‘I’m still working at Ashurst LLP in Glasgow. I’ve been there almost 2 years now and recently got promoted to Senior Legal Analyst. I think I mentioned before that I’m mostly involved in legal work but always try and get involved with French work where I can. We often get ad hoc French translation tasks coming in, and it’s great to be able to assist with them. I’ve also been able to review French documents that have come up in various projects – I’ve really enjoyed being able to contribute to the team in this way.’
As for Rebecca, she is currently in the third semester of an MSc in Management which ‘includes three ‘branches’ (General Management, European and Global Business and Marketing) and modules on everything from Consumer Research, Complaint Management and European Marketing to Intercultural Management, Management of Innovation and Advanced Entrepreneurship. I’m hoping to finish all lessons by December and then the next step will be to write my thesis. The plan for afterwards is yet to be determined. I would love to go and work in the French-speaking part of Canada for a year or so but as I say, the rest is to be determined!
Although I’m Swiss, after one year, I’m still shocked as to how different the British university system is to the Swiss system. From having to organise your own courses, to having no student union to contacting the Dean if you have any questions. It’s been an experience that I have loved, however I do miss Stirling and the university a lot. I’m excited to see what the future holds in terms of jobs or travel.’
Many, many thanks to both Michaela and Rebecca for sending through these great updates and we wish you both all the best for the future!
Having posted an update a few weeks ago from David who, among other things, has spent a year teaching English in Colombia since he graduated, it’s a lovely coincidence to also be able to post this article by Luise who graduated in the same year and has also spent some time in Colombia since graduating, among many other things, as you’ll see below:
‘When I started studying at Stirling University I had no idea what I was going to do with my degree. I changed courses from International Management with Spanish and French to Spanish and French and Philosophy. I firmly believe that if one thing is just not for you, you should try something else instead until you find something you like – ideally something you are good at. I seemed to do okay in languages and I loved learning them and as much about all aspects of them as I could. So, I knew that I would probably enjoy working with languages.
I had worked as an au pair in several countries before and during my time at university, so I knew that I was pretty good at working with kids, too, and, after finishing my degree, I went to Colombia to teach English in a secondary school. It was an amazing experience but I decided not to take further steps towards teaching for the moment because I would have had to do another course and I wasn’t sure I actually wanted to be a teacher.
One thing I have always loved, though, is literature. I have always enjoyed reading and writing and wanted to combine that with my languages. So, I started to think about becoming a literary translator. I attended various language events and tried to figure out how to start a career in literary translation. I got some helpful advice on how to get started in translation but never specifically for literary translation. It does not seem to be the most profitable branch of translation, that’s probably why not many people seem to be interested in doing it.
I didn’t want to study again right away and was looking at ways of getting some experience at work. That’s why I started working in bilingual customer service. However, the job was not for me and I also did not get the amount of translation work that I was hoping for. When I left my position in customer service, I finally decided to go straight for what I actually wanted to do: translate books.
During my research, I found a website (Permondo) where you can translate for NGOs on a voluntary basis. It seemed like a great way to get started because you don’t necessarily require a degree in translation to help them out. However, I have only heard from them twice and on both occasions they needed the work done within such a short time (within a few days or even hours) that I haven’t been able to get involved yet.
Then I came across Tektime. I created my profile, contacted the first author and sent them a sample translation of a small part of their novel. They accepted my translation proposal and now I’m working on books no.3 and 4. I am not quite sure yet how big the income from this work will be and I will have to figure out my way through taxation in Italy and the UK as a freelancer but I definitely enjoy what I’m doing and I am very grateful for the opportunity to finally get some ‘proper’ translation experience.
Given that I am translating from English into German at the moment, what I’m doing now does not have a lot to do with my degree in Spanish and French. Generally, though, I know that studying languages at university and the time abroad have improved my feel for languages. My understanding of how they work each a little different from the other and what they have in common has deepened. Just the experience of ‘jumping’ in and out of different languages every day and the translation exercises we did in class come in handy now.
If I were to start university again now with the idea of going into literary translation, I would probably make the same choices again because it ultimately got me where I want to be.’
Many, many thanks to Luise for finding the time to send us this update and we wish you all the very best for the translation work – do let us know how things go. And for readers who are interested in learning more about translation, you might also be interested in these previous blog posts and, of course, Stirling does also offer postgrad degrees in Translation…
Back in June, Aedín was part of a team of academics and actors who organised a one-day workshop on Dementia and Bilingualism at the Insight Institute in the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. As this BBC Alba film shows, the performance-led day created a very different kind of event to the usual format of academic and voluntary sector conferences.
A dramatic reading of the play ‘Five to Midnight’ (provisional title) portrayed the experiences of ‘Mary’ who, with the onset of dementia begins to lose her ability to speak in English and returns to Scottish Gaelic, her mother tongue. The play, performed in separate parts, was interspersed with audience reflection and three panel discussions on bilingualism in the medical context, dementia’s impact on the family and the bilingual community and bilingualism and the arts.
The play prompted much discussion about changing roles and relationships in families affected by dementia. Mary’s husband ‘John’ does not speak Gaelic. Meanwhile, Mary’s adult son finds himself being pulled into the not always comfortable role of interpreter between his parents and those around Mary who do not understand Gaelic.
As Mary’s dementia progresses, she becomes increasingly cut off from the English-speaking world. Audience members without Gaelic language skills are exposed to more and more Gaelic monologues and conversations as the play unrolls, mirroring John’s experience of being increasingly locked out of his wife’s world. This experience fosters audience empathy with characters in the play who are separated by language divides.
Dementia’s impact on language is a key clinical and care issue, and science has shown that monolingual and bilingual individuals are affected differently.
Of course, the play focuses on a very specific linguistic context. However, students of French may be interested in this interview with the Canadian actress Louise Pitre who speaks about the struggles she had to find linguistically cognate care for her native French-speaking parents in anglophone Canada. As the project continues, it is hoped that it will highlight the need for wider recognition of the role of language and cultural understanding for the care needs of bilingual individuals living with dementia.
Another ‘life after graduation’ update today from one of our recent graduates, David, who completed his BA Hons in French and Spanish with us two years ago:
‘After graduating in 2017, I decided to go off to Latin America to not only discover a new culture but also try to gain some professional experience. Having lived in León, Spain for a full year during my Erasmus+ exchange, I’d met people from all over the world including quite a few who were from Mexico and Colombia. The Latin American Studies focus at the University of Stirling had also sparked my interest (shout out to Guillermo!) and so I took part in the language assistantship programme through the British Council. I was appointed to the Universidad Católica de Pereira in Colombia and I absolutely loved it! I taught English at the university but also organised many extra-curricular activities such as a weekly Conversation Club where students and teachers who were interested in learning more about Scottish and British culture could do so in a less formal setting. I even had my own podcast at the university’s radio station which was something I’d never expected to be doing! In addition, I had the opportunity to translate academic journals in collaboration with the psychology department at the university. Apart from these professional opportunities, I was able to travel to breath-taking places around Latin America and even met up with friends from Mexico, Peru and Ecuador I had met during my year abroad.
After this professionally challenging but wonderful year being part of a completely different culture, I decided I wanted to be closer to home but still keep discovering different cultures and enhance my language skills. I also wanted to be sure that teaching was definitely for me and so, through the British Council once again, I embarked on my next adventure in Catania, Sicily where I taught English in a secondary school. Having never spoken Italian before, I realised just how lucky I was to have studied other modern languages at university as this helped me to pick it up quickly. Although I am not fluent, I am now able to communicate fairly clearly and understand Italian! On the work front, teaching was not always easy but I grew attached to my colleagues and students who were always interested in what I had to offer (although they weren’t fans of Irn Bru!). I felt part of the community and I now realise how lucky I am to have had the chance to live beside the biggest active volcano in Europe (risky, I know!) in a city built from lava stone full of history and deliciously cheap pizza!
I have now started to study for my PGDE at the University of Glasgow. Despite the cold, I am very happy to be back in Scotland, enjoying the comforts I longed for while I was abroad such as Greggs coffee and tatty scones – as well as the open-mindedness of the Scots who are always so welcoming to people from other cultures and backgrounds. After obtaining my Diploma, I hope to be posted somewhere up north and discover more of Scotland. Although I am currently quite focused on teaching, I think it is important to keep one’s options open and I might consider taking up postgraduate research or maybe even further explore the idea of academic translation.’
Many, many thanks to David for this great update and we wish you all the very best for the PGDE – looking forward to updates as the months go by, too.
A few weeks from the start of the new academic year seems a good point to breathe some life into the French at Stirling blog which has gone a little quiet over the summer months. Our Bridging Materials are up and running for students joining us on our Semester 1 Advanced French module and we’re all looking forward to welcoming a new intake of students to both the Advanced and Beginners’ streams in mid-September.
It’ll also be good to catch up with all our returning students and to hear tales from those who’ll be back in Stirling after a year on a British Council English Language Assistantship (whether in France or elsewhere) or who’ve been away for their compulsory Semester Abroad at one of our numerous partner institutions. As we wait to welcome people back in person, we’re delighted to be able to post a couple of articles by students coming back from time abroad, starting with this post by Andrea who’ll be heading into her final year in Stirling in the Autumn:
‘Having recently returned from a semester abroad in Spain, third year has ended as the most challenging but also the most fun year so far in my degree. The language side of my International Management and Intercultural Studies course changed a bit, as the language learning focused more on learning a set of new skills like translation and essay writing rather than the division of classes like previous years. The skills previously developed in year one and two were now brought together for the writing and speaking classes rather than being separately focused on as before. Most of the classes were more unilingual than before (except of course for when we focused on translation) which was helpful to push me more towards thinking in French and Spanish, rather than thinking about these languages in English.
The change in the teaching was the followed by my semester abroad on Erasmus. I went to the Seville in Spain, and was and still am a bit worried that my French got a bit left behind as I made the best of the opportunity to improve my Spanish in a native environment. However, I did not completely leave behind my French studies, I signed up for a French module in Spain. It certainly was a very different experience learning French in Spanish. On one hand, it was a bit confusing to be learning a foreign language in another foreign language but on the other hand, it helped to clarify some of differences and similarities between the two languages. It has on occasion been challenging to separate the two languages in my head, but having someone fluent in both languages clarify some of the differences and similarities helped to box away the two languages separately in my mind. Also, it was a good experience to listen to other language speakers struggle with French pronunciation and it made me feel less self-conscious about my struggles with my accent when speaking French. Depending on our native languages we all struggle with trying to acquire a less foreign sounding accent in the languages we speak. So, for any of the students also learning both French and Spanish I recommend taking up a module in your other language when you go on your study abroad, it certainly widened my language experience.
I cannot recommend study abroad enough either. It was a fantastic opportunity to live the language, experience a different education system and culture, and meet new people. At first, it can seem like a daunting idea to pack your bags and go somewhere new alone, whether you’ve done it before or not, but it has been a great confidence boost to find my feet in completely new and unfamiliar surroundings once again. From my experience it’s good to be prepared for a long paperwork trail, start looking for accommodation early, and once your abroad to try as much as possible to make some native speaker friends (the culture clash really improved my language skills, too).’
Many, many thanks to Andrea for the great blog post and we’re looking forward to seeing you back in Stirling in a few weeks.
It has been a busy few weeks for French at Stirling from the success of our taster days for secondary schools all the way to graduation last week via some unexpected challenges in the shape of flooding in our building. All of that has taken precedence over keeping up with the blog for a little while but, as many of us head off in different directions for holidays before coming back to prepare for the new academic year, we wanted to just post a few updates starting with congratulations to the recipients of this year’s prizes for French at Stirling.
A number of awards have been made this year, recognising outstanding performances across the board by students on degrees involving French. Amy, who is at the end of Year 1 of our Professional Primary Education degree, with a specialism in Modern Languages, is the recipient of our prize for the best Year 1 performance in the Beginners’ stream for French. The prize for best Year 1 performance in the non-Beginners’ stream was awarded to Mihaela who is studying for our BA Honours programme in International Management with European Languages and Society.
The prize for best performance in Year 2 has two joint recipients this year. Like Amy, Marc is also on our Professional Primary Education programme, specialising in Modern Languages. For him, ‘having this opportunity to study the language to such a high level alongside my main degree is extremely beneficial to my future career. Having never been to France before, the department structures French studies in such a way which enables me to not only learn the language, but also the historical and cultural context of France and the French empire which is something I’ve found particularly interesting.’ Marc’s co-recipient of the Year 2 award is Victoria who is studying International Politics and Languages with us and will be off for Semester Abroad in the Spring next year. Victoria moved to Stirling from Germany for her degree and, before moving, says that she couldn’t have imagined ‘the possibilities my studies would bring about but I must say that I am really happy to be given the opportunity to learn French in such an international environment. I am aiming to spend my spring semester next year in Morocco and am thankful for all the support the French faculty has given me so far in order for this to be made possible.’
As always, competition was fierce for our Simone de Beauvoir prize which is awarded to the final year student with the strongest performance across their French modules but this year’s recipient is Bethany who has just completed her BA Hons in International Management with European Languages and Society. Bethany was also the very deserving winner of our final year Translation prize and she kindly took the time to send some thoughts on her time at Stirling:
‘Studying Advanced French and Francophone cultures at University enabled me to gain a more profound and realistic understanding of French identity and cultural issues that I had witnessed first-hand in France itself. It was just incredible to discuss current challenges with a rational step back from the social situation and critically analyse what is occurring in society today. I realised that French studies was deeply aligned with my interests as studying felt seamless and effortless. The tutors constantly deepened my interest and made me engaged with the topics raised, making me want to learn more, grow more and gain more from the University experience. Walking though the French corridor in Pathfoot always filled me with butterflies in the pit of my stomach, anticipating the next lesson or debate. I felt it provided me with a bold emotional attachment that united me back to France throughout my time at University and made me desire to return to my adoptive country and undertake future studies to generate change to overcome some of the negative issues that France is tackling. Winning two Prizes for French filled me with an immense feeling of pride, recognition and gratitude towards all my lecturers and tutors who I cannot thank enough.’
Congratulations, too, to Natalie, who has also just graduated in International Management, having studied both French and Spanish throughout, and who was the recipient of the equivalent final year prize for her work in Spanish. Natalie was ‘overjoyed to have received the Jose Blanco White Prize for Spanish. It has been a wonderful way to end what has been a fantastic four years at Stirling. As well as studying Spanish, I have enjoyed learning about French and Francophone cultures through exploring literary texts, films and engaging in fascinating discussions. I believe that my passion for the French culture and language was enhanced by the support and commitment of all the tutors who work incredibly hard to promote languages within the University.’ A particular highlight for Natalie was the opportunity to work as a Student Ambassador for Languages to promote French and Spanish in local secondary schools and during our Open and Applicant Days: ‘I feel proud to be part of a team who play a fundamental role in inspiring our young people to learn foreign languages. Another of my highlights would definitely have to be my semester abroad in Strasbourg which I spent at EM Strasbourg Business School: a fantastic opportunity to use my French skills in real-life situations and to become more confident in my abilities. I feel extremely proud to have been part of a wonderful faculty and I am incredibly thankful to all of the tutors who have helped me along the way!’
And finally, congratulations to Stefano who has just graduated with his degree in International Politics and Languages and who was named one of the University’s Students of the Year in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the University over the past four years. In particular, Stefano has been recognised for his energy and commitment to helping others feel part of a welcoming, inclusive academic community.
Term has finished now in Stirling but there’s still lots going on, in particular with our two days of events for secondary school pupils next week (more on that later!). It’s also a good point in the year to catch up with tales from current students finishing off time abroad and graduates whose post-graduation paths have taken them in unexpected directions like Brett who has just sent us this great post and who graduated in French and Spanish this time last year: ‘
‘If you’re a languages student on the cusp of graduating, you’re probably at the infamous crossroads: translation or teaching. I’ve stared down that path before too, but I just couldn’t bring myself to walk it. I’ve done translation work, and I like it, but I’m not ready to commit to specializing in any field just yet. I’m also quite sure that I don’t want to be a teacher in the UK either. So what does that leave me with? After working for TAPIF (via British Council) in France, and having the time of my life on Erasmus in Seville, I wanted more from language learning before diving into the pool of post-grad uncertainty.
As if Fourth Year isn’t hard enough (specially with studying two foreign languages), I decided to also study introductory Japanese ‘for fun’. If you’re questioning my sanity, you’re right to do so. On Thursdays I used to have a two-hour Spanish class, a two-hour French class, another two hours of Spanish and then two hours of Japanese from 6-8pm. There was method to the madness, however. I’d always been interested in Japan as a teenager, and even at the age of fourteen I knew I wanted to live and work there. I’d heard of the JET (Japanese Exchange and Teaching) Programme, but I had pushed it to the back of my mind, thinking there was no way I’d be eligible to go with basically no Japanese ability. But one day, during our weekly 2-hour Japanese class, representatives from the Programme came to Stirling University. It didn’t take long for me to make up my mind.
I started the application process. That in itself was a journey. Doctors’ appointments, trips to the Consulate in Edinburgh, and mountains of paperwork awaited me (I thought I’d had it bad in France). It paid off though, as I was notified in May that I’d been accepted. But in the afterglow of being successfully hired I was asked the same few questions.
“Urm, why are you going to Japan?”
“Don’t you think it’s a waste after studying Spanish and French?”
I just gave a smile and said “it’ll be an adventure!” But the truth is I didn’t know what I was doing. Why invest so much time, money, and energy into something if you’re not going to utilize it? I pushed those thoughts aside as I got on the plane and endured the 18-hour flight to Tokyo. But the thoughts didn’t leave my mind during the 3-day orientation. It seemed everyone had studied Japanese, or had at least been to Japan before. Even though I had successfully gone through the same application and hiring process as everyone else, imposter syndrome started to creep in.
After the orientation, I flew to my final destination: Tottori City in Tottori Prefecture. Tottori Prefecture lies in Western Japan, and is very inaka (rural). It’s the least populated prefecture, with a rough total of 570,570 inhabitants. Starbucks finally made its debut in Tottori in 2015 (I’m using that as a measurement of ruralness). Other measurements of inaka-ness include; being surrounded by rice paddies, having to pay with exact change on the bus, and always hearing the hum of the cicadas wherever you go. As for weather, it’s hot and humid (around 35 degrees Celsius) in the summer and below freezing in winter.
My job is an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) at a high-level academic Senior High School. You may have some preconceived ideas about Japanese students.
“They must be so polite!”
“They’re amazing at English!”
“They’re so clever!”
Of course, they are, in part. On the whole my students are lovely to work with. They always say “hello” in the corridors, they give me sweets or presents when they come back from holidays, and they often come to chat to me in the staff room. At my high school, every student wants to go to university, so learning English is important for them. This makes my job easier, because it means they try hard to begin with (a welcome change from my situation in France). Outside the classroom, I try to involve myself in cultural activities. I joined my school’s ikebana (flower arranging) club. I’ve also experienced tea ceremonies and attempted Japanese calligraphy.
Maybe you’re thinking, well that’s great, but you’ve not used your skills in Spanish and French. Au contraire. Being a Language Assistant in France gave me my first insight into teaching English as a foreign language. On top of that, my Erasmus semester gave me the courage to speak to people in a foreign language, without the safety net of English to catch me. You might have already experienced these things in Spanish and French-speaking countries, but it can be daunting when your new country doesn’t even use the same alphabet. Thankfully, I also have very kind teachers and colleagues to help me when I’m struggling.
I was lucky enough to be placed in a Super Global High School. What does that mean? Our school takes part in international projects (mainly focused on social and environmental issues). We also have students partake in international exchange programmes. Right now, we have an Argentine exchange student who doesn’t speak much English or Japanese. So, I’ve been proactively helping her, translating any information she doesn’t understand and speaking to her in Spanish when she’s struggling. I guess that’s a job that couldn’t be done if I hadn’t studied Spanish at university.
On top of all of this, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places that I otherwise would never have been to. I’ve also made my TV debut on both small local stations and prime time nation-wide programmes. Who would have thought?
Living in Japan has given me the chance to reunite with two other Stirling University alumni: Daisuke and Atsushi. They helped tutor me in Japanese and gave me some great advice before I left the UK. If I hadn’t studied languages at Stirling Uni, I would never have met two great friends and developed a support network before I even arrived in Japan.
The obvious thing to mention is the challenge of learning the Japanese language. It’s different in almost every way to English, Spanish and French. Forget the patterns of “Subject, Verb, Object” and noun/adjective placement. I’ve had to unlearn the knowledge I acquired over the last ten years and treat this as something completely new. On top of that, there are three writing systems used in Japanese! Yes, three! Although it’s been a slow process, I feel like I’ve made some small progress in the (almost) year that I’ve been here. In July I’m taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test and aiming for N5 level (the equivalent of A1/2 in the CEFR exams).
I’m still not sure what the future holds, but I know I’m going to be in Japan until at least August 2020. After that, I still haven’t made up my mind. I’m torn between staying in Japan, moving to South Korea or travelling around South America. I guess the biggest lesson I’ve learned from this experience is that there is no one way to do things. So, if you’re standing at a crossroads and you can’t decide which route to take, why don’t you forge your own path?’
Many, many thanks to Brett for this fantastic post – we’re delighted that JET and Japan are working out so well for you and look forward to more updates over the months ahead. Do keep in touch!