Foreign languages are in a period of transition regarding requirements for graduation here at the University of Kentucky. French professor Sadia Zoubir-Shaw and French graduate student Amelia Stevens discuss the continuing importance of world languages in a regular curriculum, as well as the career possibilities that a second language opens up. Various actors and international artists that speak French to some degree are featured in this series of videos. Below is a translation of their conversation.
Stevens: You are listening to a podcast from the University of Kentucky, College of Arts and Sciences. My name is Amelia Stevens. Sadia Zoubir-Shaw is a professor of linguistics in the Department of French Studies. She is also the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of French and Italian Studies. In this podcast, Dr. Zoubir-Shaw talks about the department and the importance of languages.
Hello Dr. Shaw, and how are you?
Zoubir-Shaw: I am very well, Amelia. And you, are you doing well?
Stevens: Yes, I am doing very well.
Zoubir-Shaw: Very good!
Stevens: Could you talk to me a little bit about the Undergraduate program in French Studies? And, in particular, the changes of the program?
Zoubir-Shaw: Very good. Yes, with pleasure, Amelia. Effectively, we have proceeded with a number of changes in the heart of our courses - simply enough, for the benefits of our students and also to form the most effective courses possible. Traditionally, there have been boundaries between the diverse parts and diverse classes in our program where we have felt the divide and the slicing up of programs in all that we did. It seemed that the writing belonged only to the composition, that oral practice belonged only to conversation, and that writing belonged only to literature courses. However, it appears that language doesn’t really work like that. And I am absolutely delighted that my colleagues and I have had the opportunity to review a bit of organization of our program. Thus, we have succeeded in gathering all of the notions of language in terms of content. And of course, our goal – and I hope that our students are aware of the necessary but also effective changes, today we propose a formation of language but around the content – a content that is more or less defined according to the titles of the courses that we propose or a particular theme or orientation. Thus in all courses, everyone speaks – so everyone practices oral expression, written expression – oral comprehension and written comprehension, and of course all necessary written productions. We try to propose, if you’d like, language through current events, and language through the events that our students have finally lived through when studying abroad in France for a semester or a year. So, all of that is very very important because I think that we’ve made a real dimension rather than a literary dimension, that is to say, a dimension that doesn’t only belong to a book or to a story…
Stevens: Yes, and in my opinion, it’s much easier to remember something because you remember aspects of current events who are and rest there, presently. It is for, It’s a lot easier for conversations, especially with Francophone peoples…
Zoubir-Shaw: Exactly, exactly. You absolutely have reason, Amelia. Simply enough because we relate the content and the language to personal experience, or simply the experience a student has in both the United States and France when studying abroad, of course. Certainly, it is much more significant and I believe this is also the opportunity to speak. Because not all have linguistics assets to speak does not mean that students don’t have opinions or ideas or personal resources. So, this new approach is at the same time current and also centered around the content. We use, if you’d like, the work in the language as a support and then, of course, it is all of this content in the class that becomes the opportunity for students to participate and to share their own experiences.
Stevens: Thank you. I know that studies in foreign languages at the University of Kentucky have always been presented as an essential element to a number of professions. Can you talk to me a bit about that?
Zoubir-Shaw: Yes, of course. Listen, as a graduate student or future graduate student, you realize, of course, once prepared for a BA, so a certificate in language, it is always of course recommended to continue to be able to integrate in the work world and obtain a career. And it appears today that, when considering a more multidisciplinary teaching, we have professional strengths much more important and much more effective. So to learn a language today is an essential tool. And it is also a tool so complementary to other professions, other studies like international relations, diplomacy, and even science, because one has a tendency to separate these areas and it’s a shame because students who work with Doctors Without Borders, for example, can be able to work in Francophone countries. For the students who have maybe a French Minor or a French Major and those who have other professional perspectives, it is an invaluable asset. No matter the goal, especially as you have this, these videos on line that our students can consult. I think it is an outstanding example of people, in this case celebrities, who have pledged to learn French for various reasons. We see that in life, they are not specialists in French – they are actors, they are celebrities, singers – and yet, all find a passion, a value, and a willingness to learn a foreign language precisely because the understand the value in it. I think that to speak another language is also to have a different and new perspective on the world. It is well known that language shapes thought and thought is influenced by language. And all of that is a little bit that enriches us, all multilingual or bilinguals, that is what enriches us because we learn to perceive and understand the world differently.
Stevens: And, finally, is it possible to speak a little about studying abroad?
Zoubir-Shaw: Yes, yes yes yes. Of course, and I believe you are a good example because you have studied abroad yourself, right? Amelia, where did you study?
Zoubir-Shaw: To Paris, excellent. Rightly, Paris is one of our destinations, which is normal; it is the capital of France no less. But, we have all sorts of programs that go, programs that go in the summer, but also programs that last a semester and sometimes a year. So, I believe these destinations include Aix-en-Provence, you have Normandy, Deauville, you have all sorts of exchanges in a multitude of destinations in France. And of course, it is an almost mandatory destination if you want to learn French, its culture, and beyond the classroom course. These programs provide complete immersion. And immersion courses, we know very well are important and essential to learning simply enough because you are no longer a spectator, you are an actor. In the classroom, you are a spectator, you listen and learn that which we say and you listen to what others say. But study abroad allows something extraordinary; you are not only a spectator but also an actor. You participate in the everyday life and then you become an observer – a significant and essential asset or gain when studying abroad, and when you return home, you return to the United States a little transformed. It was certainly your experience, was it not?
Stevens: Absolutely, I think so.
Zoubir-Shaw: Very good, yes yes yes, so always recommended and encouraged. And if I had a private jet and was a millionaire, I believe each year I’d take all of my students.
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