The Definite Article: Issue Two - March 2014

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Issue Two: March 2014

About Us The Definite Article is Durham University’s Modern Languages and Cultures magazine. It was established in 2013 and is written and edited by students from the Modern Languages Department.

Editorial Team: Ellie Stefiuk, Hannah McIntyre, Alex Chiblis, Emma Bradding, Rebecca Kennaugh and Rachel White.

Front Cover Photography: Alexander Rogansky 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 And a second edition of The Definite Article was born!

So here we are again, after many a technological crisis and manic essay writing, we have a second edition of The Definite Article. First of all, I would like to thank everyone for the incredibly positive feedback we have received about the first edition: it’s fantastic to have a way to share this passion for languages and cultures with fellow students, staff, alumni and other enthusiasts. I hope, with the quality and breadth of articles we have this edition, that we won’t disappoint this time.

Since the first edition of The Definite Article, we have been a very busy team. As well as hosting an official launch event in February, we have been working hard to improve our ‘social media presence’ (doesn’t that sound ghastly and professional?!) and this means you can now find us on Facebook, Twitter and even Spotify. Since we can currently only produce one magazine a term, we are using these sites to share articles, videos, music and photos that echo the message we are trying to get across with The Definite Article. Indeed, this whole magazine thing seems to evolved into a bit of a language-loving revolution!

Whilst foraging through the depths of the World Wide Web for interesting items to share, I have come across many a quote about what it really means to learn a language. Quote–hoarder that I am, I have decided to share a few with you:

To have another language is to possess a second soul - Charlemagne Language is the road map of another culture. It tells you where its people have come from and where they are going - Rita Mae Brown A different language is a different vision of life - Federico Fellini Now admittedly these may all sound a bit superficial. Yet, I believe they go some way in highlighting that studying languages really is about so much more than vocabulary lists and a collection of grammatical rules. Languages form a fundamental part of communication and are key to unlocking and, more importantly, to understanding other cultures and human perspectives. By engaging with a culture through its literature, its music, its art, its politics we not only learn about other cultures, but it also encourages us to engage with our own. It helps us to understand ourselves. Although I’m obviously preaching to the converted, amidst essay stress, I think it’s always worth reminding ourselves of these things!

This edition of The Definite Article once again brings together all of these elements through a diverse range of articles, and another exceptional cover photo taken in Tomsk by Alexander Rogansky. I would like to thank the team (Hannah, Alex, Rachel, Rebecca and Emma); all our contributors; Dr. Marcela Cazzoli-Goeta and Rebecca Edgington for allowing us to interview them; and Dr. Alex Harrington and Dr. Mike Thompson for their continued support with this project.

I’ll stop prevaricating now and allow you to enjoy this edition’s articles in peace... Have a fantastic Easter break! Ellie Stefiuk


Contents FEATURE: An interview with Rebecca Edgington p.5 FILM, MUSIC & BOOKS Oscars Film Special p.7

FEATURE: The Beauty of Beethoven p.9 How Music Can Help You Learn a Language p.10 FEATURE: An Interview with Dr. Marcela Cazzoli-Goeta p.11 FEATURE: Duolingo: Is It Really Possible to Learn a Language Online? p.13 TRAVEL A Day in an Erasmus City: Tübingen p.14 A Day in an Erasmus City: Paris p.15 FEATURE: Travel Guide to Salamanca p.16 FEATURE: Strasbourg: ‘The Fairy-Tale City at the Cross-Roads of Europe’ p.17 CUISINE La Cocina Mexicana p.18 FEATURE: Une Analyse des Aliments en Allitération: “Voulez-vous un vol-auvent?” p.20 YEAR ABROAD The Year Abroad Agony Aunt p.21 The End of a Peruvian Adventure p.22 A Guiri in Granada p.23 Com’è siamo: Un Punto di Vista degli Erasmus p.24 POLITICS The People of Ukraine Marched for Free Trade with Europe, not Bureaucracy and Regulation p.25 Focus on the Political Situation in Venezuela p.25 Donkeys in the Bullring p.26 Some More Photo Entries p.27


The Definite Article speaks with Rebecca Edgington, Durham Alumna and Head of UN English Interpreting Booth


he Definite Article speaks with Rebecca Edgington, the head of the English interpreting booth at the United Nations in Geneva. After graduating from Durham in 1994 with a degree in French and Russian, Rebecca has gone on to have an exhilarating career, working at both a European and international level.

Could you please summarise your work at the UN?

Interpreters at the UN are recruited to service all meetings. In the English booth we work from two or more passive languages, French plus either Russian or Spanish, into our active language, English. The majority of our work is in simultaneous interpretation, working in the booths around the meeting room. At times we work in consecutive or liaison, which means that we are in a smaller room with the delegates working without interpretation equipment. We cover all subjects - political, legal, technical, disarmament, economics and trade, so every day is different and we learn a lot about all different subjects and meet people from all walks of life. We also travel to work at conferences and to accompany high-level experts or personalities. Photo:

What was your ‘Plan B’, if you had one, and did any other careers particularly interest you?

Law; I completed a law degree with the Open University whilst working and it has served me well for the legal meetings I work on, but I did consider becoming a human rights lawyer. What do you think the biggest misconception is about your job?

That we just repeat words. We have to process the original, that means understand it and process the information so that we render it in a way that gives our listeners the full meaning, nuances, intonation and all. We interpret concepts or chunks of meaning rather than words. The other misconception is that you have to be trilingual from birth; I started French at 11, German at 12 and Russian at 19. You need to have a very clear and strong active language, English, and an excellent understanding of your passive languages. Can you tell us about some of the most exciting moments of your career?

Travelling with the first international mission to Chechnya during the conflict in January 2000 was very exciting. On that mission I interpreted the then Acting President Putin in the Kremlin and flew by helicopter into Chechnya. At the UN, interpreting for the Syrian Action Group in June 2012, and interpreting Sergei Lavrov for Hilary Clinton. Interpreting press conferences and parliamentary debates when you never know what will happen next. Do you feel under more pressure when interpreting for particularly high profile characters?

Yes, there is more pressure as generally on those occasions the stakes are high in the meeting. In a formal setting, it has to be perfect in tone and register as well as content. The interpretation into English is webcast and broadcast on the BBC/CNN, as well as all the people present in the meeting room listening carefully. For example, after the Montreux conference on Syria in January I was receiving text and email messages for days from colleagues and friends around the globe who had recognised my voice as broadcast by the BBC. How do you feel your time at Durham set you up for your future career?


The Durham French and Russian course was excellent. It had just changed the year I started, 1990, to include more language-based modules, including writing literary assignments in the language and a media module in Russian. The Russian


ab-initio course was fantastic and I am eternally grateful to the tutors whose courses captured my imagination and who encouraged me, especially Steve Le Fleming, Dr Sokolov (Avril Pyman) and for French my tutor Dr White. The small groups and tutors meant I had a lot of attention and could really explore the subjects fully so I graduated with an excellent knowledge of French and Russian language and culture. I also benefited hugely from the college system, being able to run DUCK (rag)week in college, be on all the sports teams, and so meet a lot of different people and gain a great deal in self-confidence. What were the biggest difficulties you faced when learning Russian from scratch?

The pronunciation of the rolled "R"- I used to walk around Durham trying to roll my Rs and often frightened dog-walkers. At what point did you feel that you’d mastered your foreign languages? Photo:

Never! I am continually learning and the day I stop learning new words and sayings is the day I should stop interpreting.

Considering the decline in the number of languages graduates, is there a noticeable decrease in native English interpreters?

Not in total, but in certain language combinations. We are always struggling to find people with Russian and I know the EU has started to find it difficult to recruit people with German. What advice would you give any current Durham languages students considering a career in interpreting? And do you have any general advice for modern languages students?

My advice is to take your languages as far as you can, to enjoy them. Anyone wishing to be an interpreter must spend time in the countries where their languages are spoken and gain in-depth and instinctive knowledge of the languages. To work in the English booth in the international organisations you must work from French, so make sure you keep your French up, and you must also con- Photo: stantly improve your knowledge of your active language, English. Do a Masters course at an established university; I went to Bath for my postgraduate studies and it is still training excellent interpreters and working closely with the UN and the EU, but there are other courses in the UK, France and Switzerland in particular. Practise all the time, interpret in your head on the bus, whilst watching TV, do on-sight translation of interviews in newspapers and have fun. Rebecca Kennaugh


The Definite Article’s Oscars Special Best Foreign Language Film: La Grande Bellezza


inner of ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ at the 2014 Academy Awards, Paolo Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza (‘The Great Beauty’) transports us to contemporary Rome and the pinnacle of its high intellectual society. At the centre, we find our protagonist Jep Gambardella. A has-been writer of one supposedly great novel decades ago, we are presented with Jep at sixty-five; a deeply cynical man, disillusioned with the materialistic society he is in, yet simultaneously unable to renounce it. When a crying man at his doorstep turns out to be the newly-widowed husband of the woman Jep loved many years ago, it triggers an exisPhoto: tential crisis. Will he be able to write once more? Will life have meaning again? The cinematography is achingly beautiful. The entire film, despite its sometimes pessimistic tone, comes across as a love letter to Rome. The shots of the city are simply stunning, yet by showing places away from the tourist trail the film avoids looking like a mere postcard. One particularly memorable scene depicts a night exploring one of the city’s most beautiful buildings, where three solitary ageing princesses play poker into the early hours. Sorrentino seems to have truly captured the spirit of Rome with his vivid portrayal of peripheral characters, who flit in and out of the storyline and the lavish Gatsby-esque parties that Jep throws. Their tiny plot strands combine to create a film which is full of life and diversity, yet it all amounts to, as Jep himself says, ‘everything and nothing’. Essentially, very little actually happens. However, that in itself is exactly the point; the film depends wholly on setting, atmosphere and character, rather than plot. It is poetic and thought-provoking and any number of good things. Yet it is also easy to see why foreign language films still aren’t allowed to compete Photo: against their AngloAmerican counterparts for ‘Best Film’ at the Oscars; it seems to scream ‘European art house film’ with every shot. It tries very hard to be edgy, with its bizarre, mocking examples of modern performance art and an over-abundance of nudity which the British continue to find baffling in films from the continent. The English-speaking world is clearly unwilling to fully embrace foreign cinema, thus holding films like La Grande Bellezza back at the Oscars. However, it was certainly a deserving winner of the foreign language accolade, and is well worth watching if only to make you nostalgic or excited for your year abroad! Hannah McIntyre


Best Animated Short : Mr. Hublot


n the media afterglow of the Oscars, amidst the buzz about Cate Blanchett’s acceptance speech, 12 Years a Slave winning ‘Best Picture’ and that selfie, the category of ‘Best Animated Short’ has unsurprisingly received very little coverage. This humble category does not quite draw the same big names as the others, but that certainly does not mean that the talent is lacking. This year’s winner, Mr Hublot, is a Franco-Luxembourgish short, written and directed by Laurent Witz. Set in a futuristic city which, with its rooftops and windows, bears more than a passing resemblance to Paris, it tells the story of Mr Hublot, a lonely man Photo: with OCD tendencies and a numerical counter built into his forehead, and his best friend; a robotic dog that he takes in from the streets. In only 11 minutes and 48 seconds, this sweet tale is told creatively and beautifully, with stunning steampunk-influenced scenery and impressively detailed animation. A particularly memorable scene is one in which Mr Hublot goes about his solitary daily life, whilst we watch as though through the face of his clock, the hands turning in the foreground as a reminder of the passage of time. Although there isn’t any dialogue, this charming French film is well worth the watch, to admire the craftsmanship of the animation itself, or simply for a lovely little pick-me-up on a gloomy summative-filled afternoon. Rachel White

The Under-representation of Foreign Language Films at the Oscars


his year’s Academy Awards saw three non-English-language winners: La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty), Mr. Hublot and Helium. The success of each of these films is, of course, a great achievement and a fantastic opportunity to promote filmmaking in each of these countries. However, is it really fair that non-English-language films are pushed to one side?

The category of ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ was introduced at the 29th Academy Awards, and has since provided a great opportunity to bring attention to foreign films on a global scale. However, in the 21st century it seems wrong that great filmmaking has been relegated to a subcategory simply because it’s not in English! In fact, the rules for submissions for ‘Best Picture’ do not accept non-English -language films, and, as such, the opportunity for foreign language films to compete with American blockbusters is truly limited. On the one hand, having a separate category for foreign language films highlights their cause, however the reverse is also true; by focusing on the fact that these films are not in English, their audience is restricted straight away. Indeed, they are auPhoto: tomatically stigmatised and many people will not watch them for the simple fact that there will be subtitles. This is devastating, as so many people are missing out on some truly remarkable cinema. In fact, many of my favourite films are not in English. However, this is not just because I study languages, but because they are genuinely fantastic films - take the examples of La Vita è Bella or Pan’s Labyrinth! If at other film festivals, such as Cannes, it is possible for films in English to compete against Spanish, German or Japanese films, why not at the Oscars? With the global interest that it receives, the Oscars has a responsibility to promote great filmmaking. Surely great films and foreign languages aren’t mutually exclusive! Ellie Stefiuk


The Beauty of Beethoven


he beauty of Beethoven is that he is many things to many people. For some, he’s a veritable genius that bridged the neo-Classical period with early Romanticism. For others, he is Lord of the Ringtones and the ABRSM Grade 5 tyrant. For the ignorant, he’s ‘that dog from those films’ and ‘the one from that Chuck Berry song’. Yet each and every individual has their own personal Beethoven, and this extends to individual nations and their politics. In his lifetime, Beethoven’s world was punctuated by German political upheaval. Anticipating the Republican values of ‘Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité’, his symphonies resonated amid the concurrent revolutionary atmosphere. Romanticism itself is inextricably linked to the idea of revolution; indeed, initially enamoured with Napoleon Bonaparte’s abolition of feudalism in France, Beethoven dedicated his third symphony, originally entitled ‘Bonaparte’, to the diminutive magnate and his revolutionary ideals. Yet in 1804, when Bonaparte declared himself Emperor, it is said that Beethoven, disgusted and betrayed by this display of imperialist, dictatorial ambition, tore the title page of this symphony in two and threw it to the floor in rage. The meaning of the symphony, Photo: today entitled ‘Eroica’, was realigned by Beethoven himself to then incite resistance against the French. Years after his death, ‘Eroica’ was once again rededicated in 1870, this time to the founder of the Second German Reich, Otto Von Bismarck. The leader’s aggressive nationalist conservatism and international vision of a strong, unified German Empire were now reflected in the grand, heroic qualities of the piece. In this same year, commemorations of Beethoven’s centenary were celebrated with a hint of nationalistic symbolism, concurrent with the defeat of France and the unification of Germany. In such assertions of national ownership, Beethoven became the Germans’ mouthpiece through which they could affirm their identity as a nation. It comes as no surprise, therefore, considering the anti-French sentiments that permeated previous interpretations, and his intrinsic role within German national identity, that Beethoven and his music were appropriated by the National Socialists during the Third Reich. Such revolutionary values, that had previously had such an intoxicating effect, were manipulated to legitimise the Wagnerian ideologies of a typically Germanic ‘Kampf’, where one should be triumphant at all costs. BeethoPhoto: ven, along with Richard Wagner and Anton Bruckner, was considered by Hitler and Goebbels to be one of three master composers who possessed the heroic, mythical German spirit; he was therefore integrated into school curriculums and the Nazi ‘Kulturpolitik’, in order to fill the prominent culture vacuum. Surpassing the thin line between patriotism and nationalism, the pro-German and pro-Self sentiments of Beethoven’s music were distorted into a xenophobic, anti-Other bias that would fleetingly tarnish the reputation of the composer. With the onset of the Cold War and the separation of Germany, Beethoven once again inadvertently anticipated the country’s eventual reunification. Nowhere else is his ideological universality more evident than in the Olympic Games between the years of 1952 and 1964, where his aforementioned ninth symphony was used as the victory anthem for both East and West Germany. Through the ideological ‘iron curtain’ and the ten-metre fortified Berlin ‘Todesstreifen’, East and West Germany still fundamentally


remained in harmony. As a gesture of unity, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, all East Berliners were invited to a concert led by Leonard Bernstein which featured a programme of Beethoven’s third and seventh symphonies, once again providing the soundtrack to a pivotal moment of German history. It seems that Beethoven’s pertinence has not yet diminished. ‘Ode to Joy’, or the so-called ‘Marseillaise of humanity’ was elected to be the official anthem of the European Union and the European Council. It is often played at NATO headquarters in Brussels, the seat of European politics, thus emphasising a cooperative, peaceful Europe. This same piece was played in the grounds of Mauthausen, an Austrian concentration camp, boldly stating that despite the evil undeniably present in humanity, good will always prevail. Israeli conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim led the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, comprised of musicians of both Israeli and Palestinian descent, in Photo: a world tour that included countries in the Middle East. It can therefore be said that the beauty of Beethoven lies not within his music, but the meaning that transcends it. As a person, he represents hardships experienced by many; an overly exigent father, the conflict between the desire for success and the maintenance of one’s self, the struggle for the affections of an ‘immortal beloved’, debilitating perfectionism, social alienation, and most poignantly of all, the crippling deafness that ultimately threatened his very raison d’être. Such themes are easily found throughout his work, and even more easily applied to one’s own situation. This flexibility extends to the political sphere; from extreme left to extreme right, Beethoven has been employed to support regimes and corroborate ideologies. Through the interpretations of his multifaceted symphonies, however, one idea remains incontrovertible; ‘Alle Menschen werden Brüder’. Yes, in the words of Daniel Barenboim, ‘you can’t make peace with an orchestra’. But, before a Beethoven symphony, all men are equal. Francesca Nunn Sources:

How Music Can Help You Learn A Language


lthough foreign language music isn’t prominent on English radio stations, with the internet it’s simple to find artists who sing in the language you’re learning; streaming services such as Spotify make it so easy to discover new music. Read on to find out how music can help on your journey to fluency…

1) Memory: It’s a lot easier to recall song lyrics than phrases learnt by rote from a book. Music engages your brain in such a way that you can remember a song years after learning it: nursery rhymes, songs learnt at school, even jingles on adverts from years ago. Music stimulates your memory at a deep level, so take advantage of this by learning songs in your foreign language. 2) Vocabulary: listening to music makes it easier to learn idiomatic expressions, and to hear how the language is really spoken. It’s such an easy way to enrich your vocabulary, especially as certain words and phrases you learn in one song will inevitably be repeated in others. Listening to music also makes it simpler to internalise certain pesky grammatical structures. 3) It improves your pronunciation: By immersing yourself in the sounds of the language, and then imitating them, you will quickly improve your accent. 4) For fun! : It doesn’t feel like work! You can listen to music in the background whilst doing something else, when you’re on the bus, walking to lectures... Additionally, it’s a lot more motivating when you can choose what you listen to, and it makes the whole process effortless when you enjoy it.


5) Cross-cultural communication: By listening to foreign music you learn about events, traditions, and issues which are important in the country where your language is spoken. Plus, no matter where you go, music joins people together— it’s a universal language! So don’t forget to do some karaoke when you’re abroad! The best thing to do, although listening passively is still enjoyable, is to find the lyrics of a song online. This way you can look up any words or phrases that you don’t understand, which makes comprehension so much easier—especially when it comes to foreign rap!

Happy listening! And don’t forget, you can listen to our playlist on Spotify:


An interview with Dr Marcela Cazzoli-Goeta What is your main area of academic research?

My PhD thesis was on second language acquisition of Spanish syntax; I was trying to see how my own students learn items of syntax that are different from what they have in their mother tongue. In particular, I researched ‘quirky’ subjects, like the subjects of the gustar type of verbs; I wanted to know if they ever really learn them because I find that in the oral exams some students still say things like ‘yo gusto’ or try to avoid using the verb altogether! As we can’t learn these as children do, do we try to memorise structures and monitor what we say? You can’t monitor yourself all the time when speaking abroad! For my study I tried to get the most natural data I could from my students at levels 1, 2 and 3. My conclusion? It’s not something that is acquired in the same way as when children acquire languages. After that I started researching language attrition. This is what may happen when, after being immersed in a language for a long time, you start forgetting aspects of the syntax of your own language. This led me to my latest topic of research, Language Contact. For example the Spanish-English contact in the USA, and what happens to the generation of people who have been immersed in English for twenty or thirty years. Do people start overusing subject pronouns in Spanish (‘yo’/’ella’), which are obligatory in English? Do they still drop subjects in English? What are you working on at the moment?

My last ‘experiment’ as it were took place in a Welsh colony in Patagonia, Argentina. I went to examine the language contact between Spanish and Welsh. I stayed at a bed and breakfast run by the greatgranddaughter of one of the original Welsh settlers, (the first ship from Wales travelled at the end of the 19th century). Due to a little bit of government funding there is one nursery, one primary and one secondary school. The interesting thing is that people with absolutely no Welsh connections are sending their children to these schools as they see Welsh as a link with Europe, and want their children to learn a foreign language! I’m still transcribing all of the data with a Welsh ex-student of mine. I’m also interested in the topic of resilience- these people were very resilientand how this has helped keep their language and culture alive. They lived in caves in the rocks when they first arrived; there was absolutely nothing for them in Patagonia. The same aboriginal populations that the Argentinian goPhoto: vernment was trying to get rid of helped the settlers survive. There has since been some intermarriage between them; it’s a truly amazing topic.


Do you get to go back to Argentina often?

We try to go once a year; it’s important for the same reasons that I give in class with respects to heritage and culture. If you’ve got children, you’ve got to maintain the links with their other culture and language. Even though we don’t spend that long there, I think they’re still bi-cultural. They can speak Spanish and I’m proud of that! What do you think you would have done if you hadn’t come to Durham?

I would have stayed in Argentina. I was an English teacher there, and I was starting to work at the university where I got my degree in Buenos Aires, but I wanted to carry on studying. I was very motivated by what I could study here. I would definitely have done a Master’s, as I don’t think I would have been happy with just the one degree, but when you work at a university in Argentina you can’t just be an academic because what you earn is not enough. However I think I would have done a similar thing- teaching and research was always Photo: my plan. What is the best thing about working here at Durham?

The possibilities are endless in an institution like Durham, with such high quality research and teaching. It’s such a pleasure to teach students from all parts of the country, who are so motivated. I miss my country terribly, but on the other hand, I love what I do here and I love my students- I’ve been here for eighteen years now and I wouldn’t go anywhere else! Do you speak any languages other than English and Spanish?

No, but I do have a working knowledge of other languages. Because of my research I’ve had to look at Italian, French, a bit of Portuguese, and then through research you get to know about other languages. My family on both sides are Italian, but they didn’t continue with their Italian, or the dialects they spoke, after moving to Argentina, so I’ve never learnt it. I haven’t had time to go to evening classes…but maybe when I’m less busy! What do you enjoy reading outside of your research?

I used to like to read novels that would take me out of work, but at the moment all I’m reading is papers, books for work, or I go onto websites like UNESCO and other sites that are related to languages. I haven’t really got time to read anything else; if I get into bed with a book I fall asleep! I do love what I read though; at the moment I’m looking for different contact situations, and I’d love to be able to look at Spanish and Arabic- but that’s a huge enterprise. So I don’t just read about what I’m researching, but what I do read is all related. What’s the main advice that you’d like to give to the students studying Spanish here?

Because what we do here tends to be quite intense, and it can be very academic, I would advise them to go out into the real world to be immersed in Spanish as much as possible. I know that you cannot always take a plane and go somewhere, because of time and expense, however now Photo: with the internet- which we didn’t have in the same form twenty years ago- you can listen to the radio and watch TV online, and be exposed to different Spanish-speaking cultures. Also, see what’s out there in Latin America as well as in Spain, and keep an eye on what’s happening with Spanish in the US. It’s really good to go back in time with the literature and to look at visual culture, but I also think it’s very important to leave the books aside and go and see, through the web if you can’t travel, how the language is developing. Look at how identity is developing; monolingualism is no longer the rule. Identity no longer relies on one language and one culture; it is a much more complex concept. My main advice would be to link what you’re studying with what’s happening out there. Rebecca Kennaugh


Duolingo: Is it really possible to learn a language online? The Definite Article investigates the latest language-learning phenomenon


n 2013 Duolingo was voted Apple’s app of the year. For those of you not already familiar with the site, Duolingo allows its users to start learning German, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese from scratch in a fun and simple way (with more languages to come!). The aim of the game: gain points by using the site and completing levels every day. In theory, it sounds like a hasslefree and accessible way to learn a language and build your vocabulary, so The Definite Article tested the app to see whether it really worked. Photo:

Hannah’s thoughts: At the very beginning of January, when good intentions were at an all-time high, learning Spanish online seemed like the best idea I’d ever had. Studying French and Italian I’ve often been told by nonlinguists that I would be able to pick up Spanish with minimal effort. As it turns out, that is not true. The Duolingo system is, however, very clever. Available in app or website format (so you can use it on practically any device) it really does make learning feel like a game. You collect coins and lose lives and there’s a satisfying fanfare when you reach a new level. I zipped along through the early levels feeling pretty pleased with myself; doing about 10-15mins of Spanish around 4 days a week. Then my Spanish-speaking housemate decided to test me. My new-found confidence plummeted when I realised I couldn’t answer the most basic questions of ‘What’s your name?’ and ‘How old are you?’ My issue was that the vocab that Duolingo focuses on seems a bit random, for example, I can say ‘the turtles eat strawberries’ but I can’t count to ten. This is after two months of using the site. I would thoroughly recommend using this app, but not on its own. If used in conjunction with a traditional textbook or a conversation class I think a dedicated student could progress really quickly. Sadly, I just don’t think that dedicated student is me!

Ellie’s thoughts: I have always been in interested in German and, having never had the opportunity to learn it at school, Duolingo seemed like a great way to give it a go. For the first few weeks, I was obsessed with this app and used it every day. It was a simple game based on the ability to learn vocabulary. Even better, having the app on my phone meant it was a great way to fill any awkward hours! However, the constant reminders to ‘keep the owl happy’ soon became increasingly irritating and, as work built up over the term, my commitment began to slip and my ability to retain the vocabulary decreased. This obviously is not Duolingo’s fault, but it is worth noting that is often hard to set aside the time to complete a section every day. What made this worse was the fact that each section would introduce a completely new set of vocabulary, which was frankly overwhelming! It meant that as soon as you started to learn the next set of vocabulary you would forget the previous one. Yet, learning a language is just not about memorising vocabulary and although the app does attempt to teach some grammar, it does fail to explain the concepts before testing you and, even then, the explanation was not particularly useful – but maybe I’m the only one missing the grammar! I don’t really think it’s possible to learn a language just using this app. However, in spite of my failed attempt to learn German, I did find the app a useful tool for increasing my vocabulary in the other languages I study.

After being named app of 2013, the number of Duolingo users rose to 20 million in just one week! Although The Definite Article had some issues with the site, it is possible, according to is creator, to achieve B2 level in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. He concludes: “You won’t sound native, and when you’re talking you’ll do a lot of simplifications. You’ll probably mess up the subjunctive form. But you’ll get around. You’ll understand what you hear very well. You’ll be able to read books and watch movies in the language.” We’ve given you our opinion, but if you want to reach a basic level in one of the languages offered, why not try it yourself! Hannah McIntyre and Ellie Stefiuk



A Day in an Erasmus city with 25€ to spend Tübingen


übingen is basically a German version of Durham. It's very pretty, charming, idyllic and small you can walk wherever you want. The big difference though: it is in Germany, so everything's a bit cheaper than in Durham. With 25€ in your pocket, you can do lots of enjoyable things.

Let's imagine you're in Tübingen on a nice sunny Saturday in July. You and your friends have just finished your exams and are now ready for a relaxed day in Tübingen. You can start off the day with a wonderful breakfast of pastries or bread from either Bäckerei Gauker or Café Lieb for under 2€. Afterwards, how about going for a swim in the Freibad (2€) or a stroll over the flea market on the Festplatz? If you're not good at bargaining, you might end up spending quite a bit there. But if you're not looking for anything in particular, your budget might well stay untouched. Having moved around so much, it's now time for a nice lunch. The Kichererbse (chick pea) is a great place to get falafel sandwiches (around 4€). They're homemade and the best ones you can get in Tübingen - at least that's what the huge queue at lunchtime suggests. Afterwards, have a coffee in Collegium (also great for lunch), Tangente Jour or Hanseatica, or choose some wonderful homemade ice cream (there are many fancy flavours) from the cake shop Zuckerbäcker in the Ammergasse (1€). If you haven't done so by now, definitely go for a ride on a Stocherkahn (punt boat) on the Neckar (6€). You'll see some lovely views of Tübingen and get a little insight into its history, if you ask your friendly punter. Time for dinner already? Either go to one of the many Swabian restaurants (Wurstküche, Forelle, Krumme Brücke; around 10€) or just get some barbeque stuff from a supermarket and head to the Botanischer Garten and have a little barbeque party there. The atmosphere is great in summer, as everyone's just relaxing and having fun. Afterwards, you can stay in the “Bota” (as the cool kids call it) and have a beer or two, or head to the Holzmarkt (in front of the Stiftskirche) and enjoy the atmosphere on the church steps (if you manage to get a spot; it is usually quite crowded!). If you still have some money left, head out to your club or bar of choice. If you love going out in Durham, TOP10 is the place for you. If you're more into alternative or electro stuff, check out Butterbrezel or Tangente Night/Fuchsbau (all around 5€ entry). Blauer Salon is a very cheap student bar but there are many other bars- why not go to 'Kneipen'? Or just be adventurous and join one of the many student WG or garden parties – for free! Mai Doan


Une journée à Paris cet été


Oyez, Oyez, nouveaux étudiants parisiens ! a première chose à faire ce matin de se diriger vers une boulangerie. On y achètera une baguette, un pain au chocolat. Cliché, oui, mais alors parfois les clichés ont du bon. Je vous conseille à peu près toutes les boulangeries de la rue des Martyrs, dans le 9ème (Delmontel, Lendemaine – la meilleure). Coût : moins de deux euros.

Ensuite, selon le temps, je vous conseille d’aller au musée Beaubourg, immense édifice d’architecture contemporaine. C’est gratuit pour tous les européens de moins de 25 ans. Si l’art contemporain ne vous dit pas plus que ça, on ira au Louvre, ou au musée Rodin qui donne en plus à voir un magnifique jardin. Si vous avez besoin d’une recherche, n’oubliez pas que la bibliothèque de Beaubourg est ouverte le dimanche, et offre une très bonne documentation (faites attention à la queue, ça peut durer longtemps…), et vous y verrez tous les étudiants français fumer d’angoisse sur la terrasse de la bibliothèque. S’il fait beau et que vous avez juste envie d’une promenade, allez au Luxembourg, ou au Père Lachaise (cela peut paraître étrange d’aller se promener dans un cimetière, mais on y va tous, à Paris). Photo:

Après ça vous vous dirigez vers La cinémathèque, parce qu’il y a des films différents tous les

jours pour vraiment pas chers. Mais vous avez oublié de manger dans tout ça ! Vite, c’est l’heure de l’Apéro. Vin, planche de charcut’ fromages : Je vous conseille « Le Bar Des Amis », près de Montmartre, où la bouteille de vin est à 10 euros et la planche de fromage/charcuterie aussi. Il faut venir y boire un « ballon » ! Si vous vous perdez à Bastille, et que vous atterrissez rue de lappe (c’est une rue de la soif, remplie de bars- pour tous les goûts) allez absolument dans la boutique de l’AUVERGNAT, pour le fromage, le saucisson, le vin. La boutique a reçu mille prix, le patron est… auPhoto: vergnat, avec une vision particulière de la politesse, mais plutôt gentil, au fond. Osez y rentrer, l’odeur de tous ces produits campagnards vous laissera un merveilleux souvenir. Achetez vous un saucisson, un pâté, un morceau de cantal, et prenez le métro pour rejoindre le Cinéma en Plein Air du parc de la Villette. C’est génial et gratuit (mais vous pouvez toujours dépenser des sous pour louer des plaids et des transats !), à partir de juillet et ce jusqu’à fin août. Si vous avez vu assez de films pour aujourd’hui, pour 5 euros, vous pouvez allez au théâtre : en arrivant une petite heure avant la représentation, vous pouvez obtenir des places au balcon, tout en haut, dans la salle Richelieu de la Comédie Française, pour seulement 5 euros (bon, prévoyez de bonnes lunettes). Jusqu’en juillet, il y a du Molière, du Shakespeare et du Racine… (Pourquoi pas voir du Shaky en français, oui !) Ensuite vous sortirez boire un rhum arrangé au Comptoir Général. L’entrée est gratuite, donation bienvenue (1 ou 2 euros) ( Le concept reprend le thème du colonialisme, pour en faire un endroit que vous ne verrez nul part ailleurs. Et enfin, allez à l’Alimentation Générale. L’entrée est gratuite avant minuit, vous pouvez faire la fête, danser jusqu’à 5heures sur toutes sortes de musique. (

ENFIN BIS: Si vous n’êtes pas encore ASSEZ fatigués à la sortie, allez faire le levé du soleil à Montmartre. C’est magique. Ombeline Caquot Photo:


Travel Guide to Salamanca


n December of 2012, I was fortunate enough to pay a visit to Salamanca, Spain's oldest university city, which is coincidentally the home of the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted. It is said that the purest form of Spanish is spoken in Salamanca. This certainly was useful for me, considering it was the first time I had been left to my own devices in Spain, using the language I had acquired over the past five years. Salamanca is quite simply a beautiful city with two universities, most famously the Universidad de Salamanca, a beautiful cathedral and a wonderful Old Town, full of medieval architecture and quirky, individual shops. The main square of Salamanca is a baroque masterpiece, completed in 1755 and originally intended for bullfighting. Nowadays, however, it functions as a meeting place for social events, such as the New Year celebrations, and is surrounded by many cafes and bistros, all of which provide well-priced good quality food and coffee. Each archway has a bust of a different Spanish monarch above it, although they appear similar at first sight. In the older parts of Salamanca, there are clear Moorish influences on the architecture. For example, the original chapel in the Universidad de Salamanca has a beautiful ceiling, whose Arabic designs hark back to the chapel's origins as a mosque. Furthermore, Salamanca is notable for its unique style of arch design, which is singular in Spain. Deriving from Moorish architecture, these arches are an interesting feature of the knaves and porticos of the university and cathedral. The European system of "set meals" or menu del día is particularly prevalent in Salamanca and, for the inexpensive price of 10€, you can order a three course meal with wine or beer. The set meals inevitably contain the obligatory paella, in order to please the tourists. They do, however, offer taster boards of dried and cured hams, sausages and local cheeses; a tasty introduction to any meal. Desserts often consist of ice-cream or flan, the Spanish equivalent of a crème caramel. The broad choice of cafes means that it is entirely possible to go to a different cafe every day of the week for coffee, and a different restaurant for meals. We actively sought to do this, in order to experience the best of Salamanca's culinary scene. My personal favourite cafe was in the Old Town, just off the main square: Los Gatos. This café was a vibrant student orientated café and the only one we visited twice! The streets of Salamanca are winding and enchanting, particularly at night. The views from the cathedral terrace at sunset were beautiful, and with the Christmas lights peeking up from the narrow streets, the scene was altogether festive. The main square in Salamanca is surrounded by little cafes and restaurants and a surprising number of pharmacies! The plaza in front of the new cathedral was designed by Napolean in an attempt to promote architectural order. The carved door surround of the cathedral depicts a frog, a rabbit, as well as monkey holding an ice-cream and even an astronaut. There was an effort to replace parts of the surround, lost in an earthquake, with images that resonate with modern society. The must-see sights in Salamanca are the ranita or little frog that sits on a carved skull over the entrance to the university building and grants good luck in exams to all those who spot it (being here in Durham is proof of its success in my case!). Another sight to see is the cathedral, whose Baroque architecture is ornate and impressive. Finally, the cafe "El Valor" serves not only the best churros you will ever taste, but is also a hot chocolate haven. The best order is the four hot chocolate taster rack, ranging from dark to white hot chocolates. Chocolate heaven! Ryan West


Strasbourg: ‘The Fairy-Tale City at the Cross-Roads of Europe’


trasbourg is one of France’s most special cities. I am, however, unashamedly biased. Before Durham, I called Strasbourg home for a year, studying at its university. However, what surprised me, and still does, was not how unreservedly I grew to love Strasbourg, but that the city is such an unlauded gem. Say France, and foreigners conjure up romantic visions of a starlit Eiffel Tower. Say Strasbourg, and you find yourself heatedly correcting people querying, ‘Strasbourg? You said you were studying French... Why are you in Germany?!’ Strasbourg and the surrounding region of Alsace are a unique blend of culture not easily found elsewhere. Immediately on the Franco-German border and tussled over for centuries, Strasbourg developed a heritage not really of either country but one which somehow combines the best of both. Visit Alsace’s rural villages and you will even be confronted with ‘Alsacien’: a mixture of French and German that can be harder for outsiders to understand than a Southerner meeting his first Geordie. Featuring a towering, intricate, Gothic cathedral, flowers spilling from shuttered windows, crooked, rainbow-coloured, timbered buildings, narrow streets and canal-spanning bridges, Strasbourg’s fairytale quality never faded. However, more than that, there was always something going on. Strasbourg is one of Europe’s epicentres. Home to the European Parliament, it is also at the heart of European travel. Whilst living there, I flagrantly pursued the Eurotripping ‘Gap Yah!’ stereotype and, commencing from Strasbourg, I conquered Europe’s best: from Paris to Berlin, Krakow to Budapest, Venice to Florence. Concerning the great outdoors, a ten minute train journey for a summer hike in the Black Forest was challenged only by some wicked skiing in the nearby Vosges Mountains (hint, hint, Palatinalps?). Photo:

However, as adventurous as I like to paint myself... the truth is that I could have never have studied anywhere else and still been happy. France’s fifth biggest city is unabashedly a university one; full of student cyclists not dissimilar to Oxbridge. Bustling with trams, you were never far from a foreign language or French cinema and, celebrating the French café culture, undiscovered bistros existed on every street – plus Alsace’s hearty cuisine is delicious, with tarte flambée and Bakeoffes to rival any English stew! There were also lidos, secret lakes and vast parks full of storks, the regional Alsacian symbol; although having them swoop over your head in the dark is what I imagine it might be like to be buzzed by a Pterodactyl. Finally, if you haven’t heard of Strasbourg’s summer Light Festival or world-famous glittering Christmas Market, with its tiny stalls of wooden toys, decorations and gifts, Munster baguettes and piping hot mulled wine, visit for that, if nothing else. At this point, if you remain unconvinced, I’m mystified, but let me put it this way: I’m counting down the days until I go Photo: back. Alydia Noble


La Cocina Mexicana After the success of la Cucina Italiana in our first edition, we launched a poll to see which cuisine you wanted our team to tackle next. The votes were counted and this edition we are bring to you la Cocina Mexicana ...

Chicken Tacos (Serves 2) A spicy, delicious Mexican classic!

Ingredients: Tacos 

Sunflower oil for frying

45g grated mature cheddar

1 medium sized onion, chopped

Red or green jalapeños

2 chicken breasts


2 garlic cloves, crushed


350g tomato sauce

3 teaspoons hot chilli powder

About 35g rocket

8 cherry tomatoes

1/2 green pepper

2/3 red pepper

1/3 red pepper

1/2 green pepper

2 button mushrooms

4 taco shells

Splash of balsamic vinegar

Method: 1)

Fry the onion and garlic in a large pan, on medium heat.


Cut up the chicken breasts and add to the pan when the onion begins to brown.


Add 3 teaspoons of hot chilli powder to the mixture.


Slice the peppers into strips.


After the chicken has been cooking for 5 minutes, add the tomato sauce, along with 2/3 of the red pepper and 1/2 of the green pepper.


Preheat the oven to 180°C.


Prepare the salad and grate the cheese.


Put the taco shells in the oven for 2 to 3 minutes. Keep an eye on them, as they burn quickly.


Check the chicken is cooked through by cutting a piece in half.

10) Add the filling to the taco shells and serve with grated cheese, jalapeños, guacamole and salad.

¡Buen provecho!


Fish and Avocado Tostadas (Serves two) Try this alternative to fajitas for an easy and tasty meal.

Ingredients: 

One small tin red kidney beans

Handful of grated cheddar

One green chilli, chopped finely

Two tomatoes, chopped

Coriander (fresh or dried)

Two fillets frozen white fish

Juice of one lime

Two flour tortillas

One avocado, sliced

Soured cream

Sunflower oil, for frying

One onion, finely chopped

Method: 1)

Bake the fish in the oven for approx. 20 minutes at 180°C. Once ready put to one side and turn the oven onto grill (still at 180°C).


Fry together the kidney beans, onion and chilli on a medium heat until the onions have softened.


Add the tomatoes, lime juice and coriander, fry for a further 2-3 minutes.


Place the two tortillas on a baking tray under the grill for 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn them!


Take the pan off the heat. Cut the cooked fish into pieces and stir into the kidney bean mixture. Stir carefully so as not to break up the fish too much.


Put the fish mixture on top of the tortillas and then arrange the sliced avocado and cheese on top.


Grill until the cheese melts (approx. 5 minutes)


Serve with soured cream.

¡Buen provecho!


Une analyse des aliments en allitération : « Voulez-vous un vol-auvent ? »


es vacances de Noël, la saison de «Bois, Mange et Sois Heureux!» ... J’étais sur internet et je cherchais des idées de recettes françaises. Bien sûr j’ai trouvé des recettes qui respiraient la culture, la sophistication, mais ce qui m’a frappé le plus c’était qu’il y a de nombreux noms de plats qui utilisent l’allitération ! Par hasard ou par la force du destin… C’est ce qu’on va voir!

Fig.1 : Le type de nourriture Le casse-croûte: Si on va manger un biscuit, une barre de chocolat, peut-être des chips, on veut – naturellement - évoquer la sophistication de la traditionnelle baguette française -- au moins donner l’illusion que ce qu’on mange est léger… Les Anglais font leur mieux pour être chic, mais réussissent-ils ? Je crois que non. Photo:

« Finger food »… Ici, un simple « canapé » suffit.

Remarquez aussi « Fast food ». Pourquoi même essayer de cacher la mauvaise qualité de cette « cuisine » en employant l’allitération?

Fig. 2 : La coïncidence géographique

Les moules marinières: Un mets originaire de ‘Grand Ouest’ pour lequel on utilise du vin blanc, de l’ail et de la crème, et bien entendu des moules. Pour sûr, ça impressionne quand on a du monde à dîner et qu’on veut époustoufler nos invités en faisant le cordon bleu ! Le bœuf bourguignon: C’est un plat qui vient de Bourgogne, une région qui se trouve au centre-est de la France. On cuisine le bœuf au vin rouge* et ajoute des oignons, des champignons et des lardons aussi. C’est simple, mais délicieux. *Naturellement, n’oubliez pas de garder du vin à boire pour le repas ! La crème Chantilly: On pense que la crème chantilly, c’est-à-dire la crème fouettée, a été créée en 1663, au Château de Chantilly, par François Vatel. Cette crème est très blanche ; le parfait nappage à dessert. La sauce que les Anglais appellent affectueusement « custard »… quelle horreur, quelle couleur à côté ! Photo:

Fig.3 : D’autres desserts Il y a une abondance de desserts en allitération. Ils font partie intégrante de la culture de la France. Ils constituent la fierté nationale. Être mémorable est absolument essentielle ! Le vol-au-vent, le clafoutis aux cerises, la crème caramel… la liste continue… Ils partagent un certain « je-ne-sais-quoi ». Après tout, on doit avoir l’air sophistiqué à une soirée, au restaurant. Alors je vous laisse à considérer la notion phrase suivante : « Je tenterai bien la tarte tatin, s’il vous plaît » ou « I would like the sticky toffee pudding, please » Tout est dit. Emma Bradding Photo:


The Year Abroad Agony Aunt Actual events as recounted by real-life year abroad survivors Q: I met a nice Parisian guy in a bar, we chatted a bit and he asked me to help him improve his English so we swapped numbers. Now he’s unexpectedly waiting for me outside my workplace, and he won’t stop calling me. What should I do?! – Perplexed in Paris

A: Honestly, it’s no surprise that you got a bit swept off your feet by a Frenchman who seemed a little more sophistiqué than the Durham boys you’re used to seeing in the grimy halls of ER1. But, at the risk of sounding like your mum, it probably wasn’t a good idea to give away so many personal details to a complete stranger, no matter how handsome. As the damage has already been done, however, I suggest you enlist the help of the other interns to plan your escape. Get them to distract him whilst you cover your face with an umbrella and run to the Métro. With any luck he’ll get the picture. If not, change your number and start wearing a balaclava to work.

Q: I was walking down the road in Madrid, when I realised I had a hole in my last pair of tights and burst into tears. WHERE DO YOU BUY TIGHTS ABROAD? There’s no M&S here!! – Holey and Homesick

First of all, take a deep breath. A hole in a pair of tights is certainly not a matter of life and death. Unfortunately, a new branch of M&S will not appear by the sheer force of will alone – the same can be said for Boots, WH Smiths and your mum. Therefore, you’re going to have to be brave. Pull yourself together, gird your loins, and go forth on an adventure into a brand new shop*! You never know what else you might discover on the way. * If you’re not feeling too adventurous though, there’s an H&M pretty much everywhere. Q: My mate and I got a bit too drunk one night, got into a fight and smashed loads of plates, a table and a lamp. My little old German landlady is furious and has kicked me out – what shall I do?! – All Brawn, no Brain

A: First of all, you should go to the florist amidst your search for a new place to live, buy your landlady the biggest bouquet of Blumen you can find and write her a sorry note in your best handwritten German. Then I suggest you find a mirror and have a good, long look at yourself. Just because you’re on your year abroad (‘omg so fun lol, Erasmus times, YOLO’) and it feels as though your actions there don’t have any consequences, they actually do. Being in another country doesn’t excuse behaving like an idiot.



The End of a Peruvian Adventure Kathryn Wood spent part of her year abroad living in Huanchaco, Peru. In this extract from Kathryn’s year abroad blog (which you can read more of here: she explains what she will and won’t miss about Peruvian life! Things I will miss 1) The people. Here, you meet someone in a bar or in any random place, talk to them for 2 minutes and they are instantly your friend. If you see that person a week later walking down the street, there is never that awkward “should I say hello to them or not, I’m not sure if we’re at that level or not, so I’ll just look at the floor / get my phone out and pretend I didn’t see them” – you just say ‘hola’ and smile! I’m a big fan of that, and have got so used to it that I think I might overstep a few social boundaries once I get back to England and the overly-reserved British mentality! 2) The food. Despite the fact that it has made me sick on many occasions, Peruvian cuisine really is something special. The people here are proud of it too, and rightly so. Every time I’ve met a Peruvian, the first questions have always been: 1. Where are you from? 2. What’s your name? 3. Do you like Peruvian food? Good food really contributes a lot to the culture of a place, and I’m positive I will be craving Ceviche (a seafood dish) within a few days! It’s all so cheap as well – prices are definitely going to be a bit of a shock to the system when I get home. 3) The landscape and the culture. This will sound horribly twee and cliché, but Peru is a beautiful country. I never knew it was possible to have so much and such a wide variety of natural beauty in one place, and it is yet another thing that I will miss a lot and attracts me to come back some day. I’m keen to visit more of South America when I’ve graduated and actually have the time and the money to do so, but I think it will be hard to top the intensely rich cultural history of Peru. Being surrounded by that every day is something I will definitely miss! Things I will not miss 1) Not being able to flush toilet paper down the toilet. You get used to it surprisingly quickly – to the point that I think I will forget to do it when I get back to the UK – but it still grosses me out on occasion. 2) Standing out as a foreigner. I don’t mind people being genuinely interested in my background and the culture I grew up in, and I have had some thoroughly interesting conversations with friends about the differences between Europe and the developing world. There are also, however unjustifiably, a number of advantages to being a westerner here, particularly when it comes to customer service. However, the consistent stream of random old (and not so old) men that will approach you in the street and think it’s OK to leer and say “hola preciosa, hello where you from, I speak Eengleesh” can become more than a little tiresome. 3) The bus. That beautiful, bright, red and yellow box on wheels that I have spent so much of my time on here: the micro. When it’s not too full and you’re not in a hurry and the driver is playing a good radio station, it’s almost enjoyable. But about 80% of the time it is uncomfortable, smells like sweat and rotting fruit, is painfully inefficient, and is crushingly overcrowded, to the point where I can safely say I have been far more intimate with complete strangers on the bus here than I have been with some of my closest friends. I’ve always hated buses, and I know the public transport system in England is nothing to shout about, but I guarantee you will never hear me complain about a First Capital Connect or East Coast train service ever again. Well, at least not for a little while… Kathryn Wood


A Guiri in Granada


chose Erasmus for all the wrong reasons: I couldn’t be bothered to look for anything else and I wanted Christmas holidays. I chose to go to Granada because ‘granada’ in Spanish means pomegranate, and if there’s one thing I love it’s pomegranate seeds. Needless to say, after so much deliberating over the decision process, I did not have great expectations. In fact, when September came around and I was getting ready to leave, all I wanted to do was go to Paris. But here comes the twist - my five months in pomegranate land were the best of my life, and I didn’t really even want to go home for the Christmas holidays. “Yah yah”, you say, “you had a fantastic Erasmus experience, tell me something I haven’t heard before”. Well have you heard of many Erasmus students not speaking English, and not having Anglophone friends? No it’s not a myth, it actually happened, and here’s how it can happen to you. 1) Live with natives: I was prepared to risk my life by staying in a hostel whilst I searched for accommodation upon arrival. Luckily my sister’s best friend is essentially Spanish and had contacts but, had I not been so fortunate, the social and linguistic benefits from living with a native speaker would have been worth a scary couple of days sharing a bedroom and bathroom with strangers (eww). Make the effort. 2) Don’t pick Humanities subjects: Every Erasmus student does translation or language based subjects. No one does Political Sciences. You may not understand half of your classes but you will be the only foreigner, and that means one thing: native friends. Being the only guiri in a class of Spaniards is excellent for your Spanish-speaking social (and love) life. 3) Take any opportunity Europe throws at you: If you’re buying Malibu in Mercadona and the cashier asks if you would like to teach her children English, say yes. Chances are it’ll be the best decision you make. 4) Show them some British hospitality: In those cold winter months ain’t nobody wants to hacer el botellón in the open-air skate park. Invite them over and make them cake. Drink rum, get involved in a debate on politics, improve your Spanish and stay warm. Win win win win. 5) Get involved: 16 hours of class a week may sound like a lot, but that’s still 152 hours left to fill. As excellent as Spanish day-time TV may be (Karlos Arguiñano, what a babe!), it can only fill so many of those hours and, let’s face it, you won’t be doing any work, so go volunteer! I guarantee that you will not have trouble finding an organisation that wants you, nor will you regret it. In conclusion, when on Erasmus do as the locals do, and por favor, avoid speaking English. If they do start speaking to you in English, feign stupidity and pretend you’re from Iceland. I guarantee they’ll revert to speaking Spanish. Clare Saunders



Com’è siamo? – Un punto di vista degli Erasmus


ondividiamo con voi qualche opinione che gli studenti della nostra università hanno portato dalla loro esperienza in Italia, ma anche qualche impressione che il Regno Unito ha lasciato sugli studenti italiani che hanno fatto il loro Erasmus a Durham.

All’arrivo in Italia i britannici sono colpiti dalla “volontà della gente di aiutarli in ogni momento”, il quale forse viene “dall’importanza della famiglia, che sempre racchiude il sentimento d’orgoglio e patriottismo per il luogo dove si è nati, anche se è piccolo”. Per di più, molti rilevano “le possibilità di viaggiare e la varietà nel paese essendoci la campagna, la montagna e il mare”, dove si trova “il bel tempo” e “la cucina semplice, economica e squisita”. Gli italiani che vengono nel Regno Unito, invece, apprezzano “l’educazione e la silenziosità: si fa la coda e nessuno salta la fila”. L’educazione si combina con “la puntualità”, “la pulizia” e “l’efficienza dei servizi Photo: pubblici”. Uno studente italiano enuncia con entusiasmo: “Mi piace moltissimo vedere i passeggeri di un tram salutare il conducente ed essere ricambiati”. Comunque, non si deve scordare che molti di noi vivono un vero choc culturale durante il soggiorno all’estero. Così, i ragazzi britannici hanno notato “l’intolleranza – il modo di vedere certe cose è molto indietro rispetto all'Inghilterra, soprattutto al Sud”. Inoltre, si lamenta la “burocrazia – presente nell’amministrazione, nei contratti d’affitto, nei codici fiscali, nelle tasse, nelle banche … insomma dappertutto!”, e sovente accompagnata dalla “disorganizzazione: quando devo riprendere il lavoro?' Alle tre, alle quattro, insomma quando vuoi!” Riguardo ai rimproveri per i britannici, gli italiani sostengono che “sono freddi”, hanno “scarsa igiene” e “bevono troppo”. Inoltre, agli italiani danno fastidio “gli orari del pranzo e della cena” e “i rubinetti separati: lavarsi la faccia con l’acqua tiepida a volte è un’impresa”. Parlando delle qualità degli italiani, i britannici li vedono come “accoglienti e rilassati”, “sinceri”, “belli”, insomma gente che “sa divertirsi” ed è di “gran cuore” con “una grande immaginazione che ha prodotto l’arte”. Gli italiani, da parte loro, riconoscono che i britannici sono “molto cortesi”, ma anche “amichevoli e festaioli”. Un punto di orgoglio per i britannici sarebbe “che loro hanno una mentalità più aperta rispetto alla nostra...mi pare che qui ci sia molta più libertà di fare ciò che si vuole senza doversi preoccupare del giudizio altrui”.


Nessuno studente dimentica che gli intercambi sono culturali e devono arricchire la nostra lingua, e per questo sempre sono pronti a condividere le loro espressioni predilette. Da sapere prima di andare in Italia: “Ci penso io!” “Fare la scarpetta” “Eh! M'bare! Tu sai chu su i cristiani?”, Lo scotch (pensavo all'inizio che servisse il whiskey per affiggere le cose!). Photo:

Da imparare prima di venire a Durham: “Gosh”, “Tipsy chav”, “to settle the matter once and for all”, “to have a drag”, “gate crasher”, “dirty weekend” , “rah”, “cheesy”, “to go supernova”. VA Chiblis


The People of Ukraine Marched for Free Trade with Europe, not Bureaucracy and Regulation


t’s been a strange couple of weeks for the future of the European Union. With David Cameron and British Eurosceptics pushing for the much-fabled renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with the EU, it is hard to imagine a place where people would quite literally sacrifice their lives for closer ties with Europe. And yet, in the Ukraine, protesters marched defiantly in the face of armed riot police to overthrow a government that had dramatically scuppered a trade deal with Europe. While the crisis in Crimea struggles on, the new Ukrainian government has committed unequivocally to closer relations with the European Union. A centime for the thoughts of Nigel Farage and UKIP? The situation in the Ukraine has only highlighted the vast differences in perceptions of the EU across the continent: to Britain, and other north-western European states, it is a bureaucratic, interfering drain on the country’s coffers; to the people of Ukraine and large swathes of Eastern Europe, it is a symbol of opportunity, freedom and prosperity. Europe has reached a truly defining moment in its history, where fundamental reform has become inevitable, whether you wish to devolve power to sovereign nation-states trading freely with one another, or fulfil the founding principle of ‘Ever-closer Union’ in a federal Europe. It is difficult to believe that the people of Ukraine overthrew their government only to submit to countless Brussels directives and regulations. Federal union may well be necessary to save the Euro, with economic policy promulgated from Brussels (via Berlin). For those who do not subscribe to such a vision, however, the case for a simplified Europe of free trade and free movement has never been stronger. Europe should open its markets to trade freely with the people of Ukraine and other former Soviet states, before they too see the EU as nothing more than a burden to be avoided at all costs. Tom Chance

Focus on the Political Situation in Venezuela


ou may have heard some of the headlines about Venezuela in the past few months. But what exactly is happening? And why does it matter?

Firstly, one of the greatest political changes occurred a year ago, on March 5th 2013, when Hugo Chávez, the Socialist President of Venezuela for the past 14 years, died from cancer aged 58. Guests at his funeral included Cuban President Raúl Castro and Bolivian President Evo Morales, which shows the extent to which Chávez changed both his country and the Latin American continent. The appearances of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko portray the political alliances Chávez forged with the help of Venezuela's oil and his antiimperialist stance. However, opinions regarding his legacy are divided. Some Photo: see him as great statesman, others see his methods as dictatorial. Some see him as leading the fight against poverty in Venezuela, others as destroying the economy. Secondly, Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro has faced political problems following his ascension to power. Although he won the Presidential elections in April, he has struggled to maintain the popular support cultivated by Chávez. The Washington Post cites Desire Gonzalez, a Chavista, who states that: “I think the problem is that Chávez never taught us how to live without him.” Furthermore, continued economic and social problems have furthered weakened Maduro’s standing. Anti-government protests have centred on crime given that the country has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. There is also a 50% rate of inflation and scarcity of staple products such as milk, sugar and toilet paper. Despite the issuing of laws to increase state control over the economy, Photo: discontent and instability remain.


Thirdly, violence broke out on February 12th this year, when students took to the streets in several cities to demand the release of classmates, who were arrested during previous anti-government protests. The demonstrations were largely peaceful; however, two students and a government supporter were killed during violent clashes in Caracas. Authorities blamed infiltrators from fascist groups, but the opposition points the finger at pro-government armed militias. The opposition may be far from united, with Henrique Capriles and Leopoldo López both trying to assert their dominance within the leadership of the opposition coalition and with differing visions from multiple factions, but they all agree that radical political change is required. Finally, Latin American studies professor Miguel Tinker Salas emphasises that while the protests have been restricted to mostly middle and upper middle class neighbourhoods, and not entire cities, “a large part, but apparently not a majority of the society remains bitterly alienated from the government. Undoubtedly, Venezuela faces real economic and social problems.” Harriet Bantock Sources: The Washington Post, Der Spiegel, BBC news,

Donkeys in the Bullring


nybody who has visited Spain will be familiar with the huge, skulking bulls that seamlessly materialise in the landscape that you passes on the country’s national highways. They were originally placed in 1956 in order to advertise Osborne’s Brandy de Jerez, and now they’ve not only become a naturally digested part of the Spanish countryside, but they’re considered to be national treasures. When the law prohibiting roadside advertising came through in 1994 there was such an uproar about the potential removal of the bulls that the government decided to let them be, removing any semblance to their original advertisers and turning them into public domain images. The Catalonians felt a little differently about this bull veneration. In fact, they felt so differently about the bulls that in 2002 they painted the Barcelona Osborne bull in the red and yellow stripes of the Catalonian flag. Realising that the artwork was not enough, the bull was pushed over in the following Au- Photo: tumn. Had the Catalonians finally had their fill? Most certainly not; 2003 proceeded to see the bull cut in half by more Catalan protestors. When somebody had the nerve to erect a new bull in 2007 to replace the old butchered one it was barely a week until separatistas came along again and sawed through the legs of the bull, declaring they had ‘cleaned the sacred Montserrat mountain from the horned Spanish filth that sullied it.’ Doesn’t this seem oddly sadistic for the only region on the mainland that has banned bullfighting? Not at all; the Catalonians didn’t ban bullfighting or attack the Osborne toro because they’ve lost their gladiatorial palette. The bull is simply the national identifier of a nation they no longer feel a part of. The country as a whole is still reeling from the wounds inflicted by the Francoist regime, and Catalonia suffered great hardship and suppression during those years. Perhaps that’s why they’ve taken on the long-suffering donkey, originating in Catalonia, as their national symbol, counteracting a bull that used to symbolise Francoist domination, but now symbolises a harrowing past that they want out of.


Read the Spanish papers and you’ll quickly familiarise yourself with calls for an independence referendum; Madrid are calling it ‘unconstitutional’ and Mariano Rajoy made it clear that ‘there will be no referendum that calls into question the sovereignty of the Spanish people’; all whilst Catalonian president Artur Mas pumps up his people into an anti-Spanish, proseparatist frenzy. Catalonia is Spain’s most industrialized region, and also one of its most economically sound in a time of financial crisis. Spain is fully aware of what its loss could mean for the nation, and they aren’t going down without a fight; there are donkeys braying in the bullring, and the bulls are ready to charge.

Sophia Smith-Galer Sources :,,,


Some More Photo Entries Thanks to: Alex Rogansky Kathryn Wood Clare Saunders

Thanks from The Definite Article team Dear readers,

Thank you so much for reading the second 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!

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Enjoy the Easter break! The Definite Article team :)

Next issue: June 2014


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