Scholarship recipients satisfied with the Birgit Rausing Language Programme
21 January 2013
“This is the best thing I have ever done. I established important contacts and got to see what one can do as a phonetician. This confirmed my interest and made me even more determined”. So says Malin Svensson, who received a Master’s scholarship in Linguistics from the Birgit Rausing Language Programme in the first round of scholarship awards in 2007.
The scholarship allowed her to spend three months at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. There she attended two Master’s level courses. In Utrecht, she also started the Master’s degree project in phonetics that she is now completing, alongside her job as an administrator for Pro Vice-Chancellor Eva Wiberg, who also chairs the Birgit Rausing Language Programme.
In total, Birgit Rausing donated SEK 15 million for scholarships to be awarded over ten years starting in 2007, which means that we are now halfway through. There are five major scholarships and several smaller ones each year for students and researchers in Linguistics and Chinese. The scholarships are intended to fund stays abroad. Researchers can also apply for conference funding from the programme.
The four scholarship recipients that LUM meets are all passionate about their subject. They talk about the scholarship’s significance in allowing them to go out into the world and establish a contact network:
”It is very important to live in the country. It is a completely different thing to be able to have a spontaneous lunch together, for example, rather than only having contact via email,” says Anita Thomas, researcher and lecturer in French at the Centre for Languages and Literature.
She was awarded a postdoc scholarship in 2011. This allowed her to spend six months in Québec at the French-speaking university, UQAM, in Montreal. She was also active in a research seminar at Concordia University. Her research is mainly concerned with various factors that affect the acquisition of French as a second language.
Johan Brandtler received a postdoc scholarship in Linguistics in 2010:
His scholarship was converted into a travel grant, as he had simultaneously been awarded a postdoc position at the Centre for Languages and Literature, funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.
He spent the first half of 2012 at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the US. There he got the opportunity to meet world-leading researchers within his field, polarity items, that is phrases such as “not in a month of Sundays” or “never in my life have I seen such a thing”:
“Such phrases occur in most languages and they are interesting as they can only be used negatively. Why this is can tell us something more about how human language functions,” he says.
Johan Brandtler believes the scholarship enabled his most meaningful achievement.
”It is important to challenge oneself and others. To change environments is also an asset in itself”.
For one of the most recent scholarship recipients, Maria Mörnerud, it was her interest in art that elicited her interest in the Chinese language. The beautiful characters spurred her to learn the language, to the extent that she has now earned a Master’s degree in Chinese. For her Master’s scholarship from the Birgit Rausing language programme, she travelled to Beijing in the summer of 2012. There she followed a course for teachers of Chinese:
”I could never have attended that course without the scholarship. Most of the course participants were from Asia and the majority had Chinese as their mother tongue. That enabled me to get very valuable feedback”.
The course gave her a certificate to teach Chinese in China. She already works as an upper secondary school teacher of Chinese in Sweden and it remains to be seen which parts of the course she can apply to her teaching, taking the criteria of the Swedish National Agency for Education into account. This was not Maria Mörnerud’s first experience of living in China for a time. She previously worked as an adult education teacher of Chinese and spent a year in China on three different occasions in connection with that job.
The next round of scholarships will be announced in the spring, in April and May, with funds awarded as early as June.
Text: Linda Viberg