Toti Sarasola and Max Graham
2 November 2014
“I feel like people who do languages think they either have to teach or maybe become a translator – or perhaps do something completely unrelated to languages. There are many other places where language graduates can go.”
Is the School of Modern Languages giving its students what they deserve? Is the current staff availability enough for us? Is the Modern Languages Football Cup still on? These are some of the pressing issues with which the student body is concerned. Janine Gallagher, School President of Modern Languages, is here to make our voices heard and provide answers to these questions. She kindly agreed to have a chat with The Interpreter about the challenges involved in her new role and her plans to improve the department
Janine is in her final year of a joint degree doing French and Spanish and is gearing towards teaching after finishing. She claims that one of her main motivations to run for President was addressing some evident errors within the School. Amongst her main proposals, she wants to develop the social aspect of the School and devote more effort into Careers Events. However, she breaks some really disappointing news to us: the Modern Languages Football Cup may not be on this year.
T.I: What has your own experience been like as a student of the School?
I have always found Honours module choices an issue. But in general I’ve had a very good experience with the School. While some of the departments are really well run, I could see some glaring errors which need to be addressed.
T.I: What were your main motivations in running for President?
First of all, from a personal point of view, acquiring experience as to how things are run from the inside. Secondly, there were big errors which I felt were not being addressed in previous years, so I really wanted to push for them. And I think that socially as well, Mod Lang. is kind of scattered, so one of my main objectives is to bring us together more as a school.
T.I: The School of Modern Languages is quite unique in that it hosts 8 different schools within it – each with its own needs and problems. Do you see this as a challenge or an opportunity?
It definitely is a challenge, though it is nice to be working in the only school of its kind. But this relates to what I mentioned earlier: I want to bring us together as a school. I would really like – definitely something for sub-Honours as well – to have an Honours Ball. This has happened in previous years, but it kind of faded away.
T.I: The Modern Languages Football Cup was a nice way of doing this – is it still on?
It’s not! I was thinking about that right before coming. My flatmates were telling me “You need to bring that back!” That is something I will definitely do: bring the MOLA Cup back this year!
T.I: What are your main proposals as to how the School should be improved?
I definitely want to learn from past experience and learn from how my predecessor has done it. I don’t feel there is enough emphasis on careers or on the social aspect. I’d like to bring in interpreters, translators, people who worked in media, and with languages – things that really haven’t been done. And working in conjunction with the Careers Centre.
I feel like people who do languages think they either have to teach or maybe become a translator – or perhaps do something completely unrelated to languages. There are many other places where language graduates can go. So I really want to push for that.
Apart from doing formal talks, I was thinking of doing kind of an intern-type event: something informal in a café or a bar and meet people who have done language internships. That`s an idea.
T.I: The issue of how approachable staff are and how much time they devote to students is a big one in every school in the University. How would you rate that issue in MoL?
I can only talk from my experience which is French and Spanish and I find that they are very approachable and open, especially in Spanish. They say “these are our Office Hours, please come at any time.” However, it is not like this in all of the departments. People find it hard to speak to their tutors. When I brought this up last year, they simply said that tutors are busy people so they can’t give up all of their time to talk to students – so that one will be a tough one to crack, but I will work on it.
T.I: What do you make of the Year Abroad programmes of the School?
In terms of the British Council placements, I think it is really well run, and the information is crystal clear. But, for people who want to study abroad, there have been a lot of complaints in the past about not having enough choices. The problem is that the University is very specific about the partnerships that they make with other universities, so I think we should press them to be a bit more open. I am sure there are other unis out there that would make for great collaboration.
T.I: In a world where English is a universal language, what value do you see in studying languages?
It is definitely more than just learning a language. While you are learning a language, you pick up all the differences between cultures. Not only that, but learning languages as an exercise is really interesting, and is very good for your brain. There are plenty of benefits in the process of learning languages, it is not just about the end goal. But I think that if you do learn another language, it shows respect. For example, to speak to somebody from Uruguay in Spanish rather than depending on the fact that they speak English – it is a bit embarrassing as a nation I think. I think it is more about broadening your awareness of other cultures.
T.I: Now, the fun questions…
Favourite city in the world?
Madrid (I did my YA there).
That one place you would love to visit and still haven’t?
Language you would love to learn if you had the time?
What language is missing from the School?
Best cuisine in the world?
In case there is a MOLA, who will win it?