2018 ASMCF Schools Liaison & Outreach Funding awarded to French Studies at Queen’s University Belfast

Dr Steven Wilsonhas been awarded £480 to organise two French Outreach Days to be held for AS-Level pupils at Queen’s University Belfast in February 2019. This collaboration between French Studies at QUB and NICILT (Northern Ireland Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research) will be a major event with around 200 pupils (40% of the current AS French population of Northern Ireland) and 40 teachers expected in total, with the participation of undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as PGCE trainees.

The overarching aim of the event is to provide an uplifting, enjoyable and stimulating environment in which to showcase and explore the multiple benefits of studying French. Having consulted with teachers and teacher trainers on the type of support they would be most interested in, each Outreach Day will also include a dedicated CPD workshop focused on how to teach literature in a way that engages pupils and show them the relevance of studying literature. In terms of the students, this project will seek to demonstrate the following:

  • that French, as a global language, offers global opportunities for those whose future work will bring them into contact not only with people from France, Belgium and Switzerland, but Canada, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Asia/Oceania, as well as some of the world’s fastest-growing regions in North and sub-Saharan Africa;
  • that a knowledge of French opens doors to employment in some of the biggest organisations around the globe where it is an official language, including the EU, UN, NATO, Red Cross, the UNHCR, the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, the International Olympic Committee and FIFA;
  • that Brexit presents huge opportunities for pupils with good language skills. As UK Education Minister Nick Gibb has recognised: “It has never been more important for young people to learn a foreign language than now. An outward looking global nation needs a new generation of young people comfortable with the language and culture of our overseas trading partners.”
  • that studying French is fun! By giving pupils a flavour of what is on offer (including translation and oral comprehension activities) at one of the UK’s foremost language departments, with excellent student satisfaction scores, and by bringing along some of their own students and graduates to help lead sessions and to talk about their university experience, this event will demonstrate to school pupils that French at university is enjoyable as well as intellectually enriching.

The proposed format of each day is as follows:

9.30-10.00 Welcome and Introductory Talk: “Studying French: A World of Possibilities!”
10.15-11.00 5 Breakout Workshops – Translation into English (20 pupils in each)

Translation – short journalistic text on the benefits and dangers of social media (fitting with the ‘Culture and Lifestyle’ AS theme in the Northern Ireland CCEA curriculum). Each breakout group to be led by an academic member of staff.

After reading the text we will identify the ‘pitfalls’ of the translation and discuss translation techniques. A PGCE French student will sit with each group and help and encourage them with their translation. The creative and linguistic strengths of each version will be discussed.

11.00-11.20 Tea/coffee break
11.20-12.00 Listening Comprehension: Living and Working Abroad

3 QUB final-year French students will give a short overview, in French, of their year abroad experiences last year. Comprehension questions will be designed for pupils to answer based on the scripts the QUB students send to organisers in advance. Presentations will be supplemented by visually appealing images of the year abroad experience.

This session aims to inspire pupils by showing them the high levels of linguistic ability they can aspire to by studying French with us; and also to dispel some of the anxiety some of them may feel about the prospect of living and working/studying abroad for a year.

12.00-12.45 Lunch (a list of campus-based and other local eateries will be made available to school pupils; provided for teachers through QUB funding to allow for networking)
12.45-1.30 Key Skills Workshop: Reading and Analysing a Literary Text

In a consultation on which text(s) would be more appropriate for this activity, teachers were almost unanimous that pupils and teachers alike would benefit from a short workshop on an engaging, accessible text that is NOT on the AS syllabus, but relates to one of the key AS themes and offers significant opportunities for training in textual analysis skills.

A short excerpt with context from Annie Ernaux’s La Place will be sent to schools in advance so that pupils can look up unfamiliar vocabulary in advance. Targeted questions relating to the AS-Level theme of ‘Relationships’ (family structures; roles, responsibilities and relationships within families; challenges for families; intergenerational issues) will be discussed in small groups of up to 7 students with a QUB French postgraduate student mentoring each group.

The workshop will be used to set out why and how we analyse texts, to prompt pupils to engage with literature as a means through which we can approach topical societal challenges, and to reflect on the skills offered by literary analysis that would be useful to future employers. Pupils will then apply the skills they have learned to their respective AS texts in school.

1.30-2.00 Global Opportunities with French

This session will be a showcase of undergraduate and postgraduate research projects being carried out in French at QUB in order to open the minds of pupils and teachers to the breadth of opportunities that exist through studying French today. These will include: the role of languages in tackling global disease; the experience of European migrants as reflected in French literature; the role of religion in contemporary French society; the experience of French slaves in the nineteenth century; the speech patterns of young people in the Parisian suburbs; and literary representations of gender in the French Caribbean.

The second half of the showcase will feature a short talk by three past students on how they are using the skills they acquired from studying French in the employment fields of journalism, business and sport respectively.

2.00-2.45 Informal Social Event with the French Society (Q&A, sharing of experiences, outline of French Society activities and events, plus short student-led tour to see the facilities we have for language-learners at QUB).

In parallel: CPD session with teachers – roundtable discussion with staff at QUB who will share advice on approach literature teaching, including tips on how to enthuse pupils and show them the relevance of literature.

2.45-2.55 Evaluation


The ASMCFwelcomes applications for the next round of funding for the Schools’ Liaison & Outreach Initiative, with a deadline of 28 February 2019 for projects taking place between March and September 2019. For more information, see here.

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