Tag: TESOL

Life as a lectrice in France (Part II!)

It’s four years now since Fiona Mears completed her BA Hons in English and French at Stirling, and two years since she did her MSc in TESOL with us. The intervening period has seen Fiona working at a Language School in Edinburgh and taking up a post as a lectrice (ie an English Language Assistant) at the Université de Franche-Comté in Besançon back in Autumn 2015. Having been asked to stay on for a second year, Fiona is continuing to juggle the University-level teaching with work in a local Language School and has sent us an update on her adventures in France and in language teaching:

2016-fiona-mears-update-photo-nov16“Life continues in Besançon much as I left it in April, but with one major change: my two closest friends from last year have left, so my social life has taken quite a hit! Between seeing friends who are still here, though, and juggling my two jobs, I’m kept pretty busy. The new semester at the university got underway in September without any hitches and work resumed as normal at the language school after my five-month absence. At the university, things have been easier this time around. I’m teaching many of the same classes as last year, meaning that I know what I’m doing, much of the material is already prepared and I knew a lot of my students from last year which, if nothing else, was a blessing as it meant I didn’t have as many new names to learn. After the mild panic of having to teach it last year, phonetics is a breeze this semester. Even ‘transversal’ classes – language classes for non-specialists – are going more smoothly because I know what works well in the brochure and what to adapt. The only disappointment is that I don’t teach my favourite class from last year: 3rd year listening comprehension and oral expression. You win some, you lose some!

At the language school, too, I’m finding that lesson preparation comes more naturally and takes less time. I can reuse material from last year and, with experience, preparing new resources has become much easier. Back in September, I also started to ‘work’ with a lovely family, tutoring two teenagers in English once a week. I say ‘tutoring’: both of them speak almost perfect English having lived in the UK for a few years, so my role is to help them maintain their level. I go to their house, chat to each of them for a while and then stay for dinner. To be honest, I see it more as socialising than working!

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Teaching at the university finishes at the beginning of December, so I have just a couple of weeks to go. After that, I’ll have some invigilation to do, speaking exams to help with and I’ll be working at the language school right up until I head home for Christmas. I have a friend coming to visit in December, so our plan is to soak up the festive atmosphere by indulging in a spot of Christmas market hopping before flying home together on the 18th for a much-needed break.”

Thanks once again to Fiona for this update and enjoy the well-earned Christmas break when it comes!

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“My time abroad has completely changed my life!”

Rachael Ringland graduated with a BA Hons in French and Spanish just over a year ago and we’re delighted to get a chance to post this update on what she’s been up to since graduating and how many doors a degree in languages has opened for her.

“It has been just over a year since I graduated. June 2015 was a slightly terrifying month because everything I had known for the past five years was coming to an end. At this point I should stress how much I genuinely loved university; it was an experience I could have never predicted.

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The University of Stirling itself is fantastic, from its breath-taking scenery to the fantastic amenities on campus, it truly is an amazing place to spend your days at uni. I had the privilege of studying French and Spanish, and I honestly couldn’t fault anything within the department. The tutors are wonderful people, there’s a great range of modules in 3rd and 4th year which allow you to concentrate on your strongest or favourite subject, and a lot of help and support readily available should you need it. For me, exams were sometimes a pain because both French and Spanish departments set their exams around the same time, but unlike many of my friends I was able to get everything over and done with extremely quickly (silver linings!).

It has to be said, though, that the best part about studying languages is the opportunity to live abroad. When I was at school, I considered myself to be a home bird; I had never left Northern Ireland for longer than a couple of weeks before I came to Stirling, and to be honest the thought of living in Scotland was terrifying at first, never mind in France or Spain where I didn’t even speak the language (fluently!). But I went. I chose to work in France as an English Language Assistant then study in Spain the next year.

I could get carried away so easily here, so I will try not to babble! My time abroad has completely changed my life: I have made so many friends from all over the world and met so many amazing people who have had a massive impact on my life. I’m actually just back from a visit to Wales, where I was visiting two girls I met only four years ago whilst we were in France. I now consider them two of my closest friends and I can’t even imagine my life without them. The experience of teaching English was so surreal. I was in a Lycée and my students ranged from 15-22 and every one of them was at a different level. I say surreal because at the time I was only 20 and many of my students were older than me! They found it hysterical, obviously. Studying in a different language was a pretty intense experience too, but it really paid off. In fact in my last semester I was much more confident and obtaining better marks in exams than before!

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Since leaving university I have started working. At the beginning I was considering going into teaching, but having taken so long to decide I actually missed my application deadlines (awkward) so I decided to get a job in the meantime to keep myself busy and to earn my own money after having lived on student loans for so long. I applied for everything going for a month or two until I finally got a job at Holland and Barrett. Interestingly enough, my time abroad and my degree was a massive deciding factor during my first interview. I applied for a supervisor role, and obviously my future boss had to decide whether or not I was responsible enough to be in charge of other people! She also had to gauge how capable I was to do the mountain of training I had to undertake before being fully qualified. I assured her I was well used to studying and working hard, and thankfully she took my word for it! She was very impressed that I had spent time abroad and was amazed that I had teaching experience at the age of 20. I honestly believe that was one of the main reasons she hired me, so even though my interview wasn’t for anything language-based, my skills have proven to be completely transferable!

I am still working at Holland and Barrett over a year on and I genuinely love it. In May I attended the company conference (it was a Carnival conference!) and whilst there I attended a talk on the company’s expansion- we now have branches all over the world from China to UAE, and more importantly in Spain and Gibraltar. I am in the process of working my way through the training and climbing the company ladder so that one day I can go and run their new branch in Gibraltar (or France if they ever open one…). At the minute I am also looking in to TEFL and TESOL courses with a view to becoming a fully qualified English teacher. I decided that teaching French and Spanish is not, in fact, the route I would like to pursue, so I am building upon my experience as an ELA. It would give me much more flexibility teaching English, and it’s something I could use in any country should I decide to pack up and explore the world for another few years. At the moment I am leaning towards doing a course online, simply because it will allow me to continue to work full time and save up for any upcoming adventures I may plan! But I noticed Stirling is offering an MSc TESOL course too so my decision has been swayed again! Watch this space…”

We will, indeed, watch this space and hope to maybe get a chance to welcome Rachael back to Stirling to do that TESOL MSc! In the meantime, though, thank you for this blog post and all the best for the current job.

 

From French at Stirling to Translation at the European Court of Justice

The Summer is always a good time to catch up with former students and find out where life has taken them since graduating. After Lelde Benke’s account of life working for the Latvian Tourist Office, Mark O’Hagan has written the following piece about his experiences since he completed his BA Hons in French back in 2008.

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“I grew up in Luxembourg and France and so doing a BA in French in Scotland may seem like an odd choice. However, after having visited Stirling University as part of an Open University summer course, I was really struck by how nice the campus was and the variety of courses and activities on offer. In 2004, I returned to Stirling and undertook a BA in French. The modules available appealed to me and I have always had an interest in languages. After graduation I decided that I would stay in Stirling for my postgraduate studies and began an MSc in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) with the intention of returning to Luxembourg and teaching English. I returned to Luxembourg in 2010 where I taught English at Berlitz for two years. I enjoyed my time teaching and was able to travel to a variety of businesses and financial institutions giving me the opportunity to meet new people and gain much needed experience.

After a conversation with one of my students I found out that with my BA in French and a law degree, there would be opportunities at the European Court of Justice as a native English speaker. I therefore began a GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law) online with BPP Law School part time and graduated in 2012. I applied for a Linguistic Verifier position through the Court’s website and have been working there since November 2012.

As a Linguistic Verifier I work within the English Language Translation Unit at the Court and check translations and revisions of EU Judgments, Opinions and Orders, before the hearings take place, with regard to correct language usage, grammar, use of citations and legal terminology. This is done in contrast to the French version as it is important that the English version is consistent with the French. French is the main functional language used throughout the EU Institutions and as such my degree in French has proved invaluable.

Permanent positions are posted on the EPSO (European Personnel Selection Office) website where potential candidates sit an exam and are then placed on a reserve list. English and French are two hugely important languages within the EU and it is hoped by myself, colleagues and other UK nationals hoping to work for the EU, that Brexit will not change this.”

Many thanks to Mark for this blog post and all the best for the future!

 

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!

From student to tutor: Experiencing French at Stirling

One of the new faces among our Teaching Assistants this year is a former MSc student at Stirling, Brigitte Depret. After studying and graduating in English and Literature and also completing a BEd in France, Brigitte moved to Scotland in 2009 and, in 2012-13, completed our MSc in Translation and TESOL. For her final dissertation project, for which she obtained a First, Brigitte worked on ‘Keeper’, a journal by Andrea Gillies.

She has been teaching English and French for 28 years and has continued to build her teaching skills and responsibilities since Autumn 2013 by working as a Teaching Assistant on our undergraduate modules in French, as well as continuing to work as a free-lance translator and interpreter.

Here’s what she has to say about life in French at Stirling: “A teacher is always in the process of learning, (I’m still learning from my students!) and if we want to help them make it to the top, we have to get them from where they come from and encourage them onto stepping stones together. What I know for sure is that not only can I talk with no bias about my experience as a student at Stirling but I can, now, as a member of the teaching team, have a very accurate picture of our French department from the inside. And, most importantly, the view from the inside remains faithful to the one I had from the outside – one that allows me to belong to a place of openness, culture and language discovery with dedicated people working with enthusiastic students.

Photo credit: Heather Moya
Photo credit: Heather Moya

Why Stirling?
You may think that, because I’m French, I’m biased and you expect me to try convince you how it would be great for you to embark on a degree in French at Stirling…

But, first things first: I have studied in various universities in the course of my life. Some were just like mere factories set in the heart of a city, in a dull and concrete environment where I dealt with a generation of academics, who, for the most part were as rough and dull as the concrete of the buildings, brandishing their wand of knowledge, charging against us, making us feel how small us, poor freshers, were. Somehow, despite their obvious academic skills, the magic of creating the sparkle amongst us, of quenching our thirst for the know-how and know more, was hampered for most of us. As a result, about 70% of the students dropped out of language classes, and their future was doomed. (By comparison, I still have 80% of the beginners who started last semester. So, do you think I’m still biased?)

Stirling is also recognised as one of the most beautiful campuses in Europe making it the ideal place in which to study. The University’s beautiful, unique, enticing settings are grassy, leafy, ‘golfy’, hilly, watery (not only thanks to the occasional rain… but, more importantly, thanks to the lovely loch with its swans and mallards… but I digress!).

Photo credit: Heather Moya
Photo credit: Heather Moya

What you will get with us

At Stirling, I’ve been on either side of the road. First, as a student and now as a teacher. What I’ve found at Stirling, and especially within the language department, is a community where teachers and students work in concert. What you will find at Stirling are lecturers/teachers/language assistants who do not necessarily want to promote France or Frenchness (we are way beyond these stereotypes). We, as a team, want to help you to get the skills, the interest to speak and understand how the French-speaking world works. We want to expand your mind, whether it be through the very initiation of French, its history, its society or its literature. Bear in mind that in our department, our post-colonial specialists will invite you to embrace French as a world language, because ‘French’ literature isn’t only the prerogative of the natives of metropolitan France, but far beyond (Senegal, Morocco, Quebec…), while our film studies dynamic and specialists will open your horizons with their passion for the French-language cinema.

We will give you all the necessary feedback to improve yourself, to help you progress along the road and maybe have the pleasure to welcome you as a post-graduate student! So follow the signs… and we will guide you.”

Photo credit: Sarah Fryett
Photo credit: Sarah Fryett

Thanks to Brigitte for sharing her experiences of French at Stirling. If you’re interested in coming to study with us, you’ll find plenty of information about our undergraduate courses here and our postgraduate course information can be found by following the links here.

Welcome to French at Stirling

Bonjour! Hello! And welcome to French at Stirling!

This blog aims to create a space for news about life and events on the French programme at Stirling University, as well as to give those of us who teach on the programme a chance to say a bit more about our own research and teaching.

French sits within the Division of Literature and Languages, alongside Spanish and Latin American Studies, Religion, Global Cinema, English Studies, Publishing Studies and Creative Writing. At undergraduate level, our students can either opt for Single Honours French or can combine French with a range of other subjects from History to Management via Education, Politics, Philosophy and much more besides. We also contribute to a variety of postgraduate teaching on our MRes Humanities, MLitt in Film Studies, taught MRes in Translation Studies and MSc in Translation with TESOL, and we have PhD students working on topics as diverse as the sociolinguistics of French and Belgian rap music and Moroccan urban cinema.

The blog is very much a ‘work in progress’ and any questions or suggestions for items we might include can be sent to Cristina Johnston (cristina.johnston@stir.ac.uk).