Reading Post-Graduates: Medieval Marriage

In a regular feature, we’ll bring you updates from Reading Post-Graduates, showcasing the work that the Masters and PhD candidates in the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies are pursuing. Here’s a post from Charlotte Pickard, who is currently completing her PhD on ‘Unequal Marriage in France c.1200’ in the Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies. Charlotte’s PhD is co-supervised by Professor Francoise Le Saux of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies, who specialises in Medieval literary history, and Professor Lindy Grant, an expert in the history of Medieval France.

The recent publication of The Reading Medievalist, a postgraduate and early career journal, has made me reflect on the conference that inspired the transactions.

The conference, entitled ‘Medieval Marriage,’ was jointly organised by Carys Gadsden and myself and took place in March 2013. Marriage was the foundation of medieval society and not only represented the formation of a personal relationship but an economic and diplomatic transaction that brought together two families. Then as now it could be a delicate and complex business, which did not always go to plan. The subject of marriage is one that inevitably intersects much research on the medieval period and as such provided the ideal focus for a conference.

Our keynote speaker, Professor Neil Cartlidge, opened the conference with a thought-provoking paper focusing on courtly love vs marriage. Conference PhotoThe papers that followed worked with material dating from the tenth to the fifteenth centuries and explored historical, literary and art historical material from medieval Ireland, Wales, France and England, provoking lively and stimulating discussions. The papers questioned the nature and definition of marriage from social, legal and religious standpoints. It explored the extent to which noblewomen were able to exercise independent power within marriage and how this was affected by social status and crusading. The sessions on literary and art historical responses to marriage were particularly insightful for those who usually work with historical sources. The interdisciplinary nature of the conference allowed for an exchange of ideas between academics who are working with similar themes but taking alternative approaches, this was extremely beneficial for all involved.

As PhD students the conference provided us with the opportunity to gain valuable experience of conference organisation as well the chance to present our research to our academic peers. The conference utilised the skills of many of the postgraduate and early career researchers based in the Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies, with Reading students presenting papers and chairing sessions, as well as contributing to discussion. Participants included researchers based at Reading as well as postgraduates from other UK institutions including the University of Oxford and the Courtauld Institute and provided a chance for networking.

After the success of the conference all involved felt that the papers would make an excellent focus for a new journal produced by postgraduates in the Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies. The publication of the first volume of The Reading Medievalist has allowed the dialogue, which began at the conference to continue. As a co-organiser and editor the event and subsequent journal have been extremely rewarding experiences that I would recommend to other postgraduates.

To learn more about pursuing a Masters Degree or a PhD in Modern Languages at the University of Reading, visit the Graduate School website as well as the Homepage of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies. We offer both Post-Graduate Taught and Post-Graduate Research degree courses.

Reading Reacts: The Manifesto for Languages

When modern languages are in the news, Reading Reacts. In a regular feature, we’ll invite members of the Reading community to comment DLP_photoon news and current events, sharing their insights about what is happening in the world beyond the university. To inaugurate the Reading Reacts series, we’ve invited Dr Daniela La Penna, an Associate Professor of Italian Studies and UCML National Representative, to comment on the challenges facing modern languages in the UK.

On the 14 July 2014, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages (APPG), led by Baroness Coussins, issued a Manifesto for Languages, making the case for improving the linguistic skills base of the UK. In the last few days, this manifesto has attracted the support of hundreds of individuals, several leading businesses, and educational organisations including the Association for Language Learning, Speak to the Future, UCML, the British Academy and the British Council.

The APPG is calling for all political parties to support a new Framework for National Recovery in Language Learning in their 2015 General Election manifestos, which commits them to:

  • Providing high quality language learning for all children throughout the UK from age 7 onwards,
  • Aiming for every child to have a language qualification by the end of secondary school,
  • Maintaining and developing UK expertise at Higher Education level.

The reasons why the UK has accrued such language disadvantage are complex and diverse, but a steep decline was noticed after the Labour MLES Students 4government’s decision to make languages optional after 14, a change that was introduced in September 2004. The numbers speak for themselves. In 2011, there were 154,000 entries for GCSE French, just over half the number there were in 2004, when 300,000 sat the examinations. The impact of that Government decision is still felt today despite the work done by Routes into Languages and the slight increase in GCSE students taking languages as they exam options with the introduction of the EBacc.

It is not surprising that both businesses and educational institutions at all levels are backing the APPG initiative. A 2007 report has shown that failure in language skills affects the UK disproportionately: allowing for other factors, the UK is more likely than other countries to gravitate towards trading partners which speak English. The CBI regularly commissions reports on the value of language skills in business and on the availability of those amongst the UK workforce (you can read the latest report here). The British Chamber of Commerce has also sponsored reports surveying the ways in which lack of MFL skills affect exports. Of particular note is the Foreign Office’s expression of alarm at the low numbers of Britons who apply to EU positions, where the knowledge of two or three languages is a pre-requisite.

For those of us who are engaged in research and work in academia, it is equally concerning that the lack of emphasis on foreign language learning is affecting the quality of research being carried out in UK LanguagesUniversities. To this end, and in response to the 2009 report Language Matters, in 2011 the British Academy launched a four-year programme to deepen awareness and demonstrate the importance of languages in the humanities and social sciences. A number of reports were published aimed at highlighting the state of nation and at formulating practical solutions to foster a research culture which demonstrates not only awareness of and engagement with language diversity but that is able to entertain a meaningful dialogue with researchers working across the globe and in different language zones.

The launch has coincided with the publication of an open letter addressed by University Council of Modern Languages (UCML) to a wide group of HE providers such as the Russell Group Universities, and other HE organizations such as the UUK, UCAS, HEFCE. In this letter, the chair of UCML Jocelyn Wyburd asks Universities to act now to counter the trend of low recruitment in Languages:

“Universities have it in their power to signal that the current educational profile of their students is not a good enough base from which to equip them to be global graduates and to take up outward mobility options, unless language skills are included.”

What does UCML ask Universities to do? The answer is simple and yet, if implemented, it could reverse the negative trend of foreign language literacy across the country and foster a much-needed transition from a sketchy literacy to consolidated and sustainable competence:

“We believe that a language GCSE should rank alongside English and Maths as key academic subjects as the foundation for all future study and employment and indeed that these should be accompanied by at least one science and one humanities subject, regardless of future career and study choices. We are calling on you to use your influence to help us to achieve this fundamental change in university admissions policies as soon as possible.”

In essence, both the UCML open letter and the APPG manifesto ask the main stakeholders in the Higher Education sector and the policy-Reading Studentsmakers alike to acknowledge their responsibility and to become engaged game-changers. To put it simply, this means realising the strategic advantage afforded by Britain’s multicultural make-up and transforming it into a cultural and economic resource for the nation. For too long the export of Global English has obscured the fact that Britain is in fact a multilingual nation.

There is no dearth of studies demonstrating why graduate mobility and foreign language acquisition turns Global Graduates into Global leaders. And yet, the UK is lagging behind Germany, France, and Italy in the number of students taking advantage of the great, life-changing opportunity of study abroad.

In October 2009, HEFCE published the Review of Modern Foreign Languages provision in higher education in England, by Professor Michael Worton, at the time Vice-Provost of University College London. The review drew on a range of data to make recommendations that aimed to assure the long-term sustainability and vitality of modern foreign languages (MFL) provision in HE. The first set of recommendations encourages University Modern Languages Departments amongst other bodies to “work together to promote a clear and compelling identity for Modern Foreign Languages as a humanities discipline”.

In the wake of campaigns such as Speak to the Future, the APPG Manifesto and the UCML letter, one can feel that the level of engagement is high and shared across the nation with a sense of urgency and commitment. But more must be done.

At Reading, we are doing sterling work in promoting the value of languages both in the classroom and beyond with targeted outreach activities. Increasingly, we ask our own Reading students to act as the Julia Watersmost vocal ambassadors in demonstrating the value of language study. Our Vice-Chancellor is the Chair of the HEFCE steering group of Routes into Languages and I hope he will be sensitive to the APPG and UCML campaign. We look forward to collaborating with Routes and other agencies in strengthening our presence in the region and beyond. With representatives of both Opposition and Government acknowledging that curriculum reform is the only way forward to redress the negative trend of language learning and skills availability in the UK, it is time for the Universities to pressure for such reform to take place now. It is time for the Universities to lead reform, to rise to the occasion, and show the world of politics that their lofty mission statements mean business, and to say so in as many languages as possible.

Student Life: Graduation Day

In a regular feature, we’ll explore Student Life, inviting the students of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies, as well as representatives of the various student societies, to reflect on their experiences at the University of Reading and beyond.

To inaugurate the series, we’ve invited Mike Ballmann, a student of French and Economics, to tell us about his thoughts on graduation day and on the time he’s spent in Reading.

Mike BallmannI remember when I was a Fresher about a thousand years ago. It was actually four years, but university has the ability to warp time and make it almost irrelevant as you go about your business in the bubble that is Reading. I can vividly remember during that young and care-free part of my university life talking to older students who always said the same thing: “enjoy Freshers’ Year whilst you can, it gets so much worse later on.” I remember thinking that that must be an exaggeration, how hard can it be?

Fast forward four years and I was now relaying the same advice to the latest crop of first years. No one can deny the step up from second to final year is enormous – certainly no one with whom I spent hour after hour in the library until stupid o clock in the morning would argue that point. And thousands upon thousands of students up and down the country slave away until the small hours for the same reason: a degree classification and the ability to prance about in a hat and a gown for a day.

GraduatesWhen put like that, it is very easy to wonder what the point is. Every so often a success story appears about a multi-millionaire who didn’t go to university but yet have all the wealth, success and power that one could ever want. Well yes, but that would be completely missing the point. If my experience at Reading has taught me nothing else, it has certainly educated me more about the world than I think I could have learned without it. I have met people from every continent in the world during my four years in Reading and, with a shared mission to finish studies and graduate, I have made friends for all over the world as a result.

This highlights the wonderful experience that graduation was. It was such a lovely afternoon with friends who I have known for four years and others who I have met more recently all wearing smart academic dress for one final celebration. The ceremony was only about forty five minutes long, but everyone spent the day sitting around outside the beautiful London Road campus joking, laughing, drinking Pimms and enjoying the final day of, what for both me and the majority of other students, the best four years of our lives.

GraduatesI have spoken to a few people in the preparation of this blog about what university meant for them and what their abiding memory of it will be, and a theme came up again and again: friendship. The friends and the community that each and every one of us have made at university has made studies at Reading the most fantastic, insightful and worthwhile period of our lives. I did some work for the university at Visit Days and Open Days during the course of my final year and a question that was asked of me again and again was ‘why should I pay all that money for more school, what’s the point?’

Graduation 5Because tuition is only a small part of university. The friends, the enjoyment, the laughter, the adventures, the challenge, the rigour and the sense of achievement, those are the point of university. Graduation is the culmination of that, and it is my unshakable belief that you can’t ever put a price on that.

So after the ceremony university is officially over and it will be onwards and upwards to new adventures after my four years at the University of Reading. But never goodbye.

Life of a Lecturer: Graduation Day

In a regular feature, we’ll explore the “Life of a Lecturer,” inviting the staff of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies to reflect on their experiences at the University of Reading and beyond.

Paola NastiTo inaugurate the series, we’ve invited Dr Paola Nasti, Associate Professor of Italian Studies, to share with us her thoughts on graduation day. Dr Nasti, an expert on Medieval Italy, teaches students from their first to their final year, from a first-year module on “Italian Medieval and Renaissance Culture” to a final-year module on the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, one of the most fascinating, innovative and influential works of Western culture. That means that Dr Nasti has worked closely with today’s graduating students since they first arrived on campus in Reading, a fact that has led her to some profound reflections:

Graduation Day. I am an early bird today. I need to do some work before I get ready for the big day. I sit with my large strong Italian espresso and I think back over last night’s dreams. In my dream, I’m in a beautiful kitchen, there is a big beautifully dressed table, colourful food and people chatting loudly. It’s my extended English family. The in-laws, brothers, nephews, children. At the table the conversation comes to a halt. There’s news. The in-laws will be moving to another country. My brother-in-law is moving to another city. The house will be empty.

Still dreaming, I pass through big rooms and I hear the echoes of memories. Here the chocolate stains on the sofa from last Easter; there grandma’s chair; on that wall a picture of the children’s first day of school. I get out on the front garden and the neighbours’ door is wide open. Boxes everywhere and just one of them looking after the luggage. Where is everybody else? They have left, moved. The oldest daughter is going as far as Singapore for a new job. I walk through the boxes and the rooms filled with echoes. I see their back garden: remember that barbecue when I first made bruschette for you?

I’m awake now, and my cup is empty. My feelings bittersweet. The empty houses, the departures, all those memories. My mind is getting ready for the annual fair of goodbyes: the graduation of my students. Empty classes, cars full of luggage, memories of the daily conversations we used to have. The melancholy of the end of an era. But at the kitchen sink an old Italian song comes to mind: “Si muore un po’ per poter vivere, la la la” (“You die a little bit in order to live, la la la”). It’s a song of farewell just as today, graduation day, is a day of farewells. Yet today’s goodbyes mark new beginnings.

Paola and Daniela

My students will start a new life, follow new adventures. Many will travel and decide to stay and work overseas. They have learnt to be confident citizens of the world during their time at Reading, and in the Year Abroad, and they know they can be successful wherever they go. Others will move back home, or to a new town, begin a new career or start teachers’ training and postgraduate studies.

Graduation 1

They’ll be smiling today, full of pride and hope, and I will rejoice with them. And there will be pictures of hats thrown in the air, Pimm’s drunk on the lawn, applause and official processions. We will all look smart but unhappy with the size of our hats, there will be last minute pins flying around in the dressing room and girls with uncomfortable shoes. The boys will look surprisingly grown up in their dark suits and today everybody will be wearing sun glasses.

Graduation 2

We will meet parents beaming with joy, and we will tell them how proud we are of their sons and daughters, of their achievements. We will join our students in considering how much they have matured over the last three of four years. There will be hugs, and promises of forever-friendships and I know they’ll be true.

Year after year I see my ex-students chatting and keeping in touch via social networks. Ha! Social networks! Over the last three days so many of my past students have re-published their graduation pictures adding sweet messages.

Graduation 5

Graduation day is not only the fair of goodbyes, as my dream suggested. It is a day for sowing as well as harvesting. Sowing for the future.

Graduation 4

I have decided to defeat my bittersweet melancholy. I’ll add some colour to my outfit. I should be wearing dark according to the etiquette. But my students never wear dark. Today there will be a parade of pastel, bright or even neon colours. I shall wear my flowery dress too, then! And next year the rooms will fill again, new students will arrive. But my teaching will carry the memory and mark of my previous students. Their questions, their reactions have sown seeds in my mind too. And the beautiful conversations with them will live on. I know, this is a very sentimental day, when I will be thanking my students for the beautiful banquet of the last four years. Now it is up to them to share the news of their future adventures.


Reading Post-Graduates: Stefano Bragato

In a regular feature, we’ll bring you updates from Reading Post-Graduates, showcasing the work that the Masters and PhD candidates in the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies are pursuing.

StefanoTo inaugurate the series, we’ve invited Stefano Bragato, a PhD candidate in Italian Studies, to reflect on the year of research that he’s just completed.

Here’s what he has to say:

They sometimes say that the third year of a PhD is the toughest. All those deadlines, all that writing up, all those files mixing up on your desktop. And yes, that ‘chapter three, draft eight’ thing. Quite demanding indeed.

The great thing about doing a PhD in Italian Literature though, at least for me, is that ‘demanding’ goes hand in hand with concepts such as ‘excitement’ and ‘gratification’. During your third year, that magic moment suddenly comes when you realise that your idea is good, that it works – and that you incredibly enjoy researching into it. A pretty cool feeling.

So cool that you immediately ponder presenting your findings at a conference. Thus in March 2014, at the beautiful and prestigious Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, in the USA, I gave a presentation on F. T. Marinetti, the founder of the Futurist avant-garde, focusing on his different strategies of writing during WWI. My presentation received lots of compliments and inspired lots of exciting discussions. I also met lots of new friends, and definitely had a lot of fun. Two months later, I organised a panel on notebook writing at the American Association of Italian Studies conference in Zurich, featuring experts from all over the world: a very successful and gratifying experience too.

WhiteknightsAnd of course, talking about excitement and gratification, there’s ReadingItaly, the Italian-Studies blog that I edit. Having your own journal or blog is rather demanding, but it is really a lot of fun. And then all the rest: organising the 2013 Society for Italian Studies Post-Graduate Colloquium, writing articles and book reviews, representing the PhDs within the School, teaching classes, chatting with friends at the Graduate School in Old Whiteknights House.

They sometimes say that doing a PhD in Literature is dull and boring. That’s complete nonsense. It is one of the toughest, but most exciting things around.

To learn more about pursuing a Masters Degree or a PhD in Modern Languages at the University of Reading, visit the Graduate School website as well as the Homepage of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies. We offer both Post-Graduate Taught and Post-Graduate Research degree courses.

Reading Researchers: The International Medieval Congress

In a regular feature, we’ll bring you updates from “Reading Researchers,” highlighting the innovative and compelling research that members of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies are pursuing.

To inaugurate the series, we’re publishing a commentary from Professor Catherine Leglu, a medievalist specialising in Occitan and French literature, who teaches undergraduate modules on modern French Language, French for Managers, French cinema, and the cinematic adaptations of literary texts. Professor Leglu, a member and former director of the Graduate centre for medieval studies, recently attended the International Medieval Congress (IMC), which took place in Leeds from 7-10 July. Here are her reflections on the proceedings:

Most academic conferences are discreet events, where like-minded people who know each other very well get together to share ideas, applaud new researchers and to develop their discipline. Then there are the very big congresses. A university or town is suddenly full of chatty people dressed in smart casual, lugging cloth book bags, getting lost. Highlights include getting your first and possibly only chance to meet someone you have read and quoted, to participate in excited conversations with people who know exactly what you are on about, and to network a bit.

I have been a regular since the late 1990s at the annual Leeds International Medieval Congress, a massive four-day event that brings together medievalists from all disciplines and at all career stages, and holds an exceptional book fair. This year, the IMC hosted 1779 medievalists from 57 countries. There were 545 sessions (a slot of one-and-a-half hours where panels of up to four researchers deliver papers times between 15 and 20 minutes).  These also included keynote (hour-long) lectures and a live video-conference debate with a conference that was happening the same week in Lausanne.

This is the conference programme in its 334-page printed version:


I was pleased that one of the stalls at the book fair displayed a book I published in late 2013 with Rebecca Rist (Reading) and Claire Taylor (Nottingham). The commissioning editors also come to the Leeds IMC, so it is a good occasion to discuss book proposals.

In fact, that is exactly what the three of us did three years ago, and the result is here to see:

Catherine's Book

Given the disappointment of having to miss up to thirty-seven other sessions when you choose to attend one, I decided to join in the live tweeting. All tweets with the hashtag # IMC2014 appeared on big screens outside the Leeds Students union refectory, so you could keep up with several different papers at once.

The Leeds IMC is, as I said above, a chance for academics to get together. It is also an occasion for a reunion. I spoke at a session chaired and organised by Dr Marianne Ailes (Bristol), who obtained her MA in Medieval Studies and was awarded her PhD in Medieval French literature at Reading (1989). I also had a chance to have a meeting with Rachel Ernst, who also did her MA in Medieval Studies at Reading, and who is currently finishing her PhD on the Cathar heresy, supervised by myself and Rebecca Rist.

From left to right: Marianne Ailes, Catherine Léglu, Rachel Ernst.


This year’s IMC had as its thematic strand ‘Empire’. Here are the titles of the papers we gave in our session, which was session 815, on the topic: CHARLEMAGNE: A EUROPEAN ICON.

Catherine Léglu: ‘Charlemagne, King of the Franks, in Occitania: Exploring a Paradox’

Adrian Ailes (The National Archives: Public Record Office, Kew, and a member of the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Bristol): ‘The Attributed Arms of Charlemagne’

Jade Bailey (Department of French, University of Bristol): ‘Archaising Charlemagne Texts in London, British Library, MS Royal 15 E VI’.

Hard to choose a winner

Open_Day_Girls_BrandedAt University of Reading Open Days, the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies invites all our visitors to submit entries for a Blog Post Competition. This year’s topic was “Why study languages?”

There were so many great entries this year that our committee had a hard time choosing a winner.

Here’s an excellent submission from our runner-up, Emily Beckett.

I began to learn Italian as my second modern foreign language at GCSE. Instantly the language felt natural which ultimately led me to wanting to study it at university. This interest and passion for Italian was reflected in my GCSE result. Following this success at GCSE I went on to study Italian at “A” level. During the past two years this passion has developed into learning not only more about the language but also about the culture, traditions and history of the Italian nation.


I want to continue my study of the Italian language at University because I’m interested and excited for the new skills that it will allow me to acquire. Along with developing my communication skills, which will be a valuable asset when applying for jobs in today’s increasingly international working environment, it will enhance my fluency making me a more confident and independent Italian speaker. I would also like to further my study of Italian at University because I want to advance and mature my knowledge and understanding of not only the Italian language but the English as well. I feel the additional language will make me even more aware of my native language therefore helping me improve my general communication.


In addition, I think that learning a foreign language challenges your brain in ways which other subjects cannot as it requires you to comprehend the rules, structure and differences of the language. Studying a language at university will allow me to grow and mature as a learner.

Furthermore, learning a modern language will open up a world of opportunities for me. In the foreseeable future I wish to travel and explore the world with my language therefore having such a high level of fluency will not limit the boundaries I wish to explore. Likewise if I decide to move abroad after University the additional language will make it possible for me to integrate into the community with ease and experience the true local culture.

Panorama Siena Palazzo Pubblico

Finally, if we are to aspire to become a truly multi-cultural nation then I believe we should all aspire to learn a modern foreign language.  We now live in a global and ever shrinking society and learning about the life and cultures from beyond our shores is crucial.

Get to Know a Reading Module: The Legend of Tristan and Iseult

In a regular feature on the Blog of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies, we invite you to “Get to know a Reading module.” We want to share with you examples of the innovative teaching that goes on in the department, as well as the excellent work that our students do inside and beyond the classroom. Each month we’ll invite one of our Lecturers to fill us in on one of the dozens of modules our department offers, from language and linguistics to cinema, history, literature, politics, and beyond. This month, we’re featuring a module on Medieval France.

IreneDr Irene Fabry-Tehranchi is a specialist of Medieval French Literature, in particular knightly romances of the court of King Arthur and text and image relations in illuminated manuscripts. Her FR305 module for final-year French students looks at the Legend of Tristan and Iseult in order to introduce her students to key aspects of Medieval French Literature and the cultural context within which it was written.

In the legend, the knight Tristan goes to Ireland to fetch the beautiful Iseult as a wife for his uncle Mark. On the way back, Tristan and Iseult drink by mistake a love potion and will carry on loving each other, despite Iseult’s wedding, hiding their affair from the court and from the King…

fr112 (3) f144This passionate love story and its tragic end played a key role in the development of medieval imagination, as well as its literary and artistic creation. In the Middle Ages, the legend of Tristan and Iseult was not transmitted in a single text. The story led to different versions, in verse and in prose, and had a wide diffusion, in French and other European languages. In addition to the beautiful illuminated manuscripts of the prose Tristan, references to the legend appeared on medieval ivory or wooden caskets, mirror cases, tapestries, decorative tiles or even chairs, shoes and tin objects, showing its wide appeal and success.


tristan casketIn this module, which alternates between lectures and seminars including students’ presentations on particular themes or textual passages, we examine the rise of courtly love in vernacular literature, the cultural importance of chivalry, feudalism, and constructions of sexuality and gender.  We look at different representations of transgression, including deception and adultery, and examine the question of marginality, from life outside the royal court to madness or leprosy, considered as both a physical and moral stigma by medieval society.

The myth of Tristan and Iseult also proved very productive in the 19th and 20th century, from Wagner’s opera to Jean Cocteau’s filmL’Éternel retour, which we study together. 

2014 Alumni Reunion

The Department of Modern Languages and European Studies Alumni Reunion took place on Saturday 21 June. It was a great opportunity for past and present staff and students of European Studies, French, German, and Italian to meet and to share their memories. It was also a chance to see whether current students and staff could match the alumni for knowledge of the University of Reading: congratulations to the Translators’ team who took home the prize in the quiz performance on the history, cultural and academic life of the department!

Current students in the department really enjoyed the opportunity to learn what Reading graduates had gone on to accomplish in the world. Melis Parmak, a student in German and Management, said that “the Alumni event was such a great experience! Those sympathetic Alumni were a reflection of myself in the future. Their experiences and their stories opened my eyes and mind to appreciate what I have right at this moment. It encouraged me to try my best and never to stop believing in myself. This event was supportive, encouraging and motivating and I would therefore advice others to participate in such an incredible event. Thank you for the invitation!”

If you’re a Reading alumna or alumnus, we hope to see you at future reunions. But you don’t have to wait until then to get in touch. Tell us your story. The University of Reading publishes alumni profiles online. If you’d like to share your story, all you have to do is fill out an online questionnaire.

And of course we would love to hear from you in the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies. We’re introducing a new regular feature on our blog: Meet a Reading Graduate. Our alumni are to be found all over the world doing wonderful things. If you’d like to share your story, as well as a few  memories of the department, please get in touch with our Alumni Officer, Dr Irene Fabry-Tehranchi. Tell us where your language degree took you.

Our alumni shared a few photos with us at the reunion. See anyone you recognise? If you have photos you’d like to share, please do send them our way. We’re very Happy at Reading and we love to remember all of the happy times that we’ve shared together.


Backstage at a department theatre production of Aucassin et Nicolette (2-6 March 1999) featuring (from right to left) Chris Rock, Malcolm Rowe, Wolfgang van Emden, Claudia Solaro, and F. LE Saux. 2-6 March 1999.

Photo 1
Alumna Dany Milman, who graduated with a degree in Italian in 1994, with Prof. Baranski.
18th Century French Tutor Group Mar 95
18th-Century French Tutor Group, March 1995
French Cabaret Dec 1992
French Cabaret, December 1992
French Cabaret Dec 1994
French Cabaret, December 1994
French Finalists photo Jun 95
French Finalists, June 1995

A Winning Post!

Open DaysAt University of Reading Open Days, the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies invites all our visitors to submit entries for a Blog Post Competition. This year’s topic was “Why study languages?”

The winning entry came from Meili Ellison. Congratulations to Meili.

Here’s what she wrote:


For me, choosing to study languages at university was the easiest, most obvious decision I’ve had to make in a long time. I’ve always had a passion to experience new cultures, travel as much as I can, and be in new far away locations (or “Fernweh” as the Germans call it). Speaking the language of a country -or attempting to- shows respect to the people you meet, and gives us the opportunity to live down the “English people are lazy at speaking other languages” stereotype!

Hong KongBeing born abroad in Hong Kong and living in China for the first part of my life is where my curiosity for other countries and cultures stems from. It gave me a taste for adventure overseas that I have never lost. Rubbing shoulders with people of all different backgrounds and beliefs ignited an enduring interest and inspired me to learn and experience as much as I could! Many of our family friends had international backgrounds, and as I grew up I learnt that those with languages had the richest experiences and the most success at work and in life.

Not only are languages interesting and useful in day to day situations, but in our increasingly globalised commercial world, they set you apart from the crowd. They open doors in the struggle for scarce jobs and put you in a strong position for employment. Employers know that language speakers have to be determined and intellectually strong, to tackle what they know to be a demanding and testing subject. Above all, speaking a foreign language places you on the international market, potentially giving you the opportunity to live and work abroad. What more could you want?

Demmers TeehausLast year I spent some time in Vienna working for a renowned Viennese company. Demmers Teehaus, on the Christmas Market (Christkindlmarkt) at Schönbrunn Palace. Here I had the opportunity to converse in German with the locals, in English and pidgin French with the tourists, and even was able to pick up a few words of Japanese from some visitors. From then on, whenever a Japanese person came to my stall, I greeted them in their own language, which definitely caught them by surprise! Seeing the joy it brought to them, and how grateful they were to see someone attempting to speak Japanese to them so far from home, gave me pleasure and really inspired me.

With speaking languages comes patience and respect. After experiencing at first hand how difficult it can be working and living in a foreign country and speaking another language, I respect people who have moved to Britain for the job opportunities much more. I will never look down on someone because his language skills are not perfect as I know how  much effort it takes to learn a foreign language myself.  

I truly believe that languages are an invaluable gift, a skill for life, and a joy forever.