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C'est la vie: The Usefulness of Languages in Education

by YPU Admin on October 15, 2015, Comments. Tags: Education, languages, linguistics, manchester, Research, and UoM

Introduction

Hi, my name is Helen and I have just completed my second year of undergraduate study at the University of Manchester.  The subject of my degree is English Language for Education, which is a small course but is very specific and has allowed me to combine my interests in both language and education. In my second year my degree enabled me to conduct research within two schools that concerned the use of languages other than English by bilingual and multilingual students in their school and their education.


In Depth

As part of my degree in my second year, we were required to complete a research project. We were given the choice to do our own independent research or to part take in a research project that the University was already undertaking. I wanted to conduct my own research, however after much deliberation on which subject and areas I would like to look into, I decided to join a project called Multilingual Manchester. This project focuses on promoting the awareness of language diversity in the Manchester area. After a few meetings with the organisers of the project, I understood my role was to take part in and conduct the School Language Surveys. This involved me and a few other students on the project entering two schools in Manchester (a secondary and primary school) and interviewing the students about their language use. This project was great as it allowed me to do research on language within education, which has always been a large interest of mine.

As I originally wanted to conduct my own research, I decided to add some of my own questions into the surveys the Multilingual Manchester project had already provided us. I was particularly interested in the usefulness of speaking a language other than English in school, whether the students used it much in school and if they enjoyed using their language. Using both my own questions and those from the Multilingual Manchester team, I was able to collect data that told me the range of languages that were spoken amongst the students in those schools and their opinions on whether they used languages other than English much and if they liked using languages other than English. I was also interested in the teachers’ perspectives on the use of languages other than English in the classroom, and so I emailed a survey to the teachers at one of the schools.

All the way through completing the project, although I knew my interests and what I wanted to get out of the research, I was unsure on what specific question I would have to answer for my report. However, when all the data I had collected was in front of me, my aims became much clearer and I was able to analyse my data and produce a report on students’ and teachers’ perspectives on the use and usefulness of multilingualism.

Throughout my degree I have become increasingly interested with language diversity, especially in the Manchester area, and I had wondered how this had impacted education. I really enjoyed this project as it gave me the opportunity to gain experience working in a school and to observe for myself the impact that increased language diversity is having on education. I found that the schools were really embracing language diversity, and were beginning to change their curriculum in order to include and teach the languages of their students across the school.

Going Further

As I enter my third and final year of my degree, I have decided to take this research further and work on it for my dissertation. As this project progressed, I found myself becoming increasingly passionate about the subject and the research that I was undertaking. I found it to be an important piece of research as it displays the change in attitudes toward language diversity in schools and where in education students find it useful to speak a second language and where they don’t. I want to carry this on to possibly see how schools could further integrate second language speaking into education, or to see the impact that second language speakers are having on teachers and the classroom.

For more information about the English Language for Education course at the University of Manchester http://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/2015/09173/english-language-for-education-ba-3-years-ba/

For further information about education courses at the University of Manchester http://www.seed.manchester.ac.uk/subjects/education/

For further details about Multilingual Manchester http://mlm.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/

For further information on the results of the School Language Surveys http://mlm.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/reports/schools-and-public-services/


 

Work Experience Stories: From the Nuffield Foundation

by YPU Admin on October 1, 2015, Comments. Tags: Nuffield, placement, Research, science, STEM, UoM, and Work Experience

Introduction

Hi, my name is Jen Young and I am a 17 year old student studying A-level biology, chemistry, geography and maths and always knew my future lay in the field of science. Therefore, when I heard of an opportunity to undertake a research project through Nuffield Research Placements, I jumped at the opportunity. I was thrilled to find out I was starting my research placement at Manchester University’s Dalton Cumbrian Facility on the 20th of July.


I applied because I was thinking of studying biology or biochemistry at university so when this opportunity came
up; I had to grab it with both hands as it would give me valuable experience in a research-based environment. This type of career appealed to me and I felt it was appropriate to gain first-hand experience of the work they do there and the different projects going on. Finally, it would allow me to learn some practical skills, including how to use some of the lab equipment which would surely aid my UCAS application and show that I have valuable experience in my subject area.

 

In Depth

My project focused on determining how gamma radiation affected the digestion of feedstock, in this case a poor quality grass from the hills of Cumbria called scrow, and how the pretreatment may affect the yield of biogas from set amounts of grass silage and slurry. In order to identify an appropriate method, several preliminary trials were carried out to determine the best volume of inoculum and the mass of grass silage per 50ml vial. A few other trials were undergone to determine grinding time and “mashability” so the investigation was quite thorough.


This project was requested by Riever Renewables a major anaerobic digester development company which gave the research a real sense of importance and it showed that it was relevant to current science. The research could even be used for a future PhD or paper which could prove to be beneficial to renewable energy production in the UK.


My previous knowledge about the affect of radiation pretreatment on feedstock was limited as it hadn't really
been done before. The only familiarity I had with the project was the process of anaerobic digestion but even then I have gained a bounty of knowledge in the subject. With access to the ideas of the PhD students I can confidently say I know exactly how they work and after my research placement I can say that I am able to efficiently and accurately use equipment.


The experience far exceeded my expectations as I was trusted to use extremely expensive equipment and spent a
lot of my time working in a laboratory environment without supervision, which allowed me to gain plenty of experience while also being independent and figuring things out for myself. It was amazing to undertake scientific tasks while expanding my knowledge of the area. It really helped me understand what it is like to be a research scientist and it has given me an insight into the world of research. The experience has made me even more determined to apply for a place on a biological science course at university, mainly due to the confidence this placement gave me and the impression it gave me of a career as a research scientist.


On my placement, I had two supervisors, Andy and Laura. They assisted me throughout my project and gave me an insight into not only their work but their lives as researchers. Laura would always make sure that I had enough research to carry out so I was never bored and I understood exactly what the project entailed. Andy showed me the ropes and helped me throughout, showing me how to use the equipment, what research had been carried out so far and what his role was. It was a great opportunity to ask questions and learn about their field while also getting to know them as a person.


The experience taught me to use several different types of equipment safely and efficiently and how to draw
conclusions from data collected. My practical skills developed immensely and I now feel more confident when using the equipment having learned how to use much more advanced equipment during my placement than I would be expected to use at school.


On my project, I also had to write a report. This enabled me to work on my literacy skills and made me further understand the scientific concepts by having to explain it to others. Having never written a scientific report I was worried, especially as it was potentially being used as part of a paper but it turned out quite well and I was able to write a detailed report of my method and an analysis of my results drawing my own conclusions. Now I feel much more confident. This skill will prove to be very useful when I go to university or even in year 13 when I write essay answers.


This experience has made me realise that I would love to pursue a career in research specifically in human biology and thanks to their advice I know exactly what path I want to take. Even if this path doesn't work out I know many other ways to work in research and after my experience I can say that I would enjoy working there and I find it really interesting.

Going Further 

I encourage anyone thinking about a career in a STEM subject to apply for a Nuffield Research Placement. The skills are invaluable and simply not covered in school. It will benefit you greatly, especially when thinking of going to university. It is a great way to spend some of your summer holidays and it is an experience that not many people get this early in life. The opportunity will require work and perseverance but it is entirely worth it, not only through teaching you new skills but also through providing you with confidence in your abilities.

Find out more:

Nuffield Research Placement: http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/nuffield-research-placements


 

Combining Cultures Through Music

Introduction

My name is José Guillermo Puello. I grew up in the Dominican Republic where I went to a French school. When I finished school I came to the UK to study music at university. I recently graduated with a PhD in Composition from the University of Manchester. My research focused on the integration of Dominican music and culture with European contemporary concert music. My thesis consisted of seven original pieces of music, including works for orchestra, for small chamber ensemble, duets and trios. I decided to pursue this area because I wanted my music to reflect my background. As the research progressed, I became interested in how the audience perceived the music and how I could integrate extra-musical elements into my music.

When I started my undergraduate degree, I never thought I was going to do a Master’s degree, let alone a PhD. It was towards the end of my second year that I started to integrate Dominican dance music (i.e. merengue) into my compositions. I continued to develop this throughout my third year and my Master’s. As a result, my style became clearer and my Masters supervisor suggested that I do the doctorate. These past four years doing the PhD provided the opportunity to better define what I want my music to be.

In depth

My doctoral research focused on integrating Dominican cultural elements into my music, building strong musical structures and developing my rhythmic language. To this effect, I researched the music of other Latin American composers, such as Astor Piazzolla, Amadeo Roldán, Tania León, Julio Alberto Hernandez, Alberto Ginastera and Leo Brouwer, to evaluate how they incorporated Latin American elements into their music. I also researched the music of other composers, such as Stravinsky, Birtwistle, Debussy, Bartók, Berio and Ligeti, to understand how other composers dealt with rhythm, folk music and the articulation of musical structures.

The act of composing is not just writing notes on the page but also of listening, studying and problem-solving. I don’t think I know of any composer that just sits down to write the music in their head. I always compare composing to an architect designing a building. It very often starts with a concept/idea that the composer/architect tries to realise using the techniques they have developed and borrowing/adapting the ideas and techniques of others.

During my PhD, my research into Dominican culture mainly influenced the concept of the piece that I was composing. For example, I wrote an orchestral piece based on a religious ritual and another based on a Dominican poem. As I read about the Dominican Republic and its history I realised that the fusion I was creating in my music could be compared to the melting pot of cultures that shaped Dominican history. The music, whilst taking inspiration in Dominican music, is closer in style to the music of European composers (i.e. contemporary classical music) than to merengue or salsa songs.

One of the most gratifying aspects of being a composer is writing for and collaborating with other talented musicians. I have been fortunate enough to have my music performed by a number of professional and amateur ensembles, including Manchester Camerata, Psappha, The Fourth Wall Ensemble and Quatuor Danel, in the UK, Europe, Canada, USA and the Dominican Republic. Furthermore, each new piece brings its own challenges, which provides the opportunity to keep learning and to keep imagining new musical possibilities.

Going further

If you would like to know more about the University of Manchester Music Department and the very active Manchester University Music Society, you can visit the following websites:

- http://www.alc.manchester.ac.uk/subjects/music/

-  http://www.mumusicsociety.co.uk

You can visit my website: www.joseguillermopuello.com or listen to my music on soundcloud: www.soundcloud.com/jgpuello  

Below are some links to pieces that I have listened to and studied as part of my PhD.

Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring

The video has a five-minute introduction. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rq1q6u3mLSM

Piazzolla’s Adios Nonino

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTPec8z5vdY

Ligeti’s Trio for Violin, French Horn and Piano

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQTNEx4P3qU

Juan Luis Guerra Todo tiene su hora (merengue song)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4s_5gfCNhY

Berio’s Sequenza III (for voice)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGovCafPQAE

Birtwistle’s Ritual Fragment

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAIKZiXPDRA

Messiaen’s Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3f4qdJHatNM

Debussy’s La mer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlR9rDJMEiQ

Varèse’s Ionisation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wClwaBuFOJA

Brouwer’s El decameron negro

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbcW8X73MBI

 

My Journey to a Masters in Italy

From High School I knew I really wanted to study languages and hopefully pursue a career in translation or interpreting. So I chose French and Italian at Manchester because I wanted to continue studying French after taking it at A Level; but I also wanted the opportunity to start a new language from scratch. Manchester offered several ab-initio languages and I decided I really wanted to study Italian.

During my time at Manchester I particularly enjoyed the modules which focused on core language and also linguistics, such as Structures of French Language, French Syntax & Morphology and The Structures of Modern Italian. They allowed me to gain a greater and more in-depth knowledge of both languages whilst benefitting my spoken language and understanding of where modern day French and Italian both stem from.

After graduating, I planned to work for one year, and now, having gained this experience, I will go to Italy and study for a Masters in Language, Society and Communication at The University of Bologna.


 

Humanity and Nature in 21st Century Chilean Cinema

by YPU Admin on August 20, 2015, Comments. Tags: Chile, cinema, culture, Humanities, humanity, languages, Latin America, media, nature, Research, and spanish

Introduction

My name is Nicola and I’m currently in the second year of an AHRC-funded PhD in Latin American Cultural Studies. My A-levels were in Spanish, French, History and Mathematics and in 2006 I went on to study Modern and Medieval Languages at the University of Cambridge in Scotland.

 As part of my first degree, I spent a year living and working as a translator in the city of Valparaíso in central Chile. After continuing at Cambridge to complete a Masters degree in Latin American Studies (specialising in Film and Visual Arts), I then moved to Manchester in 2011 where I trained and worked as a secondary school Spanish teacher.

In 2013, I began my PhD in the department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at the University of Manchester. My research explores how films influence and reflect the relationship between humanity and nature in the 21st century, with a particular focus on the representation of natural landscapes in contemporary Chilean cinema.

In Depth

Just over half of the world’s population now lives in cities and this figure is expected to increase to around two-thirds by 2050. When so many people live in urban environments, what does this mean for how we encounter and experience nature in the 21st century?

For many of us, the film and television screen is an important point of contact with the natural world. We watch nature documentaries, travel programmes, adventure films and cartoon animals, through which we encounter places, habitats and landscapes that we never experience in real life. The vision of nature that we see on-screen doesn’t simply reflect our relationship to nature; it also shapes it.

My research looks at films produced in Chile, a country with one of the most diverse and fascinating natural landscapes in the world. From north to south, Chile is the longest country in the world, stretching from the world’s driest desert in the north, through fertile agricultural valleys, chains of volcanoes and ancient forests, to the frozen expanses of Antarctica in the South. This huge natural diversity and geographical variety is reflected in its contemporary cinema, which makes it an interesting and important body of films for those of us interested in cinema and the natural environment.

The central argument of my thesis is that analyses of cinematic landscapes can no longer be confined to the landscape’s role as a symbol of national identity or an allegory of some aspect of national history. Instead, natural spaces can be more usefully discussed as “postnational landscapes”, which are marked by personal, local and global forces as much as by national cultures.

By expanding and refining approaches to landscape and nature in contemporary cinema, my research contributes to a growing academic interest in how culture influences our attitudes towards nature and how this impacts on the future of humanity’s relationship with the planet.

Going Further

For updates about my research activities, follow me on Twitter: @nicolarunciman

To watch new films by Chilean directors online, visit: http://www.cinepata.com/

For English language reviews and articles on South American cinema, music and art: http://www.soundsandcolours.com/

To find out what we’re up to in the Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, visit our blog: http://www.alc.manchester.ac.uk/subjects/splas/