Archives de catégorie : Billets

Music in the student’s environment

Less than half of the population in France play a musical instrument. Most students nowadays acknowledge immersing themselves in a musical environment for at least two hours each day and youngest people are regular attendees at concerts and musical events.

According to an informal investigation run among the Master students this year, we’ve found that the majority of students listen to music every day when going to work. Fewer would rather listen to music at home at the end of the day. In fact, listening to music or practicing an instrument appears to be a useful means to relax, allowing students to isolate themselves before an important event or sitting an exam. Others have suggested that music stimulates their brain and brings them motivation to accomplish the tasks of the day.

As for completing university assignments while listening to music, 80% of students acknowledge doing so. Most of them express a preference for a certain style of music according to the type of academic activity in which they are engaged.

For instance, classical music holds a major role in students’ working atmosphere. It has the advantages of not being harsh and of not having lyrics to which the attention is too often attracted.

When doing research for an essay or a presentation, students would rather listen to instrumental music  (classical music, soft music or jazz). Some of them also listen to movie soundtracks, but they rarely listen to rock or metal since most of these styles include songs and thus lyrics which can influence their writing.

When summarizing courses, most of the student will still avoid listening to songs, but they do have diverging opinions on listening to soft or rhythmic music. It rather depends on the importance and the subject of the course. Yet, when revising their courses for an exam, the majority recommends not to listen to any kind of music. They would rather choose a quiet environment so that their mind can entirely focus on the subject.

Alongside stimulating thinking abilities, music has a scientifically proven effect on our linguistic acquisitions (perception and oral expression) through the process of singing*. This is the reason why reading aloud or singing when learning a course can be quite useful for people having an auditive memory. Some of the students use this method.

93% of students, either professional or hobbyist singers, sing (quite often, if not everyday) in any familiar environment (kitchen, bathroom…). Besides, singing opens the rib cage, works on the breathing process and lays down the rhythm of speech. This is therefore quite useful for oral performances in a lecture or for those wishing to become teachers.

Therefore, merging studies with music is not only beneficial for most M.Phil students but it also directly contributes to their academic accomplishments.

 

*Called ‘musicotherapy’ (Frégaville-Arcas, O. (2010). Musique sur ordonnance, Science et santé, 0 32-33), dealing with linguistic troubles and psychological traumas through the process of listening to music and singing.

The art of balancing work and studies



It is well known that the student lifestyle can be a bit of a financial struggle. In this regard many students have to work at the same time as they attempt to pass degrees. 56% of  the students who answered our survey “
balancing work and studies” that was carried out on March 17th 2017 said they worked part-time during their studies, versus 18% who work either full-time, or part-time during the holidays, whether this be during the bachelor’s or the master’s degree. Juggling between work and studies appears to be a recurring struggle of student life, the task however is finding a job that does not interfere with one’s studies. When asked what type of jobs they carry out, the survey brought forward the fact that students tend to go for ‘‘odd jobs’’ here and there, meaning taking what they can find. Retail and catering (40%) were at the top of the list, but tutoring and childcare came close behind. Students do not often have the choice of a dream job and go for what happens to be around; be it working in a bank, cleaning hotels or summer jobs; this due to the complicated task of finding jobs in other fields that accommodate to university hours.

This being said, we have yet to tackle the whole debacle of balancing studies and a job. For those doing their first degree it would appear that it is easier to manage, attendance being a choice and not mandatory. For the master’s degree, it is not the same. Your presence being obligatory, it introduces a new element to the equation: work/studies. For the majority of those who answered the survey, their timetables do not overlap (62% no, 37% yes). They have been able to conciliate working hours and university demands, this due to an understanding boss or flexible hours. For the less fortunate, those who still have to balance the two, the options are not numerous. Some have to turn down work hours, which obviously impacts their financial situation. Others have to miss classes, and have to provide justification for their absence. Professors are generally very understanding and do what they can to make the situation easier for everyone.

There is a final case to consider: that of those who do not miss work or classes, but at the expense of free time and rest. Some students will go from university straight to work, their hours do not overlap but that does not leave much space to get things done. This results in some very long nights of work and eventual pleas for extra time to hand in assignments. Although this represents a very small percentage of those questioned for the survey, it is still a position certain students have to face and that deserves recognition. It remains a rare situation and only a few reach the point of ‘‘when am I expected to get this paper done, revise and do my job efficiently? Oh and what does the sun look like?’’ and thus their job does not negatively impact their studies and vice versa, this also being an issue to face.

Student life can be tricky and this without having the strain of financial struggle, carrying out successfully both a job and studies is a task that requires a tremendous amount of implication. ‘‘Working as well as studying requires a lot of organization and knowing what you can and can’t do”, this comment from the survey perfectly captures the debacle of such a situation, in these words lies the key to the art of balancing work and studies, knowing your limits and not biting off more than you can chew!

Zotero, or your best friends when it comes to bibliography and organising your references

 

Writing a thesis or a dissertation is a very meticulous and complex task. Indeed, you have to find the perfect outline, write something you and your supervisor are happy with, limit yourself to a certain length, and add references, among other things. But references are not always easy to use, because the bibliographic norms that you should respect will not be the same if you study literature, civilisation, or linguistics. You also have to pay attention to the edition, to the type of media you are quoting, and even to punctuation.

But what if I told you that there was a software that could take care of everything that has to do with references for you?

This software is called Zotero. It is a free and open-source program that will help you manage references and bibliographic data. Although it is not well-known by students, it is a very helpful tool that is easy to use and that can save you time and provide perfect norms and references.

Once Zotero is installed on your computer, you will find it in your browser’s toolbar. It means that every time you read an interesting article, the only thing you will have to do is click the Zotero logo, and the article’s reference will be added to your database.

In the same way, every time you want to quote a book, all you have to do is add a few information such as the author, the edition, or the pages you consulted in Zotero (you can add up to 27 pieces of information for each entry), and the software will record them, thus creating an electronic library of everything you used to write your thesis or dissertation.

Once the information about a book (or an article, a TV show etc.) is in Zotero, you can add personal notes about it, thus allowing you to have them with you all the time (as opposed to revision cards that can be lost or damaged).  Thanks to the synchronisation option, you can use your Zotero account on different computers and even on your smartphone.

Finally, once everything is recorded and you want to create a bibliography, all you have to do is click the “create a bibliography” option, select the norm you want to use (APA, CMS, MLA…), and paste it to your dissertation or thesis.

Thus, you have a perfect list of references, with all the information needed, correct punctuation, and all of the works consulted during the writing of your dissertation.

Since the software is often updated, it will never make a mistake, and so you will only have to focus on your research.

Another option that is available on Zotero is the creation of research groups, that allows members to share their research library and to communicate with each other.

You can find the software on www.zotero.org, it is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux.

To get or not to get

Colin HARRIS

The question is, should we use the verb ‘get’ or are there good reasons for avoiding it?

According to the British National Corpus, ‘get’ is the fourth most common verb in British speech and the tenth in writing, so if you have managed to improve your English to native speaker level, shouldn’t you be reflecting this distribution in your pattern of speech and writing?

Consider its versatility: it combines with most grammatical classes: ‘get a degree’, ‘get up in the morning’, ‘get ready’, ‘get on the bus’ and ‘get going’. It can be causative: ‘get her a present’, ‘get them up’, ‘get him ready’, ‘get it in the car’, ‘get the students working’. Then, it’s used extensively for possession and physical attributes: ‘she’s got a beautiful smile’. And it’s almost achieved auxiliary verb status through passive constructions: ‘he got accepted’, not to mention a panoply of idioms.

‘Get’ is clearly the superpower of verbs. So why the reluctance to use it?

What about its pedigree?

Well, according to the OED, ‘get’ first appeared in an English text around 1200 (The Ormulum). From then on, it occurs regularly: 41 times in Wycliffe’s Bible (c. 1395) and about 300 times in the works of Shakespeare. Its meaning evolved from active obtaining to passive obtaining (i.e. receiving) and then on to locative uses, eg. Hamlet’s famous “get thee to a nunnery” line, and so on. Over the centuries it has come to prove itself a most authentic English verb.

Is it too complicated for non-native speakers?

When using a foreign language, we tend to stick to the verbs which are similar in our own language. But ‘get’ has no equivalent in many other languages (Viberg, 2002). This incompatibility renders it difficult for non-native speakers to master.

What does it really mean?

You may have wondered what ‘get’ actually means in a lot of constructions; it usually isn’t ‘obtain’! Well, to give you a clue, I would suggest focussing on change. The value of ‘get’ often indicates ‘the emergence of a new state’ (Gronemeyer, 1999). And the nature of this new state (possession, position, condition or process) is inferred by the choice of arguments and the context. (Another article might be required to explain this better!). Anyway, once the mechanism has been acquired, using it requires less brain power than seeking alternative verbs.

Is it appropriate for scholarly works?

So, assuming that you manage to master ‘get’ (which is a good idea), the question remains: is it suitable for scholarly works? Well, since meaning is inferred by its arguments and the context, this fundamentally detracts from its performance as a precise lexeme for literary or scientific use.

Conclusion

The popularity of ‘get’ lies in its requiring minimum effort for those who master its mechanism. Since ‘get’ is one of the most common verbs in English, it’s worth getting to grips with it. However, it has poor semantic content, lacks explicitness and so, for precise and scholarly writing, it should probably be used sparingly.

Bibliography

The British National Corpus. version 3 (BNC XML Edition). 2007. Web 1 May 2016

« get, v. » OED Online. Oxford University Press, December 2016. Web. 30 December 2016.

Gronemeyer, Claire. “On deriving complex polysemy: The grammaticalization of get.”

English Language and Linguistics 3.1 (1999): 1-39. Print.

Noble, Terry, John Wycliffe, and John Purvey. Wycliffe’s Bible: comprising of Wycliffe’s Old Testament and Wycliffe’s New Testament (revised edition). Vancouver: Terence P. Noble, 2012. Print.

The Ormulum. Ed., Robert Meadows White. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1852. Web 18 May 2016.

Viberg, Åke. “Basic verbs in second language acquisition”. Revue française de linguistique appliquée. 2 Vol. VII (2002): 61 à 79. Print

Scotland’s vote on Brexit: How local politics play a role in European integration

On October, 14th 2016, AMU hosted an OREMA seminar called “The Politics and Geopolitics of Brexit.” I attended it, hoping to grasp what I had missed regarding the outcome of the June 23rd referendum. Not only did the speakers fulfill my expectations but their presentations provided me with material to better understand the inner difficulties of the European Union as a political project. One point made by Pr. Gilles Leydier* can especially illustrate this. As a specialist of Scotland and the SNP he argued that the vote against Brexit was less a declaration of love for the EU than a good old-fashioned political move to increase their power within the UK polity.

Affiche promotionnelle, Création & Impression : DEPIL/PSI – Imprimerie d’Aix-Marseille Université – Aix-en-Provence

In spite of the results, 62% voted to remain (success across the political board, Labour 75%, SNP 66%, Conservatives 56%) something else was at play. Just as most pro EUish (just about anyone who is remotely in favor to some degree of a union) French newspapers, like here (http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/2016/06/24/royaume-desuni-l-cosse-et-lirlande-du-nord-ont-vote-contre-le/) I had considered Scotland as ‘Europhile’ because I had overlooked what it meant, politically and the short term, to vote to remain.

Pr. Leydier, reminded the audience that the first referendum had been possible because the British Parliament had granted the legal means for the Scottish government to set up a referendum on their own. He continued by pointing out that the path to a second referendum would be unlikely because the legal window was soon to close. The Scottish government would need to ask the British Parliament for their consent which would, in turn, be unlikely as the Scottish people had just had their referendum, and voted to remain in the UK.

However, M. Leydier explained, that the SNP having been voted in on the basis of an Independence agenda, the unexpected outcome of Brexit provided them with a golden opportunity to threaten and pressure England into giving them as much autonomy as possible. To do so, the SNP government could frame the English Brexit vote as a threat to their vital interests and to back their claim for independence, all the while knowing that they did not have the legal means to deliver on their threats.

This may seem a matter of details but for anyone like me who grew up full of hope regarding the European Union, the current state of affairs seems gloomy to say the least. Europhiles from all parties have had difficulties in coming up with a way to deal with European political integration and the ‘loss’ of national sovereignty. The case of Scotland’s behavior at the outcome of Brexit brings a new way to understand this. It hints at the dual nature of the EU policies. They may be framed by the ruling parties of each member state as either domestic (legitimate) or foreign (invasive, infringing on national sovereignty). Therefore, the attachment shown by Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, to the EU all the while spiting its metropole, can account for the tendency of EU members to use the EU in local political equations. The problem being that this behavior inevitably contributes to the EU’s recurring instability.

*Professor at the University of Toulon, specialized in British and Scottish politics, here is a link to his full profile: http://babel.univ-tln.fr/2010/12/gilles-leydier/.