Tag: University of Stirling

Women in Translation Month

August is Women in Translation month (#WITmonth) and, this year, we thought we’d like to mark the month somehow on the blog. First off, we’re delighted to be able to point you in the direction of an interview with our fantastic colleague, Nina Parish (and her colleague and collaborator, Emma Wagstaff), about their translation work with a particular focus on poetry in/and translation.

Obviously, we spend a lot of time encouraging our students to read more in French but we are also avid readers of work in translation across a wide range of languages and genres so this seemed the perfect opportunity to throw in some suggestions from French at Stirling for great reads to celebrate WIT Month. Elizabeth Ezra’s tip would be the short stories of Russian author Teffi, translated by Rose France, and available in such collections as Shadows of Days: Russian Emigre Short Stories from Bunin to Yankovsky (Penguin Press), 1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution and Rasputin and other Ironies (both published by the brilliant Pushkin Press). Nina Parish has just finished The Polyglot Lovers by Lina Wolff, translated from Swedish by Saskia Vogel and published by And Other Stories who have lots of great literature in translation. Nina’s next read is also in-keeping with the theme: Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein.

Cristina Johnston has just started reading the Icelandic novel Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, translated by Brian Fitzgibbon, and, over the summer, has revisited Astrid Lindren’s Pippi Longstocking in bedtime reading to small children, translated from Swedish by Edna Hurup. Cristina also thoroughly enjoyed Roseanne Watt’s bilingual poetry collection Moder Dy which is in Shetlandic and English. And Aedín Ní Loingsigh‘s favourite lockdown read was the German author Anna Seghers’ 1942 novel The Seventh Cross which was retranslated in 2018 by Margot Bettauer Dembo. It’s a really tense read that follows a German Communist who escapes from a concentration camp in the early years of Nazi Germany and must determine who amongst his old acquaintances he can trust to help him. In-keeping with the translation and languages theme, Aedín has also just ordered Liam Carson’s 2012 novel Call Mother a Lonely Field. It’s a memoir of a bilingual childhood in Belfast and Aedín is hoping it will prompt me to return to a more academic book by Sherry Simon, Translating Montreal: Episodes in the Life of  Divided City where she speaks of the long-term influence on her own thinking of ‘setting up a house on the border between languages’.

And it wouldn’t be a proper French at Stirling post about Women in Translation Month without also highlighting the work of our own Siân Reynolds as translator of Fred Vargas’s crime fiction (including Sous les vents de Neptune which we’ll be teaching on again this coming semester in our French detective fiction option…) and of Georges Simenon and much else besides.

Plenty of tips for good reads here, with more to follow, and, if you’re interested in women writing in endangered languages, Hannah Grayson would particularly recommend this article by Alison Wellford.

Bonne lecture!

One Year On

This time a year ago, we were welcoming our new colleague, Nina Parish, to French at Stirling. A tremendous amount has happened in the intervening twelve months and Nina has been kind enough to send us her thoughts on her first year working at Stirling:

‘Last week I completed my first year of working in the Division of Literature and Languages at the University of Stirling and what a year it’s been!

2020 Jul NP Office ViewThe year started with floods and a very washed out graduation ceremony (I still can’t quite believe that it took place – kudos to those who made this happen!) and a considerable amount of damage to the Pathfoot Building where I have my office and do some teaching. The Pathfoot also houses and exhibits the University’s wonderful art collection – what an absolute headache for the curators! But by the start of the semester the vast majority of us had access to our offices and the teaching rooms were ready to be used again!

2020 Jul NP DumyatAnd so Semester 1 started – earlier than what I was used to in England – and I began to get to know my wonderful colleagues and my new, mostly Scottish, students. I was struck by how pleasant these students are and it made me think a lot about how high tuition fees have changed the student-teacher relationship south of the border. There were also a couple of students from the EU in most of my classes and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed teaching a class with this diversity of experiences. I’m sad that this is likely to change in the future.

Just as I was getting into my stride (and beginning to know my way around the Cottrell Building!), we went on strike. It is always tough to stop teaching in this context and to not have the contact with students that you did previously but it is also important to fight the good fight and there was a lot on the line here from casual contracts to pensions. Looking on the bright side, you also get to know colleagues better on the picket line.

2020 Jul NP Dryden TowerThere had been talk about the Covid-19 virus from the beginning of the year but I had managed to ignore it quite successfully and was all set to travel to Warsaw for a research meeting mid-March, to give papers in St Andrews and Aberdeen, to go to a conference in Rome and then travel on to Armenia for a month-long research secondment as part of the EU funded DisTerrMem project in May and June. All this was obviously cancelled and my world shrank to the tremendous city of Edinburgh where I live. Getting to know this city has been the high point of the lockdown and in the last weeks getting out into the glorious Scottish countryside to go walking again has been such a relief. I was appointed Director of Research at the beginning of the year and having the time to be able to talk to my brilliant colleagues about their research trajectories and future plans has been a delight.

I sometimes wonder what my second year at Stirling will bring (I was due to go to Lebanon and Pakistan for the Memories from the Margins and DisTerrMem research projects), but I’ve decided to focus on enjoying the summer and preparing online classes for September for now.

Bilan de l’année: des évènements inattendus (c’est le moins qu’on puisse dire!) mais j’aime vivre et travailler en Ecosse.’

Many, many thanks to Nina for the great post (and for the pictures of Scottish views) and we’re delighted to have you as a colleague at Stirling, and look forward to pestering you for more blog posts in the months and years ahead!

Congratulations to our prize-winners!

Following on from our congratulations to all of this year’s graduating students a couple of weeks back, we’d like to offer particular félicitations to this year’s French at Stirling prize-winners whose performance really does stand out as exceptional this year. The recipient of this year’s Simone de Beauvoir Prize, awarded to the student with the strongest performance across their French modules, is Laura, who has just completed a BA Hons in English Studies and French with us. And the recipient of this year’s Faculty Research Prize for the highest dissertation grade in French is Evelyn who has just finished her BA Hons in French. Many, many congratulations to Laura and Evelyn on their achievements and we wish you all the very best for the future!

Saying goodbye to colleagues

The blog is about to go quiet for a couple of weeks as everyone takes a little time to catch their breath after a hectic semester but there are a couple of posts we wanted to add before that happens. The first of these is a belated farewell to Emeline Morin, who has now taken up a post at the University of Liverpool. Emeline was part of French at Stirling for two years, a fantastic colleague and a good friend who will be sorely missed by staff and students alike. It was particularly strange to say goodbye virtually while we were all still in lockdown but we wish her all the very best in her new role at Liverpool and we look forward to keeping in touch over the years ahead. Bonne continuation!

Final instalment of our Bridging Materials: Culture

Following on from the resources we’ve posted looking at Written Language and those that cover Oral/Aural Language, clicking here should lead you to the final instalment of our Bridging Materials on ‘Culture’ which we refer to as ‘Matière’ in our Stirling classes. Students on all our Advanced French modules in Years 1 and 2 will have a matière seminar each week, alongside their Written Language and Langage parlé classes. There is also a lecture most weeks to help contextualise the film, novels, short stories and other works we study in matière.

Students in our Year 1 Beginners’ modules don’t have matière seminars as their classes centre intensively on language learning to bring their written and spoken skills up to a level that means those who want to continue with French as part of their degree can join our Advanced strand by halfway through Year 2. They do, however, start their matière seminars in Year 2 to ensure that they can build the same analytical, comprehension and essay-writing skills as those in the Advanced module.

Of course, in our classes, students would be expected to watch the films, read the novels, and so on, but for these resources, we’ve used shorter publicly accessible texts and extracts, including a short story by the excellent contemporary French poet and novelist, Lou Sarabadzic.

We hope you find this final selection of resources helpful and would encourage you, over the course of the Summer, to look over these again, in conjunction with the Written and Oral/Aural materials to see how they fit together. And, whether you’re coming to study with us at Stirling or elsewhere, or looking at these posts and resources as a means of refreshing your French, we wish you all the very best! Bonne continuation!

Congratulations to our 2020 graduates!

This time last year, French at Stirling was still somewhat in awe of our honorary graduate, French international footballer Lilian Thuram, as well as admiring the achievements of the rest of our graduating students. We were also marvelling at the fact that graduation managed to go ahead in the first place given that campus was hit by flash floods the day before and I think all of us probably assumed that would be the most eventful graduation for some time…

How wrong we were! This week should have been graduation time for the vast majority of our students and, in a virtual sense, it was. However, we would all have preferred to have been able to be on campus, proudly watching our students making their way across the front of the stage, the occasional wave to family and friends in attendance and the occasional nervous look towards tutors and lecturers in their gowns to find a friendly face.

We hope, somehow, that we’ll get a chance to congratulate this year’s French at Stirling graduates in person at some point in the future but, in the meantime, on behalf of everyone, we offer you all our hearty congratulations and wish you all the very best for life after graduation. Please do keep in touch, drop us an email, follow us on the blog…



Bridging Materials Part II: Written Language

Following on from the first part of our Bridging Materials which focused on exercises relating to Oral/Aural Language, if you click here you’ll get access to the second section of these resources. This time, the focus is on Written Language which forms the basis of a weekly hour of teaching for our students on the Advanced Semester 1 module. (We have separate Beginners’ modules that run in Semesters 1-3 but, as the name suggests, these are intensive language learning modules for students who have not studied French before or who have not studied it for a long time.)

The Written Language Bridging Materials – just like the Oral/Aural ones – try to give you a sense of how we approach Written Language at Stirling. As you’ll see, there’s a mixture of grammar exercises, supplementary online resources, articles to read, videos etc. Some of these would be used in class, others would be linked to for students to use in their independent study. And, once again, as you’ll see, the materials are set out in a week-by-week structure so do pace yourself as you work through them. Give yourself a chance to read through articles, to think about them, to read further around the topic, to explore some of the online resources that are linked to via the document itself, and so on.

The Culture Bridging Materials will be posted over the next few days.

Bonne lecture!

Bridging Materials Part 1: Oral and Aural Classes

As promised at the end of last week, here is the first batch of resources from our French at Stirling Bridging Materials. As you’ll see, these focus in particular on the skills that our students develop through the oral/aural classes (langage parlé). These classes form an integral part of most University language courses, helping students develop oral expression and comprehension skills and fluency, but also more generally helping with confidence and clarity.

For us at Stirling, oral classes form a key part of pretty much all language-centred modules and our students usually have at least one hour of langage parlé each week, taught in small groups by native speakers of French. In our case, this normally means that langage parlé classes are taught by a member of our Language team: Jean-Michel DesJacques, Brigitte Depret or Mathilde Mazau. Langage parlé classes include debates and discussions in French involving the whole class, as well as smaller group discussions and, as the degree progresses, we increasingly bring in individual presentations.

The Bridging Materials give you a sense of the range of topics that might come up in these classes, everything from topics of contemporary political or social relevance to more general aspects of French and Francophone life, culture and societies. Sometimes langage parlé topics are chosen by the tutors, sometimes the classes are student-led, sometimes videos or other materials are used as prompts. The key thing is for everyone to try and get involved in the conversations, not to worry about making mistakes, and to make the most of the opportunity to speak and listen to French.

Anyway, the resources you’ll find here will help you think about the kinds of exercises you’re likely to come across in a langage parlé class, as well as giving some examples of the types of videos that might be used, the questions you’d be discussing and the ways in which langage parlé contributes to the development of your language skills. We hope you find them useful! More to follow over the coming days for Written Language and Culture.

Bridging Materials Coming Soon!

Regular blog readers will know that, for the past few years, French at Stirling has produced ‘Bridging Materials’ for our new 1st years to help with the shift to studying a language at University. From around mid-August, as new Year 1 students start to sign up for our Advanced French module, we email them with information about these materials. Over a 4-week period, they are given access to our VLE and to resources that try to give them a sense of what studying a language at University will be like. The materials are split into the same categories as our Advanced Semester 1 module (Culture, Written Language and Oral/Aural), mirroring the breakdown of classes students can expect to get at Stirling. They include texts to read, grammar exercises, comprehension questions, essay guidance, and a range of other resources.

This year, as a subject team, we’ve decided to make our Bridging Materials more widely available as an open access resource. What do we mean by that? Well, over the new week or so, a series of blog posts will go up with links to our Bridging Materials that should be easily accessible to all. Our hope is that they will be a useful resource for anybody who is planning to start a degree involving French in the coming academic year. Or, come to that, for anybody who just wants to see what University language study might be like and wants a kind of taster version.

Obviously, there are some caveats that we should add here:

  • Universities are different. Our Bridging Materials reflect what we do at Stirling and how we do it. So, if you’re going to study French elsewhere, please do remember that your University may structure its classes differently, may have a different focus (we tend to work on contemporary France and the wider Francophone world at Stirling), and will definitely be planning for your arrival in the Autumn and will doubtless be in touch with you over the coming months with more specific information on your courses.
  • In ordinary times, there are tasks in our Bridging Materials that our incoming students can get feedback on – I’m afraid that’s not something we can do with this open access version of them and we’re certainly not assuming or suggesting that, for example, tutors at other Universities or school teachers will be able to do this. Part of what the Bridging Materials are about is learning the more generic skills that go with University study, including, for instance, the importance of independent learning. These are not resources that someone else will correct. As you’ll see, there are often some elements of guidance from us that are already incorporated and the aim is to make use of them to keep your French going over the Summer and, specifically, to think about the shift to University-level study.
  • There’s a lot of stuff in these materials and, although we’re posting them in large chunks, we wouldn’t recommend that you try and work through it all in one go. If you do use them, then pace yourself. Work through them bit by bit, as and when you have time over the months ahead.

So, over the next little while, there’ll be a few blog posts – one for each of the ‘strands’ (Culture, Written Language, Oral/Aural) – with links that should take you to the documents. We hope they’ll be useful to you over the months ahead. And, of course, if you are coming to study with us, we look forward to welcoming you in the Autumn and would encourage you to get in touch with any general questions over the Summer (not specifically about the Bridging Materials but if there are things you want to know about French at Stirling). And if you’re going to study French elsewhere, we wish you all the very best.

À bientôt.

Support for the British Council

Not only was that last blog post from Louise well-timed because it made for a great start to the month but its timing was also particularly good because it coincides with a campaign in support of the work of the British Council and gives us an opportunity to lend our support to that campaign.

And, for a change, I’m going to write this one in my own voice (Cristina Johnston, that is, with some help from colleagues and links to other posts along the way!). Every year, at Stirling, both in French and in Spanish we encourage as many of our students as possible to apply for British Council English Language Assistantships, whether between the end of the 2nd year and their return into 3rd year or as finalists thinking about opportunities that are open to them after graduation. Some of our students apply for assistantships because they are studying French and/or Spanish with Education and the ELA is a great way to fulfil the language residence requirement for school-level language teaching. However, many other students also apply, across a range of subject backgrounds and combinations and often without any specific intention of going into teaching after they graduate. Rather, for many of the students, this is a paid opportunity to spend time living and working in another country, in another language environment and they seize the opportunity to travel, meet new people and adapt to new environments.

As with any job – and we do always remind the students that they are in paid employment, with the responsibilities that brings, and that the application process is not a foregone conclusion – unfortunately not everyone has an overwhelmingly positive experience and we try to support students through any difficulties as far as possible. However, in many, many instances, a year as an ELA becomes a key turning point in a student’s life, whether in terms of their career plans or in their personal lives. They may not always notice the changes but, when they come back and rejoin us for their Year 3 and 4 classes, we notice the differences in them, in their confidence, in their openness, not to mention the excitement and enthusiasm with which they recount their year when they come back to Stirling. And the same goes for the finalists who undertake ELAs after they leave Stirling.

For many of us teaching in French at Stirling, the enthusiasm is not only great to see in our students but it also serves as a reminder to us of our own experiences of English Language Assistantships, whether as something we’ve undertaken ourselves or as we remember assistants in our own schools. My own year as an ELA came in 1995-96 when I was lucky enough to get an assistantship at the Lycée Marie Curie in Strasbourg. I’d spent time living in France before and was lucky enough to have travelled and spent time elsewhere in Europe, too, but I didn’t know Strasbourg or Alsace, other than via a very short school trip years before. When I think back, lots of things stand out. I remember nervously turning up in the staffroom on my first day, opening my little locker and finding that a colleague-to-be had left me a jar of home-made jam as a welcome present. I remember some truly awful conversation sessions I tried to deliver with no real sense of how on earth to get the pupils to actually talk to me and then the sense of satisfaction, as the weeks progressed, at kind of figuring it out. I remember my flat there – a tiny studio right, just outside the old town, opposite a fantastic pâtisserie.

Mainly, though, what stands out is one particular group of pupils who were in terminale and doing the European Bac, with extra English classes during the week, as well as History and Geography lessons in English. I spent more time in class with them than any other group and was invited to accompany them on a school trip to Northern Ireland, among other things, and have very positive memories of their enthusiasm for languages and for learning which, in turn, I associate with the opportunities offered via the British Council assistantship scheme.

Other colleagues at Stirling have similarly positive experiences and memories. Hannah Grayson, for example, first came across British Council assistants in 6th form: ‘I benefitted from 1:1 sessions with both a French and German language assistant at my school. Our German language assistant was so enthusiastic that she persuaded me to enter a British Council competition, producing a leaflet all about the benefits of the language assistantship programme. We ended up winning and I was awarded my certificate at the top of Canada Square in Canary Wharf by none other than Sir Trevor McDonald! 

After those dizzying heights, my own language assistantship took me to Laval in Mayenne for 9 months of teaching in two collèges. I had wanted to be in Montpellier teaching lycée but it turned out to be one of the best years of my life. I lived with people from all around the world, travelled across France, and got the bug for teaching that still excites me over a decade later. When on my first day, the girl at the front of the class queue looked at me disdainfully and said, “I (h)ate English,” my naïve optimism was somewhat crushed, but the year turned out to be a wonderful experience and I am still in touch with the friends I made that year.’

Nina Parish’s experience also spans her own school days and time as an assistant while at University: ‘At school, we were lucky to have French and German assistants – I can remember the German assistant in particular being so helpful when we were studying for A-level. Having access to someone closer to our age was just brilliant.

I was an English assistant on my year abroad in Marseille – I think it has to be the best year of my life – still now – many years later! I worked in two collèges (and lived free of charge in one) and the English teachers were so welcoming – they really made me feel part of the team. I returned to Provence once I graduated studying for a Maîtrise and DEA at the university in Aix-en-Provence. It’s here in an Art History class that I discovered Henri Michaux – and the rest is history!’

This year has, of course, been more challenging than most for our students who were away as assistants when Covid-19 hit but, whether as students or staff, we are clear about the importance of the benefits that can come thanks to English Language Assistantships, in particular, but also more widely in terms of the work carried out by the British Council. If you want to find out more about the campaign of support, please do read the information available on the UCML’s website here, and add your voice to the statements of support.

And if you want to read about our students’ and graduates’ experiences of British Council assistantships, there are loads of examples on the blog but you could start here or here or here!