Tag: Language learning

‘Talking to and learning from as many people as possible’

And finally, in today’s flurry of blog posts, Amy, another member of this year’s graduating cohort has sent this article looking back over what her degree has allowed her to do but also where it might take her in the years ahead:

‘I studied BA Hons Politics and French and going to University was the best decision of my life. University has provided a wealth of opportunities that would not have been afforded to me had I not gone. During my undergrad, I travelled to Tanzania to climb the highest free-standing mountain in the world – Mt Kilimanjaro. I then spent a year teaching in Blois, Loire Valley; a semester in Paris studying at Sciences Po and two summers managing staff and kids in a French campsite in the Ardèche, Rhône Valley. The experience and the cultural awareness that these opportunities provided were invaluable and they sparked within me an immense curiosity about people, the world and myself.

University is a melting pot of people from all over the world and a fantastic opportunity like no other to learn from people who have had different experiences from you. If you are like me and want to travel and see the world, then University is a great place to start. Gaining cultural awareness is far more than bag-packing in every country that your summer job can afford, it’s about talking to and learning from as many people as possible, wherever you are.

2018 Amy McIntyre Bill's last class May18My advice to future Stirling students: talk to your tutors and your lecturers. They’re people and there’s not the same hierarchy that may have existed between you and your teachers at school. University is a collective learning environment and both you and your lecturers have something to learn from one another.

Go to the cinema screenings that the French department want you to attend. Go to their mixers and free wine events. Go and talk to the local school kids about your study abroad experience. Sign up to be a Module Representative and, of course, offer to write a piece for Cristina’s blog. These actions of engagement are understandably daunting as a first year, but push yourself to do it.

University is more than studying; It’s more than reading books. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t advise attempting your degree without doing the aforementioned, but I can’t emphasize the importance of other factors at University enough. My advice to future students of Stirling: Get involved. Take advantage of every opportunity that interests you. Join a club or 5, hold weekly stalls in the Atrium and meet like-minded people and people who challenge your views alike.

2018 Amy McIntyre Logie Protest May18During my time at Stirling University I was Co-Convenor of the Socialist Society, Secretary for Stirling Students for Scottish Independence and I co-led Stirling Students in Support of the UCU Pension Strike protest movement which led to a 14-day Occupation of Logie Lecture Theatre.

My time in France

I took a gap year to participate in the British Council English Language Assistantship (ELA) Scheme in the Loire Valley, France. On reflection, I can honestly say I learned just as much from my kids as they learned from me. The simplicity, honesty and innocence of young people’s minds is interesting, inspiring and refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, prepare yourself for insults that are not intended as insults: “Amy, your nose is cool, it reminds me of a witch”. Thanks Pierre, you’ll have to excuse me as I’ve made plans to cry in the toilet…

2018 Amy McIntyre Pic May18

Tip to future language assistants: Get to know your ELA friends but don’t spend too much time with them. They are a great comfort to you when you are abroad but are inevitably a hindrance to your French language progression if you spend too much time alone with English-speakers.

In my third year, I studied at Sciences Po, Paris. I found that Politics in France is very different to the UK in terms of grassroots movements, protests and youth engagement with politics. Manifestations are as common as croissants in Paris and I was amazed at the crowds of youngsters who were politically active.

2018 Amy McIntyre Eiffel Tower May18

What motivates people to act the way they do? How do political institutions and societal factors impact their behaviour? And ultimately, how can we unite people, despite their perceived differences to come together and form a better society? These are questions that are ever-evolving and I suspect they will occupy my mind for the rest of my life, whatever avenue I choose to go down.

For the moment, I am fascinated by examining policies in different countries and finding out what works and what doesn’t. To change society for the better, I believe we need better policies at the heart of it. I hope to do a Msc in Public Policy and Management this year at the University of Glasgow. Ultimately, I want to make a positive contribution to the world, no matter how big or small that will be.’

Many, many thanks to Amy for this fantastic post and for the great tips for future students. We wish you all the very best for the MSc and the future beyond! And, of course, we would encourage as many as possible of our current (and former) students who might be reading this to take Amy’s advice and get in touch about future blog posts…

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‘Savour the moment’

And from halfway through a degree via Mairi’s post to a month from graduation, thanks to this article by Chelsea who has just completed her BA Hons in Psychology with a European Language (French, in Chelsea’s case!):

‘I think, like a lot of people, graduating and planning for the future is a daunting experience. For me this will be the first time since nursery that I won’t be a student: the root cause of my restlessness these last few days. I feel it is important to savour the moment and let it sink in before attempting to plough ahead with grand plans. That said, I soon realised that once you have (almost) obtained your undergraduate you feel the need to return for a Master’s or PhD, not just as another stepping stone for your desired career, but because, for most students, this ‘freedom’ and non-student status is unfamiliar.

2018 Chelsea Soulsbury Demo Pic
Demonstration in Nice

Having studied Psychology and French, I have no idea where I am going to be in 6 months/a year, or whether I intend to pursue Psychology or French. I have just returned from a month in Nice, and I really enjoy the idea of travelling and revelling in my graduated glory. However, another part of me wants to find a job, even if just part-time, related to my degree and start saving towards future education. As it stands, I have thrown my name into the ring for a few care apprenticeships, in the hope of working with vulnerable adults and children, which will not only grant me experience, but also qualifications to enhance my prospects of returning to University. Perhaps I will find an even balance and manage to save and do some travelling soon.’  

 

Many thanks to Chelsea for this article – we wish you all the very best for the future and for the apprenticeship applications, and hope that travel does feature in the plans, too, somewhere along the way!

From Summer Schools to Shoe Selling: Languages are Everywhere

Another new week gets underway and another great batch of articles by some of our students (and soon-to-be graduates!), starting off with this post by Mairi who has just finished off Year 2 of her degree:

‘It is very bizarre to think that I am now half-way through my undergraduate degree at Stirling. Since my last blog post, back in 2016, I have changed my degree to French and Spanish and have been using my newly acquired language skills in various jobs.

Last summer I worked at an English Language School based here at the University of Stirling. I worked with young people aged 11-17 as an Activity Leader. In this job I often spoke Spanish as many of the students were from Santander and Valencia. I hadn’t realised just how good it felt when I was able to successfully communicate in a language that was not my own. This is when my confidence in speaking French and Spanish really began to improve. I wasn’t scared to make mistakes and even just using a few foreign words here and there helped me to better understand Spanish pronunciation.

The summer school isn’t the only place I’ve been able to practice my language skills outwith Uni. In the last few months, I’ve started a job in a shoe store. I didn’t think I would be speaking much French or Spanish but about a month ago I had a French family come in and the grand-mother didn’t speak much English. I overheard her speaking in French and before I could overthink it, I answered her English question in French. She seemed delighted and I think relieved to not have to tip-toe her way around English (as we all do when speaking a language that is not our own). The same day I had a Venezuelan lady come in with her son and again I was able to speak to her in Spanish. Her son was just learning English and she said he was too shy to practice, I told him, in what was probably grammatically poor Spanish, that I understood how he felt because I too was learning another language. I think that whenever you have the opportunity to practice your languages, you should because when you get something right, it really helps to boost your confidence. And, in my experience, people warm to you more when they see you are trying to communicate with them in their mother tongue.

In February I visited my old high school to discuss the importance of languages and my experiences studying them at Stirling. I spoke to students in their 4th and 5th years and answered questions they had about languages, student life and just generally gave them tips with applying to university. I met with my French teachers who had taught me since I was 12 and it was interesting to hear what they had to say about their experiences at Uni, it all felt quite grown up. All in all, it was good to share my experiences of learning French and Spanish with people who were just beginning to consider a career in it.

2018 Mairi Edwards Pic 1I think all French students would agree with me in saying that the teaching in the department is fantastic. Staff are more than happy to help and really to go the extra mile for their students. I have especially enjoyed parlé classes with Mathilde and Brigitte this year as well as matière seminars with Cristina. That’s not to say that it’s been an easy year what with the industrial action affecting teaching and just naturally the course being more difficult. It really has been an enjoyable year but I’m looking forward to some time-off!

2018 Mairi Edwards Pic 2One of the aspects that has really made my time at Uni wonderful is my friends in the French module. Because the module is quite small, everyone knows everyone which for me, makes classes a lot less daunting. I’ve been lucky to have met such lovely and like-minded people and I’m really looking forward to another year with them. Although it will likely be a difficult year for us, it’ll be exciting to spend a semester abroad in France (or Spain). That’s all from me for now, thanks for reading. À bientôt.’

Many thanks to Mairi for the great update – enjoy the Summer break and we look forward to seeing you again in the Autumn, and to finding out where Semester 6 will take you!

Untold stories, untold history

It’s really great to be getting a chance to alternate between articles by students who are reaching the end of their undergrad studies with us in French at Stirling and those who’re at various different stages of the process so, following Alexia’s post, this time we have an article by Jeanne who will be graduating next month:

2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 2 May18‘Studying International Management and Intercultural Studies at the University of Stirling has led me to choose the right path for my future studies and work orientation. Indeed, I initially thought I would opt for a career in international business, although I wanted to keep all my options open (a career in translation perhaps) as I wasn’t sure just yet.

Throughout this degree, I have had the chance to study topics such as colonial history, collaboration and feminism in France. As a French citizen with slave ancestors (from Martinique) and a woman, being able to study these subjects (which are still taboo in my home country) and being granted greater access to a part of my identity has been an amazing experience.

In a sense, I had found the answers to many of my pending questions. So, I chose to change my degree to International Management with European Languages and Societies (without the final year in the management school in Strasbourg) as I still had many questions which remained unanswered and my curiosity was as high as it could be regarding taboos in French as well as Spanish history.

2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 8 May18As I also study Spanish, during my third year, I had the chance to go to Spain, at the University of Granada for my Compulsory Semester Abroad with the Erasmus programme. I also successfully applied for a Stevenson Exchange Scholarship for my Semester Abroad. These are Scottish research grants for students from Scottish Universities going to study in EU countries or for foreign EU students coming to Scotland to promote Scottish culture and enhance mutual EU belongingness through research and mine enabled me to examine whether Spaniards encountered the same difficulty as the French to teach some of their ‘dark history’: the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship, something I had studied in depth in Scotland and France.

2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 3 May18Thanks to the scholarship, I was able to visit various “lieux de mémoire” such as Garcia Lorca’s home in Granada or Franco’s tomb near Madrid. I also visited museums (Museum of War in Toledo, Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid–where you can see Guernica) and bought many books. The project pushed me to talk to many people: librarians, high school teachers, random people in the street, lecturers, guides, friends… allowing me to collect many varied and enriching opinions on the subject, while enhancing my language skills, grasping the culture and understanding my host country a lot better.

During our semester abroad, we also had to conduct a Research Project, for Stirling this time, and I chose to do it on “Modernisation in Spain: through the study of religion”. Actually, from abroad, I had the impression that Spaniards were practicing, rigorous Catholics, and I wanted to understand why, if that is true, they voted in favour of same sex marriage in 2005 (having in mind that a fiercely secular country like France only voted in favour in 2013). I loved doing field research for this project, confirming once more my decision to do research in the future. As with the Stevenson scholarship, it was another great opportunity to meet locals, make friends and learn from others such as during the impressive street processions of “Semana Santa” where families and friends gather each year.2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 6 May18

In this past year, I applied to an MLitt by Research in Transnational Cultures at the University of Aberdeen, focused on post-colonialism and I can’t wait to start. I would like to continue with a PhD and hopefully become a university researcher, to study the impact of the “untold history” on our identity.’

2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 4 May18

Many thanks to Jeanne for finding the time to send us this post and best of luck for the MLitt in the Granite City – we look forward to hearing how things are going over the months and years ahead. And we can promise posts by French at Stirling’s 2018 Stevenson Scholars over the weeks ahead…

From Dumyat to the Montagne Saint Victoire

Keeping things ticking over nicely on the blog, another update from one of our current students. This time, it’s the turn of Alex Janes who is coming to the end of his compulsory Semester Abroad which he has spent in Aix-en-Provence (among other places…):

‘I did a blog post over a year ago about my first 18 months at the University of Stirling and I said that I would probably be writing another blog post about my semester abroad. So here it is!

From the beginning of my research, I knew I wanted to go the south of France for my semester abroad. It was an area of France I’d never been to and the partner institutions there had a great selection of modules to choose from. So when I discovered that the French department at Stirling decided to allocate me to Aix-Marseille Université, I was beyond excited. And after a lot of decision making over modules and a stressful application, I made the journey to the small city of Aix-en-Provence in mid-January.

The first full day after arriving was truly extraordinary. After a welcome meeting in the morning at the university, I spent the afternoon taking in the sites and scenery. I was not to be disappointed as with its stunning architecture, narrow shopping streets and bustling market squares, I knew that Aix was going to be a great place for the next few months. I spent most of the first week investigating the cafes and restaurants, so unsurprisingly a lot of wine was consumed in the process.

2018 Alex Janes Cours Mirabeau Aix
Market Day in Aix

Considering that the campus I was on was solely dedicated to Arts, Languages and Humanities subjects, the university had a vast array of modules. One module recommended to the Erasmus students was “Les études comparées des sociétés européennes contemporaines”, which covered modern history in European countries such as Great Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany, Italy and Russia. The most peculiar but interesting module I took was “L’introduction de l’étude des mondes arabe et musulman”, which gave an insight into the Arab and Muslim worlds. This module covered population statistics, languages, the Quran and the Caliphate empires. I had learnt about French culture before but had never taken a module like this before. I was totally fascinated by how much I learnt in the 12 weeks of teaching, even learning a few basic Arab characters and Algerian words.

2018 Alex Janes Tour eiffelTo make the most of my time abroad, I went on several trips to discover other parts of the country. After just a 3-hour journey on the TGV, I went for the first time (ever!) to Paris to reunite with some friends from university. Over the course of the 3 days I was there, I managed to visit a host of landmarks including the Eiffel Tower, Arc d’Triomphe, Notre Dame, Le Louvre, Sacré-Cœur and the Pantheon. I reunited with more friends in Bordeaux, which is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. The lively shopping streets, strolling along the river and of course, the beautiful wine, were the highlights of that weekend.

2018 Alex Janes Gorges du Verdon
Gorges du Verdon

An organised coach excursion took myself and a group of Erasmus students into the Alps of Provence. Following the winding roads in the mountains, we explored quaint villages with glorious view points and the Gorges du Verdon, which is the largest gorge in the world by distance. And after finishing my exams, I spent a weekend in Nice absorbing the gorgeous sunshine and mid 20-degree heat. Nice has everything you could need for a weekend away with a wonderful beach, intriguing museums and wonderful green spaces. A 20-minute train ride away was Monaco, where my eyes were opened to the world of money, flash cars and business men in suits. As well as these longer trips, I took shorter day trips to Marseille, La Ciotat, Barrage du Bimont and Les Îles de Frioul, all within an hours travel from Aix-en-Provence.

2018 Alex Janes Maja Jack Thomas EJ Montagne Saint VictoireBiggest achievement would have to be climbing Montagne Saint Victoire, the mountain famously depicted in much of Paul Cezanne’s artwork and seen easily from Aix. Standing at around 1000m in altitude (2.5 times higher than the height of Dumyat), it was a challenging climb to say the least but felt so satisfying once you reached the top.

Overall, my semester abroad has most definitely been a positive experience. It was a massive culture change and different way of living, but I soon got used to it. I would urge anyone who is thinking about doing a semester or year abroad or has any opportunity to live abroad, to go for it. I feel very privileged that I have been given this opportunity to enrich my student and life experience as a whole, considering the uncertainty hanging over Brexit and the future of exchanges. If I had any advice, it would to be immerse yourself as much as possible with the natives and locals. They are the people who can have the greatest influence on your time abroad, especially when it comes to enhancing your language skills.

And who knows, maybe there will be a graduation blog post?!’

Many, many thanks to Alex for taking the time to send us this post and for so kindly volunteering to write another!! In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your Summer and we look forward to welcoming you back in September.

Camaraderie and the price of croissants!

Following on from Stuart’s update earlier, another follow-up post here from Eilidh Wynd who has just finished her 2nd year on the BA Hons in International Management with European Languages and Society:

‘2 years of Stirling University, where have you gone? It doesn’t feel so long ago that I last posted for the blog, saying how excited I was for my future time in the languages department and what I was looking forward to. Now, it’s 18 months on, older and wiser (apparently), I have reached the half way stage in my degree. It has been a tough but rewarding journey, so I thought I would update you on how the course has been and what adventures are yet to come.

Naturally, when studying any language, you have grammar classes. I would like to personally thank Jean-Michel for putting up with us in these classes. Whether it’s supporting us through imperfect subjunctive-based meltdowns or praising us when we finally grasp the difference between a direct and indirect object pronoun, he has been a rock for all of us on the course and his dedication to us reflects the whole teaching staff within the French department.

Alongside grammar, a personal highlight has been the weekly speaking sessions. With topics ranging from ‘are ghosts real’ to the influence of the media on young people, we have covered a range of issues. These classes are only made more enjoyable by the professors who never fail to entertain us with a story or two, and regularly give us handy tips for when we go abroad.

Finally, we have our culture classes where we discover more about past and present France. I have found these very insightful and I now have a much deeper understanding of the French way of life and their underlying morals. Through studying a variety of films and books, we have all managed to identify the differences between Scotland and France and understand France’s culture better.

2018 Eilidh Wynd Year 2 Pic II May18An important factor I want to highlight in this post is the camaraderie within the French module. Unlike modules such as business or sports studies, French is much smaller so there is a massive feeling of team work and community. Through this module, I have met some of my closest friends and had many a lunch or coffee break with class mates to discuss very important French issues…such as “do you think croissants are more expensive or cheaper in France than here?” I personally feel that’s an important issue anyway!

Due to studying both French and Spanish, I must complete time in both countries. Since I decided I would go to Spain for my semester abroad next year, I have successfully been accepted to do a 3-week internship at La Giraudière in Bordeaux at the end of August. I am very excited for this adventure where I will work and live amongst locals, experience living in a foreign country and, of course, sample some of the local delicacies.

2018 Eilidh Wynd Year 2 Pic I May18So, that’s a wrap from me. Despite, snow, strikes and stress, myself and everyone on the French course believe we are on the best module. Here’s to the next two years and hopefully we can progress through them as well as we have progressed through the previous years. I would like to end on a quote (I am famous for loving a good quote) which I believe represents the French module and the true co-operation and encouragement between students; “Les amis: une famille dont on a choisi les membres”- Alphonse Karr. Over and out x’

Many thanks to Eilidh for taking the time to send us this update and we’re looking forward to hearing how the internship goes later in the Summer – all the best for it!

 

Off to Quebec…

About a year ago, the blog ran a series of articles by students who were just reaching the end of their first year studying French at Stirling. One year on, we thought it’d be good to see how things were going so here’s the first of the follow-up articles by Stuart Close who has just finished the 2nd year of his BA Hons in French and Spanish:

2018 Stuart Close Year 2 profile follow-up pic2.docx‘Salut encore! Now that another year of French at Stirling has come to an end, I’d like to share my experiences of the 2nd year of the course. Overall, the format of the module is the same as last year: Culture, written language and oral. The difference this year, in my opinion, is the complexity of written language and oral. I enjoyed discussing topics that could well come up in conversation with francophones, and complex grammatical structures that although difficult, have had a significant effect on my confidence in speaking French. The culture topics this year have been a good variety – from the experience of French Jewish people in World War 2, colonial atrocities and conflicts; to Quebec cinema and the representation of French Muslims.

2018 Stuart Close Year 2 profile follow-up pic 1.docxI like to monitor my progress in French in real life settings each year. This year I was able to practice in two instances. Firstly, during reading week I travelled through Switzerland to parts of France near the border such as Evian-les-Bains and St Louis. And secondly, during the semester I had French cousins of my girlfriend round at my flat for what was meant to be just a night. However, owing to the ‘beast from the east’, they ended up staying for the better part of a week, which was an excellent opportunity to practice my French during visits to the pub or even a game of ‘cards against humanity’ which needed to be interpreted.

I feel that the course materials and assessments this year have given me a great foundation for my British council placement in Quebec later this year, and I hope to come back to third year with a solid level of French (and hopefully not too strong an accent!). Au revoir!’

Many thanks to Stuart for taking the time to send us this update and we look forward to tales of life in Quebec over the year ahead – good luck with the ELA!

More follow-ups and other articles to follow soon…