Tag: Translation and Interpreting

News from a former PhD student

2019 Verbeke Blog Pic 4 May19Many of the articles on this blog over the past months and years have given an overview of what our undergraduate students go on to do after graduation and we’re hoping to continue that particular stream of posts in the weeks ahead. For just now, though, a slightly different perspective, in the shape of this article from Martin who completed his PhD with us, under the supervision of Bill Marshall and Cristina Johnston, a few years ago now, working on language and French and Francophone rap:

‘Since the end of my PhD in June 2016, I have focused primarily on teaching and publishing my PhD research. Although my main area of study was French at university, I started working full-time as a Dutch and English teacher in a Belgian secondary school in September 2016 because of the shortage of such teachers. My Bachelor’s degree in Translation and Interpreting combined with my time spent in Flanders (for my Master’s degree) and Scotland made me a very sought-after candidate for such vacancies.

Of course, I would have preferred to teach French right away, ideally in a high school or a university (both types of higher education in Belgium), but there are many French teachers on the job market. Even with a PhD, it is hard to stand out when applying for a vacancy. This was made even more complicated by the introduction of a new law regulating the degrees needed to teach in secondary schools. Since September 2016, it has become mandatory to possess a teaching degree from a university (called agrégation). Without this degree, it is hard to find a teaching position, you get paid less, anyone with a teaching degree, even fresh out of university, will be prioritised over you regardless of your years of service, and it is impossible (actually illegal) to get a permanent contract.

2019 Verbeke Blog Pic 3 May19As I had been made aware of this upcoming legislative change, I enrolled in a French teaching degree at the Université catholique de Louvain in September 2016, right after my PhD. This course normally takes one year to complete, but I took it over two years while working full-time. It is only worth 30 credits on paper but takes a lot of time and effort and represents many more credits in practice. In fact, if you take it within a Master’s degree, you are allowed to take a 6-credit ‘empty course’ as compensation because they do realise that it would be too hard otherwise. Unfortunately, they do not offer such a privilege to people who only follow the teaching part of the degree. Things were made even more difficult by my father’s passing away in October 2016. Despite all of this, I somehow managed to finish the degree with the highest distinction (18/20 average) while having a second daughter and publishing 5 articles based on chapters from my thesis. My hair was thinning before and now I am completely bald… Go figure!

This new degree has created opportunities for me. It allowed me to start working part-time as a French teacher in a secondary school last September while continuing to teach English to ‘immersion’ classes (with students who have certain courses in English despite being in a French-speaking school). Next school year, I am very likely to work as a French teacher full-time. My goal is to do this for a few years and to eventually find a more fulfilling position in a Belgian high school or maybe university if I get the right opportunity. A big reform is about to take place with regards to teaching degrees, which means that high schools and universities will be looking for new teachers. The director of the French teaching degree at the Université catholique de Louvain told me that he will get in touch with me then, as I impressed him during my studies. I’ve had interviews with other high school directors who told me that my profile would be very interesting then. I do enjoy teaching in secondary schools, but students can be unruly and the school programs uninspiring at times. Furthermore, it does not make long-term sense, in my opinion, as my PhD is not valued at all (nor even taken into consideration).

In any case, we will see what the future has in store for me! I will make sure to let the University of Stirling know. In the meantime, you can read some of my publications on non-standard vocabulary in Francophone rap if you want to: in French here, and in English here, here, here and here!’

Many, many thanks to Martin for having found the time among so many other commitments to write this blog post for us and we look forward to hearing how things work out in the next academic year, and send you our best wishes!

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‘Learning languages can open many doors’

2016 Rogers Picture I MayAnd what better way to round off today’s blog catch-up than with a lovely post by our former student Stephanie who graduated a few years back in French and Spanish:

‘It’s been nearly three years since I graduated from the University of Stirling. I remember the stress of finding work and final exams looming. If only someone had told me to stop worrying and just enjoy spending time with friends on the beautiful campus.

When I left Stirling, I spent an incredible few months working as an English Language Assistant with the British Council just outside of Paris. Aedín, one of my lecturers, had told me “Take these fantastic opportunities while you’re young- they didn’t exist when I was in University!” Teaching with the British Council was indeed fantastic, and having not taken a placement during my studies, it was amazing to be able to go when I finished. Whilst I was there, I did some translation for the school where I worked, and this led to me doing a Master’s in translation and interpreting – this time at the University of Surrey. I loved this course, and although it was challenging, I would recommend studying translation and interpreting to anyone who has done a language degree, because these are transferable skills which can take you anywhere!

Other students from my year in Stirling have gone on to teach abroad, gained PGCEs, travelled the world as Flight Attendants, worked as translators and much more. Learning languages can open many doors, but even if you choose a career where you don’t use them directly, they will continue to be invaluable when travelling and meeting new people.’

Many thanks, indeed, to Stephanie for sending us this post and we wish you all the very best for the future – keep us posted on where life takes you!

A Year in Geneva: Translation, Football and Alpine Road Trips

As regular followers of the blog will know, most French at Stirling students will either spend a year working as an English Language Assistantship at some point over their degree (usually between Year 2 and 3, sometimes immediately after graduation) or a semester on Study Abroad at one of our range of partners across the French-speaking world. Every now and then, though, we have a student who manages to spend a full year on Study Abroad and that’s the situation Tom finds himself in at the moment, in the 3rd year of his BA Hons in French and Spanish:

2019 Lock Geneva Photo 3 Mar19‘This year I have had the opportunity to study French and Spanish in the Translation and Interpretation Faculty at the University of Geneva. Having recently completed a year of teaching in Colombia with the British Council, I headed to Switzerland back in the hot seat as a student again.

Having never previously visited, my initial thoughts of Geneva were a pleasant surprise – everything worked, things ran on time and the locals were kind, welcoming and accepting of my rusty French. I had a week to settle in before university started, giving me time to explore the city and the surrounding areas, as well as to find a regular game of football. After a few meet ups with ESN I met some great people from all over and I went from there.

2019 Lock Geneva Photo 2 Mar19University life here has been great, learning translation in both Spanish and French has given me great opportunities to test out a potential career path and what’s more is that the other modules on offer at the university also help me further my other interests such as history and reading. The best part, however, are the people you meet at the university and around the city – be they other ERASMUS students or students from other walks of life.

Geneva can be difficult for immersive language learning, as individuals come from a variety of countries to study, live and work there, making English the de facto language at times. Nevertheless, I found a variety of local cafés and bars that provided me with opportunities to improve my French and after a couple of weeks it had improved to the point where I could hold conversations.

2019 Lock Geneva Photo 5 Mar19

Geneva is famous for plenty of things but, after a year in a small Colombian town, the most notable for me is the high cost of living. It can be extortionate at times, but this has just encouraged me to explore a wider variety of places. My friends and I often get buses, cheap flights or rent a minibus to do weekend trips, ticking off places such as Milan, Lake Garda, Interlaken, Bern, Paris, and Berlin. That has been one of the best things about Geneva, its central location in Europe has given me the opportunity to get around everywhere. I can highly recommend taking road trips through the Swiss alpine countryside, you can see the whole landscape and get a real feel for the culture of each place.

2019 Lock Geneva Photo 1 Mar19Living in a different country has its positives and negatives, the comforts of home can be sorely missed, I’ve realised however that being proactive, doing activities and exploring your new home is the best antidote.

Overall, my experience has been a great one and my language skills have improved immeasurably (even if I sometimes forget how to speak English!). Although tough at times, these have been the situations where I’ve learned the most and I consider myself very lucky to have had this opportunity to meet new people, live in a new country and experience a different university.’

Many thanks to Tom for the great blog post and pictures – we’re delighted this year has worked out so well and look forward to welcoming you back to Stirling in the Autumn!

Lots of French News!

It’s been a very busy few weeks since the new semester started in mid-September and there’s a bit of a backlog of blog pieces to be posted so, hopefully, we’ll make some progress on that over this week. As I get the information together for those various articles, here – in no particular order – is some of the news about French at Stirling from this new academic year…

First and foremost, we’re very pleased and proud to report that French at Stirling was rated 17th in the UK and 3rd in Scotland in the Sunday Times Good University Guide last month. A great achievement!

On the research front, welcome to our new French at Stirling PhD student, Lauren Kenny, who will be working on the translation of subtitles, supervised by Cristina Johnston and our colleague in Translation, Xiaojun Zhang. And congratulations to our continuing PhD student, Fraser McQueen, who has had another article on contemporary France published in The Conversation, as well as an article in Modern and Contemporary France on ‘France’s elites, Islamophobia and communities of friendship in Sabri Louata’s Les Sauvages.

In terms of research events, this year’s Literature and Languages research seminar series started with a great talk on the role of the public intellectual in France by the University of Edinburgh’s Emile Chabal. Plenty of food for thought and good to see staff, postgrads and undergrads in attendance. In December, we’ll be welcoming a group of French-English Translation postgrads and postdocs to Stirling for a week-long workshop on translation for historians and for history journals. We’re running the workshop in conjunction with our colleagues at ATLAS (the Association pour la Promotion de la Traduction Littéraire) with our own Siân Reynolds as one of the tutors for the week. And we’re also looking forward to seeing the full line-up for Bill Marshall’s Cinéma-Monde Conference that is due to take place at the end of May next year.

2017 Erasmus Plus LogoAs for our students, plenty to report there too. Thanks to everyone who came along to our get-together for returning Study Abroad students, Year 3 students about to head off for their Semester Abroad, visiting exchange students and this year’s Translation and Interpreting cohort from our partner at Hebei Normal University in China. Particular thanks to Fiona Buckland and the International Office for their support in organising that event – always great to see our students exchanging their tips about our Study Abroad partners. We also have around a dozen students who have just embarked on their English Language Assistantships across France, a small group of whom are participating in SCILT’s ‘Language Linking, Global Thinking’ scheme, about which more soon… And we’ve sent our first Language Ambassadors of 2017-18 out into a couple of schools to talk to the pupils about the benefits of language learning – again, more on that very soon.

And we have five Erasmus students – Axel, Manon, Léa, Elodie and Léna – who will be leading weekly 30-minute conversation sessions across our degree programmes – a great benefit for our students but also a fantastic addition to the CVs of the Erasmus students who are involved. It’s still early days but all of them seem to be enjoying the experience so far!

Oh yes and our Study Abroad Advisor for French, Jean-Michel DesJacques, has been invited to attend the ‘Erasmus@30’ celebrations at the Scottish Parliament later this month, along with his Spanish counterpart, Jose Ferreira-Cayuela, and Fiona Buckland from the International Office. Watch this space for photos…

What else? Well, the programme for the French Film Festival at the MacRobert has been firmed up so I’ll be able to post a little more about that very soon and Africa in Motion (founded by one of our former PhD students) has also just launched its 2017 programme which, as ever, looks brilliant!

Lots more to follow over the next few days.

French at Stirling student’s China trip

As you may recall, this year has seen the first cohort of students from our partners at Hebei Normal University in China here in Stirling for the final year of our new double degree programme in Translation and Interpreting. To help the incoming students adapt to life in Stirling and in Scotland, we set up an informal buddying scheme involving students from across the campus. As the year progressed, the Stirling buddies were invited to apply for the opportunity to travel to China to meet with the next cohort of HNU students and, following a very competitive selection process, French at Stirling student Elliot Knight was selected. He travelled to China at the end of March and, now that teaching and exams are over, we’ve finally had a chance to catch up with him to get tales from his trip:

2017 HNU Elliot Photo May“If I have learned anything from my trip to China as a student ambassador, it’s that walking around a Chinese university campus clad in a kilt attracts a fair amount of attention. Students and lecturers alike would come up to me and ask me where I was from and what I was doing there, and I told them that I was there as a student ambassador from the University of Stirling. It made me proud to represent my university, and indeed Scotland in China.

From the moment that the plane landed in Beijing, everything about my environment felt different to anything that I had experienced before. The constant noise of car horns, the smog, the architecture, the food, the colours, the language and most of all the sheer number of people. From Beijing, I took a high-speed train to Shijiazhuang, where Hebei Normal University is located.

Whilst I was there, I was tasked with making a presentation to future generations of Hebei Normal University students that will be spending the final year of their degree at the University of Stirling. I told them, of course, about the buddying programme for HNU students in Stirling, and how a buddy can help to enhance their experience whilst they are at Stirling. I explained that a buddy can help them with some basic aspects of adjusting to living here, from restaurant etiquette to the benefits of creating a Facebook profile. However, the focus of my presentation was how the buddying system could help them to better experience all that Stirling and Scotland have to offer. That, whilst their academic studies at Stirling would be important, that experiencing the culture and seeing a different part of the world were also of great value. Furthermore, I emphasised to them that, not only are there many fantastic cultural opportunities for them in Stirling and in Scotland, there are many aspects of Chinese culture that they are able to contribute to university life as well.

In addition to presentations, I was also given the opportunity to meet and have a formal dinner with senior members of the languages faculty at Hebei Normal University, where I was able to explain to them how the buddy programme has been working for the students currently studying in Stirling. In addition to this, I was able to spend some time with HNU students in an informal capacity, going out for dinner with them, and then going to a games arcade; quite an unusual experience as they are rarely seen in Scotland now.

Throughout my trip, I was struck by the level of friendliness and courtesy that was shown to me by my Chinese hosts. I was truly made to feel welcome. What struck me most of all, however, was the openness of the students with whom I spoke. They asked many questions about life in Scotland and in Europe, and were delighted to answer any questions that I had about their lives in China.

It is through seeing the differences in culture and environment between Scotland and China that I can truly appreciate the challenges faced by Chinese students coming to study in Scotland for the first time; it is truly a daunting prospect. The buddying scheme has been great for widening my own perspective. It has allowed me to see the environment around me from the perspective of someone to whom everything that I find familiar is unfamiliar, and in turn I have been able to have the same experience and see things from their perspective. What my role as student ambassador has demonstrated to me is the value of forging international links between universities: being able to interact with people with different perspectives and from different backgrounds truly enriches one’s experience as a student. So, in the same way that interacting with Chinese students at Stirling and visiting their home university has broadened my perspective, I hope that I have been able to encourage Chinese students at Hebei Normal University to broaden theirs.”

Thanks, first and foremost, to Elliot for sending this blog post but also to our Faculty of Arts and Humanities for supporting his visit to HNU, and to our partners at HNU for extending their welcome to him for what sounds like it was a great visit. And we’re looking forward to welcoming next year’s HNU students in the Autumn and to seeing the buddying scheme running again from September.

French at Stirling student heading to China

As has been mentioned elsewhere on this blog, this year we’re welcoming the first cohort of students on our double degree programme in Translation and Interpreting, run in partnership with Hebei University in China. A group of Stirling students – some doing French and/or Spanish but others from a range of subject areas – volunteered back in the Autumn semester to act as ‘buddies’ for these students to help them get to know Stirling (the University and the town) and to adapt to life in Scotland.

To help further with the transition from the initial 3 years of study in China to the final year here at Stirling, we have arranged for one of the buddies to get the opportunity to go to Hebei later this Spring – in just a few weeks now – to meet with next year’s students. All the buddies were invited to apply and, after a very competitive selection process, Elliot Knight, currently in the 4th semester of his BA Hons in French, was selected to act as our ambassador and to travel to China. With the departure date fast approaching, here are his thoughts on the trip that lies ahead:

2017 HNU Elliot photo March“I first heard about the buddy programme for HNU students at the beginning of Autumn semester last year. Immediately, I knew that it was something that I wanted to be a part of, as I have always had a keen interest in foreign cultures. The buddying programme has been rewarding in several different ways. Firstly, it has been an interesting cultural experience. The community of HNU students has been very kind in sharing aspects of their culture with me. A highlight of this for me was being invited to learn how to prepare Chinese dumplings, and then of course eating them afterwards. In exchange, I have shared aspects of Scottish culture with HNU students. An experience which was memorable for them was going to Settle Inn in Stirling, an old traditional pub, to listen to live Scots folk music. However, I have found that the real value of the buddying programme has been the friendships that I have fostered with HNU students; people that I would have been unlikely to meet without the buddying programme.

Of course, I am delighted that I have been selected to be Stirling’s student ambassador to HNU. Whilst I am there, I will be introduced to next year’s class of HNU students that will be coming to Stirling. I will be presenting to them the benefits of studying at Stirling University, and indeed studying in Scotland. I am proud to be representing Stirling University at one of its partner institutions abroad, as I have had a great experience here and I will be delighted to share that with our partners in China. I am also looking forward to the cultural aspect of the trip, as China is a place that I have never been to and I adore experiencing new places and cultures. Learning fluent Mandarin before I go may be a little tricky, however I will try to learn a little to use whilst I am there. I am grateful to the University for giving me this responsibility and I will represent the University of Stirling to the best of my ability.”

Many congratulations to Elliot on having been selected to represent the University in China, and thanks to all the buddies for the work they’ve been doing this year. Thanks also to the HNU students who are here this year and who’ve been taking the time to teach Stirling-based students about a range of aspects of life and studying in China. We will, of course, look forward to Elliot’s tales of his trip when he’s back on Scottish soil!

Mid-Semester Catch-Up

Halfway through the mid-semester break seems a good point to catch up on various bits of news from Stirling staff and students. More to follow on some of these in the weeks ahead but, in the meantime…

This year is Stirling University’s 50th birthday and, as part of the year-long celebrations, the University is holding an Open Doors Day on Saturday 18 March. Lots of different activities are planned for the day – and all are welcome! – including a series of talks by academics from the School of Arts and Humanities with a French at Stirling contribution in the shape of a talk by Elizabeth Ezra on ‘Androids and Globalization, or How Cinema Makes Us Human.’ The talks will be chaired by French at Stirling’s Cristina Johnston.

In this anniversary year, we’re also welcoming to Stirling our first cohort of students on our new BA Hons Translation and Interpreting degree, in partnership with HNU in China. As a means of strengthening the ties between existing Stirling students and their HNU counterparts, a buddying scheme has been running since September 2016 with around a dozen Stirling students helping HNU students to get to know the University, the campus and the town, and generally helping them get used to life in Scotland. We thought it would be a great idea for one of the buddies to get a chance to travel to China to meet with next year’s HNU cohort this Spring so, after a very competitive selection process and with Faculty support, we’re pleased to announce that Elliot Knight (currently in the 2nd year of his degree in French) will be travelling to China to represent the University and the Faculty of Arts and Humanities in a few weeks. More tales to follow on that front!

Closer to home, we’ve also been able to send another group of Student Language Ambassadors into a local secondary school – McLaren High in Callander – to talk to pupils there about life as a Languages student and the opportunities that opens up in terms of Study Abroad, employability, travel, and so on. Stefano Intropido, David Vescio and Ross Brown took on this role as Language Ambassadors, in a visit jointly organized by Jean-Michel DesJacques, Cristina Johnston and McLaren High teacher Alastair Brown. Alastair was very impressed by our students’ performance, commenting that ‘they spoke very well in all classes, and at the assembly, where they got a spontaneous round of applause from the pupils. They gave very motivating accounts of their language-learning journey and responded very well to the pupils’ questions.’ We hope to continue sending our students out into schools as ambassadors over the weeks and months ahead.

As well as looking forward to receiving our copy of our former PhD student Stefanie van de Peer’s edited collection Animation in the Middle East, we’re also excited to learn that another former French at Stirling PhD student, Lizelle Bisschoff has a new AHRC-funded project on ‘Africa’s Lost Classics in Context’ with David Murphy as co-investigator. The project aims to bring a number of screenings of ‘lost African film classics’ to UK audiences, complemented by public and educational events and activities to contextualise the films for audiences, in collaboration with the five UK African film festivals, including Africa in Motion which was founded by Lizelle while she was doing her PhD. The project started in January 2017 and will run for a year.

Alongside all the usual work, assessments and other commitments our students have for the second half of the semester, we also have a number of teaching and research-related events coming up, involving both staff and students. Our Year 4 French students, for example, will get the opportunity to try out Interpreting Taster Sessions in late-February, early-March, taking full advantage of Stirling’s new interpreting suite. A number of our students will also be attending the Language Show Live at the SECC in Glasgow in a few weeks and 3 of our current Year 2 students will be attending a Summer School run by our partners at the Ecole de Management in Strasbourg in June. Mid-March, we’ll be welcoming Lucie Herbreteau of UCO Angers to Stirling on an Erasmus teaching exchange and she’ll be taking classes involving not only our final year French students but also our postgraduate Translation programme and Years 1 and 2 of our undergraduate French programme. And, finally, at the end of March, Cristina Johnston has been invited to introduce a screening of Claude Chabrol’s Une Affaire de femmes at Edinburgh’s Cameo Cinema with Hugh McDonnell of Edinburgh University, as part of Mihaela Mihai’s project on Greyzones.

Busy, busy times and more news to follow, I’ve no doubt, over the coming weeks!