La Grande Traduction (Lit. The Great Translation) at the University of Newcastle

Friday, 27 September 2019

French signs are popping up in odd places around the University of Newcastle.

You may have noticed an infiltration of French signs around campus lately and wondered, what is this all about? The signs are part of La Grande Traduction or The Great Translation, a creative project started by Alex Parkes, a University of Newcastle French Society founder and French student.

The signs give the French word for the everyday objects they are attached to. For example “escalier” is on the stairs at Callaghan, “bienvenue” is on the sign at the front of New Space, and “vue” is on the upper floor window at New Space.

Alex came up with the idea in 2017 and it has now become a French Society initiative and will be held annually. He says there are several objectives behind the installation.

“Usually when someone learns a new language they put post-it notes around their house and learn the words through association, and I wanted to do that on a huge scale. At the same time, I wanted to engage with students in a way that encouraged learning, and disrupted the idea that we're a monolingual, English speaking society by providing a stronger multicultural presence. We are, after all, one of the most diverse nations on earth, so in my mind it makes sense to see other languages in our day-to-day,” Alex said.

Photographs of the signs are shared on the UON French Society Instagram (@UONFS) and Facebook pages where they have received a lot of interest.

“So far the response has been phenomenal! We've had a spike in memberships and lots of people interested in learning French have come out of hiding, with a few questions asked about studying in France,” Alex said.

“We really wanted to push the idea that if you're interested in learning French then UoN is the place that will get you to fluency. The benefits of learning another language are incredible for your mental health in the long term, and you can create enriching friendships with people all around the world,” he said.

“La Grande Traduction acts as a catalyst to get students to make that jump and change their life, both personally and professionally. It's also why I founded the society, to provide greater access to learning French, and introduce people to the same fantastic experience I've had. What's more, the moment you start learning we're here to help you every step of the way, so learning has never been easier.”

Alex says that one of the most important priorities of the UON French Society is environmental responsibility.

“We have an environmental policy to ensure we reduce our impact on the earth wherever we can at all our events. The entire project was carried out with this in mind, and every sign put up has been recycled. We're also planning to carbon offset the project, which is something we're really proud of.”

Dr Marie-Laure Vuaille-Barcan is a senior lecturer in French language and literary studies. She says that learning another language such as French can deliver students highly sought after skills for the modern day workplace.

“I really believe what we do as teachers is very important for students because we teach them how to think laterally. If you can express yourself in a different language you understand your own language better. The soft skills you can develop through learning and reading text in another language are crucial in today’s world, and the quickest way to learn these skills is by being exposed to a new code. Language on a CV is very good for employability,” she said.

Learn more about studying French at UON.

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