Tag: Literature and Languages

Happy New Year: “Every Class is a New Discovery”

First and foremost, “Happy New Year! Bonne Année!” to you all! 2017 marks Stirling’s 50th anniversary so we’re looking forward to a great year of events and celebrations, and to more profiles of students who have studied French with us for the past half-century. We’re also going to continue our series of profiles of current French at Stirling students and that seems an ideal place to pick up this blog after the festive season so, without further ado, a great new article by one of our current Year 2 students, Stefano Intropido:

2017-intropido-picture“Bonjour! My name is Stefano and I am a Second year undergraduate (BA) in International Politics and Modern Languages (French) here at the University of Stirling. I come from Milan, a huge city in the North of Italy, so this is also my second year living abroad in such a wonderful country as Scotland. I have been asked several times why I decided to move so far from home and to study French right here and not elsewhere, and it is not always the easiest thing to explain, I guess. When I was also asked by the French Department to write a post for this blog, I was really pleased and I thought it would be nice and useful, especially for new students, to say a bit more about what brought me here and why I enjoy studying French at Stirling so much.

First and foremost, I have always been really keen on the English language and Anglophone culture, since I was in primary school when I first started learning it. Therefore, since I was a child I had been telling myself that one day I would study in the UK and especially in Scotland, too beautiful a country not to live in one day. I was also generally interested in languages as in Italy I started studying French too when I was 11 in Middle School; after that, I decided to go on with both languages and I thus attended a bilingual course at a scientific High School in Milan for 5 years. That was a hard time as the school was extremely demanding, but definitely rewarding. For French alone, we had classes to learn grammar, oral skills and the history and literature of France from the origins until modern times.

When it came to decide which University to apply to, I really had no idea where to go. I was – and still am – deeply interested in international and diplomatic studies, but at the same time I did not want to lose my linguistic abilities. In fact, I wanted to put them into practice in a way I had not tried before. Therefore, I spoke to my English High School teacher and she recommended I should have a look at Stirling since she thought that it could be the right place for me. And she couldn’t have been more right! I looked carefully at the courses offered by the University of Stirling and I was extremely glad to find the possibility to combine so many of my passions: going abroad to live in Scotland, international studies and languages all together! The University really does offer a great level of flexibility in its courses and a highly valuable combinations of subjects; I therefore decided to apply for a BA in International Politics and Modern Languages, with French, and I am really enjoying it so far!!!

Mais on parlait du français… When I came to the Applicant Day and had the opportunity to talk to members of the staff in the French Department, I immediately had the feeling of a great environment where I could really enhance my abilities as a student and, most importantly, as a person. Both lecturers and tutors are all truly keen on helping when students reach them out to seek support and guidance. At the beginning I was a bit worried I might “re-study” what I had already learnt in High School about France, but I was soon pleased and surprised to see that all the materials and topics covered in the culture stream are totally new and highly related to the wider spectrum of French culture rather than just to France’s literature in itself; this makes every single class a new discovery and a challenge. To conclude, my time here at Stirling has really strengthened my abilities in French and I do look forward to what is coming next! I would undoubtedly recommend studying French at the University of Stirling: best choice ever!”

Many thanks to Stefano for starting the New Year with this post and we hope you enjoy the semester ahead!

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European Day of Languages: Student Ambassadors at Wallace High

As part of our activities to celebrate the European Day of Languages, three of our current final year students (Ellen Ingram, Charlotte Cavanagh and David Vescio) went along to local secondary school Wallace High to talk to pupils and teachers there about studying languages at University. Here’s their account of the day:

“To commemorate European Languages Day 2016, we went along to Wallace High School to promote the benefits of language learning to the pupils. Having all had a ball working and studying abroad, we were keen to talk to the pupils and encourage them to stick in with their modern language studies.

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The school organised many different workshops, speakers and activities throughout the building across different departments, including a French cuisine sample session arranged by the Home Economics department. Our workshop was designed to work with small groups of students and tell them about the opportunities that learning a language have opened for us. Working in small groups allowed the students to ask us questions and also tell us their ideas about their future and if learning a language would be part of their plan.

For Ellen, it was particularly good to “hear the thoughts of the different pupils and it was interesting to hear how many of them felt that language learning might enhance their job opportunities in the future. Many pupils told me that they would like to be able to speak another language but they find their language classes very difficult. Having studied French since high school, I have been through (and I am still going through) the struggle of language classes and the difficulty in grasping certain concepts, so I hope that I encouraged them to be tenacious and power through. In my opinion, the biggest piece of encouragement that I gave the students was that language allows you to travel. I told them about my experience working as a language assistant in France and my study abroad semester in Quebec and how I would not have been able to do those things without studying French. We talked about all the places that you can go if you have a basic understanding or even a few words of French and Spanish to show that there is more to learning these languages than just visiting France and Spain.

I really hope that I have inspired some of the pupils to continue learning a modern language and that they can see the benefits that I have gotten out of learning French and the experiences that I have had. To this day I still find learning French very difficult but it is my love for the language and my interest in experiencing other cultures that make it worthwhile.”

For Charlotte, “as a subject that means a lot to me, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to talk to the pupils of Wallace High School to promote the study of languages. What struck me the most was that although many pupils liked the idea of learning another language, they were put off by the idea that it takes a lot of time and effort to master and that they found learning languages extremely challenging. I really enjoyed discussing these thoughts and concerns with pupils, and I hope that by sharing my own stories I have reassured them that although learning a language is not easy, there are so many advantages to studying languages and that it can provide them with so many opportunities.”

David is planning a career in secondary teaching when he graduates so, for him, “it was fascinating both to talk with individual teachers and prospective language students, as well as to try to engage with pupils with no interest in languages whatsoever. Although they were quiet at first, some eventually started asking questions and I could see that they knew there was something to gain. I loved trying to explain to the pupils how languages gave me the opportunity to travel as well as meet new people. Although I thought that speaking of my own experience would not captivate the pupils’ attentions at first, I eventually noticed a spark of interest and one question led to many more. I think what it really showed me was that the pupils see a language only as an academic subject rather than a way to communicate. This truly opened my eyes as to how teachers not only have to teach a language but also have to engage the students. I left the school more determined than ever to become a teacher!”

Thanks to Ellen, Charlotte and David for having given up their afternoon to meet with the Wallace High pupils and staff and for this blog post. We’re hoping to continue to develop our connections with schools in the local area and beyond over the weeks and months ahead so, if you happen to be reading this as a secondary or primary Languages teacher, do feel free to get in touch!

Stirling PhD Success

2016 Verbeke pic FebCongratulations to our PhD student, Martin Verbeke, who passed his viva last week! Martin’s research examines ‘Rappers and Linguistic Variation: A Study of Non-Standard Language in Selected Francophone Rap Tracks’ and it was conducted under the joint supervision of Bill Marshall and Cristina Johnston. All the best to Martin for the years ahead and we look forward to following his career.

 

Things to do with a degree in French…

Fiona Mears graduated with a first degree (in French and English Studies) back in 2012 and came back to Stirling to complete an MSc in Translation with TESOL in 2013-14. In between, she has had postings as an English Language Assistant through the British Council’s scheme and, since Autumn 2015, she has been working as a lectrice at the Université Franche-Comté. Before starting that job, though, last Summer, Fiona found herself working at an English Language Summer School in Edinburgh…

“I was delighted when, nearing the end of my second stint as an English Language Assistant in a French high school, I was offered the role of Activity Manager at an English Language Summer School in Edinburgh. What I didn’t fully grasp at the time was just how intense summer school could be, especially for managers. You have no choice but to hit the ground running!

2016 Mears Summer School Photo 1 School

The madness began almost straight away with the arrival of our first group of students and it didn’t really stop! It soon became clear that there are many duties concealed behind the title ‘Activity Manager’; not only did I manage and organise activities and excursions, I took part in them.

As the only member of staff who knew the city, I spent two Saturdays in Stirling, where I relished the experience of climbing the Wallace Monument’s 246 stairs twice in the space of half an hour after all three group leaders on the trip threw a hissy fit and refused to go up. On the upside, I was rewarded with a rare few hours off later that afternoon.

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I also went to places that I had never got round to visiting: Linlithgow Palace, Falkland Palace, Holyrood Palace (good job I enjoy looking round palaces), the Royal Botanic Gardens, Dynamic Earth… As you might imagine, going to such places isn’t a wholly relaxing experience with fifty or so teenagers in tow, but any opportunity to escape the campus was one that I was going to take.

As well, I took part in on-campus activities (playing Ultimate Frisbee was a personal highlight), I carried out placement testing, taught, tour guided, shepherded students into lines in the dining hall and patrolled corridors at night. It all sounds very glamourous, I know. I greeted new arrivals and waved off departures. And on top of this, I did what I had daftly perceived would be my job, that is, making sign-up sheets, confirming bookings, doing staff observations, preparing itineraries, typing risk assessments, setting out materials needed for activities and excursions and generally ensuring everything on the activities side of things ran smoothly.

2016 Mears Summer School Photo 4

All in all, summer school was one of the most stressful, demanding and downright exhausting experiences of my life so far. Yet it was by no means a negative one. It taught me a lot. It gave me my first taste of management, which I discovered I’m not too bad at. It put my organisational and prioritisation skills to the test. I learnt to predict potential hiccups and to have a plan B (and C and D) for everything, and I learnt to think on my feet when problems inevitably cropped up. Having to phone to make and confirm reservations forced me to get over my dislike of talking to strangers over the phone. It put me out of my comfort zone, in a good way. Staying focused and not losing it after a close to 100-hour working week is no easy task – but I did it. I’m just glad that summer school happens in 4-week blocks!”

Updates on Fiona’s new job as a lectrice in France will (hopefully…) follow soon!

French at Stirling goes Gothic…

There will be a good Stirling presence at the 2015 conference of the International Gothic Studies Association, taking place in Vancouver this week. French at Stirling’s Bill Marshall will be participating in a roundtable on ‘Southern Gothics, Gothic South’, while our Literature and Languages colleague, Dale Townshend, is giving a plenary lecture entitled ‘16 October 1834: Architecture, Romance and the Migration of the Gothic Imagination.’ Dale’s PhD supervisee, Fanny Lacôte (jointly supervised between Stirling and the Université de Lorraine and working on relations between French and British Gothics) will be giving a paper on ‘English Gothic served “à la française”: French forgeries of Ann Radcliffe’. Other Stirling presenters include: Stuart Lindsay on David Thorpe’s illustrated novella Doc Chaos: The Chernobyl Effect, Kelly Gardner on ‘Survival Space in the Contemporary Zombie Apocalypse’, Benjamin E. Noad who’ll be talking about ‘Migrations of Madness: A Genealogy of Mental Health in Modern and Contemporary Gothic Fictions Since 1960’ and Janet Chu whose paper is entitled ‘“‘Neither in nor out of ‘Blackwood”’: From Blackwood’s Magazine’s Gothic Sensationalism to Poe’s Sensational Gothicism.’ A healthy Stirling presence, with some interesting French-related Gothic-ness along the way!

Stirling PhD student success

Excellent news from our former French at Stirling PhD student, Jamal Bahmad, who graduated last year. Jamal went straight into a post as a Research Fellow at the University of Marburg after completing his PhD and from there has now taken up a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Leeds, working on ‘Beyond the Arab Spring: Youth, Social Change and the Politics of Realism in Contemporary Maghrebi Cinema.’

As if all that wasn’t good news enough, we’ve also just heard that his PhD thesis (Casablanca belongs to Us: globalisation, everyday life and postcolonial subjectivity in Moroccan cinema since the 1990s), supervised by Prof. David Murphy, was the joint winner of the 2015 BRISMES Leigh Douglas Memorial Prize for the best PhD dissertation on a Middle Eastern topic. For the judging panel, Jamal’s analysis ‘is underpinned by a lively engagement with social theory that provides the basis for a fine-grained and richly sourced body of cinematographic evidence. This results in one of the richest and most deep-rooted interpretations of the currents of power, resistance and self-understanding in Morocco that are presently available. A real tour de force.’

Congratulations, Jamal, and we look forward to reporting on further successes over the coming months and years!

Sciamma Study Day

A great afternoon of papers and discussions about the films of Céline Sciamma ahead on Monday 8 June, thanks to Divisional Research Funding from Literature and Languages at Stirling. A chance to talk about some fantastic films with a lovely group of colleagues. Speakers will include Clara Bradbury-Rance, Gemma Edney, Kat Lindner and Cristina Johnston, covering – between them – all three of Sciamma’s feature-length films. There will also be discussions around teaching Sciamma to teenage audiences thanks to secondary Modern Languages teacher, Finn Mackie.

2015 Girlhood