Know the Lingo: The latest Linguistics Blog from UWE

Contributor: Craig

What is Lingo? Lingo is the new blog for English Language and Linguistics at UWE. It is a staff and student collaboration to encourage communication and engagement with all matters affecting students of language and linguistics.

What’s it about? Lingo is a new hub for language events and news, what’s going on at UWE and in the world of language in general; shared experiences and advice about careers; features of interest relating to all kinds of language matters; and anything else to encourage debate and discussion to engage students with the wider cultural experience of language learning.

How you can be a part of it? We are looking for contributions from anyone with an interest in language and linguistics,particularly anyone who has studied it, or whose work is either linguistics or student-related. If you’re working on a particular project or have attended a conference, or you have some useful advice for students, we want to hear from you.

Who to contact? You can either contact me directly by email at craig3.evans@live.uwe.ac.uk, through Linkedin at www.linkedin.com/pub/craig-evans/65/59a/a88, or visit the Lingo ‘About’ page for further contact information.

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Work Experience – Mentor – University of Sheffield

Contributor: Charlotte

What?  Mentor for the University of Sheffield

Why did you choose this place? I had worked with younger children and wanted experience working with teenagers.

How did you find the application process? The application process was typical of many jobs. There was an application form and then an interview, the interview was fairly informal involving working in a group which definitely helped my nerves!  Before starting my second year of mentoring I was invited to be a lead mentor responsible for the group of mentors in my assigned school.

What do you do here? I work with young people on both a 1:1 basis and in the classroom to act as a role model and mentor.  I help to raise their achievements and aspirations by targeting subject areas students are having trouble with or by helping them to research careers they’re interested in.  ‘Widening participation’  is another aspect of my role,  whereby groups who are typically underrepresented in Higher Education such as low income or single parent families are encouraged to reach their potential and attend University.

As a mentor I have worked in two very different secondary schools. First was one with a ‘satisfactory’ judgement from OFSTED whilst the second was deemed to be ‘good’.  Seeing such different teaching environments really opened my eyes to how the school which you attend as a child affects your future.

The good things: I have often found the role rewarding when you can provide answers to questions the pupils have struggled to find themselves. Whether these are questions about careers, university, or just tips for handing homework in on time- you can see the impact you’re having on a young person.

Being a linguist, my first school was particularly interesting. Many pupils were new to the country and had a limited understanding of English which proved to be a major barrier to their learning. It showed how knowledge of TESOL could prove useful to those wanting to enter teaching in the UK and not just those wanting to teach abroad.

The bad things: If the children aren’t having a good day or if it’s snowing(!) it can be difficult keeping them on task, I’ve definitely had to learn to be more patient. Also, entering the schools for the first time was daunting but the teachers were all very welcoming so my initial anxieties were quickly forgotten.
Anything else we should know: Despite not wanting to be a teacher when I graduate, the experience has made me want to work in Education or more generally in the public sector. Seeing how you can help improve people’s lives despite only seeing them once a week definitely made me eager to know what you could do with more time! I believe my linguistics degree will put me in good stead for such roles, it has taught me to be more organised and a better communicator. Additionally, what I thought was just an interest in people’s language when beginning my degree; I now see is a wider interest in people’s lives. So I’m thankful to both my Linguistics degree and experiences like mentoring which have helped me to discover the route I want to take after graduation.

Voluntary Position – Volunteer at the Bilingualism Summer School 2012 – Bangor University

Contributor: Callum

What? Volunteer for the Bilingualism Summer School at Bangor (University) 2012.

Why did you choose this place? My reason to assist with the Summer School was down to th experience it would give me, the Summer School had top names in the field of Bilingualism travelling into Bangor and this is something of which I wanted to be part. Names such as, Fred Genesee, Cheryl Frenck-Mestre, Ofelia Garcia, and Bonnie D. Schwartz were to attend, amongst many other experts in bilingualism research.

How did you find the application process? The application process was very easy, by this I mean there were no forms, or references to go around retrieving, Patrick Rebuschat (Summer School co-ordinator) asked students from the School of English Language and Linguistics to help with volunteering, we had around twelve or so helping which was around enough.

What do you do here? Throughout the two weeks of the Summer School the job of the volunteers was to make sure everything ran smoothly, and that visiting guests were content. Being more specific, these duties included helping lecturers set up their classes, escorting guests to lecture rooms, and taking them for lunch post-lectures, assisting with the set-up of events for keynote speeches and poster sessions. Furthermore, a top friend and I were asked to help a partially sighted student for the duration of the Summer School. As you may suspect, we aided this student around, making sure to keep her safe, though we did have her guide dog on hand also! This alone was an entirely new experience for both Fay (aforementioned friend) and I, but we both were able to make a new friend! Agata (said partially sighted student) remarked later that our assistance and care had made her stay in Bangor a very enjoyable one. So that was a very nice reward from the Summer School! The good things: Overall the Summer School was a great thing to have participated in; volunteering meant getting the tuition for next to nothing. Granted we couldn’t attend all advertised lectures, as we had to be in other places helping out and such. However, not just myself, but the rest of the volunteers did a great job, so it all balances out! All the same, to have been able to interact with a whole host of new people, from a vast range of different backgrounds all to unite and discuss and share ideas about bilingualism was a very worthwhile thing indeed! Though some of the talk at the pub may have sometimes strayed away from this, ha.

The bad things: If I’m honest, the schedule for the day was a little packed, which did result in long days, and if you add getting up at eight in the morning it made for a lot of tired people. Though it must be said it was the first time that this Summer School has been run at Bangor, so timing of the day may be altered for any future Summer Schools…that or I simply do not have the stamina to last a long day.

Anything else we should know: One additional thing I feel is worth mentioning is that early into week one I created a Facebook and Twitter page (though the latter was not a great success) to bring everyone together and to keep guests informed of events and ongoings throughout the two weeks. The Facebook page proved quite the success; as people made friends on Facebook as they do and can stay in contact with people they may have otherwise not had chance to see again.

Second noteworthy thing was that I was able to present my BA dissertation at one of the poster sessions, this was quite a unique opportunity that presented itself and I am very happy that I took it! Though my throat became hoarse from all the explaining that needed to be done, I was very proud to be presenting in the same room as people older than myself who had more years of experience in linguistics/ bilingualism.

Final thing to inform you of was that the second day of the Summer School was in fact my graduation from Bangor University (Linguistics BA; 2;1 for the record) safe to say I was unable to help out with most of the events on this day!

— If there is anything you have read from this you would like to know more about, feel free to email me at, callumrobsonsu@hotmail.co.uk, all the same you are very welcome to tweet me @CallumRobson

Voluntary Position – Peer Guide for the School of English Language and Linguistics – Bangor University

Contributor: Callum

What? Peer Guide for the School of English Language and Linguistics at Bangor University; 2010 – 2012.

Why did you choose this place? My Peer Guide when I was but a mere Fresher did an excellent job of helping me settle during my first ever week at Bangor. By this token, I felt a motivation to return the favour as it were, and wanted to give back so applied to become a Peer Guide.

How did you find the application process? For what I was required to do it was a pretty standard set of affairs, a basic application form with a required reference too. That was not too hard to get together; after all the “Peer Guiding Scheme” and academic schools are just wanting some competent, helpful people to be Peer Guides; so they wouldn’t make the application process too daunting. Additionally being part of a smaller school, we only usually get twenty or so wanting to be Peer Guides anyway, this is usually about the right number for the amount of Freshers we get (approximately sixty to eighty).

What do you do here? The principal focus orientates around “Freshers’ Week” (or Welcome Week as it’s also known), that time when, as a lot of you will have done, landed at your University and needed some guidance to assist with getting around, and otherwise settling in. Through a lot of planning, our school provides a week of events to help welcome and integrate new students to Bangor, this includes from quizzes, trips around the area as well as the occasional trip to the pub. You get the idea I’m sure, like most Freshers’ Weeks at University the aim is fun with a side of reassurance, however this system allows for students to be well acquainted with their course mates, as well as having someone look out for them, before their first year has truly begun. Of course, the work does not stop the minute Freshers Week ends, it is important to keep in contact with the new students during the year, I, for example, usually invite my Freshers out for a few drinks at the end of their first year of study, then once again a few months later, just to catch up, and check they’re in good stead.

The good things: For me, this is all down to the relationships formed between, firstly, working with the Peer Guides as a unit. A team which have a goal to create a successful Freshers’ Week for all involved, and that in itself is a rewarding prospect. I should make mention here that I came up with a ‘mentoring’ scheme
within the Peer Guides, that is to say the ‘senior’ Peer Guides are paired with a ‘junior’ Peer Guide. The idea of this is that, in some way like with the Peer Guide/Fresher relationship, the ‘junior/senior’ Peer Guide relationship allows new to learn from experienced. Of course, this is a two way thing, new Peer Guides
may themselves bring new ideas to the front which are always welcome, and these can initially be discussed with their senior Peer Guide, before being brought
up in meetings, as an example. I must of course make mention of the Freshers themselves, as this is what the scheme is here for! It is actually a very pleasing experience to aid your Freshers through their life at University, helping them settle in, and everything in between.

The bad things: I won’t go into anything specific here, all I’ll say is you’re working with people, so that’s going to be the main source of anything going wrong. All I’ll say is make sure everyone on the Peer Guide side of things, everyone has planned things out and you should generally be ok. Otherwise, Freshers’ Week can be a little tiresome with a lot of running around involved, but this is what you signed up to, so you can’t really complain. And at the end of the day the positives out-weigh the negatives with this sort of things.

Anything else we should know: If your University does not have a Peer Guiding scheme and you feel it would improve Freshers’ Week, bring it up with your respective school/University and make some inquiries! I have found it a fantastic two years’ worth of experience, working with both Freshers and Peer Guides that will certainly be high up on my written CV!

Work Placement – English Monitor for Summer School, Alicante, Spain

Contributor: Tom

Where? Primary School in Alicante, Spain

What? “English Monitor for Summer School”

Why did you choose this place? In a lecture in my first year at university, my tutor advertised this job. Lurking at the back of my mind was the thought that, perhaps one day, I’ll want to become a teacher. It seemed a perfect opportunity to see if this was the best career path to follow – I was simply helping out.

How did you find the application process? Easy. I emailed the school along with my CV. They replied and accepted me and my friend on the same degree course as me. They said they accepted me because I seemed keen and they were looking for people who can’t speak Spanish (which I couldn’t). I assumed this was to ensure the kids were in a “total immersion” environment.

What do you do here? We (me, my friend from university plus two PGCE graduates) arrived in Alicante, and were briefed on the schools’ expectations of us over the next five weeks. We were expecting to be assisting teachers – but it turned out we were expected to be the teachers ourselves! We were given a timetable each and shown a cupboard of their teaching materials. We were then told to just get on with planning lessons every weekday for four weeks for six different groups, the oldest being around 14, the youngest being only a few months old… I was slightly concerned about the first day, but as I knew that the school knew that I had no teaching experience, surely they won’t be expecting too much from us?

In the first lesson I was in charge of a group of around twenty 3-year-olds. Luckily I was accompanied with their teacher, but she spoke no English and I spoke very little Spanish. After around ten minutes of awkward bumbling around, I found a box of brightly coloured toy animals. I made stupid animal noises and said the name of the animal. I soon learnt that 3-year-old children like making animal noises (kids are strange), so I taught animals (because all Spanish kids need to know the English word for “lion”), colours, a few numbers and probably some other bits.

Lesson 2, where I taught 10-year-olds, was much more difficult. Their proficiency in English ranged from “excellent” to “only-here-because-parents-can’t-be-bothered-to-look-after-their-kids”. From a novice’s perspective, lesson planning became a nightmare. My saving grace came when I was dragged away from the lesson for an “emergency meeting”.  Apparently we had been receiving “negative feedback” from both the kids and the principal. So I said

WELL OF COURSE WE WOULD, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT WHEN YOU EMPLOY PEOPLE ON THE BASIS THAT THEY’VE NEVER TAUGHT BEFORE? DAVID BLOODY CRYSTAL?! OBVIOUSLY NOT. **** YOU GUYS, I’M GETTING ON THE NEXT FLIGHT HOME.

Except I didn’t say that: while I was utterly livid and immediately regretted boarding the flight to Spain, I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to live in Alicante for as long and as cheaply as possible and, well, I wanted to do this right – I figured it’d be best to keep on. We all continued the rest of our first day, with varying levels of success, and stayed behind afterwards to plan lessons. I was utterly knackered. And that was only the first day.

By week two, things got much better. I got into the swing of planning lessons each day and allowing my creativity to run riot. I wrote songs, made a treasure hunt and basically ran around the school pretending to be a pirate/dinosaur/robot, all in the good name of “education”. Sure, there were some really stressful moments, but I started really enjoying the job when I could see that the kids were actually remembering the things you taught them.

The school lasted for four weeks. In the fifth week the English Teachers went up camping in the nearby mountains along with a whole new bunch of students, this time aged between 10-15 years. By that time my brain had nearly fried itself from both overheating and overworking, but as the students were new I could repeat a lot of the language games I’d either learnt or made up while at the school

The good things: I got to live in Alicante, got paid 100€ per week with free accommodation and lunch, and I had enough time to explore and enjoy myself.
I learnt a lot about time management and planning ahead. Even though I had some pretty terrible days at the school, I left my job happy and immensely proud at what I had achieved. I met some great people, including most of the (non-management) staff at the school, and have a new found respect for all teachers everywhere.

Also I never want to teach children. Never.

The bad things: I got sunburnt, I lost my voice, I spent more money than I actually earned, and to top it all off, in the last week I was assigned a completely different class where the teacher left with me, alone, in charge of thirty children. A fat kid then spat on me.

Anything else we should know: When applying for jobs and work experience, especially abroad, research the employers and the position as thoroughly as you can. Ask questions and try to establish exactly what you’ll be doing. I certainly felt at a disadvantage purely because I had no idea that the job would be that difficult.
In spite of that I’m actually glad I did take the job. I most certainly would have regretted leaving or even never going in the first place.
—–
I ramble a lot and I can be an incoherent writer. Coupled with the fact that the whole experience seems so long ago I feel like I might have missed some sort of vital information here. So if you have any questions at all I’d be more than happy to respond in the comments below.

Work Placement – Research Assistant

Contributor: Stacey
Where? The Full English, Clifton, Bristol
What? Research Assistant for English language academics
Why did you choose this place? The activities of the company suited my skills and interests
How did you find the application process? Very straight forward: sent in my CV and cover letter after coming across an ad for the job position on my university’s job mailing list. Was invited for interview and then offered the position.
What do you do here? I mainly prepare research documents for projects relating to English academia. This includes: data entry in spreadsheets and databases; sourcing project data, books and journal articles; maintaining records; preparing bibliographies, indexes and references; developing online questionnaires; proofreading research papers and articles; writing copy for marketing materials and setting up online booking systems.
 
The good things: My employers are fantastic – they are incredibly flexible in terms of working your hours around uni life, they are interested in helping young people and therefore they constantly look for opportunities to help guide you in your future career path and they have a unilateral managerial approach meaning that they ask for your input when considering how to improve the company or run things better. The fact that it’s a micro company means that you’re given a lot of responsibility and gain a great deal of experience.
The bad things: Some tasks can be a little dull but then again the good working environment makes up for it. No full time work prospects within the company itself.
Anything else we should know: This position really compliments your studies especially if you are studying subjects such as English/Linguistics/Languages/Journalism/Media etc.