Tag: Spoken Language

Grammar books and summer holidays

And following our catch-up with Emily at the end of her 2nd year, another update. This time from Paige who, this time last year, was also just reaching the end of Year 1:

‘I’ve just finished my second year of university, which is crazy that I’m halfway through my degree already! This year was the first year since changing my degree programme from English Studies and Secondary Education to English Studies and French and I was surprised how well they linked.

French has been completely different to first year in the beginner stream. Rather than three classes a week which comprised of grammar and vocabulary; there was a Matière lecture, Matière seminar, Written language class, Conversation class and Langage Parlé class. I enjoyed the Matière lectures and seminars the most because they’re so different to anything available at high school – they are known as French culture classes but they are also a mix of French history and current issues.

There were more opportunities to speak French this year with two dedicated classes: Langage Parlé and Conversation classes. The Conversation class was more relaxed and informal which encouraged everyone to join in the discussion, whereas the Langage Parlé class was slightly more formal. I enjoyed the Langage Parlé class too, as every week there was a short topical article to read to prepare for the class and they were always really interesting and informative.

The only class I can’t say I enjoyed was the Written Language class which is a grammar class but I think it was because I was gently re-introduced to French after four years with Beginners’ classes so switching to the Advanced classes was a bit of a shock to the system. Suddenly the gaps in my knowledge (everything I forgot in the four years in between high school and University) became apparent to me and I felt I struggled in this class. So, this Summer my plan is to work through a grammar book and attempt to teach myself everything I’ve forgotten! University is all about taking responsibility for your learning and deciding on what degree classification you want, then putting in the necessary work to achieve it.

If anyone reading this blog is considering studying a language at University or doesn’t want to stop studying a language but hasn’t thought about doing a language degree (as was the case with me) I highly recommend going straight from high school or as close to it as possible! Otherwise it’s a bit of an uphill struggle trying to relearn everything to reach the same level of proficiency as everyone else on the course.

Last year I spoke about the opportunities available to those studying a French degree and my excitement to embrace the opportunity to spend a year in France in between second and third year, working as an English Language Assistant through the British Council. I have applied and in April I heard that I have been shortlisted! Now I have a nerve-wracking wait until the end of June to hear if I have been allocated a placement…’

Many, many thanks to Paige for this update. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for the ELA placement and really hope that works out!

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Harry Potter, Spotify and Language Learning

This time last year, we posted an article by Emily who was just reaching the end of her 1st year studying French and History so, as we catch up with the authors of some of those posts to see how things have gone this year, here is Emily’s update:

‘Bonjour à tous! In my last post for the French at Stirling blog I talked about my first year studying for a BA Hons degree in French and History, and what a great start it had been to my university career at Stirling. The structure of classes in first year has been the same this year, with weekly seminars on written language, francophone culture and French speaking classes. This year we have also had a new class added to our timetable; half-hour conversation sessions. These new speaking classes have been a great way to get practice in our French conversation skills, as it’s a very relaxed environment and the conversations are usually spontaneous and on recent topics.

Another exciting opportunity available to us in second year is the chance to work abroad as an English language assistant (ELA) through the British Council’s scheme, spending a whole year in a French-speaking country. Although the time spent abroad doesn’t contribute credits towards my actual degree I feel it is an invaluable opportunity to learn about contemporary French culture and improve my language skills. Having recently received the good news that my application has been shortlisted I can’t wait to find out whereabouts in France I will be placed!

However, until I move to France towards the end of this year, I have to try and maintain my current level of French, which I have been doing through various different methods. A great way one of my teachers suggested to keep French fresh in my mind is to listen to French music. Spotify is a lifesaver here, as there are loads of French music playlists already created, so if you’re like me and have no clue who any popular French musicians are, you can easily discover different solo artists and bands that suit your music tastes.

Reading French regularly is another great way to maintain language skills, but I find it can be quite daunting at times, so to make things easier for myself I decided to revisit one of my childhood favourites; Harry Potter. I have found that reading stories in French that you have already read in English is much easier as you don’t have to focus so much on the plot and instead can concentrate on grammar and new vocabulary. Hopefully by using these methods to try and incorporate french into my everyday life I won’t forget everything that the French department at Stirling taught me this year!

To sum things up, my first two years studying French at Stirling have been fantastic, my teachers have been more than helpful in preparing me for life as an English language assistant in France, and I can’t wait to see what next year has in store!’

Many, many thanks to Emily for this update. We look forward to finding out where you’re posted next year and wish you all the best for the assistantship!

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!

‘The French department is simply fantastic’: French and History at Stirling

Time, once again, for one of our profiles of current students, this time from Emily Ronald who will be starting her second year with us in the Autumn and has taken the time to look back over the past year and the shift from school to University:

“Salut! My name’s Emily Ronald and I’ve just completed my first year at Stirling University studying for my BA Hons degree in French and History. My first year studying French at Stirling has been amazing. I come from a very small rural area and so was a little nervous at first about moving away from home and beginning my studies at a university level. However, all my worries and doubts disappeared on the first day of term. The French department is simply fantastic, the tutors are all friendly and approachable, and put my mind at ease about the transition from secondary school to university straight away.

The materials that we have covered in our first-year classes have been really interesting and challenging (in a good way!), and have opened my eyes to wider Francophone cultures that I had previously been oblivious of. French is taught in three different classes; writing and grammar, speaking, and culture, in addition to a weekly lecture. I’ve enjoyed all the classes this year, but in particular the weekly parlé class, as it gave me the opportunity to improve my speaking in a friendly atmosphere.

Stirling was my first-choice university alongside another Scottish university, so I had to make the tough decision between the two of them. However, after attending one of the open days at Stirling, I fell in love with the campus and my mind was set. It’s safe to say that I made the right decision, as Stirling now feels like a home away from home to me. I’m looking forward to continuing my studies in September and I’m hoping for another excellent year!”

Many thanks to Emily for this great post and we hope that second year (and beyond!) lives up to expectations.

French at Stirling Event for Secondary Pupils and Teachers

There’ll be much more to follow about this very soon but we’re excited to be organising two day-long events for Secondary 5 and 6 Higher and Advanced Higher school pupils on campus at Stirling on 13 and 14 June, with financial support from our Division of Literature and Languages and from the Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France.

The whole French at Stirling team will be involved, along with current postgraduate students, students who are about to graduate in June, and recent graduates who studied French with us. We’re going to be welcoming over 230 pupils and 20 teachers from 16 schools over the two days, and we’ll be giving them a taster of what it’s like to study languages at University and at Stirling. They’ll get the chance to listen to a lecture, as well as attending specially organised classes covering written and spoken language and culture, before meeting with students and graduates who will talk to them about their experiences studying languages and the employability opportunities this has opened up for them. And alongside the activities for pupils, we’ll also be running CPD sessions for the teachers to develop their expertise in key areas of teaching practice.

Much more to follow on this over the weeks ahead.