Only showing posts tagged with 'language' Show all blog posts

Intern Insight - The School of Life

by YPU Admin on May 1, 2020, Comments. Tags: animal ethics, ethics, french, Humanities, intern, intern insight, language, and spanish


Hello! I’m Krystyna. I’m a graduate intern at the University of Manchester and I work in the Student Recruitment and Widening Participation team. This means that I work in a team which works closely with schools and colleges in order to show learners what university is all about and what other options young people have to continue their education and succeed in the future.

I studied French and Spanish at the University and in my final year I did an extended research project on the topic of anthropomorphism – the way that animals (or non-human characters) are treated as if they had human qualities. Not at all French or Spanish! But what does all this have to do with what I studied and my current job?


What is the School of Life?

You may have heard people refer to university as ‘The School of Life’, but what do they mean by this? Arriving at university is an experience unlike any other. You are likely to be living without your family for the first time, independently, with a group of other students. You can meet new people every day if you want to through your course, and though the various societies (clubs) and activities going on on-campus or in the city. You are faced with so many new situations that your ability to overcome problems gets better, and you find yourself getting more confident. More confident and learning a whole lot of new skills and knowledge. All of these experiences give you an insight into the world beyond your comfort zone and prepare you for your future whether you have a career in mind or not.

As you find your feet, and get deeper into your work and settle into your student life, you also start finding out more about your interests – what are the things that spark something inside you? What are the things that get you excited? Where is it that your strengths lie? What do you want to get better at? These were some of the questions that helped me make the most of the opportunities at university.

How does this help you grow?

University isn’t only about attending your classes and only sticking to classes from your course – that’s right! If you’re doing a business degree you can take up a language and vice versa! I was able to take a course on animal ethics in my final year which explored the relationship that we, humans, have with animals. Not only was this fascinating, but it also changed my world view. This, paired with my growing abilities in the languages I was learning, made me reconsider my future. I started thinking beyond my subject and started thinking about how I wanted to impact society in the future.

I became a student ambassador in my first year through to my final year. This is a role in which you represent the university at events and get to talk to people visiting campus about your experience there. As an ambassador, one of the things I enjoyed was the opportunity to work with schools. I would help university staff run events that encourage secondary school pupils to take up languages and in my final year, I was able to teach four beginner French lessons to 12 pupils in year eight at their school. This is because many, if not all, universities also work with their local communities in many different ways and I was able to be a part of that.   


How does this help shape your future?

As I came closer to finishing my degree, I started to understand that my degree doesn’t restrict me to finding a job linked directly to my studies. I started to understand that at university you learn so many different skills that can be applied to many different jobs. At university, not only did I gain independence, experience and learn about many things that I wouldn’t have otherwise learned about (such as studying linguistics, and animal ethics, and even studying abroad), I was able to reflect on my experiences and skills, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses and find where it is that I want to go next.

If you decide to come to university, I hope that you will push yourself to learn and experience new things, get involved in the work that your university does in its community and discover, from these experiences, where your passion might lie. I hope you have an excellent experience in the School of Life!


The Mechanics of Language


My name is Alina, and I am a first-year PhD student in Linguistics. The most common two questions I get asked when I say this are: “What is Linguistics?” and “How many languages do you speak?” So, I’ll begin by answering these. Linguistics is the “scientific study of language”. It is a vast discipline, but some examples of what linguists are interested in are: how grammars are constructed, how language changes, what the similarities and differences are between the languages of the world, how children and adults learn languages, how people’s use of language varies according to social factors (gender, age, context etc.), how the order of words in a sentence gives that sentence meaning, the list goes on…!

As for the second question, being a linguist does not automatically mean you speak tons of languages (though some do)! I speak French, I am learning Spanish, and I understand Reunion Creole, which is the language that my PhD research is on. Reunion Creole is spoken on the island of La Réunion, a French overseas department (next to Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean). Creole languages are relatively new languages (compared to English or French, for example) which arise when groups of speakers with different native tongues are found in a situation where they need to communicate with one another. This happened in La Réunion when French colonisers settled on the island and imported slaves from Madagascar and East Africa. Later, immigrants from India and China came to the island to work. Over the subsequent generations, the language formed through the interaction of these groups of speakers. It is now the native language of the majority of the island, spoken alongside French. Many of the words in Reunion Creole are derived from French words, so it may sound familiar to a French speaker, but the grammars of the two languages are different. 

Cap Noir, La Réunion: here’s a picture which shows you the beautiful mountainous landscape of La Reunion

In Depth…

So how did I find myself doing a PhD on this topic?! I have always had a fascination for foreign languages, and just words in general, which led me to study French at undergraduate level. During my degree, I chose modules in French Linguistics and really enjoyed them. I enjoy the discipline as it applies the scientific rigour and logic of the Sciences and Maths, to an inherently social phenomenon: language. In the third year of my degree, I got the opportunity to go on a year abroad. I chose to study in La Réunion, and it was there that I discovered Reunion Creole.  On returning, I decided I wanted to continue studying and explore the subject of Linguistics in more depth with an MA and PhD.

My PhD project investigates the syntax and focus structure of Reunion Creole. This is essentially how the word order of a sentence can be manipulated to change its emphasis and by consequence, its meaning. And what is the point in this research? Firstly, a better understanding of the mechanics of individual languages enables us to make comparisons with the languages of the world. This in turn allows us to better understand the faculty of language, which is a fundamental part of our existence. Secondly, knowledge of the technicalities of a language also enables us to better teach it in the classroom. In La Réunion, Reunion Creole is an officially recognised regional language and French is the national language. Historically, French has been more highly regarded and continues to be the language of the law, administration and schooling.  Like many creole languages, Reunion Creole has not always been highly regarded with respect to French, despite it being the native language of the majority of the island. A person’s mother tongue is a fundamental part of their identity, so I consider it very important that it be valued. Furthermore, research has suggested that bilingualism has cognitive benefits, which may reduce the likelihood of dementia, for example. It is therefore imperative that bilingualism is encouraged, so any research promoting historically undervalued languages serves this purpose.

La plage de l’Ermitage, La Réunion. 

Going Further…

If you’re interested in languages generally, there are plenty of resources that may feed your curiosity:

Grand Bénare, La Réunion: at the top of a hike in La Réunion – above the clouds! 


What does it mean?

by YPU Admin on July 29, 2013, Comments. Tags: Bible, language, meaning, metaphor, Religion, and Research


My name is Richard, and I am a third year PhD student in Religions and Theology.  After finishing my A Levels way back in 1997, I studied English Literature for my first degree at university.  I then did my teaching qualification and taught English, history and religious studies at school and college level for 8 years.  Four years ago I decided to go back to study at Manchester and did my Masters and then PhD.  In addition to this, I am an ordained priest in the Open Episcopal Church, a small liberal catholic denomination.

In the same way that people might study metaphors in plays, poems or novels, I am studying them in the Bible – particularly in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.  This is an important area of study, because the metaphors used affect the way that readers think or feel about what is written.  Also, the Bible could be seen to be very different from other literature because people use it to guide them in what they do in their lives.

In Depth

What is a metaphor?  This is a question that stirs up a lot of debate, and some people argue that all language is possibly metaphor.  However, for simplicity, let us take the example from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet when Romeo says “Juliet is the sun”.  Here, Romeo is comparing the lovely Juliet to the big ball of gas in the sky that provides light and warmth.  What picture do you think that paints of Juliet’s characteristics, the way she looks, how she is as a person?  Maybe the reader would think that Juliet is very important to Romeo, like the sun is to the earth, or that she provides him with emotional warmth.

Now, imagine if Romeo instead compared Juliet to an iceberg – what a different picture that would create!  This could be very negative, making her seem emotionally cold and uncaring, or even dangerous or cruel!

So, you can see from this basic example how important metaphors are in affecting the meaning of a text.  The Bible is a text that has caused a lot of debate, argument and fighting over its meaning.  Where we think metaphors are used in the Bible, it is important that we consider what those metaphors may or may not mean.

Let us take an example from Romans in the New Testament of the Bible, which was originally written in Greek.   In Romans 4:3, it says that because Abraham believed God’s promises, God “accounted” to him that he was a righteous person (meaning someone who is decent, good or doing things right).  Notice here the word “accounted” (logizomai in Greek), which is often used in business or economics – think about the job of an “accountant”.

The question I am asking is this – how does this metaphor of accounting add to the meaning?  Is it just used for the sake of it, or does it mean that God is prepared to pay Abraham back for his faith with some kind of spiritual reward – maybe something lovely in heaven, or some kind of authority or power on earth?  If we look at this from an economic perspective, this puts God in debt to the believer, and thus makes the role of the believer seem more important than some Christians might be comfortable with.  As such, this work has the potential to create a lot of controversy.  Although, if the Bible is to be studied honestly then those who study it cannot and must not always try and avoid offending people who don’t like what they might say about it.  All study must be objective and free.

Despite this controversy, studying metaphor in the Bible might help us to understand it much better, and also help us to answer some of the really big questions about what the Bible tells us about God, Christ and Christian religion – whether we are believers, non-believers or those who are undecided.

Going Further

A great all round website for information on all faiths is the BBC Religion website

The BBC also has a schools version of this website useful for teachers and students alike.

Britkid is an interesting website that shows different religions from the point of view of children.

For those studying religion at GCSE level, the BBC's Bitesize provides useful revision help.

To see copies of texts of all faiths, Sacred Texts has a great collection.

For teachers, but also interesting for A Level students, there is RE Online.

For A Level students wanting to look at university level papers and articles, the New Testament Gateway is worth a look.

The University of Manchester Religions and Theology website is a must for information about religions and theology courses offered by the University. And you can see what Francesca, another PhD student, is researching in her earlier blog post for the YPU. 

A visit to the Manchester Museum Greco-Roman exhibition is also highly recommended, as well as the John Rylands Library on Deansgate for special collections relating to religion. 

The Brightside Trust also provides information about studying for a degree in Religious Studies