Q&A with Catherine Dimelow
Catherine graduated from Aberystwyth University in 2008 with a BSc in Economics with German. Her degree has opened her eyes to the way she now sees the world and has provided her with many opportunities that she never thought would come her way.
She is currently training to become a language teacher, despite this career pathway never crossing her mind prior going to uni. Here, we talk to Catherine about some of the modules that made her fall in love with languages!
Why did you choose Aberystwyth?
I chose Aberystwyth because it was one of a few universities at the time that offered a business degree with a language - there were only 13 universities, so that narrowed down my choices a lot. But also what was important for me was that I could go abroad for the full year in my third year and to be able to carry on with my German. I felt Aberystwyth could offer me this opportunity.
So what modules did you enjoy studying at university?
I wouldn't say grammar modules were my favourite part of language learning. It was definitely the content modules that actually opened up my eyes to Germany and German culture. They didn’t focus on grammar. They looked at the culture of that language and they focused on the actual language that you see when you go abroad.
What do you enjoy the most about being able to speak German?
I love speaking in German and communicating with German people, picking up new sentence ideas and being abroad and hearing the language in practice.
Was there one module that particularly stood out?
The TESOL module… I loved it! This one module really opened doors for me as now I’m actually going on to train to be a language teacher.
Why did you love this module so much?
Well it was quite a practical and theoretical module. But more importantly it was a very personally rewarding module - we were helping others as well - it wasn't just for us.
In what way was this module personally rewarding?
As part of the assessment we were assigned an international student who we mentored and taught English to. It was very rewarding seeing the satisfaction that my international student showed and just because I was actually taking an interest and helping her that one step more.
Did you find this mentoring process difficult?
Yes, as the language used in lectures is very different to the language she had learnt, so when I met with her it was about being able to understand the types of language used within uni. But this was quite hard as we were in Wales and the Welsh accent is quite strong.
Did you learn any teaching methods in your TESOL lectures to help you teach your international student?
Yes. As part of the lectures we started learning Bengali language from scratch. It was only taught in the target language, so no English at all. At first this was quite scary because I had absolutely no knowledge of Bengali and the lessons involved going out of your comfort zone. In the end though, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the experience because it proved that you can learn a language just through mimicking, repetition and the use of visual objects. I used these techniques to help teach my international student.
What was the assessment like for this module?
Assessment looked at all aspects of teaching English and how people learn a language. For example, I had to analyse a chapter in an English language text book. We had to look into what makes a successful reading exercise, what makes a successful listening activity etc. These assessments were very analytical and they got us thinking about language learning strategies. The assessment for the international student involved creating a diagnostic analysis of our student’s language ability and then devising lesson plans based on the analysis.
How many contact hours did you have for this module?
We had two lots of 1.5 hour sessions each week - this included tutorials and then we were expected to put in at least another two hours a week of personal reading as well as meeting up with our students to teach them.
Did you find the workload demanding?
I did find the individual work with the mentee quite demanding because it involved meeting up with our student and finding a time that was convenient for us both and a location that was quiet without distractions. Otherwise, I found the workload ok because I was used to putting in that amount of individual study time.
Are there any modules that you took at uni that you really enjoyed but thought you wouldn’t?
Yes! In my first year I did a module in German literature. In my A-level German we hadn’t done any literature at all, so it really was a whole new world for me taking this module. It was extremely rewarding to get to the end of the book and understand it all. That gave me the confidence to say that I can actually read in German, understand it and enjoy it too. It surprised me that I could do this.
How have you used your language since graduating?
I spent a year in Dusseldorf, Germany as a language assistant. I used the skills and strategies that I picked up from the TESOL course at uni that encouraged me to teach in Germany.
Have you ever had used your knowledge of the German language outside of university?
Yes! I actually went on an orchestral tour to Germany as a translator. As I was in the music service whilst at uni, I got to play with the orchestra during the tour but more importantly, I was doing all the translating and interpreting for them. It combined two of my passions! It was a fantastic two-week trip and once in a lifetime opportunity.
Finally, can you name one word to describe learning languages?
(long pause)…it really opens up your eyes to different cultures and it's a very rewarding process that gives you skills for life, an opportunity for life and to make friends for life. Ha! That's not very concise!
I'd say that it really does open many doors and offers you many new opportunities.