The Definite Article: Issue Five- April 2015

Page 1

Issue 5, March 2015

Durham˜s Modern Languages and Cultures Magazine

¿Quién era Boris Nemtsov?


Peruvian Cooking


Interview with Catalan director Hammudi Al-Rahmoun Font

About Us The Definite Article is Durham T T University’s Modern Languages and Cultures magazine. It was established in 2013 and is written and edited by students from the School of Modern Languages and T Cultures.

Editorial Team: Rebecca Kennaugh, Ollie Bains, Harriet Bantock, Tom Chance, Gemma Millns, Ellie Stefiuk, Chloe Treasure, Ryan West, Becky Wyde Front Cover Photography: Hannah Rose Thomas Title Graphic: Alex Bennett We are always delighted to receive contributions which can be sent to: Any further queries should be sent to: Social media Facebook: /TDADurham Twitter: @TDADurham Spotify: thedefinitearticle


Editor’s Note Hello Definite Article readers, and welcome to our fifth edition!


t has been a great pleasure to work with the editorial team on this issue, and we’re proud to be able to offer you all issue five before exams begin! Our aim with The Definite Article is to continue being a platform for students of all subjects who are enthusiastic about languages and cultures to share their passion and ideas.

We’d all like to thank you- students, staff and alumni- for your continued support for the magazine. The enthusiasm and growing popularity of our language-loving community is surely reflected by the bumper issue we’ve got for you, which will hopefully serve as some (educational) procrastination during revision! I felt privileged to be able to start a language from scratch here in second year. After only six months studying Catalan and becoming increasingly interested in Catalan culture, I jumped at the opportunity to attend a screening of an award-winning film in the language, and to meet its director, Hammudi Al-Rahmoun Font, who took part in a question and answer session with us; it was a brilliant event organised here in the Modern Languages department in March. We really have a great mix of articles and photography this issue, all provided by students here at Durham. We have prize-winning poetry in German from Rebecca Williamson; an interview with Catalan film director Hammudi Al-Rahmoun Font; Gemma Millns invites us to sample Peruvian cuisine on a student budget, and Dr Abir Hamdar discusses her research and working in Durham with us. I’d like to thank the team for their hard work on this issue, both editing and working on social media; Ollie Bains, Harriet Bantock, Tom Chance, Gemma Millns, Ellie Stefiuk, Chloe Treasure, Ryan West, and Becky Wyde- thank you to Chloe for her work on updating the front cover of the magazine. A special thanks also to all of our contributors; Hammudi Al-Rahmoun Font and Dr Abir Hamdar for taking part in our interviews; our proof readers for this issue, Dr Marcela CazzoliGoeta and Josefina Troncoso (Spanish); Hannah Rose Thomas for our stunning front cover photo taken in the Sahara desert; and Dr. Mike Thompson for continuing to support our project. Remember, we are always keen to hear from fellow languages and cultures enthusiasts, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you want to see your name in print, or get involved in any other way! Good luck with exams and make the most of the sun while it’s still here… Rebecca Kennaugh




FEATURE: An Interview with Hammudi Al-Rahmoun Font, the

director of Otel.lo p.5 Almodóvar’s World belongs behind the Screen


Goodbye, Lenin! - A personal and political film p.9

FEATURE: Der Schweigende: Floating Silence. A prize-winning poem from Durham’s Rebecca Williamson


Travel Medellín

p. 11



What are British Tourists doing wrong in Spain? La Flânerie à Paris



The Truths of Travel: What the ‘Gap Yahs’ don’t tell you p.15 Hannah's Italian Gap Year

p. 16

FEATURE: An interview with Durham’s Dr Abir Hamdar p.17

Year Abroad Volunteering on your Year Abroad


A day in the life of a Translation Wizard: Gütersloh, Germany p.20 Bilingual Schools in Spain: Are they worth the investment?

p.21 3

Year Abroad Opportunity- 6 Month Erasmus+ Traineeship in Vienna p.22

Photo Entries


Cuisine Fácil y Barato: el guía estudiantil de la comida peruana


5 Really Good Reasons To Get Fat In Mexico


The French are so ‘nuts’ for Nutella: Nutella Microwave Mug Cake Recipe p.28

Current Affairs FEATURE: The Fate of Boris Nemtsov & ¿Quién era Boris Nemtsov? p.30-31

Liberté , Egalité , Fraternité- in the face of the Charlie Hebdo attack p.32 p.33

The Refugee Crisis in the Middle East

The Rise of the Far Right in Europe: Twitter’s Perspective p.35 Jews and Muslims in Europe


'Languages' French in Senegal

p. 37

A History of the Welsh language Le Verlan p. 40

p. 38

A Japanese Adventure p. 41 The Perks of Being a Languages Student

p.42 4

An Interview with Hammudi AlRahmoun Font, the director of Otel.lo (2012) Shakespeare’s tragedy is a tale of jealousy and deceit, O thello; passion, power struggles and race. These are just some of the universal themes explored by Hammudi Al-Rahmoun Font in his brilliant adaptation of the play in his film Otel.lo, the winner of the best European Independent Film at the 2013 European Independent Film Festival. Al-Rahmoun manages to shock and trouble the audience with something we already know; the director is a master manipulator. By casting himself as Iago, however, we see the extent to which both the actors and the audience are pawns in the director’s game. Dark and intense, this bold adaptation also shows a director’s hunger to obtain raw, believable emotion from his actors.


On March 2nd 2015, Hammudi came over from Barcelona for an evening screening of his film in Durham. He joined us afterwards for a question and answer session in Catalan, interpreted by our advanced Catalan students. Why Othello? What I liked about Othello was that it speaks about manipulation much more than it does about jealousy. A person who falls victim to jealousy is one who is open to manipulation; if Othello hadn’t been jealous, Iago wouldn’t have succeeded in manipulating him. Shakespeare’s play also pits strength against intelligence, through Othello and Iago- the sword doesn’t always win. Othello may be physically strong, but deep down he is weak. What wins here is intelligence; in reality it’s the thinker who has power over the ‘strong man’. Have you always been interested in Shakespeare’s work? Othello is actually the only work of Shakespeare that I’ve read! I read it as I wanted to explore the theme of jealousy, and it’s the most important work that discusses this idea. I discovered two things through studying it, both positive and negative. The good? Othello speaks about themes besides jealousy, most importantly manipulation.


The bad? It’s a difficult read! Shakespeare’s theatre, in general, was written for a popular audience, as entertainment for the masses. Nowadays it’s limited to those who choose to study it; one of the ideas behind the film was to take Othello and make it accessible to a wide audience again. The language used in the play may be archaic, but the emotions and themes are still relevant. Shakespeare wrote about primary human emotions- these don’t change or disappear. Why are you so drawn to the idea of manipulation? Because directors are manipulators, and cinema is manipulation! In film, you express the truth with a lie. The play is a good metaphor for cinema; Iago is just like a film director, (but he is crazier than me!) Do you examine any contemporary political issues in the film? All the politics that you see in the film is taken from the play; the play is full of political themes. Othello is a black man who wants to be part of a white society, and hopes to do so by marrying the daughter of a senator. He is the general of the Venetian army, but deep down he knows that he doesn’t belong there. This self-doubt is what makes him weak; Iago is able to make Othello believe that Desdemona would prefer to be with a white man, Cassio. However, by the end of the film you see that I, the director, have manipulated the viewer; I play with the viewer’s prejudices. This is why I chose a Moroccan actor to play Othello, as it allowed me to play on the audience’s stereotypes of Arab people. By casting an Arab character, the audience already has a stereotypical idea of what his reaction will be when he gets jealous, as opposed to casting a blonde, white man. Why do you think Iago wants to destroy Othello? Because he feels betrayed. He himself is an immigrant, yet Othello chooses Cassio over him to become lieutenant. Othello chooses Cassio for the same reason he wants to marry Desdemonahe’s white, and Othello doesn’t want to be associated with other immigrants. Iago is enraged; he feels that he’s closer to Othello than Cassio is. What is the significance of the final casting scene? The final scene reveals that everything that came before it was a lie. Everything the audience has just seen is fiction; it is indeed a film. Just as Othello believes Iago’s lies, I wanted the film itself to be about lying, to cheat the viewer into believing that what he had watched was the truth.


How did you cast the actors in reality? There was a small casting with the casting director, and I was there with a camera. We were then left with two choices for the character of Othello and two for Desdemona. The second casting was the one seen in the film; I interviewed them, and they answered truthfully, but I asked them to lie at certain points. I then chose Youcef and Ann as they lie so well!

How do you see the future of Catalan cinema? Similar to Spanish cinema- public institutions just don’t have the money any more to finance film production. What’s more, people in Spain don’t watch films in VO; everything is dubbed. This makes it very difficult to distribute a Catalan film in the rest of Spain. Dubbing Otel.lo in Spanish would have been quite complicated and not worth it. Similarly the actors chose to make it in Catalan, their own language, as they knew it would be difficult to distribute the film in Spanish anyway. We weren’t really thinking about the audience, as we knew it wouldn’t make very much difference. What we didn’t have was not money to make the film, but to promote it; you just can’t compete with Hollywood films that fill the city with posters etc. We distributed copies of the film to five cinemas throughout Catalonia; ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ distributed four hundred! The Spanish model is in crisis and we are unsure about where funding for the promotion for films will come from in the future.

On behalf of the team I’d like to thank Hammudi for his time. Rebecca Kennaugh


Images from:,,

Almodóvar’s world belongs behind the screen the world of Pedro Almodóvar through his cinema is a truly memorable experience. The E ntering bizarre lifestyles of his characters are matched by their extravagant personalities and costume, offering an insight into the director’s fantastical interpretation of the microcosmic setting of Madrid; the strangest part of all, of course, being how easy it is to accept Almodóvar’s surreal environment as a reality, for as long as the screen is in front of us.

What the cinema did was to offer Almodóvar total freedom. The context of the movida madrileña that he was working in at the very start of his career granted liberation from Franco’s dictatorship, and caused a sudden explosion of colour and life, most of all in Madrid. Previous boundaries were being broken; separate themes and identities being blurred into an indulgent, overflowing mix. How people expressed themselves in the wider world was changing, and different art forms were blending with surprising ease. Ideas of theatre, film, writing and music were thus fusing together in a way that hadn’t really been seen before in Spain, and Almodóvar exemplifies exactly this in his films of complex, interweaving plots and outlandish settings. The hilarious taxi scenes in ‘Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios’, for example, show such a dreamlike, exotic vibrancy that reflects the kind of drama often found on the stage. Indeed this film made it to the stage in the form of a Broadway musical in 2010, which due to low profits and ticket sales was unfortunately forced to close its run in the Belasco theatre. Why then, should Almodóvar’s films be adapted for the stage? As ‘Mujeres al borde’ makes a further attempt at success as a musical comedy, making its Chicagoland debut and its West End premiere (and running into May 2015, in case you were wondering, with a live band and extensive guitar music taking to the stage), the question of whether it is right to play with the original, quirky film remains. Almodóvar’s elaborate films are already so dramatic on the screen, with layers of colour and a complexity of themes that are almost impossible, to recreate within the limitations of theatre production. To me, this seems evidence enough to encourage Almodóvar’s cinema to remain purely cinema, and about as iconic as much cinema comes. We should leave his films as films, and learn to appreciate the theatricality found within them.

Beatrice Calver



-A Personal and Political Film fter suffering a tragic heart attack when she sees her son Alex protesting against East-German rule, Christiane Kerner falls into a coma, during which the fall of the Berlin Wall sees Germany

reunited. The fear of her suffering a further attack when she discovers her beloved state has collapsed drives Alex to recreate the German Democratic Republic in her apartment for when she reawakens, resulting in increasingly ridiculous deceptions to maintain the illusion.

The film manages to comment astutely on both political and individual repercussions of the East-German situation, while retaining a poignant element. Although Alex appears initially disillusioned with the GDR and actively protests against it, it soon becomes obvious that he is increasingly invested in the East-German world he has created for his mother. This establishes the concept of ‘Ostalgie’: nostalgia for the East (Ost) Germany. For some, the loss of the GDR created a significant void in their lives. In a survey following the collapse of the Wall 49% of East-Germans said the GDR had more good aspects than bad whereas only 13% of West-Germans said the same about the West. It is clear that once Alex creates his artificial world the ‘Ostalgie’ is too strong for him to wish to leave it, and sustaining it becomes as much for his benefit as for his mother’s. Sharp comparisons are drawn between him and sister Ariane who moves forward into the new capitalist world while he remains stuck in the past, creating his own news programmes for his mother to watch and raiding abandoned houses for East-German products in order to sustain their world. The world Alex creates for his mother inside their Berlin flat invokes not only the personal dimension of a boy doing the best he can to care for his mother, but also makes a political comment on the EastGerman regime. Unknowingly Alex creates a world based more closely upon the old regime than he realises with his obsessive control of the programmes Christiane is allowed to watch and the concoction of his own news stories to sustain the illusion. With this and his attempts to force Ariane and her boyfriend Rainer to help cover up the truth Alex increasingly represents a dictator mobilising the weapons of the communist state. While he appears to be simply a boy caring for his mother, his world becomes a microcosm of the old East and a living representation of the ‘Ostalgie’ many felt for the deceased GDR.


Emma Wall


Der Schweigende: Floating Silence Der Schweigende Wie ein Pendel hängt er suspendiert. Wie eine Uhr sieht er zu mit geschlossenen Augen wie die Zeit fliegt. Wie ein Engel steigt er zu uns hinab. Wie ein Freund greift er nach uns mit verschränkten Armen berührt er noch.

Floating Silence He hangs suspended like a pendulum. He watches like a clock with closed eyes how the time passes. He descends to us like an angel. He reaches out to us like a friend with folded arms he touches us still.

Er schwebt unverritzt von unseren Leben. Blind, stumm und taub hängt er in seiner Welt, die sich anders dreht. Er betrachtet uns hier draußen nicht. Beschaulich blickt er nach innen, trauert um die Verlorene, die alles geben.

He floats untouched by our lives. Blind, mute and deaf he hangs in his world which turns differently. He doesn’t watch us here outside. He gazes contemplatively inwards,

Wir Menschen fallen, sterben, verenden. Unsere Zeit ist kurz und noch kürzer wenn wir töten. Wir sind nicht zeitlos, ewig, unsterblich. Seine Zeit ist lang er hängt noch bis zum Ende.

We men fall, die, perish. Our time is short, and still shorter when we kill. We are not timeless, eternal, immortal. His time is long he hangs still until the end.

Ein ernstes Gesicht, herabhängende Mundwinkel. Goldenes Haar rahmt wie ein Heiligenschein das Gesicht ein, das Kriege durchlebte. Zwei offene Hände, an seine Brust angedrückt. Kreuzende Arme halten alle Kummer der Welt damit wir ihn nicht selbst tragen müssen.

A serious face, a downturned expression. Golden hair frames like a halo

grieves for the lost, who gave everything.

the face which has lived through wars. Two open hands, pressed to his chest. Crossed arms hold all the sorrow of the world so that we must not carry it ourselves.

Rebecca Williamson won the first prize in the German-language poetry category for Der Schweigende, inspired by Ernst Barlach’s hanging sculpture of a hovering angel. The competition was organised by the Institute of Modern Languages Research, the British Museum and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).


MEDELLÍN Medellín's fame comes largely from its reputation as the drug capital of Colombia, which was, until recently, the highest exporter of cocaine in the world. Consequently, my decision to spend three months living there was met mainly with fear or suspicion, depending on the perception of my personality, and I suspect this reputation is a strong repellent for many potential tourists. However, this branding of the city is one-dimensional and unrealistic, and inhibits a proper understanding of a truly wonderful place. Where before there was dangerous socio-economic separation ruled by infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar, there is now a powerful and progressive government, and cheap, all-inclusive public transport, making it one of the safest South-American cities. This has led to much greater freedom of expression and as a result a considerable rise in artistic enterprise, as seen in the MAMM (Museo de Arte Moderno Medellín) which regularly displays experimental Antioquian art, and various theatres showcasing young acting and playwriting talents such as El Teatro Lido. The city is also the birthplace of world-renowned artist Fernando Botero, and an expansive collection of his work is held in El Museo de Antioquia, chronologically documenting the political changes of the city through the eyes of one of the most important South-American painters of the 20th century. However, it would be a great injustice to exclude the city's ability and willingness to party, and this is best done in the more touristy El Poblado. Around the area's main square are many expensive and upmarket clubs, but there exist in equal number small and unusual venues. In all of these, the local interest in, and eye for fashion is always on display, but being tall, white, and badly dressed never made me feel out of place, in fact many locals were very curious as to what an English boy was doing in their city and extremely proud that I liked it so much. Another impressive ability of many paisas (people from Antioquia) is dancing - naturally I was extremely wary of this, but I need not have feared: the central square is as busy as the clubs, with people chatting and voraciously drinking the local spirit aguardiente until clubs close at six in the morning. And yet despite the glorious physical features of the city, I can't help but end on the painful cliché that it is the people that make it such an amazing place. It is set in a beautiful valley, blessed with enormous amounts of water, and rapidly developing, but it is the pride in these facts that make Medellín's inhabitants its finest feature.

Theo Dye


CHEFCHAOUEN The bus teetered round the corner as we climbed higher and higher up the mountainside, none of us daring to look out the window to see just how close to the edge we were. We had been travelling for nearly ten hours at this point, fortunate enough to be crammed into seats whilst most were standing. But the suffocating heat and the dead feeling in our legs were all forgotten as we rounded the last bend and saw the azure town jut out from the mountains, the Blue Pearl of Morocco: Chefchaouen. This town is considered one of the most beautiful places in the world by some (albeit mainly Moroccans), and my two friends, when planning their trip to visit me in Morocco, decided that we simply could not miss out on a visit. Before going, the only information I had gained about the town had been interesting to say the least: on hearing of our plans two policemen politely informed us that Chefchaouen had “really good hash”. Nevertheless we booked three tickets from Rabat for the measly sum of 100 Dirhams each (the equivalent of £8) and hopped on the 5am bus. After piling out and shaking off our legs, we trudged on up the hill from the bus stop, the blue buildings within our sights. Around 20 minutes later we arrived at the entrance to the Medina, the heart of the city. It is quite hard to describe the beauty of the blue mass that stood before us. With each turn we found ourselves enveloped by the medina that was awash with varying shades of blue and white. The intricate maze of walls was lined with street merchants selling an unending array of food, spices and leather goods, and before too long we were lost. Yet suddenly the path opened out into Place Outa el Hamam, the main centre of the town. As we sat drinking Berber whiskey (that’s mint tea to you and me), we couldn’t fail to be impressed by the dramatic backdrop of the mountains, looming behind the medina. Out of nowhere the sun reappeared, giving us renewed energy to explore the town. The Kasbah stood out against the rest of the square, a 15th century terracotta fortress built by the city’s founder Moulay Ali ben Moussa. They say that behind every door in Morocco is a beautiful courtyard waiting to be discovered, and the Kasbah is no different- a walled oasis of palm trees, rose bushes and jasmine. We wandered aimlessly further on, soaking up the colours of the town, and to the east we approached Ras el Ma, meaning “head of the water” in Arabic, a calming little waterfall jetting straight out of the mountainside.


We decided that the perfect way to end our short day-trip was to climb to the top of a nearby hill just outside the town, as our guidebook informed us that it offered the best views of Chefchaouen. And I can honestly say that we were not disappointed.

Sam Harper-Booth


What are British Tourists doing wrong in Spain? Big paunches, sunburnt skin, binge-drinking and a general lack of respect for their surroundings are some of the main traits that many people around the world associate with British tourists in Spain. However, is this hard-earned reputation actually representative of all the British tourists that travel to Spain? Or, is it merely a small minority who, in some cases, get arrested for flaunting their stuff or for forgetting that it simply is not acceptable to vomit in the street? I will start by relating this phenomenon with a personal experience. Last summer, I was in Santa Ponça, Mallorca sitting on the beach with a group of friends minding our own business when suddenly, out of the corner of my eyes, I noticed a somewhat dazed-looking man who quite simply fell flat on his face onto the sand. Given that the man in question was holding a can of beer in one hand, it was easy to deduce that his fall from grace had been caused by overdoing the alcohol. When I went to help the man to stand, it dawned on me that this man was probably in his fifties and was in Mallorca for a stag weekend. However, he will not want to be reminded of how he got helped at 3pm by a group of people who were at least 30 years younger than him. This incident made me realise how British tourists really are an embarrassment to our country sometimes. Package holidays first became popular with British tourists whilst General Franco was still in power in Spain and the cheap, all-inclusive offer of flights, accommodation, food and drink has encouraged vast numbers of British tourists to visit areas of Spain such as the Balearic Islands, the Costa Blanca and the Costa del Sol. These places go by the mantra of ‘British food for British people’ and many of the staff that work in the restaurants and bars can just about say ‘Hola’ (sounding similar to the English verb 'to holler') but that is as far as their Spanish goes. The influx of these tourists has brought a considerable windfall to much of Spain, and its main industry continues to be tourism. However, given the inevitable loss of heritage when bars are named ‘The Wee Man’s Bar’, many locals are not so keen on the tourists, who according to one source ‘scream, sing, fall down, take their clothes off, cross-dress and vomit’.

I am by no means claiming that British tourists should not be allowed to have a good time when they go abroad. However, you only need to google image search ‘British tourists Spain’ and you will see plenty of men displaying their bottoms in public, some of which even have the Union Jack tattooed on there.

Ben Joseph


La Flânerie à Paris After six weeks au pairing for an enormous brood of unruly French children (eight of them –yes, eight), I was certainly ready for a break. Hopping on the TGV in Dijon, my brain heaved a sigh of relief – no more nappychanging, dull English lessons, or having spoons thrown at my head. I was headed for the City of Lights. I’d been to Paris a few times before on school trips, so I’d done all the major touristy things. I’d been up the Eiffel Tower, inside Notre Dame, seen the Mona Lisa, taken a cruise on the Seine and wandered around the Champs Elysées and Place de la Concorde (as well as a sneaky trip to Disneyland). This time, I wanted something a little different. Armed with a good pair of shoes and a map, I decided to walk the city for three days. Public transport in Paris is excellent of course, but I always find that the best way to get to know a city is to walk as much as possible. I firmly maintain that getting lost over and over again is good for the soul, and Paris’s spectacular attractions are all the more so when you have just stumbled across them after wandering off down a side street. Some highlights: paying homage to Beauvoir and Sartre over a cup of coffee at Les Deux Magots, browsing for literally hours at Shakespeare and Company, popping over to the Panthéon to visit Rousseau, Voltaire and Hugo and perusing the second-hand books for sale on the banks of the river (can you sense a theme emerging?). My mini gastronomic tour of the capital included the inevitable red wine, cheese, crêpes, and macaroons that are to be found absolutely everywhere, but during my wanders I also discovered a truly wonderful Algerian patisserie (La Bague de Kenza, 136, Rue Saint Honoré), enticing Moroccan food stalls (Marché des Enfants Rouges, 39 Rue de Bretagne), and my first glorious taste of Lebanese food (at Feyrouz, 8 Rue de Lourmel). Walking around the central areas of Paris soon takes on a slightly surreal feeling. You start to lose the ability to appreciate the fantastically opulent architecture, simply because there is so much of it. Rounding a corner to be greeted by yet another imposing stone edifice becomes the norm, which makes meandering off the beaten track so much more rewarding. Similarly, although it may be blasphemous to admit it, I got rather bored at the Louvre. Once inside, all the pieces, phenomenal as they are individually, began to blend into one, and after being trampled for a third time by a busload of camera-wielding tourists, I beat a hasty retreat to the nearby, and slightly more peaceful Jardin des Tuileries. Rounding off the trip with a visit to Montmartre, I traced my steps away from the crowded squares, full of artists selling tired and rather unoriginal depictions of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, and spent my time in the quieter streets, marvelling at some incredible graffiti.


It may sound cynical to dismiss the traditional attractions of one of the world’s most visited cities in this way, but my intention is not to devalue these treasured monuments. I only propose that we look a little further afield in our travels than TripAdvisor’s Top Ten. Ditch the bus tours and the carefully planned itineraries, and let your gut instinct dictate your route. At the very least, you’ll get an experience that’s completely unique.

Naoise Murphy

The Truths of Travel: What the ‘Gap-Yahs’ don’t tell you


he idea of jetting off and going on a several month long journey in some of the most amazing parts of the world is the fantasy which allows thousands of young school leavers to endure months on a till, or, more relevantly, helps finalists to struggle through the last year of tedious coursework and soul-destroying exams, energized by the idea of trekking through remote jungles, feeding baby tiger cubs, and sinking buckets on Koh Phagnan.

The first response you get from your friends when they return home is often “The best X months of my life”. Invariably this is true, however I offer a word of warning for those with unrealistic expectations of what is to come, beyond the euphoric haze of reminiscing the best times.

Travelling, especially alone, can be tough. If you’re anything like myself, after too long without anyone to chat to, you start to go mad in your own company. Even the best experiences are not the same without someone to share it with. Although solo travelling is romanticized and often the most rewarding, tread with caution; especially some places in Africa and Central Asia where you can go for months without seeing another westerner, not to mention the expenses that come with going solo. So think, before deciding to buddy up, whether you want someone to share your experiences with, or whether you are looking for the challenge of flying solo. Secondly, it is all too easy to travel on someone else’s agenda. In South America, we met hundreds of young people following the same tracked out route, the gringo trail, around the continent, because others had told them that whatever they were going to find in the next place would be unforgettable. However, after months of following someone else’s travel plans, I decided I hated cities (apart from Rio), and just wanted to find a beach. Although this is great in helping you realize what you like and dislike as a person, don’t waste your yearned for freedom following another person’s itinerary- think what you want to do, what you want to see, what you want to experience, rather than ticking the boxes and getting the photos up on Facebook. Above all, travel is what you make of it. Active travelling is tiring and requires research and initiative, but it is so rewarding. Try to get rid of preconceptions you may hold, and get yourself out there, learn the language and speak to locals- you will find hidden gems. Do NOT waste your time sitting around in the hostel on your phone; you’ll have plenty of time at your office job for Twitter and Candy Crush.

Callum Fraser


Hannah's Italian Gap Year Going into year 13 exam season, everything appeared to all be in the bag for embarking on a new journey at university after what would be a much welcomed summer break. Yet, one day somewhere in the middle of May, I decided the prospect of university didn’t seem to be exciting me as much as it did my friends. Thus, that afternoon, without consulting teachers, friends or family, I cancelled my UCAS application and offers with one confident click! The next step was to call home and tell my parents what an impulsive and potentially stupid thing I had done… After the realisation that there was no going back we set out to find something worthwhile for me to do…Fortunately for me, through friends of friends, an Italian family was found who were glad to welcome an English girl as their guest with no au-pairing type conditions attached while I would also be volunteering at a bilingual nursery during the day. So, come September, while all my friends were sending me pictures of themselves covered head to toe in neon paint with a pint glass in their hands, I was setting off for Bologna. I landed having a knowledge of Italian that consisted of ‘ciao’ -which unhelpfully I had always believed was spelt ‘chow’ as in ‘chicken Chow Mein’ – I was apprehensive to say the least! After a few shaky and tearful weeks of endless sign language conversations I perked myself up with the opportunity to head up a new English course for children; an easy way to earn money while playing with delightful kids…or so I thought… Yes the money was earned and yes the children were very sweet but oh was it hard work…I think one anecdote will suffice in summarising my experience; while playing duck, duck goose with three 9 year old children I successfully tagged a little girl yet no sooner had I playfully tackled her to the floor did I feel a sudden wetness and smell something rather suspicious…

All photos: Author's own

Yes you guessed it…in all the excitement of my wonderful English game she had soiled herself…her excuse? She didn’t know how to say ‘where is the loo?’ in English! Needless to say the memory of articulating what had happened to the child’s mother in my limited Italian while all the other mums looked on judgingly will always spring to mind when I’m asked, ‘Oh you took a gap year! What did you do?!’

Hannah Donne

Perhaps then, you’d be surprised to hear that I did not stick to the 6 month planned trip but ended up returning to England 11 months later- a couple of weeks before starting Durham! For me, ‘gap year’ doesn’t justify my time in Italy. It wasn’t so much a year to travel, explore the world, and courageously clean up children’s accidents, but signified the start of a great ongoing relationship with a wonderful Italian family whom I now skype and visit regularly. The year ignited a passion in me for everything Italian and I look forward with enthusiasm to my year abroad in 2017!


An Interview with Dr Abir Hamdar What is your main area of academic research? I work on modern Middle Eastern literatures and film, with a particular focus on questions of health, illness and disability. As well as my primary research interest, I have an additional specialism in literature and religion, particularly literary and filmic representations of Islamism from the Middle East and North Africa. More broadly, I work on postcolonial literatures and film.

You recently published a monograph, The Female Suffering Body: Illness and Disability in Modern Arabic Literature'. Can you tell us some more about this? What were the main challenges in undertaking this project? The book is the first study of the representation of female illness and disability in modern Arabic literature from 1950 to the present and focuses on works written in both English and Arabic. To answer your question about challenges, then, I would say the single biggest problem was finding representations of female illness and disability in the first place: they are remarkably scarce, particularly in earlier 20th century literature. When I told a distinguished expert in the field of Arabic literature that I was working on ill and disabled women characters, he told me ‘There aren’t any!’ In fact, it is only comparatively recently that this figure has begun to be explicitly addressed and characterized. So, I try to tell the story of what I call the ‘female suffering body’ and, in particular, of its emergence from the margins of the Arabic novel and short story.

What do you consider to be your most significant research accomplishments? I would have to say my monograph. It is based on my PhD thesis so, in one way or another, I’ve been working on it for a long time. In that sense, it’s a relief to finally see it in print!

What are you working on currently? I’m currently working on a number of other projects that explore my main research interests in modern Middle Eastern literatures and cultures, medicine and religion. For one, I’ve just finished co-editing a collection of essays entitled Islamism and cultural Expression in the Arab World.


I am also beginning work on a sequel to my first book that, I hope, will offer the first cultural history of representations of Arab physicians from the early 20th century to the present day. So, the task of hunting down Arab doctors in literature and film has just begun. My students have been wonderful in this respect: every time they catch a glimpse of a doctor in Arab literature and film they jot it down and send me the details. In this sense, I feel like I have a large network of researchers who are helping me now! Finally, I am also taking notes for another project that again will focus on my interest in health and illness: a cultural history of cancer in the Arab world.

What is the best aspect of working here at Durham? What do you think you would be doing if you hadn't come to Durham? I think the nicest thing about working here at Durham is walking down the corridors of MLAC. You bump into students and colleagues chatting in German, others in Russian and still others in Chinese. So, it feels like a little oasis of multiculturalism in a small, northern English city. If I hadn’t come to Durham, what would I be doing now? In fact, I did once consider a complete change of career path and training to become a doctor, specializing in internal medicine, so who knows?

Can you tell us a bit about your work as a writer of short stories and plays? Hmmm… I’ve written a few short stories and had plays performed but I’m not sure what they are about… Last year, someone who introduced me at a creative reading described what I write as ‘strange’. I guess that will do.

What do you enjoy reading outside of your research? I am a literature specialist so I love reading novels. At the moment I’m having a Colm Tóibín phase: I recently read his Testament of Mary and, as a result, have bought a few of his other novels. These will be my Easter reads.

What's the main advice you'd like to give to the students studying Arabic here, and other languages and cultures? First of all, I would say ‘Ahlan wa sahlan’ – welcome! To be honest, Arabic is a tough language to learn and there are no shortcuts. But it’s not enough to just do your homework. It always helps to be emotionally invested in the language and culture – be curious about what’s going on, read th newspapers and visit when you can… Thank you for taking part in our interview, Dr Hamdar!

Rebecca Kennaugh


Volunteering On Your Year Abroad You’ve arrived in your new home. You’ve finally got a flat, opened a bank account, and navigated the elusive maze of paperwork that might at last let you register for some classes or be paid by the British Council (yes, that does eventually happen). You’re all settled in and the long-awaited months stretch before you, with written task deadlines just a blurry dot in the distance and occasional Erasmus nights in your local Irish pub to fill the time in between. All you can think now is, ‘what next?’ If you’re looking to do something a little more productive than spending hours in your neighbourhood tapas bar or patisserie, why not try an activity that can help you delve deeper into the target culture, whilst meeting new people and developing your CV at the same time? Why not try volunteering? As a British Council assistant in Córdoba, Spain, time was certainly not something that I was lacking, and getting involved in my new community was the first thing that I did to complement my volunteering interests in the UK. Fast forward a month and I found myself spending an evening per week entertaining children in the city hospital and another running a social and cultural programme for recent refugee arrivals living in sheltered accommodation. These were some of the best experiences that I had in all of the fourteen months that I spent away.

So why were they so special? To begin selfishly, you can guarantee that none of your fellow volunteers will be foreign, nor there with the intention of learning English. Finally, some friends who don’t want to rehearse ‘Hello, how are you?’ ad infinitum! Your

target language skills suddenly become your biggest asset. What you can also guarantee is that it will look great when applying for jobs – someone who can leave their comfort zone and help others, and with work experience too? You’re hired! But the really amazing opportunity is seeing a whole other side of the culture that would not normally be open to you. Whether you’re meeting the real people behind the news stories about migration to Europe, or just getting away from the student lifestyle to hang out with some pensioners, every day will be different and eye opening. The best bit is that you then get to become a part of this culture by getting stuck in and making a difference. What are you waiting for? Get out and get involved in your local community if you want your year abroad to take you above and beyond your degree.

Emma Sankey


A day in the life of a translation wizard in Gütersloh, Germany


ingers race along the keys at breakneck speed, the spell has worked, my brain and body whirr in harmony, words flowing from my mind, through my veins and into the computer. A burst of pixie dust and it is done, translation complete and sent off…Then the piercing sound of the morning flicks my eyes open and I realise that it’s time for work. It was all just a dream. However, it is a very real dream for a translator.

Now, you may be wondering what on earth a translation wizard is. Although this does bring to mind a computer programme or even a little old man waving his wand at a collection of words, it quite simply translates (excuse the pun) as, well, a translator. The thing is, from my experience, many companies fail to appreciate the time and effort that is required to transform the contents of one text into one that flows nicely in another language. Months can go into preparing a project, which this international company intends to disseminate to all four corners of the earth. The logical assumption here is that, in order to keep customers happy and give the impression that you are making an effort for them, it would be helpful for said project to appear in at least a few languages. It’s handy for comprehension, you see. Equally logical would be to give the translator a good warning in advance.


But no. A week or, worst-case scenario, days before this project is to be broadcast to the world, a lowly project manager suddenly ‘remembers’ that (s)he only has the text in one language. Oh dear. A phone call, a desperate cry for help, is swiftly popped down the line to our translation office, requesting that it would be best if this text could be translated by yesterday and declaring eternal gratitude if we could just quickly reproduce the project in 6 languages. What transpires next in our little circle is approximately as follows: a sigh from the email’s first victim; more sighs as the email is circulated around the office; frantic telephone calls and finger-tapping, “Are you available this afternoon?”, “Do you know anyone who is available?”, “Please, we could really do with some help on this”, “Why is nobody available?!” Because, my dear, most of them are busy with the last desperate cry for help we received, remember… We do manage to get the job done, after much huffing and brain frazzling, dictionary searching and proofreading – after all, are we or are we not translation wizards?

Anna Murphy



Bilingual Schools in Spain: are they worth the investment? or the majority of my year abroad, I have been working as a language assistant at a bilingual school. Before I started working there, I really did not know what a bilingual school was, so questions like 'What exactly is a bilingual school?', 'Which classes are taught in English and which are taught in Spanish?' and 'Are all the students and teachers bilingual?' flashed through my mind, but soon enough I found the answers. Essentially, at bilingual schools the students who opt to be in the bilingual classes have about ten hours or so a week of classes taught in English, so this includes English and subjects such as Science, Geography, Maths, P.E. and Music. Eighty-two primary schools and forty-four secondary schools take part in this project. The curriculum implemented in these schools is not only bilingual but bicultural, which means the focus of the English classes, other than improving the students' English, is to learn about English and even American culture.

The best part of the bilingual system is the number of contact hours the students get with the target language, and the ensuing bicultural awareness. I have taught classes about Remembrance Day, Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Pancake Day and more. In my classes with some of the older students, it was nice to see that they already knew a lot about English, and even American culture. When I was in secondary school, I knew very little about the French and Spanish cultures, and I had only a total amount of four hours each week of French and Spanish. I think it is also amazing how students have classes other than English taught in the target language. I cannot imagine having all my secondary school French and Spanish classes in these languages, let alone being taught subjects like History, Geography, Science and Music! However, the bilingual project is not perfect: its level of success depends on the school in question. English is meant to be spoken in all bilingual classes, but in classes such as Humanities, Science or Music, some teachers switch back to Spanish and the number of contact hours with English decreases. The main reason why they switch back to Spanish, though, is to make sure the pupils understand what they are talking about, this can also be because the level of English of some of the English teachers is quite low. This can also mean pupils begin to copy the teachers' incorrect English. Nevertheless, hiring English language assistants is also part of this bilingual project and we help in these areas that teachers sometimes find difficult. For example, in all the classes I am in I get the students to talk and I help them with their pronunciation. Moreover, the problem of the level of English of teachers is a short term issue. For instance, the school I work at has this problem but this is due to the fact that the school is quite new to the programme and some of the teachers have had to quickly improve their English to meet the demands of the bilingual project. There are lots of other schools who have been doing this for a long time and they do not have this problem. Even with this short-term problem, the level of English of the students at the bilingual school I work at is much higher than the level of English of those at non-bilinguals schools. When I worked as an au-pair for the first part of my year abroad, the Spanish family I lived with had a 13 year old daughter who was quite intelligent and got high grades in her English class, but when I first started at the school I realised that her level of English was lower than students I work with now who are the same age as her. She also had a friend who went to a bilingual school and her level of English was a lot higher. So even though the level of the teachers' English may be a problem in some schools, being exposed to (even imperfect) English for a third of your classes still helps, as does hiring language assistants.


After looking at the successes of the bilingual system and some of its problems, the really important question to ask is 'are bilingual schools really worth the investment?' Ultimately, I think they are. I would not say the bilingual system makes students bilingual, however, but I have seen some excellent levels of English. I can have normal conversations with the best students - they understand most of what I say (even with my slight regional accent), and can express themselves well. Although the students are not really bilingual, they are getting there with the help of the bilingual schools project, and they are still so young. Even though this project does have problems, these are areas that can be easily improved, and some of them are only short-term. In short, the bilingual system in Spain is worth the investment as it provides students with an extra boost to become fluent in English, and gives them access to English and American culture. I wish I had had the opportunity to go to a bilingual school when I was younger, because it would have greatly helped my Spanish and French, and would have improved my knowledge of the cultures of these two countries.

Shanae Ennis-Molhado

Year Abroad Opportunity: 6-Month Erasmus+ Traineeship in Vienna I have just spent the last six months working in the beautiful Austrian capital of Vienna. I was very fortunate to secure an internship (Praktikum) through Erasmus+ working in the international office of the Pädagogische Hochschule Wien (the University of Education). In my role as Erasmus+ Assistentin , I supported the office staff as well as completing my own tasks. This included official correspondence with European partner universities as well as negotiating and drawing up Erasmus+ contracts between institutions. My work also involved translating documents such as booklets, Powerpoints and leaflets for incoming students and staff, and completing daily errands such as answering the telephone, dealing with post and information requests. I also had lots of contact with native Austrian students, helping them complete their relevant documentation after their semester abroad and I assisted the friendly office staff by ensuring documents were logged and filed correctly. Another fantastic part of my job was having the opportunity to work with Incoming Erasmus+ students from all over Europe. Not only have I created lasting friendships with some of these students, I also got to take part on many excursions with them, including a trip to the Viennese countryside and a weekend in Graz, Austria’s second largest city. I also helped to organise the Orientation Week for the Incoming students. This involved liaising with other staff within the university, as well as helping students with tasks such as administration and opening bank accounts to ensure they had the best start to their semester in Vienna. I was also a point of contact for these students if they had any problems, or simply wanted to practise their English. Overall I had a truly fantastic experience in Austria. Not only did I improve my language skills in the workplace through meeting students and staff from all over the world, but I also got to explore and live in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The PH Wien International Office would like to welcome further Durham students of German for this traineeship. The University pays for very comfortable and well equipped accommodation which is located close to the city centre. Since this placement is run by Erasmus+ you can also take part in other Erasmus+ student events and excursions across the city. Furthermore, Vienna has fantastic air and rail links to the rest of Europe. Should anyone be interested in applying for this position for their year abroad, please do not hesitate to contact myself ( - Praktikantin September-February 14/15) or Philippa Gamble (Praktikantin March-July 2014 – Documentation will need to be submitted to Dr Thomas Bauer (Head of the International Office at PH Wien) at

Clara Fennessy


Photo Entries

Louise Irvine: Provence

Oleksandra Lebedieva: a couple in Spain

Oleksandra Lebedieva:Iguazu Falls

Sarah Garner: Barcelona

Hannah Rose Thomas: Dome of the Rock

Fácil y Barato: el guía estudiantil de la comida peruana


his summer, I am lucky enough to be going to Peru to teach English on my Year Abroad. As I’ll be in Peru for four months, I thought that in order to calm my nerves of moving away to a country with a completely different culture for such a long period of time, I would do a bit of research. And what better way is there to do research than through cooking and of course, eating, food? However, the first problem I encountered with the Peruvian style recipes was that a lot of these recipes weren’t “student friendly.” They either took too long to make, or the ingredients were incredibly expensive (or just plain impossible to find in the Durham supermarkets). Therefore, I present you with slightly modified, cheap, easy and delicious recipes that would make any housemate jealous of your food!

Ingredients (Serves 4):

Lomo Saltado (Basically beef stew)

• 1 package of frozen chips (yes, chips) • Vegetable oil as needed • 1 packet of diced beef (Tesco s own brand should do the trick) • Salt and Pepper to taste • 1 onion • 3 large tomatoes, deseeded and sliced into strips (lazy people can use tinned) • ¼ cup of distilled white vinegar • 1 dash soy sauce If you are feeling brave:

All photos: Author's own

• 1 yellow chilli pepper Instructions: Difficulty: Easy Prep/Cook time: 30-40 mins (but remember it serves 4, so no cooking for a while!) • Prepare the bag of chips according to package directions. It might be better measure chips by eye rather than doing the whole bag!! • While the chips are cooking, heat the oil in a pan (I used a wok as it was the only clean thing available) over a medium-high heat. • Season the sliced meat with salt and pepper to taste. • Fry the meat until just cooked, and the juices begin to release. • Remove the meat from the frying pan, then cook the onions, with additional oil if needed. • Stir in the tomatoes (and chilli if need be), and cook until the tomato softens. • Pour in the vinegar (which I completely forgot about but it still tasted amazing), soy sauce, and then add the chips, cover, and cook until the beef is done. (About 5 mins) • Season to taste.


Alfajores (Diabetes in a biscuit) Ingredients (Makes 15): Biscuit: • 100g cornflour • 50g plain flour • 50g ground almonds • 1tsp baking powder • 100g butter • 100g caster sugar • 2 egg yolks If you’re feeling keen: • 1tsp vanilla extract • Grated rind of half a lemon Filling and topping • Dulce de leche (or the tub of carnation caramel sauce) • Bar of chocolate Instructions: Difficulty: Easy Prep/cook time: 30 mins • If you are really feeling keen you can make the dulce de leche from scratch, however this takes a little over 7 hours and just think how many episodes you could watch of your favourite TV show. • So, for making the biscuits you have to mix the cornflour, plain flour, ground almonds and baking powder together in a bowl. Cream the butter and sugar together in a second bowl until light and fluffy. • Stir in the lemon zest and vanilla extract (if using them) and then gradually beat in the egg yolks. Add the dry ingredients and mix together with a spoon then squeeze into a dough with hands. • Divide into 30 pieces then shape into small balls. Place on buttered baking trays, leaving a little space between the biscuits, flatten slightly the cook at 180 C/Gas Mark 4 for 8-10 minutes until just beginning to turn golden round the edges. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool. • To serve, spread half the biscuits with the cooled dulce de leche, top with the remaining biscuits. • Melt the chocolate and then top the biscuits.

Limonada (as if I haven’t made you eat enough sugar) Ingredients (Serves 4): 1 cup of sugar • • 1 ½ cups of water ½ cup lime juice, works out at about 8 • limes (limones are limes, not lemons in South America) • 4 cups of crushed ice


Instructions: Difficulty: Very Easy Prep/Cook time: 15 mins • Bring water and sugar to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool • Mix sugar water, lime juice, and ice in a blender, and blend until well mixed and slushy. Serve immediately in nice glasses.

¡Buena suerte! Gemma Millns

Five Really Good Reasons To Get Fat In Mexico I was barely five minutes into my Mexican cookery lesson and the kitchen staff were already cracking up at my painfully pathetic attempt at tortilla-making. Unlike the flat, circular beauties they usually produced, I was churning out one deformed dumpling after another. “Ay, Nancy,” said Ana, the cook, almost crying with laughter. “Your tortillas look like tamales...” If anyone ever needed proof of the Mexican work ethic, Ana would be a shining example. Preparing two meals a day for an entire daycare centre (100 kids, 7 teachers, and an endless stream of volunteers) is no mean feat. Yet somehow Ana managed it on a daily basis, with apparent effortlessness, and enviable panache. Thanks to her, I was given a real insight into Mexico’s incredible, other-worldly cuisine, which is practically unrecognisable from anything you will find in the UK. Dieters, look away now: here are my top five discoveries... 1) Mole (no, not the animal). To the foreign eye, the list of ingredients for Mexico’s national dish looks like a brutal kitchen clearout. Ana’s version alone has 27, and no self-respecting Mexican would ever make a small batch. All of the ingredients are fried individually, then blended into what can only be described as... a massive pot of brown slop. It is impossible to do justice to on paper – spicy, fruity, salty and chocolatey all at the same time, it shouldn’t work, but it really does. Served simply with chicken and fried rice, it is unbelievably delicious... I promise. 2) Atole de galletas – “cookie milk”, as it was known by the adorable all-American volunteers. Biscuits, milk, condensed milk, and cinnamon, all blended into a wonderfully satisfying glass of heart attack. Need I say more? 3) Chilaquiles. My favourite ever brunch food. Deep fried corn tortillas, known as totopos, are stirred into fresh salsa roja – a rich tomato sauce made with tongue-tingling serrano chillies, garlic, onion, and coriander. Topped with crumbly ranchero cheese and a dollop of sour cream, it goes perfectly with scrambled eggs or refried beans... and is 100% worth getting chubby for.


4) Tacos. Contrary to popular belief, you won’t get Montezuma’s revenge from a (reputable) pop-up taco stand. At roughly 4 pence a pop, authentic Mexican tacos – mini, palm-sized corn tortillas – could be the best street food ever. My favourite fillings were pastor – spicy, marinated pork – with crunchy vegetables, and spicy garlic prawns with creamy chilli sauce – all with a generous squeeze of lime. 5) The Paloma. It would be unfair not to give tequila an honourable mention, and served in a saltrimmed glass, this delicious cocktail – also known as the only reason I ever agreed to salsa dancing – is a refreshing blend of tequila, grapefruit soda and lime juice. Why?

There is, however, one thing I won’t be thanking Ana for. One day, I innocently entered the kitchen only to feel a cold hand grabbing my hip.

“Ay, Nancy,” said Ana, “you’ve got a bit fatter since you arrived, haven’t you?”

The French are so ‘nuts’ for Nutella

No surprises there then. Muchas gracias, Ana...

Nancy Demuth

"W “hat, don’t they sell Nutella in the huge jars here?” recently remarked a French

student staying in Durham, “How, why?” she stuttered in amazement. Whilst some argue that our ‘lemon and sugar’ pancake is superior, no crêpe is seen as complete without Nutella in France. The chocolate and hazelnut combination is present on every self-respecting crêpe stall, and sold in three different sized jars in “yes, certainly all supermarkets I have ever known!” The smell of warm Nutella is frequently drifting around many parks and popular attractions.

When the courts have to step in to prevent a baby girl being named ‘Nutella’, it’s probably safe to say that the French are pretty obsessed with this stuff. Created in 1940, Nutella is technically an Italian invention by the pastry maker Pietro Ferrero and was first named 'Giandujot'. The love affair with the French started in 1966 and today a jar is sold every 2.5 seconds. The ninth World Nutella day has just passed (5th February), so with the constant demand to increase our cultural awareness, it would be imperative to adopt this French enthusiasm. Hence… (…to satisfy the post-college-dinner hunger pang),


The Nutella Microwave Mug Cake! A deliciously gooey chocolate heaven Cooking Time: 2 minutes

Preparation Time: 3 minutes

Serves: 1 (maybe 2 if you are willing to share!)

Ingredients: • 4 tbsp Flour (Plain or Self-

raising) • 4 tbsp Sugar • 2 tbsp Nutella • 3 tbsp Vegetable Oil • 4 tbsp Milk • 1 tbsp Cocoa Powder

You will need:


• 1 Large Microwaveable

mug •


• Table spoon measure • 1 Microwaveable plate

• 1 Egg • 2 drops Vanilla

extract • ¼ tsp Baking Powder

Method: • Firstly, break the egg into the mug, then whisk with a fork until smooth. • Add the sugar, oil, cocoa powder, milk and Nutella and mix well. • Next, add the baking powder followed by the flour (ensure primarily that this has no lumps) and mix until just combined. • Cook for a minute in a microwave on full power, leave to stand for 10 seconds, and then cook again for 1 minute or more until the edges become fudgy. • Remove and allow to cool. • Serve with cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce for a perfect treat! Beware - it may flow over the top of your mug, so to avoid a mess put a microwaveable plate under your mug to catch any excess.

Bon Appétit! Charlotte Spencer


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this magazine are those of each writer, and do not necessarily represent those of The Definite Article or of Durham University.

The Fate of Boris Nemtsov “At some point many people decided that the president was no longer the centre of power. I’ll make sure that no one ever has such illusions anymore”.

P utin’s political agenda could not have been made clearer in this interview, as he discussed the

political feeling of the 1990s. In his ruthless quest for unchallenged supremacy within Russia’s ‘managed democracy’, Putin’s ability to eliminate those who stand in his way is key. Though it is arguably at the expense of Russia’s already ailing reputation as a state trying but failing to operate a successful democracy. The recent murder of Russian scientist, statesman and liberal politician, Boris Nemtsov, is yet another example of Russia’s corrupt political-criminal nexus. It is well known that politicians who assume political office have legal immunity from investigation and prosecution, and Putin and his ‘siloviki’ (Putin’s loyal henchmen in the Kremlin, carefully selected from the military and security services) are just such an example of this.

Although it is unlikely Putin was directly implicated in Nemtsov’s murder, the current toxic political climate surrounding the Kremlin is arguably to blame for Nemtsov’s fate. Figures such as Nemtsov are frequently portrayed as supporters of Western ideology, at odds with Russian values, interests and culture.

Nemtsov constituted no major threat to Putin, despite having been an outspoken critic of him since 2000, following a successful political career under Yeltsin. In recent weeks, Nemtsov had appealed for support for a march to take place on Sunday 2nd March in Moscow opposing the Kremlin’s role in the crisis in Ukraine. Despite assurances from Putin that he himself had assumed “personal control” of the investigation, Nemtsov, when interviewed previously, had said that he feared that Putin would have him killed for his opposition to the war in Ukraine. Yet this is by no means the first time that minor opposition to Putin’s rule has been quashed.


In November 2006, former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died nearly three weeks after drinking tea laced with polonium in a London hotel. Litvinenko had worked under Putin in the FSB, however, having accused his superiors of killing the Russian tycoon and oligarch Boris Berezovsky, he sought asylum in the U.K. His new role as a journalist, writer and consultant for the British intelligence services earned him a black mark against his name. Putin is alleged to have been involved in his murder and looking at Putin’s track record, including the murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya along with countless others, this is not surprising. Even if Putin was not directly involved in Boris Nemtsov’s murder, the shooting took place within 100 metres of the Kremlin walls. Taking this proximity into account, it would seem hard to believe that this could not have been a politically-motivated murder, with or without the support of the regime.

Iona Kirkpatrick

¿Quién era Boris Nemtsov? Según el Guardian, jamás averiguaremos quién mató a Boris Nemtsov. Para muchos espectadores occidentales, es conveniente acusar al Kremlin como organizador del crimen. Nemtsov fue uno de los opositores más conocidos de Vladimir Putin - Alexei Navalny se encuentra entre sus aliados políticos – y hace poco había acusado al presidente de haber causado el malestar económico actual y de haber orquestado una guerra encubierta en Ucrania. Putin rechazó las acusaciones; según él, aquellas representan una ‘provocación’ de parte de los liberales para intensificar la oposición hacia el Kremlin. Pero antes de precipitarnos a echar la culpa a las autoridades rusas, debemos preguntarnos ¿quién era Nemtsov? Licenciado en física y matemáticas, entró en la política en 1990. Yeltsin - que supuestamente apoyaba a Nemstov - lo designó gobernador de Nizhny Novgorod en 1991. Las acciones del gobernador le ganaron alabanzas de políticos tales como Margaret Thatcher, por sus reformas económicas y su liderazgo democrático. Durante los años 90, Nemtsov fue elegido varias veces al parlamento ruso. Fundó y co-fundó una variedad de grupos liberales y pro-democráticos, el más reciente entre ellos siendo ‘solidarnost’. Durante los meses previos a su asesinato, Nemtsov organizó una manifestación contra la participación de fuerzas militares rusas en el conflicto ucraniano y la especulación durante la organización de los Juegos Olímpicos de invierno en Sochi en 2014. La imagen de Nemtsov varía entre los críticos rusos y los occidentales. Por ejemplo, de manera irónica, el periódico Rusia Hoy lo apoda un ‘chico Maravilla reformista’, pero sin dejar de destacar sus fracasos políticos en un artículo detallando su carrera. Esto incluye el no ganar el 5% mínimo de votos para la re-entrada en el parlamento de su facción opositora derechista en 2003 y de nuevo en 2007, lo que provocó su caída en 2008. Mientras tanto, el periódico británico The Economist lo llama el ‘mártir liberal’ y ha destacado sus éxitos durante los años de Yeltsin, mientras que también ha comentado que el ex político siempre era ‘escrupulosamente honesto’ a lo largo de su carrera. La inclinación política de Nemtsov es un factor fundamental en el debate sobre quién organizó su homicidio. Entre los sospechosos, se encuentran el gobierno ruso, nacionalistas intensamente opuestos a la ideología de la víctima, y los servicios de inteligencia extranjeros . Sin embargo, sin pruebas concretas (el testigo principal niega haber visto a los asesinos o al coche en el que huyó), el caso seguirá siendo un misterio.

Katharine Horsburgh


Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité - in the face of the Charlie Hebdo attack


he 7th of January 2015 saw the vicious attack on French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, by a group of Islamic extremists. It sparked increased fears of terrorism, and heated debate about the issue of free speech. Charlie Hebdo’s publication of controversial cartoons of the prophet Mohammed drove gunmen to murder twelve victims. These included the magazine’s chief editors and contributors, members of the police force, as well as people in a targeted Kosher supermarket. President François Hollande condemned the barbaric attack and called for strength and national unity. In response, four million supporters across France participated in a unity march, which took place on the Sunday after the attack. It paid tribute to the victims and praised the ethos of Charlie Hebdo. A week after the massacre a ‘survival issue’ of the magazine was released with a cover that satirically presented Mohammed with the slogan, ‘Tout est pardonné’ (French for ‘All is forgiven’). This defiant act in the face of adversity underpins the republic’s beliefs in the right to free speech. France cherishes its legacy of the Enlightenment, which promoted freedom of expression, reason and individual autonomy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Thus, the right to express oneself lies at the core of France’s historical and cultural roots, and is epitomised through the nation’s tripartite motto ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’. It is interesting to note that shortly after the attack, publishers began reprinting Voltaire’s Treatise on Tolerance (1763) due to renewed demand. Whilst the prevailing sentiment in the wake of the attacks was that the magazine’s right to publish the cartoons must be protected, it was also argued that Charlie Hebdo should strive to produce less radical images. Arguably rights come with responsibilities, and in particular, the right of free speech comes hand in hand with the duty not to harm others, and Charlie Hebdo offended aspects of the Islamic faith. Many journalists supporting the Charlie Hebdo Voltaire equation were also denounced as fake Voltaireans for wrongly assuming that the philosopher would have championed any right to cause offence.

Subsequent attacks in Copenhagen in February were allegedly inspired by the shootings in Paris. A free speech debate and a synagogue were mercilessly attacked by gunmen, which highlights that both anti-Semitic attacks and acts of terror against free speech are becoming a pressing global issue. Sylvia De Luca


The Refugee Crisis in the Middle East poem, ‘Diary of a Girl Away from Home’, was written by a young Syrian refugee T his named Fatima. She poignantly writes:

‘Don’t lift my pillow, I hid under it my tears in times of sadness And creatively created many dreams. Don’t change the order of the books on my bookshelf, On their pages notes I have written that no one will understand like I do. As for my desk, don’t touch it, But leave it with the mess I make while I study. Please keep my traces in my beloved home, I will be reunited with it soon.’ The statistics about the current Syrian crisis are staggering and difficult to engage with. However, the vast numbers reported are individuals, each with stories like young Fatima’s. The humanitarian disaster in the Middle East is unprecedented in the modern world and the number of people currently displaced by violent conflict higher than in the aftermath of the Second World War. It is estimated that seven million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of civil war in March 2011, seeking refuge in neighbouring countries or within Syria itself. A constant stream of refugees has flowed from Syria into Jordan since late 2011. As the violence escalated, the human tide swelled and refugees poured across the border, sometimes as many as 1,000 per day. I worked for three months for UNHCR (the UN’s Refugee Agency) in Jordan, organising art projects with Syrian refugees, and heard many stories like young Fatima’s. Each one brought tears to my eyes. One young boy Mohammad, aged 12, from Dara in Syria said ‘The war in Syria is scary, but the scariest thought for me is the thought of not being able to return one day.’


For the UNHCR art projects, I chose to use recycled refugee tents – a powerful symbol of displacement – as the medium to convey our message. The goal was to turn the symbols of loss and displacement - the refugee tents - into beautiful pieces of artwork, in order to raise awareness for the plight of refugees. We played with the idea of ‘fragments’, ‘pieces’ and ‘shattered lives’. Lives fall apart when forcefully expelled from their homes and need to be rebuilt again. We aimed to translate this theme by using recycled UNHCR tents to show the shattering and reassembling of lives. These three painted refugee tents were displayed in an exhibition in Amman to commemorate World Refugee Day 20 June 2014. The tents will be displayed in Durham Castle 3rd March and on London Southbank in June 2015. The theme for one of the refugee tents was Hope. I asked the Syrian refugee children to paint their hopes and dreams for the future on the tent. The most common image drawn was the home – expressing their longing to return back to the life they knew in Syria. As another young boy named Abdullah, aged 13, put it: ‘My father is a farmer, I cannot wait to work with him in the fields again, pick the fruit from our orchard and just do everything again.’

Hannah Rose Thomas

Photos: Author's own


The Rise of the Far Right in Europe: Twitter’s Perspective Prior to last year’s elections for the European Parliament, Twitter was awash with concern. Far-right parties looked set to dominate the polls, and rumours spread rapidly across the internet: “Farage apparently lining up UKIP with European fascists for a post election alliance: Careful what you vote for” (@JohnEdwards33, 06/05/14). Scaremongering is hardly a new pre-election tactic, but the exponential growth of social media over the past decade means that the public has never had a stronger voice. Following the elections, the stability of the EU seemed to hang in the balance as UKIP and France’s National Front (FN) won 24 seats apiece, more than doubling their seats from the 2009 elections. Tweets such as “Suddenly The EU's Break-Up Has Moved From A Possibility To A NearCertainty” (@UKIP_Daily, 30/05/14) furthered public unease, but the vast majority of far-right parties received significantly fewer votes than anticipated, winning only 76 of 751 seats. Since the far right Dutch Party for Freedom barely maintained their 4 seats, despite being predicted a majority vote, the FN were left stranded, as they were dependent on them to form a parliamentary bloc. The fact that “[r]adical parties rarely agree on research, technology and innovation policies” (@fzubascu, 28/05/14) means that they have failed to unite as a European party, leaving them dispersed throughout the Parliament, in which the centre-right European People’s Party continues to dominate. Since the EU has remained relatively secure, perhaps “[t]he real threat posed by far-right is not their role in #EU Parliament, but their impact on domestic politics” (@JoeThorpe1963, 05/06/14). This fear seems more substantiated, as Greece’s “#GoldenDawn, an ultranationalist Greek party which has been described as "neo-facist" placed 3rd in national election” (@kevinbtruong, 26/01/15). Given the ongoing political turmoil in Greece, this increased support for radical parties is unsurprising, but the 6.3% that voted for Golden Dawn pales in comparison to Ifop’s latest opinion poll in France, with 30% declaring support for the FN. As for Britain, the latest YouGov opinion poll highlights UKIP’s comfortable replacement of the Liberal Democrats as Britain’s third biggest party, winning 14% of the votes, as opposed to the Liberal Democrats’ 8%. Therefore, it would seem that whilst the far-right lacks the unity to pose a significant threat to the EU, there is a genuine possibility of both Marine Le Pen and UKIP gaining significant power in their country’s next elections. Whatever the outcome, Twitter users will keep striving to predict and influence future political activity as each election throws up its own surprises.


Louise Irvine


Jews and Muslims in Europe Just over 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, the Jewish communities of Europe may well have every reason to be worried. Over the past few months they have been the victims of several attacks. Many will wonder whether it is safe for them to send their children to Jewish schools, or even to remain in a place where their plight is under so much scrutiny. The most recent events are merely a succession of what seem to be sporadic expressions of antiSemitism. In 1982, six people were killed at a Parisian restaurant, three children and their teacher were shot at a Jewish school in Toulouse in March 2012, and in the summer of 2014, a number of pro-Palestinian rallies were held in Paris, some of which turned anti-Semitic and violent. The freshest incidents in our minds were the killing of four people at a kosher supermarket in Paris in January 2015, and most recently a shooting at a cultural centre and a synagogue in Copenhagen in which two people were killed. These attacks were either carried out by people purporting to be Islamic State militants, or responsibility was taken by organisations such as Al-Qaeda. What makes them all the more striking is the attention they are given by the media, which of course is only to be expected, and the subsequent backlash of Islamophobia in some areas. Some say that these acts of aggression were simply a reaction to the ongoing IsraeliPalestinian war. In the wake of these recent attacks on Jewish communities, Israel’s president, Binyamin Netanyahu, declared that European Jews would be welcomed with “open arms”, adding that “Israel is your home”. A tug-of-war between Israel and Europe has now commenced, one trying to retrieve its people, the other desperately holding on. The question we are confronted with is how to protect the Jews of Europe without segregating the Muslim communities who have of late become targets of the renewed surge of antiIslamic sentiments, especially after the Paris attacks. Indeed, Muslims have been the object of anti-Islamic protests by groups such as Pegida, who are growing in prevalence in Germany. In France many live in the shadow of the negative stereotypes and thus feel isolated. Manuel Valls, France’s Prime Minister, has even talked of an “apartheid”. As both Muslims and Jews are facing increasing strain in Europe, and with the rising popularity of extremist parties, one must ask whether not only governments, but we as the general public are doing enough to help them not feel like outsiders.

Harriet Peel


French in Senegal

Over Summer 2014, I completed a two month long internship in Dakar, Senegal, working for a political risk consultancy firm. My interest as a French student has always been in the language itself, and I have always felt the importance of experiencing the French language and culture outside of L’Hexagone. It seemed like a golden opportunity had been offered to me and so I jumped at the prospect. “Salamalekum,” the taxi driver greeted me as I stepped out of Dakar airport. “Funny. Not a French word I’ve been taught,” I thought. Having been promised by all the guidebooks under the sun that an A level in French would suffice, it soon became apparent that I would need a different set of linguistic skills during this trip. During the first week, it felt as if I had become a beginner again. The Senegalese accent, when first heard, is impossibly thick, a beautiful combination of the classical French and strong West African inflections. The different emphasis is what first throws the inexperienced francophone traveller to West Africa. For me, it caused me to revert to a peculiar combination of gesticulation and French which I was glad to see the back of after the first week. A little explanation for the differences in the language must, I feel, be given. Senegal was considered the jewel of the French colonial empire and Leopold Senghor, Senegal’s first president post-independence, did much to continue the strong affiliation between his country and Paris. However, the Senegalese population remain fiercely proud of their history, particularly their linguistic history. Wolof, the lingua franca of Senegal, is spoken by around half the population but in Dakar, the country’s capital, this number rises considerably. Those who have not received a secondary education tend not to know French, or can only speak a couple of phrases. For someone completely ignorant of Wolof, such as myself, this can prove a challenge. Although I have been studying French for almost ten years, and possess (what I believe to be) a competent level of the language, my time in Senegal taught me one essential lesson: never take anything for granted when it comes to languages. A language taught in the clinical environment of a classroom can never equate to that spoken in the target country. For a language such as French, where fluency and speed are integral, one must be prepared for a complete change. For those studying French and looking to spend part of their year abroad in Senegal, I recommend learning some key phrases in Wolof. As linguists, learning another language can never be considered a hardship!

Alex Woods


A History of The Welsh Language language is one of T hetheWelsh oldest in Europe and at

one time was spoken all over Britain itself. Despite this, we know surprisingly little about it, spoken as it is by only twenty percent of Wales’ population.

Where did it come from, and how did it develop? As a Welsh person myself I took it upon myself to find out more about its origins…

Welsh actually descends from the ancient Celtic tongue of Brythonic, which was spoken by the Britons around the time of the Roman conquest in AD50. When the Romans arrived, this old Celtic was eventually replaced, first by Latin, and later by Old English after the invasions of the Anglo-Saxons in the 500s. It survived at the edges of Britain: Wales, Scotland, the Isle of Man and Cornwall. It was here that this prototype language eventually developed into what would become the Celtic languages, such as Cumbrian, Cornish and Welsh. It was in Middle Welsh that many of the famous Welsh poems and epics such as the Mabinogion and first Welsh laws were written.

Welsh survived well into the eighteenth century, but during the Victorian era it began to be actively persecuted: children were discouraged from speaking it and in the First World War many native speakers were killed. Finally, by 1991, it was only spoken by eighteen percent of the population. Since then, there has been a revival, with Welsh being granted status as the official language of Wales and used in the Welsh Senedd (or Government). There are now bilingual schools, and all students in Wales are required to take a GCSE in it. Slowly, but surely, Welsh is again becoming more popular…thank goodness!


The influence of Welsh can be seen everywhere. Many place names around Britain reflect the once-widespread dominance of the Celtic languages: ‘Avon’ from Stratford upon Avon refers to the Welsh word ‘afon’, or river, and even the city Edinburgh derives its name from the Welsh ‘Din Eidyn’, meaning ‘hill fort’. Many words such as ‘môr’ are common to all these languages; it is said that if you speak both Welsh and French you can even speak Breton, the only Celtic tongue in France. All of this simply serves as a reminder that Welsh is prevalent today, even when we think it’s dropped off the radar.

Some Welsh Words and Phrases: Bore da: Good morning or Hello Dwi’n hoffi: I like (as in, Dwi’n hoffi coffee) Fy enw ydy: My name is Diolch: Thank you Os gwelwch yn dda: Please

Vicky Jessop


Le Verlan Slang is normally considered a form of language that has little rules or order. Yet a form of slang in the French language, called Verlan, is impressively systematic. The nearest British equivalent is perhaps Cockney Rhyming slang, except Verlan is far more widespread. Verlan, like slang in general, serves as an identity marker and a way to talk in secret. It is a remarkable ‘system’ of slang, allowing an unlimited number of words to be transformed by following the rules. Verlan words are formed through inverting the syllables of a word, for example tomber (to fall) becomes béton. There are more complicated �rules� regarding one syllable verbs where the sounds are reversed, often become a two-syllable word with an '/ə/' schwa sound. This is a very easy (lazy) vowel sound to make, so it’s the sound we use in English when we speak quickly, for example the ‘o’ and ‘a’ in gonna or all the vowel sounds in woulda, coulda, shoulda. So a Verlan family has the reum, the reup and the reuf, or the mère (mother), the père (father) and the frère (brother). Many Verlan words have diffused into mainstream language, partly through rap and text language. Examples are keum from mec (guy) or trome from métro (metro). One of the Francophone world’s biggest musical stars, Stromae, whose song 'Alors On Danse' was a hit in the UK a few years back, chose a name which is Verlan for Maestro. The media and companies show familiarity with this type of slang to enhance their street rep, and Verlan words have entered the French dictionary. There is some resistance to Verlan, however. In 2009 Nadine Morano, the then Secretary of the State for Family in the right-wing UMP government, in a typically French preoccupation about how immigrants and particularly Muslims ‘should’ behave, said she wanted young French Muslims to avoid this type of slang. Teachers are alleged to be annoyed at students saying cimer instead of merci: Verlan retains connotations of coarseness. The stigma attached to it, however, makes it stick as an identity marker. Conversely, the acceptance of many of these words into normal French vocabulary has the opposite effect: it encourages more production and innovation in Verlan so that its original functions as a way to express belonging with a certain group and talk in code are not lost. And verlanophones have developed a clever method: reverlanisation of certain words. For example, the slang word for a police officer in French is flic. In Verlan this becomes keuf. And the re-verlanised form is feuk, which shows added disdain for the forces of order. Indeed, Verlan words are not simply mirror images of the original words with the same definition and connotations. They take on their own signification. Beur (from arabe, meaning Arab) and its reverlanised form rebeu are terms used to describe someone born in France but with parents who are immigrants from North Africa. Beur is now a widespread term with no particular connotation of vulgarity.


The words that are verlanised show the daily life of underprivileged youths in underprivileged suburbs. Many of the terms refer to taboo subjects like drugs, crime or sex: thus the desire for slang as a euphemism or code word. Verlan can use English or Arabic words, reflecting the influence of American culture and North African immigrants. Verlan is a reaction to regimented French society. There is a strong strain of traditionalism in France: things must remain French. Change and foreign influences are inherently bad. The French language has long been treated as a rigid and complex structure which must be regulated. The Académie Française, which exists as an authority for the language, tells the French how to find other expressions for anglicisms. For example the expression donner son go (to give the go-ahead) is sharply criticised as “an expression which is not correct in any of these two languages”. Much better to use 'donner son feu vert'. Yet of course language is not rigid or controllable. Verlan is an imaginative way of recreating and breathing new life into French. Impressive. Or chanmé, as the céfrans might say.

Jasper Cox

A Japanese Adventure At the beginning of this year, I decided that I wanted a challenge. Don't get me wrong I love studying French and Spanish, but I wanted to feel the rush of learning a new language again. I wanted to remember what it was like to learn new structures, grammar and vocabulary. The culture that comes with the language and the way it has influenced the way the native speakers use it. Sure, having studied two Romance languages I could easily have picked up Italian. I could even have started German about as I know a fair amount from my German friends. But, I wanted a challenge, something new and exciting. So I picked Japanese. I am currently taking the beginners course for Japanese through the Languages for All Programme run by the MLAC department here at Durham, and so far I absolutely love it. There are people from all backgrounds in my class, from university students to teachers working in the local area, all of us united by a desire to learn something new about a culture that is so very different to our own British and even European cultures. The first lesson was daunting. Realising that not only do you have to learn to speak a language that sounds so different from anything you have known or studied before is challenging, but then realising that you have to learn to read it as well is even more so. Japanese has three alphabets, used in different contexts, all of which are pictorial symbols and are completely unrelated. What had I got myself into? But as the lessons went on, I picked up more and more; basic Japanese words and phrases mostly in a business context with some shopping and eating out thrown into the mix; introducing yourself; numbers; counting (it's more difficult than you would think!); food; technology; time... all the basics that we take for granted in English and indeed in our language degrees. I began to feel the familiar sensation of achievement at being able to converse with a whole new culture.


But this is where the experience changed. When I was learning French and Spanish at school everyone was on the same level, we had no degree to contend with and I could dedicate more time to it. Here, I must prioritise my degree and the Japanese unfortunately has to come second. I began to feel anxiety, embarrassment... As a language student surely I should be good at learning a language, so why was I falling behind? I felt frustrated at the fact I could not communicate the way I wanted to in this new language, I felt inadequate and ashamed at the weekly butchering of the language my teacher was subjected to by me. Safe to say, it has got easier. I have learnt to read most characters of the alphabets. I know words and structures that allow me to express basic conversational points and I can understand the gist of most of the basic conversations we have, if not every word. But what I am enjoying most of all, despite my early struggles is that language takes time. It is often easy to forget that before we came to Durham to study languages, we too had to struggle through learning them. For many, learning a second and third language was not easy. I have reminded myself just how hard and frustrating it can be. It has been fascinating as a linguist to observe the learning process consciously from a personal perspective. But mostly I got what I wanted: a challenge. But also fun. It has so far been incredibly rewarding, only last week I took an oral exam, and sure, I won't be able to recite haikus by heart, or watch anime without subtitles for many years, but I now appreciate better this wonderful culture and the wonder of language, which has in turn made me appreciate my degree and even my mother tongue on a new level.

Ryan West

The Perks of Being a Languages Student It’s a popular myth that languages students sit around all day eating croissants/tapas/ bratwurst (delete as appropriate), reading pretentious literature in cafés and whiling away their student loans on plane tickets and backpacker’s trips around Europe. With summative season making us rue the day we picked an essay subject, our engineering friends happily reminding us of our apparently unemployed future and the news declaring that figures for language degree uptakes have fallen sixteen percent in six years, it’s time to remind ourselves why we ever thought becoming a languages student would be the best decision of our lives.


For a start, the pinnacle of our entire degree career: the year abroad. Admittedly an embarrassingly large factor in why we picked the degree, the year abroad is without doubt one of the best experiences a student can have. Aside from swanning around in the South of France or Barcelona whilst our friends back home have breakdowns over their finals, we essentially have a gap year… that counts as studying. Want to spend a year making pizza in Rome, working in Machu Picchu or shadowing a politician at the EU? It’s all included in the price of your degree. For a whole year, the world is your oyster, and you can be that twenty-something travelling, following your dreams and discovering the world outside Durham. It also gives you an incredible edge in the employment market because you’ll leave university with a year’s worth of work experience on the international stage, meaning you are an automatic asset to any company. Which leads onto ignoring your engineering friend when they tell you that getting up at eleven o’clock every day because you’ve got no lectures will soon become because you’ve got no job. Apparently, ninety-one percent of us will be employed after graduation with more than ten percent working abroad , in an incredible variety of career paths. The preconception that you can either become a teacher, a translator or unemployed is also untrue. From becoming a fashion journalist in Paris to working for the EU or the UN, a languages degree leaves so many doors open to you that your dream career can become a reality. Languages are a huge asset as business becomes more and more global, and national companies become international; at the end of the day, all businesses need to communicate and that’s where you step in.

So our future’s glittering, but what about here and now? It’s got to be said, the life of a languages student is great. Yes, we do only get a couple of hours a day meaning our sleeping patterns can match those of a baby’s, but when we actually are studying, it can be really interesting. The amazing thing about studying a language is that there’s such a wide range of areas you can go into, from the economy of South America to that much-romanticised French poetry (and yes, you can read it sitting outside a café drinking coffee). And admit it: speaking in a different language does make you feel pretty cool. Actually, being a languages student is pretty cool. Congratulations! Sources: The Telegraph, and image:

Emma Taylor


Thanks from The Definite Article team Dear readers, Thank you so much for reading the fifth edition of The Definite Article! We hope you have enjoyed our diverse range of articles. If you have been inspired to write something yourself, whether it’s on politics, music, cuisine, travel or anything in between, get in touch with us! Submissions for the next edition can be sent to Any queries can be sent to our contribute account or

Thanks again! The Definite Article team :) Next issue: Summer 2015 44