Tag: Language Teaching

Publications, progress reviews and teaching: a year in the life of a PhD student

This semester seems to be flying past and it doesn’t entirely seem possible that we should already be a week or so away from our mid-semester break. Our Year 1 students have just received feedback on the essays they wrote as part of our package of Bridging Materials, assessment deadlines are starting to fall for this semester’s modules, the schedule of films for Stirling’s section of the French Film Festival has made its way into the MacRobert programme… Against that busy backdrop, it’s good to get a chance to reflect on what a year in the life of French at Stirling can look like, from the perspective of one of our PhD students, Fraser McQueen who has very kindly made time to send us this blog post:

“I came back to Stirling to start my Ph.D in French Studies in October 2016, having originally graduated with a degree in French and History in 2014 before going to St Andrews to do an MLitt in French Studies and then spending a year teaching English as a lecteur at the Université de Toulon. I came back to Stirling mostly because I thought that it was the best place in Scotland for my project, given the department’s strategic focus on colonial and postcolonial studies, but also because I’d enjoyed my time here before. If it seems like a year is a long time to leave it before writing a blog post, I’m the only one to blame: I’ve been promising to do this for several months now!

I’ve just passed the first year review of my Ph.D, which means that I’m officially allowed to progress into the second year: the review process, during which I had to answer questions from three academics on the work I’ve produced so far, was quite stressful but also very helfpul in showing me the areas in which I still have a lot of work to do.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed the first year of my Ph.D. I research representations of Islamophobia and coexistence in contemporary French literature and film: I believe that this is an extremely important subject, and it’s been great to have the chance to research it in depth.

I’ve also enjoyed the other opportunities that come with doing a Ph.D: I’ve presented at three conferences and had four articles published in The Conversation, a news and opinion website via which academics from Ph.D level upwards are able to share their research with a non-specialist audience. This is something that I’ve particularly enjoyed: I think that it’s important to communicate academic research to people outside of academia, particularly with projects like mine, and The Conversation is a great way to do that. Writing for non-specialists has also really helped me to write more clearly: I used to have a bad habit of writing huge sentences filled with jargon, which their professional editors wouldn’t allow. Although I can’t use the exact same style for my academic writing as I would in The Conversation, the experience of needing to be more concise has definitely helped and I’d strongly recommend that other Ph.D students try writing for them.

I also had my first journal article published in Modern and Contemporary France last week, which I’m really pleased with. Getting it through peer review was a very long process – I originally submitted it last November – but I feel that the article is much better for it. I also had a book review published in Modern and Contemporary France earlier in the year, and am now working on another journal article which I hope to submit elsewhere in the next month or so. I’m enjoying all of this, but trying to balance it all out with actually doing my research and writing my thesis can be tricky at times!

Problems balancing my workload and the occasional stress of writing to one side, though, I’ve really enjoyed the first year of my Ph.D. Over the next year I’m hoping to get draft versions of four of my thesis chapters written: it’ll be a challenge, especially given that I’m now also teaching undergraduates, but it’s one that I’m looking forward to.”

Many thanks to Fraser for taking the time to write this and congratulations on the progress review success, as well as on the publications front!

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Strasbourg and more

Another week until the start of semester and these final few days before the new academic year are full of news to report. Usually, the bits of this blog that are written by me (Cristina Johnston) are written in Scotland but this post sees me making my way to Strasbourg where I’m headed for meetings with our colleagues at the Ecole de Management. We’ve had an exchange partnership with them for many years now and currently have a great Integrated Masters programme that we run with them in International Management and Intercultural Studies. As is the way with these things, most of the time that just means corresponding via email and it’s our students who benefit from being able to enjoy the delights of our respective institutions and cities. Every now and then, though, colleagues come from Strasbourg to Stirling or from Stirling to Strasbourg and that’s what I’m up to just now. A good day of meetings and discussions about possible future partnerships and teaching and research collaborations lies ahead, and I’m looking forward to getting a chance to see the EMS.

The added bonus – from my perspective, at least – is that I spent my own year abroad when I was an undergraduate as an English Language Assistant living and teaching in Strasbourg so it’s a city I used to know well. As those students who were away as ELAs last year make their way back to campus in Stirling, and some of those who are just starting on new adventures as assistants in places as far-flung as Colombia (watch this space for more…) send emails to say hello, it’s great to get a chance to reminisce on my own experiences as a Language Assistant. I taught at the Lycée Marie Curie in Strasbourg where – at the time, at least – they taught both the French Bac and the European Bac, meaning that one class of pupils in terminale had extra language tuition, History and Geography taught in English and an impressive openness to the possibilities that language learning opened up for them.

For me, it was a great first experience of teaching – I wasn’t much older than the pupils, they were (without exception) really keen to learn, and the school was incredibly supportive (of me and of their pupils). As well as the actual teaching, I was lucky enough to be asked to accompany that terminale class on a 10-day trip to Northern Ireland and was just generally made to feel part of the school community. I kept in touch with some of the pupils for a few years after I came back and, ever since then, have also kept in touch with one of the former English teachers from the school so this EMS trip will also give me a chance to catch up with her, having not actually seen her face-to-face in 20 years! All in all, a good trip lies ahead!

Enough about me, though… What other news? Well, Fiona Barclay and I had a great meeting last week with the ever-enthusiastic Grahame Reid of Stirling’s MacRobert cinema to talk about (fingers crossed) bringing some of this year’s French Film Festival films to Stirling again this year. All being well, November should be French cinema month at Stirling but more will follow on that once we get confirmation. French at Stirling has also been busy preparing workpacks for all the modules we’ll be running in the new semester and generally getting ourselves ready for all our new and returning students. And, at the end of this week, just before the focus shifts back more towards teaching, many of us will also be attending a Research Away Day led by Bill Marshall to discuss research plans and ideas with colleagues from Languages, Translation, Religion, English and Creative Writing. Oh yes, and our former PhD student Martin Verbeke has another article forthcoming: “Represent Your Origins: An Analysis of the Diatopic Determinants of Non-Standard Language Use in French Rap” has been accepted for publication by the International Journal of Francophone Studies!

A flurry of pre-semester activity! And pictures of Strasbourg will doubtless appear on the blog over the next week or so…

Language Learning According to Huw Edwards

Entirely coincidentally, a former colleague has just sent me a link to a great interview with the newsreader Huw Edwards about his experiences studying languages (at school and at University) and the benefits of exposure to other languages. The interview is conducted by secondary school pupils at Bryngwyn School and, coming on the same day as Laura’s reflections on language learning in Scotland, it seems a particularly appropriate link to share!

‘Greater and more diverse life experiences through travel and culture’: Education and Languages at Stirling

Following on from the recent few posts by students just reaching the end of their first year with us, it’s time for the thoughts of someone who is a little further on in her degree programme. Laura Burns has just completed her second year on our BA Hons in Professional Education (Primary) with a Specialism in Modern Languages and is about to undertake an English Language Assistantship from the Autumn:

“I have always been sure that I wanted to study teaching. However, the opportunities and experiences that I have gained, and will gain, from my involvement with the modern languages department at Stirling have been incredible.

As I have always been aware of changes and dynamics within Scottish Education, I became interested in the 1+2 scheme. This has the aim to better encourage modern language learning in Scotland, due to be fully implemented across primary schools in 2020. Having enjoyed studying French while at school and always having interest in culture and travel, I was keen to look further into languages as a specialist option. This was when I became more aware of Stirling University and the unique opportunities I could gain from studying there. My course came with the chance to study education with a specialism in French language and culture. Immediately, this was beneficial on a social level, enabling me to meet more fellow students and staff across different faculties.

From day one, I found the language department to be friendly, engaging and organised. This was a main worry of mine before beginning university, so it was fantastic to feel at ease so quickly. While the work was challenging for me, I felt supported by the staff and fellow students throughout.

Whenever going into schools, I am far more acutely aware of the attitudes towards modern language teaching. Immediately, I discovered that many of the primary teachers who I spoke with lacked confidence in their rushed learning of French, or Spanish. This lack of confidence, many admitted, led to a lack of engagement with teaching of language beyond, for example, colours or introductions. Contrastingly, from my experience so far, the children have a far more positive approach. While on my most recent placement, I tried to incorporate French into much of the daily classroom life. This even encouraged one child to do her own “research”, coming back to me with vocabulary she had discovered from searching with her family over the weekend. Language learning, at its heart, involves sharing and discovering. Undeniably, this is engaging and important kinds of learning for all children. Studying at Stirling has made me so aware of how I can ensure that a potential lack of teacher confidence does not inhibit this learning, and these experiences.

Speaking more personally, due to my involvement with the French department, my future life experiences will be shaped. I have been given the opportunity to become an English Language Assistant. My post begins in October, staying in Lille, France. This was never something I would have even considered if it wasn’t for the encouragement and support from the faculty. While I am scared and nervous (apprehensive) to be undertaking this unexpected year out, I know how valuable this experience will be. Firstly, on a practical level, to be fluent (or close to) in another language will always be a sought after skill. Secondly, I will be allowed an entire year’s teaching experience adapting to new systems and curriculum. Finally, it grants me the opportunity to have greater and more diverse life experiences with people through travel and culture, making me a better teacher in future because of it. In addition to this, the staff encouraged another opportunity through “Language Linking, Global Thinking” where I can maintain a link with a Scottish primary school to inspire language leaning, and the opportunities which arise with it. 

This was not the journey I had expected to take before starting Higher Education. It is because of Stirling University’s language department that I am more aware that ultimately, university is about more than just a degree, it enables opportunities and creates links. I now will have a desired specialism to be proud of, and advocate. I can use languages to better myself across many areas in my life, for my whole life. I will always be grateful for the department’s keen interest in helping me better myself through opportunities that university, and language learning can provide.”

Many, many thanks to Laura for this great blog post and we hope the ELA year goes really well!

 

French at Stirling: ‘Relaxed and welcoming atmosphere in classes’

As promised, these few weeks will see a series of blog posts profiling some of our current students, so we’re delighted to get a chance to post the next of these with this article by Stuart Close, who has just completed his first year with us:

dav“Salut! I’m Stuart Close and I’m studying a BA Hons French and Spanish at Stirling University. I started learning French when I was still in primary school and was exposed to strange (but great) French movies from an early age! I considered it my main subject all the way up to Advanced Higher where I was the only Advanced Higher pupil in my school for a year! After trying French at another Uni and not enjoying the way it was being taught, I looked elsewhere and found Stirling Uni. It was far enough from my home town of Dunoon to still give me what I felt was ‘the Uni experience’ and offered more of a broader study of the languages and cultures they belong to rather than the narrower focus of how I’d seen French taught previously.

I have now finished my first year of Uni and I’m happy to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. The way French is taught here is that it’s broken into three segments: langage écrit (writing and grammar), langage parlé (and listening) and matière which focuses on French history, literature and film. Both the langage classes are well taught and engaging, and the tutors keep learning complex grammar rules and speaking out loud in a foreign language fresh and fun by sprinkling in stories of their experiences learning English or French. With the culture side of things, topics such as the First World War, or the French Revolution, are introduced and then you get to see the French perspective and writings or films to study on them. One thing I really enjoyed from Matière was getting to study a graphic novel (bande dessinée), Tardi’s Putain de guerre. I don’t think you would get this experience in any other language study and, as these are a big part of French culture, it was a welcome change from poems or short stories.

Overall, I would highly recommend studying French at Stirling. The relaxed and welcoming atmosphere in the classes often makes it feel less like a class and more of a club.”

Thanks to Stuart for taking the time to write this. We’re really pleased Year 1 has gone so well and look forward to updates as your degree progresses!

 

Erasmus Teaching Mobility: Translation, Elections and Harry Potter…

Last month, we were delighted to welcome Lucie Herbreteau on an Erasmus teaching exchange for a few days and we thought it’d be good to get a chance to pass on her impressions of Stirling:

“I am a teacher at the Catholic University of the West in Angers, France, and I had the opportunity to come to Stirling University for a teaching mobility in March 2017. I arrived in Scotland on Sunday 11th in the afternoon, and I was already impressed by the beautiful landscapes. I must admit that I was lucky to have a mostly sunny weather with very little rain during my stay!

I felt welcome at Stirling University: everyone was extremely nice to me, Jean-Michel DesJacques and Cristina Johnston showed me around the university and explained everything I had to know. I cannot thank them enough for their perfect welcome.

I taught French translation and held a discussion around the French presidential elections with the 4th years and I found all my classes very interesting. The students were curious and we had exciting conversations on the different topics we tackled. The translation classes were particularly stimulating because we studied the translation of a Harry Potter extract in French and discussed the translation of proper names in French, especially the words invented by J.K. Rowling.

2017 Lucie Herbreteau Blog article campus 10April.docxDuring my stay, I walked around the campus which is very pleasant with its lake in the middle. It almost looks like a small village! I also had the opportunity to visit Stirling which is a charming city, as well as Bridge of Allan. I was impressed by the kindness of Scots, always ready to help you. Before leaving on Thursday 16th, I had a little stroll around Edinburgh. It is a very beautiful city with its impressive castle and its attractive streets.

I was deeply pleased with my Erasmus mobility to Stirling University, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to my colleagues in France – or to come back myself! But most of all, I would like to come back to Scotland for a longer period and take the time to travel across its magnificent landscapes.”

Many thanks to Lucie for this blog post and we hope to get a chance to welcome you back to Stirling again in the not-too-distant future!

“French is a global language”: from whisky tasting in Belgium to language teaching in Portugal

And, following on from Beth Young’s article, tales from another of our graduates, John McCallum who completed his BA Hons in International Politics and Languages in 2012 and whose language skills have seen him crisscrossing Europe for work ever since.

“My first role after graduating from the University of Stirling in 2012 in French and International Politics was as a sales and marketing executive with a whisky distillery, Springbank, in my hometown of Campbeltown, Argyll. During that year I had the chance to travel in Europe and work several times in francophone Belgium, visiting French-speaking stockists and taking whisky tastings in French. It was a great experience to be able to talk about your town and a local industry to people in their own mother tongue.

Using French in a professional situation can be different than just practising socially, especially when there is industry-specific vocabulary to learn to help you do the job better, and more time pressure on you to deliver it. On completing my studies I felt at a really strong level, though, and that is testament to the range of material we studied and the opportunity for conversation on various topics while in a classroom setting at Stirling.

Another reason for having the confidence to speak in the language was having spent a semester abroad in Paris, an unforgettable experience. As well as having the opportunity to attend Sciences Po, the popular pathway for some of France’s past and present political elites, I joined a football club and spent my Sunday afternoons in various banlieue towns in the Val de Marne area, learning a different style of football and what can only be described as ‘français des vestiaires’ on a thrice-weekly basis. I would echo another 2012 graduate Jonny Terrell’s post in saying I wish it could’ve been for the whole year!

But at Stirling too I always felt that my degree drew on great expertise in both languages and politics departments. I consistently had the support I needed and met lots of great people when studying there, from not only Scotland but from an international background.

After time spent working in newspaper reporting in Argyll, the odd weekend stint as a purser on a passenger RIB from Campbeltown to Ireland, and working with another distillery on the isle of Islay for a year under a French parent company, I have had lots of opportunities to use my language skills, both in the workplace and when simply wanting to make conversation and practise everyday French.

For the past six months I have been working as an English-language teacher in Braga, in the north of Portugal. I am working on improving my Portuguese, and although it is a complex language itself with tough grammar and pronunciation, I would like to try becoming a lusophone too, even when back living in Scotland. However, French is a popular lingua franca here given the immense movement of people and familial links established between the countries during the past 60 years and has saved me a few times when the other person in the conversation hasn’t had a word of English!

It shows that learning a global language like French can have practical uses much more diverse than you originally imagined. I would thoroughly recommend Stirling as a place to learn the language.”

Many thanks – obrigado! – to John for sending this article and we look forward to finding out where your languages will take you next!