I was torn between what to continue with. I’d say the biggest overlap between the two areas (French and Psychology) was that I used a psychological approach called Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis for my French dissertation and it was one of my highest grades that year. It was the first time I had combined the two subjects but it worked well. I also had to write a Psychology dissertation that was due about a week after the French one: definitely a good test of time management and pressure having to write both at the same time.

I have taken a year to work in retail and I am now applying for jobs related to Psychology. However, I have also looked into jobs relating to French, as I had been told by a fellow 2016 French graduate that an organisation in Stirling was advertising translation jobs. I have always enjoyed the prospect of having more options because of having a joint degree. I still try and use French whenever I can and I hope to re-integrate it into my life in the near future.’

Many thanks to Luisa for sending us this blog post and we wish you all the best with the job applications, whichever route they take you down.

Double Funding Success!

As ever, with the rush of the final weeks of semester, the blog has gone a little quiet but the sun has just come out over Stirling’s campus and that seems like a good time and a good reason to quickly try to catch up on things blog-related. By way of a starting point, it’s great to be able to share some good news about funding successes for colleagues in French at Stirling.

2019 ASMCF Logo IIBuilding on the success of a similar event we organised back in June 2017, we’re currently in the midst of organising an event for secondary school pupils that’ll take place on campus in a couple of months. More will follow on that soon but we were delighted to hear, just a few days ago, that Cristina Johnston has been awarded funding through the ASMCF School’s Liaison and Outreach Fund to support some of the activities we have planned for that event. Watch this space for more details and thanks to the ASMCF for their support.

And our other piece of fantastic funding news is that Fiona Barclay has been awarded a grant through the Stirling Fund to create a micro-website as part of the University website that will enable staff and students who are interested in learning and practising another language to get in touch with each other. In essence, users will create a profile stating which language they are looking to learn, and which native language they are offering. They can then use private messaging to contact other users whose profiles match what they are looking for. It’s aimed at helping Stirling students to build confidence and language ability, and also at helping visiting students to integrate and get to know UK students. The website is due to launch in September so, again, keep checking the blog for updates and congratulations to all concerned!

Williamson Travel Scholarship: Approaches and attitudes towards migration

2019 Intropido Williamson Pic IV Nice Oct18The previous post about this year’s applicants for the Stevenson Exchange Scholarships, reminded me that I still had one other article lurking in my files, waiting to be posted, about a French at Stirling student’s success. In this instance, the scholarship in question is the University of Stirling’s Williamson Travel Scholarship which, last year, was awarded to Stefano, currently in the final semester of his degree in International Politics and Languages, along with his fellow student Christopher. Their joint research project was entitled ‘(Dis)integration in Southern Europe. A comparative observation of integration practices for migrants in Italy and France.’

2019 Intropido Williamson Pic III Nice Oct18Stefano and Christopher used the research they conducted under the auspices of their project to observe perceptions towards integration of migrants in two different European countries, namely Italy and France, through on field observations of integration practices at both local and regional level. Last July, they made use of their scholarship to spend two weeks in Southern Europe to carry out a comparative review of approaches to integration between two neighbouring countries which have been dealing with an increase of migrants in recent years, in order to enhance their understanding of the ways these countries can foster the integration of migrants in their societies. As well as examining national media representations of ‘the migrant question’, they also made contact with local civil servants and representatives of NGOs to further their knowledge and understanding of the situation. For example, they interviewed Dr Stefano Pasta, Adjunct Research Fellow at the Catholic University of Milan (Research Centre for Intercultural Relations), Journalist and senior volunteer at the Community of Sant’Egidio, a leading international NGO founded in Italy to support and integrate foreigners and migrants in Europe.

In their report on the project, Stefano and Christopher explained that having had the possibility to spend time in two European countries which have both been affected by the arrival of migrants since the start of the humanitarian crisis in 2015, ‘it has been deeply interesting to further investigate their different approaches and attitudes towards migration and subsequent integration within their societies’ and they hope their research will foster ‘awareness of the necessity for an ever greater deal of solidarity and cultural understanding in order for all of us to be oriented by the inspiring examples encountered along the journey.’ And they are, of course, grateful to the Williamson Trust for its trust in them and for its financial support through the scholarship.

Many thanks to Stefano for sending us the information about this project and for his patience while the article somehow sat in an email folder waiting to be posted!

Good luck to this year’s Stevenson applicants!

As ever, French and Spanish at Stirling have been busy over the first couple of months of the year working with the students who will be applying for Stevenson Exchange Scholarships for 2019-20, either to supplement the work they’ll be doing as English Language Assistants or to run alongside their integral period of Study Abroad. This year, we have three applicants to the scheme across the two languages: Eszter, Eilidh and Caitlin.  

Eszter’s proposed project would enable her to explore the role and representation of women in Spain’s creative industries. Caitlin would like to make use of a Stevenson Scholarship to explore the legacy of Gothic architecture in France, starting with Montpellier and its surrounding region. And Eilidh is interested in learning more about how smaller towns, museums and locations contribute to the ‘marketing’ of France and its regions to a tourist audience. 

Regular blog readers will know that French and Spanish at Stirling have a great track record of success with the Stevenson scheme and you can read more about previous Stevenson recipients and their projects here and here for starters. All three of this year’s students should learn whether they’re through to the next stage of the selection process over the next month and we wish all three of them the very best of luck with their applications!

 

‘Languages are so important in a globalised world’

And as well as responses from colleagues, the thoughts of students on the question of language uptake and what prompted them to become language learners also keep coming in, like the following post from Samantha who is currently in her final year of a BA Hons in French and Spanish:

‘I started learning Spanish after I moved house at 6 years old. I found my dad’s old Spanish vocab and grammar books from when he studied it in high school and, although I couldn’t read much of my native language at that age, it just amazed me that there were so many people out there that could speak and understand a language different from my own, so I wanted to break down that barrier and learn more because that fascinated me so much.

I had a very basic knowledge of Spanish until I went on holiday to Spain for the first time at age 10. I absolutely fell in love with the language, the culture and the country and decided to keep learning it until today. Then when French was introduced to our course in Primary 6, I could relate it to what I already knew in Spanish which, in turn, facilitated my learning and understanding of French. Around this time, a Polish girl came to my school and she couldn’t speak a word of English, so I learned some Polish and we became good friends, and I am still more or less conversational in Polish.

In high school I absolutely loved learning French, but we couldn’t learn Spanish until we were in 3rd year and I forgot quite a lot of it. I was always quite disappointed with the languages system in my high school as there was only the option to choose Spanish or French, and due to the fact that nobody in the two years below mine chose French, they had totally eliminated it from the curriculum and replaced it with Spanish, which I was really quite sad about. I then went to Uni at 16 to continue studying languages, and now I can speak Spanish, French, Italian, Polish and some German and Japanese.

I think languages are so, so important in a world as globalised as ours, and it felt so great to make friends with people that I may not have become friends with in the first place if I didn’t speak their language. We often seem to expect people to speak English when we go abroad, and I’ve witnessed first-hand British people going abroad and shouting repeatedly in English when a native of that country didn’t understand them, and it always annoyed me. So, personally, I felt like when going on holiday the natives of that country immediately had a lot more respect for me and were more open to conversing with/helping me when they found out that I could speak some of their language.

When I found out about the BBC study, I was so shocked. I think that due to language apps and online translation services as well as the expectation for people to speak English no matter their mother tongue, more and more people nowadays no longer feel the need to learn a new language. However, I think learning languages is essential for a variety of reasons, both for going on holiday or professional opportunities, as well as giving life new perspective and seeing the world in a different light through learning about other cultures and meeting people from other countries. I feel like learning a language helps bring people in this world together.’

Many, many thanks to Samantha for this great blog post and we hope you’ll continue with your current languages, and keep finding ways of picking up new ones over the coming months and years!

‘Hearing someone speaking another language always seemed slightly magical’

I’m delighted to say that responses are still coming in to the emails I sent out to colleagues and students last week asking about how and why they started learning languages… and how and why they’ve kept going with them. Emeline Morin is a Lecturer with us at Stirling, originally from France but now working in Scotland:

Like Mathilde, I started learning bits and bobs of English from songs. For instance, aged 5 or so, I vividly remember my mum telling me what “I will always love you” means from Whitney Houston’s song.

I only properly started to learn English in high school, aged 11, and I was very excited to start. I come from a very rural part of France and never really travelled as a child, so to me, hearing someone speak a foreign language, no matter which one, always seemed slightly magical.

I’ve always been a big reader, and when I think about it, my love for books definitely impacted my wish to learn languages. When I was 12, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire came out in English in July and would not be published in French until the end of November. I was so frustrated, I spent hours on forums searching for the (usually fairly rough) translations people wrote chapter by chapter. That’s when I became very dedicated to learning English because I decided that I just had to read the books in original from then on.

In high school, I also picked up Latin (which included a trip to Italy!) and Spanish. By the end of high school, I loved languages so much, I decided to do a degree in English and Spanish and I also picked up a bit of Mandarin, Russian, and German. (For some reason, German is the one language I have tried and just do not seem to be able to retain AT ALL).

This year marks the tenth anniversary of my move to Scotland. Being able to live abroad and to settle down here, to make friends and family has been incredible. Not only do I still feel that I am learning every day, I have also learnt a lot about my own language and culture while teaching it and confronting it to an outsider’s point of view.

Learning a language is not always easy, and is sometimes frustrating, but I don’t know of many things as rewarding either.’

Many thanks to Emeline for finding the time to send us this post – we’re hoping to find ways of following up on the references to songs and books and language learning over forthcoming blog posts!