List of grievances concerning the Language for Historians Module 2010
General grievances with the module: • The History Department website clearly states that the Language for Historians module will not be assessed this year. The section of the website in question was revised in May 2010, and neglected to mention any changes to the contrary. o The department insists that changes have been published frequently and openly, yet there remained a widespread ambivalence as to the specific nature of examination content. • Despite the general consensus that a ‘guinea-pig’ year is necessary, the department did too little to cater for the students undertaking this module. To further, whereas three hours per week were devoted to the un-assessed language module in our first year of study, this year only two hours have been provided for an assessed module. • It is becoming clear that the Language for Historians module will reduce the average mark of many students who have otherwise performed well in their history modules. We do not feel this will accurately illustrate our abilities as historians. • On a number of occasions throughout the year students have spoken out against this module, and voiced their concerns to personal tutors, professors, seminar tutors, and subject leaders. Numerous letters have been written, and petitions conducted. Despite the obviously widespread nature of complaints, too little has been done to change the situation and appease the students. The language part of the module: • The communication between departments has been deficient throughout the year. From Term One, when students were asking about the nature of the exams, language professors constantly referred them to the History department. • The nature of the language-part of the course has been arbitrary and inapplicable – a student is trained to do little more than translate a document in a rudimentary fashion, very few skills that can be used in a foreign country are taught. • There is little to accommodate for the varying degrees of knowledge and skill of different languages – the language exams for pre-GCSE and post-A-Level groups had very few differences. • The summer 2010 examination was incredibly difficult – a view held by the vast majority of students. Many found themselves unable to finish, and the skills they had learnt throughout the year unused and obsolete to the challenges of the paper. Papers have been shown to native speakers and PhD students, many of whom considered the examination to be unreasonably challenging. • Students were unable to access the books they needed. For German, the book cost 80 pounds, and only 1 copy was available in the library. The book store didn’t provide copies of Spanish grammar textbooks after requests were voiced. Copies of the Italian book were also out of stock for several weeks. • The difficulty of the translation exercises was not impressed upon us from the start of the year. To expect pre-GCSE level students to translate a degree level book is overly demanding. The individual language centres should have instructed us to purchase the core books in both languages at the beginning of the year, much like the European World core textbook, but no such instruction was given. The historical part of the module: • Despite the claims of the history department that a student is prepared for the course through the ‘Early Modern Europe’ module, such is evidently not the case. The Core module only touches upon the specific aspects of the historic part of the Language module. • The seminar time allocated to this examination was too little, and in many cases didn’t do enough to adequately prepare students for the examination. Despite extensive individual preparation, many still felt unable to properly address the questions in the examination. o Tutors were unsure of what was going to be on the exam e.g. Luca Mola walking into a seminar asking the students to tell him about what he was to teach them. • The only mock paper available to students was in Italian, and based upon a different book. For Spanish, German and French students there was little indication as to what would be in the examination.