This post was written by Charlotte, who studies French at Worcester College. Here, Charlotte tells us about her year abroad in France.
2018 was an exciting time to be in France for a year abroad. Over the summer temperatures rose in France with the thrill of the World Cup. Bars were brimming with enthused fans, roars matched every goal and with each win the streets became crowded with waving flags, trumpets and cheers of “Allez les bleus!”. In Montpellier, French football fans climbed on historic monuments and beeped car horns throughout the night. When I was caught watching a football match on my computer at work my boss sat down and joined!
In Montpellier there was a heatwave, or canicule, that summer so I spent my time between the beach and a natural lake, both of which were easy to get to by the tram system running through the city. It was warm enough to swim in the ocean up until the end of September! Every Friday in August there was a wine festival Les Estivales with live music and a range of food stands, every Wednesday there was a firework display at the beach, and every evening in the park Peyrou students relaxed in the cool evening, sometimes playing sport or dancing to music.
Autumn was an important time for me as I was working in a yacht brokerage, and autumn is the season of boat shows so I got to work on the marketing of several yachts across various regions in the South of France. September is also the season of Les Voiles de St-Tropez, a sailboat race in St.Tropez which attracts yachting teams from across the world to compete in.
Winter in Montpellier is very special. The Christmas markets opened at the beginning of December, and their opening was celebrated by a huge light show which saw historic buildings lit up with dazzling light projections.
Winter season also coincided with the beginning of the gilets jaunes movement in France, an important event which saw the President, Emmanuel Macron, cave to the demands of the protestors. A year later they are still to be seen on the streets of Paris. At a practical level, it meant that there was less food in the supermarket and it was more difficult to drive to places. Some students I met there got involved with the protests, it was a chance to engage in French social and political issues beyond reading about them in Le Monde.
Years abroad are not a holiday – I was working a full-time job! – but they are an opportunity to make the most of local events and culture which is not always possible in Oxford with the workload and tight deadlines. Towns and regions have different personalities throughout the year, and living abroad allows you to see and experience them all, getting to engage with language and culture beyond the textbook.
This post was written by Ben, a first-year student in French and Spanish at St Hilda’s College. Reflecting on where he was a year ago, at which point he had just received his offer from St Hilda’s, Ben has some handy advice forYear 13 students who have received an offer to study at Oxford.
With a history spanning longer
than that of the United Kingdom, a rich diversity of colleges each functioning
in a slightly different manner, and the bragging rights of being known as the
‘place where Harry Potter was filmed’, the University of Oxford might appear to
be shrouded in mystery and magic. Perhaps it’s for this very reason that all
those on the inside (myself included) are consistently asked variations on the
question, “what’s it like to be an Oxford student?”.
In a somewhat ironic turn of events,
it’s this very question I found myself pondering about this time last year. Following
the eternity that the month or so awaiting a response after interviews seems to
last, I received that fateful email confirming my place to study French and
Spanish at my current college, St Hilda’s. Relief, joy, excitement,
uncertainty, a faint nervousness – these are all emotions I would use to
describe my reaction to that moment, and emotions I’m certain that some of you
kind enough to be reading this blog will be all too familiar with right now,
offer obtained, yet unsure as to what to expect.
Thankfully, help is at hand. Now
a term into my first year, perhaps the benefit of hindsight will help to shine some
light on the process of receiving an offer from Oxford. Here are four pieces
of advice if you do so happen to be about to embark on your journey with the University.
1. If you have been made an offer
by a college different to the one you originally applied for, don’t sweat it.
Whilst it is true that each has a different atmosphere, every student I have
spoken to in the first year already cherishes the college that they have ended up
at. And this isn’t just smooth phrasing copied and pasted from the university
website, no – I’m speaking from personal experience. I myself originally applied
to another college, and if I can settle in perfectly, you most certainly will
2. Keep an eye on your inbox.
Oxford’s team of tutors and academics will often give you advice and support
from the moment you’re made an offer – be that in the form of answers to any
academic questions you may have, or reading lists to prepare you for the
course. If you haven’t turned on notifications for your email app, now’s the
3. Go to an offer holder day. Many
colleges will run a day specifically designed for the incoming year group. Meet
others you may well be sharing a tutorial with, grill those already on the
course, perhaps even just get to know the college a little better – regardless
of how you spend it, it’s an event well worth attending.
4. Join Freshers’ pages. Oxford
students come from a wide range of different places, yet that distance is
nothing social media can’t handle. Prospective language students’ group chats
are particularly lively, and a great way to meet people if talking to those on
the offer holder day is just too twentieth century.
To finish this blog, whilst it
may seem daunting at first, arguably the most important piece of advice is that
of not panicking. Both your college and other students are fully aware that
everything is novel, and that the jump from Sixth Form to university requires
some getting used to. Surprising though it may sound, Freshers’ Week is in this
sense far more than a social event: it will give you all the valuable information
you could possibly need, settling any doubts whose answers you haven’t already
And so for now at least, as the
expression goes, ‘keep calm and carry on’.
If you’re considering your university choices, one of the best ways to get a feel for different universities is to visit them. To that end, we offer a number of open days for propspective students – a chance for you to meet current students and tutors, look around the facilities, find out about the course and the lifestyle, and get a taster of what it’s like to study a particular subject at that university.
In the Medieval and Modern Languages Faculty at Oxford, we organise several different kinds of open day: some are small open days for individual languages, where you can attend sample lectures and immerse yourself in a specific language; we also run a big open day in May which covers all of our languages in one day, offering an overview of Modern Languages at Oxford and Q&A sessions for the different languages and joint degrees; and finally, there are University-wide open days in the summer when most of the departments and colleges are open so that you can get a sense of the University as a whole.
Below you will find the dates of our 2020 open days. You need to book a place on the language-specific open days and on the main Modern Languages open day, but you do not need to book for the university-wide summer open days. You can book here.
German, Saturday 29 February
Spanish and Portuguese, Friday 6 March
Russian and other Slavonic Languages, Saturday 7
Italian, Saturday 14 March
General Modern Languages (all languages we offer
and joint schools), Saturday 2 May
University-wide open days, Weds 1 and Thurs 2
July, Friday 20 September
Programmes for each of these open days are available here. Please note that there is no specific open day for French: students interested in French should attend the open day in May or one of the open days in July or September.
Stay tuned for more posts about open days – what to expect and how to prepare – but, in the meantime, if you’d like to meet us in person do book a place on one of these events. If you have any questions please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org and we look forward to meeting you later in the year!
This post was written by Sally Zacahrias, a lecturer in Education at the University of Glasgow, and originally appeared on the Creative Multilingualism blog. Creative Multilingualism is an AHRC-funded project investigating the creative dimension of languages – extending from cognition and production through to performance, texts and translation to language learning.
The year 2019 will be remembered by
some as the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings. It has been for Moon
enthusiasts the chance not only to reflect on Armstrong’s first steps
but also what the Moon means to them on a more personal level. The Moon
has been compared to a mirror that reflects our passions and beliefs.
As Philip Morton in ‘The Moon. A history for the future’ wrote:
…what people see when they
look at the Moon is indeed, for the most part a reflection of themselves
– of their preoccupations and theories, their dreams and fears. It has
been used for such reflection, or projection in science and fiction
alike (Morton 2019:20).
These Moon celebrations also
provided me with an opportunity to explore what the Moon meant to people
of different cultural and language backgrounds. The Moon is a powerful
lens for understanding and comparing different cultures as, firstly, it
features so strongly in all cultures and, secondly, it has come to
symbolise many everyday concepts (love, friendship, beauty, time) that
are shared between members of different cultural groups.
Culture can be thought of as a
set of shared ways to frame concepts that characterise groups of people
and often these understandings are reflected in the metaphors used by
people belonging to those cultural groups. When linguists talk about
metaphors they mean that they describe one thing in terms of another, so
‘The Moon is made of cheese’ is an example of a metaphor. The surface
of the Moon (which is strange and a bit abstract) is being compared to a
cheese with holes in it. One way to find out what the Moon means to
people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds is to look at
the various Moon idioms they use, a specific type of metaphorical
expression. Here are some examples that I have collected as part of this
Abstract concept associated with the Moon
être dans la lune
to be in the Moon
head in the clouds
spadł z księżyca
to fall from the Moon
er lebt hinter dem Mond
he lives behind the Moon
he has no idea what’s going on in the world
irrationality/ strange behaviour
I love you to the Moon and back
to love someone very much
oli mumanzi nka kwezi
you’re as brave as the Moon
bravery/ emotional strength
many Moons ago
a long time ago
the moon is dark bright round and missing a piece
to say life is uncertain, not all plain sailing
full Moon/ Moon of 14
During the summer, I and a team of science and language students from
the School of Education at University of Glasgow ran a couple of
workshops, ‘Stories and Science of the Moon’, for families as part of
the Glasgow Science Festival. One activity involved asking family
members what they thought each of these Moon idioms meant. I showed them
the idiom in the original language and its literal translation.
Interestingly, although the participants said they didn’t know the
language about 70% of the answers were correct!
One plausible explanation for this is that many of these idioms are
based on what we call ‘embodied’ metaphors. These are when mental images
that we have developed through our interaction with the physical world
are used to understand more abstract concepts. So, ‘I love you to the
Moon and back’ is based on the image of a long distance representing the
intensity of a feeling. These embodied metaphors are thought to be
understood across almost all languages and cultures. So, when trying to
understand an unfamiliar expression, such as an unknown idiom, we use
these embodied metaphors as sense-making resources.
During the workshop, we also explored how narratives and images of the
Moon from around the world have changed our perspective of how we
understand the universe and our place in it. For example, we looked at
how Johannes Kepler, a German astronomer-mathematician, wrote about
travelling to the Moon in ‘Somnium – the Dream’ in 1609, considered by
many to be the first ever piece of science fiction. The story was
written in Latin, at a time when people thought that the Earth was at
the centre of the universe. However, Kepler believed differently. By
telling a story in which a boy and his mother are taken to the Moon by
the moon spirit, and by using the Moon as an analogy of the Earth,
Kepler was able to change people’s perspectives of what they normally
take for granted. Seeing the everyday through a different image,
narrative or language can really transform our sense of reality!
We also explored how almost every civilisation has used the Moon to
govern daily life. Its regular phases and movements have been used for
calendrical purposes to mark time in many cultures. Ancient time was
both measured by the phases of the Moon but it was also the measure of
our activities: certain behaviours were assigned to particular phases of
the Moon. This can be still seen today in certain religious and
cultural festivals that are orchestrated by the Moon, for example,
Easter, Ramadan and the Chinese Moon festival.
To explore how the Moon features in people’s lives today at a more
individual level, and to discover what the Moon means to people from
different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, I have interviewed a
number of families, all living in Glasgow, over a period of six months.
The families spoke either Arabic, Polish, Mandarin or English: some of
the languages that make up Glasgow’s vibrant linguistic landscape. I
have been looking at how the family members use metaphor to talk about
time, and other abstract concepts, in relation to the Moon. We tend to
think that time is a universal concept, experienced the same way by
everyone. However, my data shows that people’s conceptions of time, when
talking about the Moon, vary in interesting and subtle ways depending
on their cultural background, the stories and books they’ve read, the
languages they speak and their age.
This study shows that although we all share and know the Moon,
different cultures and languages have responded to the Moon in
contrasting ways. Understanding this diversity allows for a more
complete picture of what makes us human, and how we through our
different languages relate to our natural world.
A special thank you to all my language enthusiasts who have been part
of this project’s creation: Dangeni, Rui He, Nourah Alshalhoub, Heba
Elmaraghi, Idris Al Adawi, Agnieszka Uflewska, Aneta Marren, Annette
Islei, Colin Reilly, and to the families I interviewed!
A blog for students and teachers of Years 11 to 13, and anyone else with an interest in Modern Foreign Languages and Cultures, written by the staff and students of Oxford University. Updated every Wednesday!
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