The problem with Language degrees in the UK is that just about every course is different. The ratio of literature vs. film vs. hardcore language varies greatly from course to course. Some courses are notoriously literature based, such as those on offer at Oxford and Cambridge, yet some are very much orientated to instilling high-level communication skills in the language, such as the University of Southampton.
This all means that prospective students often struggle with working out which course suits them best, and have an even worse time trying to see which they prefer: literature or language. With this in mind, the language department, and in particular Miss M A Perrière organised for a group of six of us to take part in a “taster day” organised by the University of Nottingham’s MFL faculty.
On the 7th December, Maddi, Kate, Hannah, Jess, Amy, myself and Miss Perrière headed off to Nottingham University’s campus near the Queen’s Medical Centre in the city centre. When we first arrived on campus we were greeted by Dr Tara Webster-Deakin and then taken on a small tour around the campus by a current language student. Following this, myself and Maddi went to a Spanish film workshop about Pedro Almodóvar’s 1988 film entitled “Mujeres al borde de un Ataque de Nervios”.
The workshop was a fascinating discussion about Almodóvar’s political commentaries on society through the media of film. While we were doing this, the others were at a Portuguese beginner’s workshop which I hear was insightful and demonstrated how language students often chose to take a language ab initio, in doing so it showed how at university, these languages taken from scratch are taught in an incredibly intense way.
When these two workshops were finished, we came back together for a workshop on the 2002 film “Monsieur Batignole” directed by Gérard Jugnot. This workshop was more aimed at discussing the situation in occupied France during the second world war and the sacrifices certain families made to protect themselves and sometimes others and then how this is shown in the film.
After an authentic lunch experience in the campus’ student union we then attended a talk by Dr Jean Andrews on the differences in biblical art between the romance countries of Portugal, Spain, France and Italy. But more importantly, the talk was linking the differences in art that depicts the same people from the same text to the different interpretations of the religion and different religious attitudes in those countries. For example, Spanish Catholic biblical renaissance art often depicts the Virgin Mary in a very angelic manor due to the high respect the Spanish Catholic religion has for her and the importance they place on her. This talk was thoroughly interesting and provided an insight into something that is often an integral part of language courses: the study of art and the cultural contextuality that goes with it.
All in all, the day was certainly very useful – for me it really cemented the idea of going to university and studying languages, something I had before been uncertain of. Everyone involved enjoyed it as much as I did and we are all very grateful to Nottingham University for offering us this opportunity and Miss Perrière and the MFL department for taking us.
Tom Coleman (L6S)