Celebrating Halloween and the Day of the Dead

Jack-o-lanterns

Lanterns

The carved pumpkins, fancy dress and Trick or Treating activities popular in North America have spread to Europe, says Dr Veronica Heath, who teaches on our 19th century European Novels module. However there are also very different traditions unique to Great Britain (such as 5th November Bonfire Night), to other European countries and to Latin America.

In France, Halloween is more popular among children than adults. Dr Marjorie Gehrhardt, who teaches 20th century French history, says that since the 1990s, you can see groups of children dressed up on 31st October, going around the neighbourhood asking for sweets sometimes late into the evening as the following day is a bank holiday. On 1st November, known in France as La Toussaint [All Saints’ Day], many people take chrysanthemums to the graves of their loved ones. Traditionally the Day of the Dead is 2nd November, but this is a working day, so families tend to gather on 1st November instead. The story goes that as chrysanthemums resist well to the cold and frost, they were used to flower the graves of fallen soldiers after the First World War.

Our postdoctoral researcher on Translation and NGOs, Dr Wine Tesseur explains that ‘in Belgium, families get together on 1st November and eat pancakes, waffles, and/or beignets. On 2 November, there is usually a requiem mass. If someone from your family has passed away in the previous months, a little wooden cross with their name is put on a special notice board in the local church. On 2 November, after mass, you can collect the cross and take it home’.

In Austria, Halloween is more of a children’s celebration, whereas all ages celebrate Allerheiligen [All Saints’ Day]. Like in France, 1st November is a bank holiday and most people go to visit the graves of their loved ones on that day. They light white candles that sit in red glasses, and leave fresh flowers. Another tradition, our German Lektorin Elli Königshofer tells us, is for godparents to give their godchildren a striezel, a sweet pastry containing raisins, shaped into a braid (traditionally women would cut their braided hair in sign of mourning).dia-de-los-muertos-03-full

In Italy too, people remember the dead, visit their graves and eat special food as part of Ognissanti (All Saints Day, on 1st November) and I Morti (2nd November), our language coordinator Enza Siciliano-Verruccio explains. It is the time of the year when the first caldarroste [roasted chestnuts] are eaten and many regions have their own local specialties, like the Frutta di Martorana [a fruit-shaped sweet] in Sicily.

Our Spanish teaching fellow Ivan Ortega, tells us that in Spain too, people go to cemeteries to tidy up their relatives’ graves and bring fresh flowers. Spanish people also have food traditions, such as huesos de Santo and buñuelos de Viento, which are two typical sweets eaten during these festivities.

ev_3_la_catrinaIn Mexico, both 31st October and 1st November are big celebrations. Dr Catriona McAllister, who teaches Latin American history and culture, describes Día de muertos traditions for us: ‘On 2nd November (coinciding with the Catholic festival of All Souls Day), Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead. The festival offers the opportunity to remember and honour departed loved ones and has its origins in pre-Hispanic traditions that were later combined with Catholic practices. Celebrations can take place over several days, and it is traditional to visit cemeteries where loved ones are buried and to prepare an altar at home. Altars usually contain a range of objects including flowers (particularly cempasúchiles, or marigolds), the favourite food of the departed loved one, candles, objects belonging to the departed, photos and decorated sugar skulls’.

If Halloween, pumpkins and trick-or-treating are becoming more popular, the countries whose cultures and languages we study in the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies also have their own fascinating traditions!

New for 2017! Spanish Single Honours Degree

SpanishWe are very pleased to announce that we have launched a Single Honours degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies, starting from September 2017!

Immerse yourself in the diversity of the Spanish-speaking world by taking modules in language, culture, history and society that reflect the cultures of Spain and Latin America. You will have the opportunity to study with a dynamic team of staff who are internationally-recognised experts in their fields, and to gain a deep understanding of the Spanish-speaking world today.

You will be able to apply for this course to start in September 2017.

For more information visit our website or email languages@reading.ac.uk.

Seminar series TRANSLATING IN DANGER ZONES @MLES

Translating in danger zonesIn a globalised world we are confronted with an increasingly diverse mix of languages and cultures, bringing new challenges to language professions. This series explores the role of language and translation in danger situations, and considers what it takes to work as a translator or interpreter in these contexts. Presented by a mix of practitioners and academics, it will demonstrate how language professions have changed because of these situations, and how translating/interpreting involves more than linguistic knowledge.

First event:

Dr Carmen Delgado Luchner, University of Geneva 

Training field interpreters for humanitarian organisations 

26 October 2016, Room 2s12, URS, 5 pm

CHECK OUR FACEBOOK PAGE FOR FULL PROGRAMME AND MORE DETAILS.

Looking for extra guidance on your studies?

Study Skills PosterTo all students of Modern Languages and European Studies!

The department is offering weekly drop-in sessions for study skills advice specific to undergraduate students (all years) of MLES, run by the department’s study skills advisers. Do you have questions or worries about making the transition to university life, writing or structuring essays, building vocabulary, grammar, exam technique, note taking, time management, etc…? Come along to our sessions when we will be available to answer your questions.

We can’t proofread your work, or give you specific answers to your assignments, but we do have experience of how things work in the department, and are uniquely placed to give you advice based on our knowledge as successful postgraduate students. If your query is beyond our scope, we’ll suggest the best person for you to contact.

These sessions will take place on Mondays 1-2pm in HumSS 274A, the Resources Room. It is not compulsory to attend all sessions; come as and when you have a query.

Hope to see you there!

Maria, Sophie and Stefano

MAKING HISPANIC LITERATURES / CREACIÓN DE LAS LITERATURAS HISPÁNICAS

The programme for the Reading conference is now finalised and registration is open. Registrations close by end-August if possible (payment on arrival). Follow the link below for more information.

This conference takes as its focus the ways in which literature comes into being in the Hispanic world, from composition to reception, past and present. It aims to locate and explore our interest in literature not primarily in the text itself, but in the mechanisms, spaces and processes by which the literary text – in all its diverse representations – reaches the public sphere. Whether mediated by commercial, political, economic, social or other interests, the text reaches us through the complex interventions of a range of actors: author, editor, designer, translator, promoter, publisher, literary critic, journalist, reader.

Making Literature

 

Making Hispanic Literatures / Creación de las literaturas hispánicas

Beginner’s language at Reading

Beginner’s language degrees are in the news at the moment. Here at Reading we have some news too: we’re very excited to announce that we will be launching beginner’s French for 2017 entry, to join our beginner’s Italian and Spanish courses. We have a longstanding specialism in this area, having provided accelerated Italian for many years.

A beginner’s language degree (or ab initio language degree as universities call it) involvesEnza Siciliano Verruccio learning the language from scratch, but going on to complete the degree at the same level of knowledge and fluency as students who might have a GCSE or A-Level in that language. They are far from being a new phenomenon. It has always been common for language students to pick up another language at degree level. Having more than one language improves your employability in competitive fields such as language teaching, and translating/ interpreting.

If you think you might be interested in learning a language from scratch, you can find out more about how students have found the experience, in these blog posts by our students Sabrina and Jess. Professor Catherine Léglu explains here about the benefits of ab initio language degrees.

IN THE JUNGLE by Richard McKenzie

I HAVE RECENTLY COME BACK FROM A TRIP TO THE JUNGLE REFUGEE CAMP IN CALAIS.

I have seen shanty towns in Kenya but have never been to a refugee camp. It is horrible.

The camp hides in plain sight at the East end of the Calais Ferry Terminal next to the motorway that almost every holiday maker will use to travel on to the heartland of Europe. It is obvious but inconspicuous in its openness. The camp sits on a former sandy nature reserve and has been half cleared by the French authorities, who have built a camp made from containers for migrants/refugees who are willing to be finger printed and documented. This has reduced the size of the camp but has created a refugee Apartheid separating those who the authorities believe can be settled as refugees from those who have fled terrible situations at home, but who the authorities do not class as refugees. The men I met there were mainly from Peswar in Pakistan, Northern Afghanistan, or Eritrea.

See the full text in JUNGLE

How (not) to use technology for language teaching – Workshop with Sascha Stollhans (University of Nottingham)

Do students love technology in the classroom? Can technology replace teaching? What are good tools in the growing pool of educational technology and digital teaching and what can they be used for?

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These and more questions were discussed on Wednesday 17 February during a workshop lead by DAAD-Lektor Sascha Stollhans (organized by DAAD-Lektorin Sandra Beer and School TEL Coordinator Enza Siciliano Verruccio) for members of staff and PGR students of the University of Reading as well as for teachers from local schools.

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After a theoretical introduction and discussion about questions and concerns, Sascha Stollhans provided us with some inspiring case studies of various tools, social media and web resources to enhance language teaching and learning. The workshop was equally informative as it was engaging, encouraging everyone to try the tools in the workshop.

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As more and more institutions expect language tutors to make clever use of technology in their classrooms, we were very happy to have the opportunity to learn more about the effective integration of technology into the language classroom.

 

Sascha Stollhans is DAAD-Lektor at the University of Nottingham. His main teaching and research areas are German language and linguistics, applied linguistics, second language acquisition and language pedagogy.

Latest publication:

Goria, Cecilia; Speicher, Oranna; Stollhans, Sascha. (Eds). (2016). Innovative language teaching and learning at university: enhancing participation and collaboration. Dublin, Ireland: Research-publishing.net. http://dx.doi.org/10.14705/rpnet.2016.9781908416322

MFL in the UoR meet local and regional schools teachers

IMG_0393On Wednesday 27 January, staff and students in the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies hosted a 2-hour MFL Teach  Meet on the University of Reading campus. With teachers attending from a range of local and regional schools, including St. Crispin’s School, Leighton Park, The Abbey School, Prospect School, Reading School and Bucks School, the meeting was a great opportunity to exchange ideas about how to work together to promote modern languages, manage the transition from GCSE to A level and from A level to University, and how to deal with some of the challenges facing us all as teachers of Modern Languages.

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Topics for discussion included: Diversity in the classroom, the use of digital resources and new technology in the classroom, and how to encourage students to go beyond the curriculum. There was some very lively debate, including some very interesting observations from our own students in MLES, and the event finished with a promise to continue these session on a regular basis.

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