Saturday, December 28, 2019

Devoir maison CAPES/MEEF - detailed feedback

Tout d'abord, si vous avez suivi mes cours de M1 MEEF, prenez trois minutes pour remplir ce questionnaire complètement anonyme qui nous aide à faire évoluer le cours d'année en année : https://fr.surveymonkey.com/r/Q6XB3Q3 

Et maintenant, le devoir maison en détail.

The documents studied can be found here :

I have marked half of the homeworks so far.

Comments on Homework assignment – CAPES exercise December 2019

There are many different ways of writing a good synthetic commentary on these documents. I am aiming here just to give you a few hints, based on the most common mistakes I have seen in your work.
In the first semester, we have concentrated on revising British history and society. Most of you still need to read this book: http://www.ophrys.fr/fr/catalogue-detail/2119/le-royaume-uni-au-xxie-siecle-mutations-d-un-modele.html
We have not spent a lot of time on the structure and method of the specific CAPES exercise. You will be doing a lot more of this in the second semester. This is why I have not been too hard on homework assignments which were not tightly structured.

This exercise is fairly typical of a  CAPES paper. The documents are not easy ones: the contexts, the objectives and the links between them you may find hard to identify and explain. But candidates who have a good shot at it, show some knowledge and some reasoning power in good English do get quite good marks.
As I mentioned, there are a large number of ways of doing this exercise. This is why I am not giving you a “corrigé”, but a series of questions you should be asking yourself and common mistakes.

Theme. It seems to me to be pretty clear that the theme of this collection of documents is « Le passé dans le présent ». Hall and Brown both speak of past achievements or horrors of British populations, and the Blue plaques speak of people who are all deceased.
It is possible to consider the dossier through the theme of voyages et migrations, since the cultural diversity in the UK due to the (lost) empire is very important to the first two documents and can just about be linked up with the third
The jury report from 2018 reminded candidates that it is not enough to mention the theme only in the introduction and the conclusion. It should be mentioned three or four times during the work, which will be easy if the theme is well-integrated. In the present dossier, this should not cause huge problems. Hall is very clear that the past is hanging over the present and affecting people’s views of themselves and each other. Brown is suggesting that pride in (alleged) national characteristics built up over centuries is essential for present plans to move forward. The Blue Plaque campaign is saying, in a way “let us not forget the past, even if our everyday lives. Let us not reserve the past for museums and schoolrooms, but let us walk around in the present with a feeling of our links to the past “.
Key question (problématique)
What kind of key question might structure a comparison of these documents? There are many possibilities, but it is important not to choose a question which is too vague or abstract (or is meaningless!) The 2017 jury report explains in so many words “précisons que le jury ne dispose pas d’une problématique type qu’il s’attend à retrouver dans toutes les bonnes copies”.

The report also complained “trop de problématiques ne tenaient pas compte de la spécificité des documents”. So, for example if you tried a key question “How far is Britain multicultural”, this is not good because it is much too general. These three documents all try to intervene in how we consider the past in our present idea of who we are.

For this particular homework I did not insist that you find a key question, but nevertheless I will look at how this can be done. In the second semester with Mme V., you will be working more on specific dossiers, and this question will be covered thoroughly.

For the key question, I would be tempted with something along the lines of « How is the past used to bring the people of Britain together? (If you are careful not to get sugary!) Someone tried to structure around « How is Britain’s past portrayed as fractured or homogeneous? » which was not bad. Someone else tried « How is the modern struggle of defining what it means to be British expressed in this dossier? », which was fine.
I would recommend choosing a key question which is not too complicated. A real danger is choosing one which is too abstract or meaningless.
Do not be intimidated by this long series of comments on the exercise: if you got only part of these elements that would be more than enough.
Take time to read the Jury Reports from the CAPES. These will intimidate you, but also include useful information. You will find them on the SAES website.
Saesfrance.org Click through Concours, CAPES, CAPES externe, Rapports.

The questions you always need to ask yourself for each document, before you begin to write your commentary, are the following.

WHO? (is expressing themselves)
TO WHOM? (are they trying to communicate)
WHEN? (What is important about the fact that it was at this time and not another?)
WHAT? (is the essential content of the document? Also, what do they NOT say which we might expect them to say?)
WHY? (are they saying all this: what is their objective?)
HOW? (do they try to reach their objective? Irony? Mockery? Rhetorical devices?)
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER? (If the document promises, or predicts or warns, did these elements come true?)
HOW TYPICAL IS THE DOCUMENT? (Is it an innovative declaration of a new movement, or one more cliché from that time period, or what?)
WHAT DIFFERENCE DID IT MAKE? (Where does the document fit in to longer historical processes?)

In any exercise for the CAPES you are unlikely to find something to say on each questions for each document, but the list gives you an idea of where you should be looking, and may help avoid the temptation to write an abstract essay about people feeling British, instead of looking at what these three examples of expression or discussion of identity are trying to achieve.

You should ask yourself each of these questions about each of the documents. For some of the questions there is little or nothing to say in connection to one or more of the documents, but you should check.

Taking these in turn, then, and looking at the elements which students often tended to omit. (I do not deal with all the questions, but with those which seem to me to be most fruitful for this particular exercise).
WHO? is expressing themselves?
It was important to say that Stuart Hall was (he died in 2014) a Black intellectual. Jamaican-British, he became influential at a time when there were even fewer well-known Black intellectuals in Britain than there are today. This is important not just because he talks of ethnic groups being marginalized, but because the last paragraph, for example, cannot be understood if we do not take into account Hall’s ethnicity. He speaks of “our folks” who “were British” but cannot be English. He is speaking of Black people from the colonies (whether Jamaica or not). At the time of the British Empire all citizens of the Empire were called “British”. But in more recent times, those Black people from the colonies who came to live in England came to realize that they would never be treated just like everyone else.

Gordon Brown
He was Chancellor of the Exchequer. No points for that, since it is marked on the exam paper. Who is he, in a longer historical perspective? He was Tony Blair’s number two, and would succeed him as Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party in 2007. From the point of view of a view of Britishness, and from the point of view of politics in general, the Labour Party was in transformation. The “old” left values of supporting trade unions, internationalism and nationalization were being put aside in favour of a new “third way” Labour party giving more space to individualism and to the market. In this context, Brown’s speech is proposing a form of left-wing patriotism rather different from previous forms of patriotism. 

Document C: Who is expressing themselves? – public authorities and public organizations such as the London county council (the regional government then) and English Heritage, an organization which tries to defend “English Cultural Heritage”. Much of the work of this organization is concerned with preserving castles, stately homes and such symbols of past riches and splendour of the elite.

TO WHOM? are they trying to communicate?
Most students said nothing at all about this!
Stuart Hall’s speech is given at an Arts Council conference. The Arts Council is a national organization, mostly government-funded, whose aim is to encourage artistic endeavour. Therefore, Stuart Hall is talking to people who will be organizing art galleries or music festivals or other such cultural events for cultural and educational objectives. They are naturally interested in ideas about what British heritage is, since part of their job is to preserve it and spread knowledge about it.
Gordon Brown is talking to the British Council, an international organization which supports the presence of British culture (and the teaching of the English Language) across the world.
Document C. The people being addressed are the passers-by, who did not come there for historical or cultural information, but are in receipt of it anyway. This is a programme which believes in populating everyday public space with cultural heroes and heroines.

WHEN? (What is important about the fact that it was at this time and not another).
This question was ignored by many students. However, particularly in the case of Brown, it is very important to understand the objective of his intervention
Stuart Hall’s speech might well have been very similar if he had given it ten years earlier or ten years later. Nevertheless, it is important that by the time he gives this speech he is a well-known figure and an established authority both in cultural studies and on racism.
Gordon Brown’s speech is given at a time of thorough transformation of the values defended by the leadership of the Labour Party. It is almost a full year before the next election, so is not influenced by directly electoral concerns. As one student pointed out, this speech took place two years before Gordon Brown suggested that a national day to celebrate Britishness should be established (at present there are separate days for the English, the Welsh, the Scottish and the Irish – Saint George’s day, Saint David’s day, Saint Andrew’s day[1] and Saint Patrick’s day.)
The coming to office of Tony Blair happened in the context of the transformation of the Labour Party. Blair even rebranded the party « New Labour ». This change of name was intended to both help win elections, and signal a change in the values defended by the Labour Party. No longer were, for example, the defence of trade unions and of policies of nationalization to be important in the party’s programme. In the question of British identity and dealing with racism and relations between different ethnic communities, there were also to be changes.
After the terrorist attacks on the USA, and jihadist terror attacks elsewhere, for example in Spain in 2004, emphasis around the world had been placed on the danger of such attacks. The London attacks of 2005, which killed 56 people and injured hundreds were yet to take place, and yet already a change in emphasis around community relations was taking place in New Labour circles.
In the 1960s and 1970s the Labour movement and Labour party had gradually come around to a position of fighting racist discrimination, and the modest laws (Race Relations Acts) of 1965 and 1976 against racism were enacted by Labour governments. In the 1980s, Labour local governments around the country were putting multiculturalism into practice by helping to fund community centres based round different ethnicities, and celebration of different cultures in schools was becoming common. Even today it is not unusual to see a school celebrating Diwali, Eid or Hannukah as well as Christmas. So, we can say that Brown’s speech comes at a moment when the Labour leadership is changing its discourse about immigration and the multicultural society.

Document C. The blue plaques are not all from the same date. Nevertheless, the number of them has risen enormously over the last thirty years or so, and recent selections have reflected some of the successes of anti-racist and women’s movements in that a slightly greater diversity is slowly being introduced into the plaques.

WHAT? (is the essential content of the document. Also, what do they NOT say which we might expect them to say?)
Document A
Some homeworks were too vague about Hall’s arguments, simply saying that he was against the idea that British Heritage was homogeneous and unproblematic. Hall uses a small number of clear arguments, and it is best to summarize them. They include the following (but you may not write in lists):

1 The achievements of liberty are not due to a British heritage. They were the subject of fierce fighting between British people.

2 There have always been many ways of being British, and a lot of them have been subject to discrimination and marginalization.

3 The British Empire, built on slavery, was not an external, accidental phenomenon, it was woven into British everyday life.

4 Black people will only really feel at home if ideas of British heritage are re thought to include them.

Document B
Pride in being British has traditionally been seen as a Conservative priority in Britain. Brown’s speech is an attempt to move away from traditional left antiracist discourse and towards a type of left patriotism. The emphasis is no longer on how to stop prejudice and racism, but on how to strengthen the feeling of belonging of different groups. It is fascinating that Brown should quote a conservative philosopher, Roger Scruton. This speech shows then a move away from traditional radical left views of country (ideas such as “the working class has no country”, “workers of the world unite” in the famous phrase of Karl Marx. Instead, Brown is looking for pride in national character and national tradition, although he does not want “British values” to be understood in a narrow traditionalist sense”.
He presents British Heritage as an overwhelming positive object, using the expression “Golden Thread” to speak of the continuity of value he believes is shown in British history.
The views he is putting forward are a novel mix characteristic of New Labour. One can easily imagine Stuart Hall opposing them. When Brown speaks of four reform acts, Hall might point out that each of them was hard fought for, not produced as an automatic development of British values. The slow introductions of the Acts of 1832 and 1867 in particular were accompanied by huge popular riots, while the long 35 years between the first and second Acts were the time of Chartism, a huge radical working-class movement which terrified the elite. And of course, the reform which gave women the right to vote only came after at least fifty years of radical mobilization. Hall would no doubt consider that Brown did not have the right to claim these reforms as somehow “natural” to the British character. This is what Hall means when he writes that social achievements “were struggled for by some of the English and bitterly resisted by others”.

Brown’s speech is not given in a directly political context. It is given to the British Council, and agency tasked by government to promote British culture around the world. This is a context where it is not expected that the minister will promise particular actions or defend particular policies, but will rather expound a more general philosophy.

WHY? (are they saying all this: what is their objective?)
This is probably the most important of the questions. It is essential to be able to express concisely but accurately the objective and main content of the three elements in the dossier. This takes time and thought. It is essential to speak about the objective in so many words. Even a clumsy attempt at explaining the objective is better than ignoring the objective.

So, it is rather risky to begin talking about the allusions and reference straight away, because what we are most interested in is why those references and allusions have been chosen by somebody (Hall, Brown and English Heritage, for example) in order to reach their objective. Hall wants people to leave the hall thinking that a lot of heritage talk is missing out large chunks of historical truth and that this has to be fixed if Black people are going to have a stronger feeling of belonging in the UK. Brown wants people to leave the hall thinking that national pride and talk of national character and tradition should not be left to the right wing but can be taken on by the left, in its modernist, New Labour form.

Stuart Hall is expressing a radical opposition to a traditional view of British tradition which he calls “the Heritage” (notice the capital letter).
Gordon Brown (at a particular political juncture) is declaring that he does believe in key national values and even in a national character, and tries to define what it might be.
The third document you will have found more difficult, because of course there is nothing stated. The plaques are not accompanied by an explanation of why they are being put up – what the objective is. The English heritage website has a section about blue plaques which you can look at, but even there the objective is not clearly presented – it is considered to be a “common sense” objective. This means you have to yourself imagine what the objective and effect of these plaques might be.
The Blue Plaque programme is not entering directly into a political debate about the nature of British identity or British tradition. It is illustrating a practical and popular attempt to place national or local pride in a public space. It shows national pride in practice rather than discussing it in theory.

WHAT DIFFERENCE DID IT MAKE? (Where does the document fit in to longer historical processes)
Gordon Brown’s speech is not purely theoretical in nature. It was while Gordon Brown was Prime Minister that new conditions were imposed for those who wished to acquire UK nationality. They were from now to be obliged to take a (multiple choice) test to show they had a fair level of knowledge of “British Culture” (no matter how hard that may be to define). This was an important change and an important political symbol, since the introduction of the test might be taken to mean that the government agreed with those (generally on the right or even in racist organizations) that the problem was not so much discrimination against immigrants as the lack of desire to integrate on the part of immigrants…
Following years will show continued weakening of government commitment to multiculturalism. Gordon Brown’s idea of a day to celebrate Britishness, however, will be abandoned

Document C
 The selection of plaques is wide. Popular writers, military and political “heroes”, great scientists of the past. The selection has always a political element, and the organization which places the Blue Plaques has recently been concerned that there were not enough women on the plaques.  One can easily imagine that non-white Britons are also little present, despite the one example given in document C of Claudia Jones, left-wing activist and “Mother” of the Notting Hill Carnival. It is perhaps to be noted that this plaque has been placed by some smaller community-based organization “the Nubian Jak Community Trust” and not by more prestigious actors such as English Heritage or the London County Council.

Mistakes and Omissions
Everybody makes mistakes and omissions, but which ones are dangerous. I would say for this exercise, it would be dangerous not to understand that documents A and B were clearly in opposition to each other. Stuart Hall would not have applauded Brown’s speech, and Gordon Brown would not have written an approving preface to Hall’s book.
Students tend to like “happy endings” and so will often minimize disagreements in the dossiers. Try not to do this: if two documents give completely different views, remember to say so. Most of history is not made up of consensus, but of contradiction.

Critical distance
The 2017 jury report emphasize that candidates are expected to be able to show a critical distance. Candidates have to be careful “à ne pas prendre au pied de la lettre les arguments présentés par les textes”. There are two important aspects to this (if we take the example of the document by Gordon Brown).
The first is to remember to use hedging expressions. Do not give the impression that you automatically agree with (for example) Brown. So do not write.

*Gordon Brown explains the essential characteristics of the British people.[2]
* Gordon Brown underlines the fact that British people have three essential qualities.
These sentences mean that you agree with Brown. Write rather:
Gordon Brown considers that British people have three essential qualities.
Gordon Brown claims to present the essential characteristics of the British people.
On the other hand, Gordon Brown is an experienced politician who has thought about these subjects for a long time. So, although it is quite appropriate to suggest that his comments could be criticized, and in particular that one could imagine Stuart Hall disagreeing with him, you should not give the impression that you think that Brown (or indeed Hall) is foolish or idiotic!
Another example: you should not write in your introduction “To be British is to be in accordance with British values”. If you write this, you are saying that Gordon Brown is right and that “British values” are a real thing. Now, he may be right, but you are not allowed to begin by assuming he is.

If you had done this exercise in exam conditions, you may well have found that some of the references you did not know. In that case, make sure you show that you know some of them. It is not required to explain every reference, or write a biography of every person mentioned on the plaque. Very often, one sentence will be enough to show you know what is important about the reference in this case. “The Act of Settlement which made sure the monarch would never again be a Catholic” for example.

The Notting Hill Carnival is one of the biggest Caribbean carnivals in the world; it is held in London every August. A renowned scholar wrote a very useful short analysis of the carnival, which you can find here:

The Act of Settlement 1701
After the Civil war of the mid-seventeenth century and the restoration of the monarchy with reduced powers in 1760, parliament continued to show that it, and not the monarch, was the decisive source of power. It did this in a number of laws, including the Act of Settlement, which declared that a Catholic could not inherit the throne of England, or of Ireland. (Catholicism at the time was seen as a traditionalist political positioning, tending more to ever increasing power for the monarch and incompatible with parliamentary sovereignty).
The Act of Union 1801
This law made Ireland part of the United Kingdom. Previously Ireland had the same monarch as Britain but was not the same state. Ireland had a separate parliament before 1801.

The partition 1922
After the Anglo-Irish war, which broke out just after the First World War, a compromise was found which meant that a line was drawn around six counties in the North, which contained most of the Irish protestants and which also contained the two richest industrial cities (both these facts were due to a specific programme of colonizing the North over the centuries by English and Scottish settlers, including many who had a strong anti-catholic traditions). This ended the war, but, it seems reasonable to suggest, did not end the problem, in that the 1960s to 90s saw a low level civil war which killed thousands and injured far more, and even today, the question of the border between the two Irelands has immensely complicated the process of the UK’s leaving the European Union.

Runnymede 1215
This place and date refer to the Magna Carta, a constitutional document limiting the absolute power of the King, which was drawn up under pressure from the barons of the time. It was not much respected in the following century, but became important as a symbol and as a text. The principle that people may not be arrested without reason, for example, is expressed in the document. Constitutions from different countries have often used sentences or paragraphs from the Magna Carta, even as recently as the 1960s in the case of newly independent British colonies.

Four Great Reform Acts

The Reform Acts of 1832, 1867, 1884 are obviously referred to. The fourth one mentioned could be the Act of 1918, which gave the right to vote to the remaining men who did not yet have it, and also to women over 30. Or it could be a reference to the 1928 Act which gave women the right to vote on the same basis as men had – that is, being over 21 years of age.

Roger Scruton
Roger Scruton is an English conservative philosopher. His most notable works included The Meaning of Conservatism (1980) and How to Be a Conservative (2014)
P L Travers
Pamela Travers, born in Australia but spent most of her working life in Britain. Author of the Mary Poppins books, beginning in the 1930s, about a nanny with magical powers. The last book was written in the 1980s. The 1964 Disney film adaptation, which recently saw a sequel made, is better known than the books.

Ian Fleming
Author of the (passably racist) novels which the Bond films were based on. Gave rise to one of the most successful series of films in the world, and one of the best-sellers of British cinema history.

William Bligh
William Bligh was a ship captain from the 18th century. He became well-known when a mutiny (not so unusual in the 18th century) due to his alleged cruelty expelled him from his ship. He survived and was able to take revenge of some of the mutineers, some of whom were hanged. Later in his career he was a governor of New South Wales in Australia, and there are statues of him in Sydney. He was deposed by a rebellion. In Britain, however, he is most well-known because of a version (not excessively historically accurate) of the mutiny story which is told in a classic film “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1935 with Clark Gable and a later remake in 1962, with Marlon Brando).

Claudia Jones
Black activist, organized the predecessor of the Notting Hill Carnival. This was organized as one response to racist attacks on Black people in Notting Hill. The idea that Caribbean culture should be visible on the streets of London was, in the late 1950s an important step forward, although it took many years before the authorities respected the carnival.

Sir Winston Churchill
Is too well-known for you to explain who he is.

Sir Isaac Newton
Tremendously important scientist from the 17th/18th century. Made fundamental advances in optics and in mechanics, most notably the understanding that the same force, gravity, which makes objects fall to earth also makes satellites and planets orbit.

The first flying bomb
Flying bombs were a weapon used at the end of the First World War which were able to fly automatically without a pilot to their targets. After the “Battle of Britain” in the early stages of the war had been won by the Royal Air force (largely due to superior radar), it was very difficult for German forces to bomb London by aircraft.

A few standard mistakes in argument. (If you recognize your mistake, do not worry- many other people made worse mistakes!)
First of all a positive point: almost no one starting writing about “lexical fields”. This is good because as a general rule, in a *civilisation* commentary, this idea is used to introduce banal comments at best.

Missing out one of the three documents
If you analyse only two of the three documents, you will lose a lot of points. One of the documents is often considerably more difficult to link to the theme than others. This is not an accident; it is a test. It is far better to make a clumsy attempt at analysing the third document than to miss it out, since missing it out is interpreted as a refusal of the exam. It is not necessary for you to have exactly the same amount of space spent on each document, but there should be a reasonable balance: every document needs several paragraphs.

You never gain any marks from paraphrasing it. So, if you write “Hall describes English people as being “incapable of incorporating ‘Irishness’ into ‘Britishness’” you have gained no marks, since you have simply repeated what Hall said and have not shown any knowledge. A paragraph like the following would have gained you a point.
“Hall claims that the British have been ‘incapable of incorporating ‘Irishness’ into ‘Britishness’. He may be referring to the fact that Catholics (the majority of the Irish) did not have the right to vote in elections until well into the nineteenth century, and anti-Irish racism was very common in England throughout the twentieth century.”

It is not generally a great problem if the corrector can see which way your opinion lies, but this is not the aim of the exercise. Dismissing the arguments of any one of the documents is not a good idea. So, sentences such as “What he depicts is unrealistic.” (referring to Gordon Brown) are risky. And you should not write “one of the two documents is accurate”, even if this is your opinion.

Centrality of the objective of the document
I mentioned this above but want to underline it again. Several students worked very hard indeed at this homework assignment and got a disappointing mark because of this. Unlike in the literary commentary, the discourses you are studying here are not at the centre of the exercise. At the centre of the exercise is what they show about a series of (in this case historical) processes, and how they try to intervene in these processes.
This is one of the reasons why you should put the *objective* of each document very prominently in your answers. Of course, it is much easier to summarize what the writers or speakers are saying than to explain why they are saying it, but there are far more points available for explaining why. From the very beginning, speak of the objective.
“The first document is a speech by Stuart Hall, the British-Jamaican sociologist and analyst, arguing for a radical new view of British heritage.” “The second document is a speech by Gordon Brown, later to be Labour Prime Minister of the UK, presenting a new government view of aspects of British identity.” “The third document is a collection of photos of « blue plaques”, markers placed in the streets by public authorities with an educational and celebratory objective »
Try to be concrete. If you speak on « multiculturalism » but you do not give any specific example of what activities would be encouraged by multiculturalism, your argument will not appear very solid. You need to be clear on the difference between “a multicultural society” which is simply a society with quite a few countries, and “multiculturalism”, which is a particular idea about the best way of making a multicultural society work by encouraging the expression of minority cultures. Multiculturalism is different from assimilationism. Those who do not wish to choose so sharply might say they are in favour of integration.
Multiculturalism was on the rise as an idea in Britain from 1975 to say 2000. It is still a crucial element of British society, but has come under attack, and recent governments from Gordon Brown and David Cameron on, have suggested they do not want to be associated with the idea. Cameron in particular will put forward the idea of “community cohesion”.
Remember what is happening: you are studying three documents, which have been chosen out of thousands of possibilities. The collection of documents is not a manifesto or a speech in itself. Occasionally, inappropriate attempts were made by students to bring a coherence which does not need to be present. It is fine for the documents to contradict each other, partly or wholly. Contradictory phenomena and discourses are what history is made of, and the question of what Britishness is good for people (and indeed which people) is not one you are supposed to solve on the day of the exam. One example: one student (in an otherwise very good piece of work) wrote “This set of documents acknowledges that British identity needs to be constantly revised to include more diversity”. This is not right. The set of documents cannot acknowledge something, because it is a collection of disparate voices.
I think this is part of a desire I often see in student’s work to look for a “happy ending”, to find that, although the documents disagree, they will come together and work it out in the end. This is to be avoided. Similarly, students often understate the tension, conflict and contradiction involved in the documents and indeed in the historical processes.
Statistics on Blue Plaques
People found the third document the most difficult to integrate into their analysis. The plaques represented illustrate the Blue Plaque campaign, and some opinion about the reasons for the campaign and the effects of the campaign are what will allow you to integrate this document. I had shared with you articles on this subject.
Because the plaques you see in the illustration are a random sample, and not a representative sample, you may *not* use a statistical approach (“30% are women” “15% are not white” etc). If I gave you a collection of all the plaques in one town, you would be justified in doing this, but not with a representative sample. Otherwise, it is as if I look out of my window and see five people, two of them with dogs, and then I write “40% of French people have dog”: it is bad mathematics.

Language problems (Remember the asterisk * means that what is immediately after it is incorrect
The British
Naturally, you will not confuse “the English” and “the British”, even if in everyday French “les Anglais” or “le premier ministre anglais” are common expressions.
What if there is just one of them?:
“Pas tous les britanniques sont d’accord.” cannot be expressed by *Not every British agrees. You need to say “Not every British person agrees”.
Notice that this kind of adjective-used-as-a-noun has particular grammatical characteristics. For example, it cannot be used in s “Saxon genitive” structure. You cannot write *”because of the British’s fear of losing their cultural identity”. You must write “the fear of the British of losing...” or, better, “the fear which the British have of losing...”

Connaître/know with personification
There is a particular way of using “connaître” in French with a non-human subject. Notre pays connaît une grave crise. L’économie a connu un nouveau bouleversement. This cannot be done with the verb “to know” in English.
We have to write “Our country is going through a grave crisis”. “The economy has seen fresh upheaval...”

Sentences with only infinitives
In French, sentences with infinitives are not unusual. “Comment réussir à maintenir une identité britannique?” is fine. You may not do this in English. So do not write *How to maintain a British identity?
This is not so easy to translate into English, since you have to make choices. How can people maintain a British identity? How can the British maintain their identity?

Most of you know that “actual” is not a translation of “actuel”. But this fact does not solve the problem of how to translate “actuel” when it occurs, whether it be in a document you need to translate or in the thought that first comes into your head in French.
Only occasionally can it be translated by a single adjective
Le premier ministre actuel: the current Prime Minister
La crise actuelle: the present crisis/the current crisis.
What would you do with a sentence like “Cette  question est d’une grande actualité”? Best is to go for a paraphrase. “This question is very much in the news.”
As for the general more or less political sense; “mon frère ne s’intéresse vraiment pas à l’actualité”, you can translate by “My brother is really not interested in current affairs”. A “current affairs” programme on the television is one which deals with questions which are in the news this week or this month.

Saxon genitive
A politician’s argument, the party members’ choice. So far, so good. Many students use this structure too much: that is to say in situations where it is not allowed (*the 1997’s election, *the economy’s crisis). There are no excellent explanations online, so look it up in the Grammaire Explicative de la Langue Anglaise, which you keep by your bedside.

Remember that we use “an” before a vowel SOUND. This does not always correspond to a written vowel. So, these are incorrect:
*An union
*An US president
*A HP agreement

Critic/criticism/criticize/critique: what is the difference between these words?
I will leave you to look this one up in a dictionary. It is often a source of error. This page will help https://www.espressoenglish.net/difference-between-criticize-criticism-critique-critic-and-critical/

Some students got mixed up between these verbs, and the corresponding nouns also cause problems at times. This page will help: https://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv242.shtml

Une question clivante
This is a useful expression. In English, this will have to be “a divisive question”. Although the verb “to cleave” does exist, it is little used metaphorically and the -ing form is never used in this kind of expression.

If you are not actually talking about a casino (“the chips are down”), “enjeux” cannot generally be translated by “stakes”.
“Voici les enjeux de la grève.” translates fairly well as “This is what is at stake in this strike”.

This word is over-used by students. It suggests that a person is universally known. Elvis Presley was famous; Stuart Hall is not. If I ask my mother who Stuart Hall is, she has no idea. Now, it is true that Stuart Hall is an important sociologist, who made a big difference to his field of study. He is a well-known sociologist, or perhaps an influential sociologist.

In some forms of writing in French, it is common to put surnames all in capitals (in block capitals as we say in English). Stuart HALL, Gordon BROWN. We do not do this in English.

Note that the written form before someone’s surname is always “Mr”.  Mr Brown, Mr Kilgallen etc. The only time we write “mister” out in full; is when we are writing a dialogue with that very informal use of “mister” as a form of address.
“Can you help me, mister? I need some money for my fare.”
“Tu pourrais pas m’aider, mec? J’ai besoin d’argent pour acheter un billet.”

Historic present
In French it is not unusual to recount historical events in the present tense. “Les deux parlements votent l’Union anglo-écossaise en 1707”. This is extremely rare in English and you should stay with the preterite. “The two parlements enacted the Union between England and Scotland in 1707”.

Note also
La guerre débute en 1914 et durera quatre ans.
The war began in 1914 and was to last for four years.

In business reports in particular, it is quite common to use lists, marked out with bullet points.
“There are three principal markets:
·       The Chinese market, particularly in the South of the country
·       The South American market
·       The European market”

We do not use lists in English in university work, and you should not do so in your exam.

In business reports in English, and in some modern journalism, it is not unusual to see a paragraph with only one sentence in it. However, you should not do this in university work. At least three sentences in any paragraph.

It can sometimes be difficult to choose between “this” and “that”. Remember one rule – the element we have just introduced is generally “this”. “The government has just established a new committee to develop policy on unicorns. This committee will meet for the first time in January”. To come back to the present exercise. “The third document shows a collection of the well-known ‘blue plaques’ of London. These plaques (not *those plaques) serve to link people from the past with buildings of the present.

Several students used contractions. Don’t use contractions! I mean, do not use contractions! Do not use contractions in your writing unless you are transcribing a dialogue. You need an extremely good reason not to use contractions in speaking, and you need an extremely good reason to use contractions in writing. University writing has no contractions at all. If you see contractions in my comments on your work, this is different. Comments are in a much more informal style than the work you give in.

[1] Although it sometimes seems that the day of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, and the annual “Burns’ night” every January are more important than Saint Andrew’s day
[2] Note that the implication, in French, of the verb « expliquer » may not be the implication, in English, of the word « explain ».

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