Tag: Spanish

‘Ready for the challenge ahead!’

As well as posting updates from students who are in the middle of their degrees with us, we thought it’d be interesting to get some ideas of what our final year students are planning for life after graduation as they look forward to the ceremony next month. To start things off in this series for this year, Alexia (who is just about to graduate with her BA Hons in French) has sent us the following post:

‘In December I was accepted onto the University of Glasgow’s PGDE Secondary French course, a career path I have always intended to take throughout my time at Stirling. I thoroughly enjoyed learning French in secondary and higher education, and would love nothing more to spark a passion for languages in pupils, in the very same way my teachers and tutors inspired me.

2018 Alexia Pennock Château d_Angers
Château d’Angers

Working as an English Language Assistant in Angers through the British Council between Year 2 and Year 3 of my degree further inspired me as I gained confidence in engaging with young people in a classroom environment and was shown how challenging – yet rewarding – a job teaching is. My time in Angers was also enriching as I was given the opportunity to meet people from across the globe, many of whom I still maintain contact with, as well as reconnecting with family in Brittany and Nantes.

2018 Alexia Pennock Plage de Préfailles in Pornic
Plage de Préfailles, Brittany

While I chose to focus on French at Stirling, I plan to develop my knowledge of Modern Languages by learning Spanish and therefore gain an additional teaching qualification. I am under no illusion that teaching will not be without its difficulties, but feel that I am ready for the challenge ahead and cannot wait to impart the knowledge I received from Stirling’s French Department on Scotland’s future.’

Thanks to Alexia, firstly, for the positive thoughts on your time studying with us at Stirling and for taking the time to send us this post. All the best for the teacher training – and the career beyond – and do keep in touch!

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Scottish Baccalaureate in Languages Interdisciplinary Project

Many thanks to Alexia, Claire and Pedro from our current final year cohort, and to Céline who is spending a semester on Erasmus exchange at Stirling, for having given up their time last week to meet with local school pupil Kimberley and to talk to her about studying Languages at University. Kimberley is currently in her final year at St Mungo’s High School in Falkirk where she is working on her Scottish Baccalaureate in Languages Interdisciplinary Project comparing undergraduate degrees in Languages at Scottish Universities with those offered by Spanish Universities. The meeting gave Kimberley a chance to ask questions about our students’ experiences of Study Abroad, their thoughts on Languages and employability and their own sense of how their language level has progressed over the course of their studies, all of which will feed into the overall project. Thanks to all for their time and good luck to Kimberley with the project! 

And if you want to find out more about studying Languages at Stirling, come along to chat with us at our Applicant Day on Saturday 7 April or at our Open Day on Saturday 9 June.

30 years of Erasmus: Scottish Parliament celebrations

2017 Erasmus Plus LogoThere’s no teaching this week at Stirling but that doesn’t mean everything stops and our Language Coordinator, Jean-Michel DesJacques, along with his Spanish counter-part Jose Ferreira-Cayuela, Fiona Buckland from our International Office and a few of our students have been at Holyrood to represent the University at a celebration of 30 years of the Erasmus programme. Dozens of our students – across French and Spanish – benefit from our involvement in the Erasmus programme every year, spending a semester at one of our extensive range of Erasmus partners that stretches from Caen in Northern France to Granada in Southern Spain.

As Fiona Buckland explains, ‘the Higher Education Institutes of Scotland held a joint celebration at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 24 October to celebrate 30 years of the Erasmus Programme. Students from the University of Stirling were invited to attend and contribute an article to a brochure for the event and be filmed for a video explaining what Erasmus means to them.

2017 Erasmus at 30 Group Photo Oct17

Erin Cawley who is doing a BA in International Management with European Languages and Society (and spent a semester at the Universidad de Santander), Suzanne Buiter, who is in the final year of her BA in International Management with European Languages and Society (and spent her Semester Abroad at the Universidad de Navarra) and Alex Sorlei, who has just started the final year of a BA International Politics and Languages (with a Semester Abroad at Sciences Po, Paris) attended the event with Jean-Michel DesJacques and Jose Ferreira-Cayuela. Speakers included the Deputy First Minister John Swinney, Alan Smith Director (Erasmus Bureau of the European Commission [1987-92]) and student participants.’

2017 Erasmus at 30 JM and JFC Oct17For Jose and Jean-Michel, the event was an important way to mark the role that Erasmus plays within languages degrees both for staff and students. As Jose puts it, ‘the event was a reflection of what Erasmus+ is all about: meeting people from all over Europe, exchanging ideas and experiences and a great opportunity to taste food/drink from different places. The setting was also great and the presence of very important figures of the Scottish Government proved that exchanges with Europe are a priority for Scotland in the future. Whether we still call it Erasmus+ or something else, is a different issue.’ Similarly, for Jean-Michel, the sense of community that Erasmus creates is crucial: ‘It was great to be amongst friends for the 30-year anniversary of the launch of the Erasmus programme. I felt a bit jealous at the wealth of opportunities young students – in fact young people in general – have to go abroad. For a short while, we managed to forget the uncertainty of it all and decided to celebrate one of the greatest schemes to come out of the European institutions.’

Thanks to Fiona, Jean-Michel and Jose for their contributions (and photos!) and to Erasmus+ for helping our students over the years. Many, many tales of Erasmus+ experiences to be found among the pages of this blog!

2017 Erasmus at 30 Cake Oct17

Language Ambassadors: ‘A great experience I’d love to do again!’

Time for a mid-semester blog catch-up… As was mentioned in an earlier blog post, a number of our students have been out in local schools acting as Language Ambassadors again this semester. Rhiannon Quinn who is in the 2nd year of a BA Hons in French was part of a small group of students who spent an afternoon at a local high school at the end of September and she has sent us this great account of the day.

“I recently went to Wallace High School, located right next to the university, to take part in their European Languages Day and to talk to them about my experiences in studying modern languages. When I was at school, European Languages Day was well celebrated with all different kinds of activities and fun things to do and I wanted the third-year kids to have the same experiences I did. As there was a few of us from the university we managed to split the classes into small groups of about five, so that each pupil could have the chance to be heard and have a real personal chat with us.

It was very interesting to see how many of the children were interested in studying languages and they seemed to be very relaxed when talking to us and were very confident in giving us their opinions. They seemed to be very intrigued when I told them that I would have the opportunity to go abroad and live in a foreign country as part of my degree to which I informed them that if they gave languages a chance, they could definitely have that experience too. A few of the children even knew people in their own families who did semesters abroad and they were able to tell me about it.

Even though there were kids who weren’t that keen on languages, they still gave their input and even told me what they wanted to be when they were older. One thing in particular I noticed was that every single one of the kids were able to tell me multiple French and Spanish films they had seen, which I told them was a good thing and doing things like that will help you improve and that you can have fun while learning languages and it’s not just all work and memorising.

Everyone at Wallace High School was really nice, teachers and pupils, and they made us feel extremely welcome. They even gave us a card and a box of chocolates at the end as a thank you gift. They were extremely complimentary and overall, it was a great experience which I would love to do again.”

Apologies to Rhiannon for the delay in getting this post online but thank you very much for taking the time to send it to us and for your work as a Language Ambassador.

Student Language Ambassadors

A few weeks ago, three of our students (Stefano, David and Ross) were invited to McLaren High to act as Student Language Ambassadors and to talk to a wide range of pupils about their own experiences of studying Languages at University. The visit was a great success and I’m delighted to be able to pass on Stefano and David’s accounts of their day:

Stefano: “Why did you choose to study Languages at the University?… What does it mean to be a Language Student?… Is it true that you can then travel a lot?… These are just few examples among the several questions we were asked at McClaren High School in Callander by crowds of enthusiastic and curious pupils of different ages during our visit as Language Ambassadors on 9 February.

This semester I have been asked by the French Department to represent Stirling, together with my colleagues and friends David and Ross, in an ambassadorial role for the promotion of the languages at University level and I am glad to have the possibility to share here some of the highlights of our visit. In two words: great experience!

One of the language teachers from McClaren High School, Mr Alistair Brown, picked us up early to give us the chance to deliver a brief presentation at the pupils’ general assembly in the morning. More than 150 students attended and it was really good to get a chance to talk to them about our own experiences and the many opportunities that languages (and Stirling University) can offer.

After the initial gathering, David, Ross and I were asked to go to different classes with some of the teachers from the school in order to talk to smaller groups of pupils more broadly about what studying languages at the University really means.

My first class was French, Higher and Advanced Higher, with David. There, we told them our different experiences as language students at Stirling, focusing both on the possibilities in terms of jobs and travel and on the reasons that led us to undertake this path. It was great to share our passion for languages with interested pupils, hoping to make them realise how fascinating and convenient knowing more than a language can be! Most of the students in class immediately engaged in an interesting group-conversation, asking us questions and sharing with the rest of the class their thoughts and expectations about the possibility to further their knowledge of French.

During the class that followed, things got even more interesting; after another short talk about my experiences as an international language student, the teacher asked the class to put some good French into practice by practising “la conversation orale” together and by…asking me to teach them a bit of Italian in exchange! We all had great fun practicing our French and trying out some simple Italian sentences, because, after all, who knows? Maybe some of them will eventually end up studying Italian too in the future!

After a break, Ross and I attended a class together where we talked more specifically about the possible careers available with a Language degree. Once more, we did not miss the opportunity to have some fun with languages; knowing that we are respectively fluent in Italian and Spanish, the teacher asked me and Ross to try a “multilingual” conversation to see whether or not we could understand each other! Quite surprisingly, we managed to get through a short dialogue and we showed how knowing more languages can in fact lead also to great fun.

For my last class of the day, I went to another French class with David, where the pupils were especially interested in our experiences at the University of Stirling. We told them how and why we decided to come to Stirling to study Languages by sharing with them some of the amazing opportunities that our University can offer, from excellent quality in teaching and different and exciting experiences abroad to the numerous clubs and societies where it is possible to meet friends from all over the world and, once again, to engage and learn different languages.

To our great surprise and teachers’ astonishment, some of the pupils we met on that day immediately asked for the forms to pursue the study of languages at their Higher classes for the next year! Donc, ça a été une journée très spéciale!

It was a great honour and a pleasure to represent Stirling and Languages on this special occasion. I personally believe that, as language students, we have a huge opportunity (and responsibility) not only for ourselves, but for our future societies in terms of the capacity to understand and meet people from different cultures and it was amazing to share the beauties of this journey with the younger generations.”

David: “Taking part in the Student Ambassador initiative at McLaren High, near Callander, was a genuinely enriching and fun experience for me. I went with two other students, Stefano from Italy and Ross from Scotland. We thought that trying to convince students to pick languages as their Highers would be a difficult task but it turned out that the students were really interested in what we had to say. In fact, the pupils were extremely curious, interested and engaged, asking us many questions ranging from our favourite type of food to why we had chosen to study languages. It was quite tiring talking to different classes about the same topic but the questions were varied and we really enjoyed the pupils’ willingness to participate.

I think this initiative can have a very positive effect on high school pupils as, in the past few years, language teaching has been declining in Scotland. Many students don’t realise the importance of learning languages, especially nowadays in such a globalised society. Many told us they didn’t think it was necessary to learn another language as “everyone speaks English”. This mentality is exactly what we are trying to get rid of; they don’t realise that Spanish, for instance, will soon be the most widespread language around the world, in front of English and Chinese. I am hoping that after our discussions at the high school, we will hopefully have inspired the pupils to take an active interest in languages, even if they don’t choose it as one of their study options.

Being from a bilingual background myself, I have first-hand experience of the advantage of speaking more than one language and I hope to return to the high school as a language assistant and further encourage students to realise the potential of learning another language. Overall, it was a very eye-opening experience and I would love to take part in such an initiative again.”

Many thanks to Stefano and to David for sending these blog pieces, and to all three of our Student Language Ambassadors for having made the time to undertake this visit. We’re looking forward to continuing our visits in local schools – and schools beyond the local area – over the weeks and months ahead. And if any of this has made you curious about studying Languages at Stirling, come and meet us at one of our upcoming Applicant or Open Days.

Primary Education and Modern Languages: “The staff are genuinely inspiring!”

Following on from yesterday’s account of life since graduation from Emma Goodall-Copestake, it’s time for a profile of one of our current students. Jennifer Graham is in her 2nd semester of our BA Hons in Professional Education (Primary) with a Specialism in Modern Languages, studying both French and Spanish with us:

“Living in a small Scottish village on the North West coast of Scotland in the early 90s I definitely lacked exposure to other cultures. I think my first inkling that another language besides English existed was from Sebastian on Playdays, who, for anyone who hasn’t come across this ingenious example of engaging children’s television, was a stereotypical Frenchman made of cardboard or wood or something, who was wheeled about the set and ‘spoke’ the odd French word. Actually, he did intrigue me although I’m still not really sure why.

French in Primary School was great – songs, games and a teacher who loved everything French. I fully credit this teacher for the way that my studies have panned out so far. It was her love of France that tilted my education away from Gaelic, which was much more central to language education in the other local Primary Schools, and towards modern languages. In 1998 I started high school along with the five other pupils in my class, all of us with a confidence in French that was definitely not about to elevate our social standing among our peers. We all very quickly dropped our French accents while reading aloud in class.

2017-graham-ela-verdun
ELA Year in Verdun

 

Fast-forward eleven years to 2010. I’ve done three years of French and Spanish at Strathclyde University and I’ve just completed my year abroad working as an English Language Assistant in Verdun in France.

I’m pregnant.

Incomplete degree, no job, living in the South Side of Glasgow with friends and a cat. Not an ideal situation. I felt like I had been put on a swivel chair that had spun around and set me on a completely different path to the one I had been so sure I was set to follow. Now I have a six-year-old daughter who (you’ll permit me a small brag) delights in showing off her skills in French, Spanish, Dutch, Italian and Polish. When she started school, I started getting itchy. I wanted to finish what I had started, and do it better than I had the first time.

2017-graham-family-pic

I love working with children and young people and so I applied for the Primary Education with Modern Languages course at Stirling University (this choice mainly came down to logistics. I live near Falkirk and Stirling is by far the easiest university to access and gives me the best chance of being able to make school drop off and pick up). Had I not been accepted I’m not sure what I would be doing just now, most likely still working full time in the Italian restaurant I’ve worked in for the past two years. Now I’m working part-time, mum full time and studying in the cracks that fall in-between. I’m not sure how long I can keep it up and soon something will have to give. It will inevitably be the job as I’m extremely determined now. I’m very different to the student I was – doing the minimum amount of work and living the maximum amount of student life.

My logistics-based choice of Stirling University has paid off: the campus is beautiful, the staff are fantastic, the facilities and layout of the university are great. I’ve found the enthusiasm of the staff genuinely inspiring. My greatest fear, as a slightly older student, was (is!) the amount of reliance on technology. Although it’s nice to sit at home and organise your student life, I found it quite isolating at the beginning. Choosing all my modules and seminar times online, receiving my timetable online, all of it automatic, was quite nerve-wracking as there seemed to be no assurance from a human being that I was actually doing everything properly. Honestly, in the days leading up to the first week of the first semester I was very, very nervous. Scared, really. I’ve never been frightened of technology before but I really was worried about not being able to prepare for my classes and looking like an idiot. I got through it though.

To round things up, I don’t think anyone can, or should, get through a degree without a fair amount of struggle. And it is a struggle. I’ve forgotten so much and I have a lot of new things to learn that I didn’t bother to learn the first time around. But I’m here and I’m doing it. My once stagnant brain is getting warmed up again and it’s hungry for irregular verbs. (Ha!)”

Many, many thanks to Jennifer for having taken the time to send us this post. We look forward to following your progress throughout the rest of your degree… and good luck with the irregular verbs!

 

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.

2016-blog-edl-wallace-pic

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!