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!
Tag: Language Teaching
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!
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:
“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!
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.
During 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!
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!
The pace of the past few weeks of the semester means that there’s a bit of a build-up of blog posts in my inbox so, firstly, apologies for that but I’m trying to get them all online today to catch-up. Among other things, we’ve got two new profiles of recent graduates, starting with this article by Beth Young who graduated with a BA Hons in French and Law last year and who has spent the year since her graduation working as an English Language Assistant.
“My semester abroad in my third year at Stirling was the highlight of my degree. After returning home from this amazing opportunity, I was especially keen to travel again. At the beginning of last year, upon approaching the end of my four years at Stirling, I decided to apply to the British Council to be an English Language Assistant with the hope of being able to see more of France and improve my language.
A few months after being accepted, it was finally confirmed that I had been allocated to work in a vocational high school the Académie of Versailles, which not only covers the town of Versailles itself, but also a huge area spanning up to the north of Paris. I had only spent two days in Paris in the past but had loved it, so I was excited at the opportunity to spend time there and really get to know it.
As well as being delighted about the prospect of spending the year abroad, I was also excited to be able to teach English. I had volunteered in a local primary school at home, which was an amazing opportunity so I felt grateful that I was able to enhance my skills by being able to teach older pupils too. It has been great to experience a school system which is so different to the one that I know back home. Thanks to this role, I have learned to deal with a different set of challenges and to think on my feet when lessons do not quite go to plan. I have gained a lot of confidence from having to teach large groups of pupils and whilst I hope that I have successfully taught the students a bit about my culture, they have definitely taught me a lot about their language and culture too.
There have been many benefits to living so close to Paris. I have had friends come to visit me and I visited Disney for the first time, which was a really fun experience. Another main advantage of living close Paris is that one of my oldest friends and I have been able to visit one another easily. With her living in London, she is only a two hour and a half hour train ride away, which is closer than when at home in Scotland. I enjoy the fact that there is always something to do in this city, whether it be visiting famous landmarks, shopping on the Champs Elysées or discovering which bars have the best happy hours. It has been lovely to get to know the city well.
As I start to reach the final weeks of my year abroad and I reflect on the time I have already spent here, I can truly say that this has been an excellent experience for improving my French and getting to know a new place. I am looking forward to the weather becoming warmer as spring begins and being able to appreciate the beautiful City of Light in the sunshine as I think ahead and decide where my next adventure will be.”
Many thanks to Beth for taking the time to send us this post and good luck, both for the remaining weeks of your ELA and for the adventures that doubtless lie ahead. We look forward to hearing tales of them!
Following on from Jonny Terrell’s tales of life starting out as a secondary teacher in East Dunbartonshire, another account of life in teaching but this time from Megan Davis who graduated in 2016 with a BA Hons in French and Spanish. Megan applied for a British Council English Language Assistantship in her final year and has been working as a Language Assistant in Tenerife since last Autumn:
“While I couldn’t quite believe that my time in Stirling had come to an end, I was itching to start a new chapter and embark on a new adventure. Luckily, the opportunity to apply to be a language assistant with the British Council cropped up while I was in my final year. I was still not entirely sure of what direction I wanted to gear my career towards, so I decided to take it.
From my point of view, a year with the British Council was ideal. It meant I could have a go at teaching without committing myself to pursue it as a career. Similarly, it enabled me to take a small break from full time education, and yet still allow me to gain valuable skills, as well as spend a year living in Tenerife. Having now established myself and spent a few months at my school, IES Canarias, I can honestly say I am thrilled with my decision to come here.
Admittedly there was a period of adjustment when my new colleagues informed me they would rather I spoke only English in the school, strictly no Spanish was to be spoken to any of the students. I was initially taken aback to begin with, as I had anticipated my knowledge Spanish being a major asset in my time abroad, as opposed to a potential drawback. Nevertheless, I have adjusted to this new role and see the benefits of it on a daily basis. In general, the students all make an effort to speak to me in English, and really try to understand when I am speaking to them. Moreover, their capacity for understanding has vastly improved now that they are used to listening to me on a regular basis.
On a personal level I am finding this year incredibly gratifying, not only because of the relationships forged between myself and my new students and colleagues, but also because of the amount of free time. It has meant I have been able to pursue activities and hobbies that I had not yet done, such as joining a choir, which has given me to chance to visit various villages on the island when performing shows.
Ultimately, I have made the decision not to continue with the British Council next year in favour of returning to Scotland next year to continue my higher education. Despite leaving the Canary Islands, I am delighted that I made the decision to come here and I cannot wait to see what the next few months have in store!”
Many thanks to Megan for taking the time to send us this blog post – we hope the rest of the ELA year goes well and look forward to catching up when you’re back in Scotland as a postgrad next year!