Tuesday, January 25, 2022

New, free online, journal issue about aspects of BBC history

 You can find it here 

27 | 2022 Censorship and blind spots: the BBC’s silences (openedition.org)

British Prime minister under pressure


Suggested translation M2 January exam.


PS: if you send me an email I will send you photos of your corrected work.

He pressed the switch on the lamp which stood on the bedside table. This filled the large, barely furnished bedroom with a dim light. He had no need to look at his watch to know that it was five in the morning. He woke every morning without fail[1] at the same time. He pushed aside the covers with a brusque gesture and got out of bed. The wooden floor creaked under his bare feet in the silence of the dawn.


He quickly got dressed, putting on a  tracksuit which was  lying on the quilt, and moved towards the window. The closed curtains allowed through lines of light and shadow. He opened them and half-opened one of the windows. These were automatic actions among other everyday actions which almost forty years of living alone had weaved into his life. They were some of so many automatic reactions which had become essential.


He suddenly felt dreadfully cold. Despite the hesitant dawn, the moon was still shining icily. The stars were going out one by one. The day was dawning to a sky heavy with milk-white clouds. “It is going to snow,” he thought.

Near the dirt track, he could make out the rocky foothills of the Caïros riverbed, the river which flowed into the Roya, a small waterway which flowed along the coast of France and Italy, and then into the sea near Vintimille. He could hear the bubbling of the water flowing across the dark rows of rocks. Its journey had begun higher up, 1900 metres below Devil’s Peak. Barely four kilometres further on, at the foot of Saint Claire’s chapel, the sudden drop in altitude turned it into a bold torrent. It rushed then down the steep slopes of the valley, polishing as it passed the rocks and pebbles of the river bed. Its impetuous waters pulled it to the River Roya, which it joined by the villages of Fontan and Saorge, 1500 metres further down.

That was where he had set up home, in this vallée of Caïros. The tiny hamlet of only a few scattered houses sat on the left bank of the valley, on an ever sunlit stretch overlooked by the Ceva Plateau. It was wonderful.[2] 

[1] Always a good idea to avoid latinate words like « invariably ».

[2] We avoid sentences without verbs.

Journée d'étude Black Lives Matter: on peut suivre gratuitement en ligne


Le vendredi 4 février 2022, se tiendra à Montpellier une journée d’étude sur le thème “Black Lives Matter : formes politiques et artistiques de l’antiracisme aux Etats-Unis et au Royaume-Uni”, dont vous trouverez le programme ci-dessous. 

Cette manifestation, en accès libre, se tiendra sur le campus Saint-Charles de l’Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3 (UPVM3), salle des colloques n°2. Il sera possible de suivre les interventions en visioconférence: https://univ-montp3-fr.zoom.us/j/96284093112?pwd=b0xwWEcvM1QxUkFEQWJmSTJGRlROZz09

Cette journée d’étude s’inscrit dans le cadre des activités du thème “Faire commun” du laboratoire EMMA, dont des membres proposeront des interventions sur la production artistique liée au mouvement Black Lives Matter, sur le traitement de la question des vies noires dans les formats sériel et filmique et enfin sur l’inscription du mouvement dans l’espace anglophone transatlantique. Faisant suite à la séance de séminaire “De Black Lives Matter au renouveau afro-féministe : voix noires contemporaines aux États-Unis et au Royaume-Uni” du 19 janvier 2021, cette journée d’étude servira aussi de prélude et de journée préparatoire à un colloque organisé à Montpellier en 2023.


En voici le programme :

9h15 ouverture (Sandrine Sorlin, co-directrice d'EMMA) et introduction

Session 1 (modération: Niaz Pernon, ENSCM, EMMA)

9h30 Nicolas Gachon (UPVM3, EMMA), « Mouvements sociaux et espace public : le cas Black Lives Matter »

10h10 Marc Lenormand (UPVM3, EMMA), « Les manifestations antiracistes de 2020 au Royaume-Uni: référence états-unienne et séquence britannique »

10h50 pause

11h20 Lawrence Aje (UPVM3, EMMA), « Entre reconnaissance et effacement : la mémorialisation publique de l’esclavage aux États-Unis, 2000-2021 »

12h00 discussion

12h30 pause méridienne

Session 2 (modération: Raphaël Ricaud, UPVM3, EMMA)

14h00 Claude Chastagner (UPVM3, EMMA), « Black Lives Matter, un nouveau terrain pour la protest song ? »

14h40 Claudine Raynaud (UPVM3, EMMA), « Memoirs from #BLM era »

15h20 pause

Session 3 (modération: Manon Lefebvre et Monica Michlin, UPVM3, EMMA)

15h50 Marianne Drugeon (UPVM3, EMMA), « From Confrontation to Healing: in-yer-heart and in-yer-ear in debbie tucker green's ear for eye and Selina Thompson's salt. »

16h30 Hervé Mayer (UPVM3, EMMA), « Black Bodies/White Spaces: the Horrors of White Supremacy in Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017) »

17h10 discussion

Saturday, January 22, 2022


Like many people, I have been considerably slowed down by the covid situation, so thank you for your patience. 

PS: I forgot to mention below the photos. Almost nobody described the photos. How is Colton dressed, what kind of street was his statue on, does the statue seem to be glorifying him? What kind of people do we see in the photo of the demonstration? Young, old, black, white? What are they doing? What attitudes are they showing? Etc .

Some feedback MEEF devoir maison

The story of the Bristol statue continues. See here 



The aim of the exercise is to show

- your English is good

- you understand both the explicit and implicit meanings of the documents

- you have a good knowledge of inclusion and diversity questions in Britain over the last century.

You must prove all three of these things. So if you do not give any examples of other antiracist activity or laws not mentioned in the documents, or other conversations about commemoration not mentioned in the documents, you have not demonstrated the third element.

A few important points:

  1. When presenting the documents, move straight onto elements which help in the interpretation. It is far better to write 

The third document is an indignant article from the very popular conservative newspaper, the Daily Mail. It uses very negative vocabulary concerning the Bristol demonstrators, calling them a “mob”.

Rather than

The third document is an article from the Daily Mail website, published on 3rd June 2021. The title is “[quotes complete headline].

It is far better to write

In the third photograph, the statue has been rescued from the river by the local authorities, thought it has not been cleaned, and is displayed horizontally in a museum.

Rather than

The third photograph shows the statue in a museum.

The first photo shows a statue of Colton, finely dressed, on a pedestal in a city avenue. 

  1. The centre of your work is the documents, what they are trying to do. The centre is not as such anti racism, British history or multiculturalism. The structure you announce will show this. 

This is good: First I will look at what the documents show about commemoration acts, then I will explore the strong feelings often involved in the national conversation around commemoration and racism….

  1. It is very important to think about the intentions and objectives of the different people and organizations involved. The documents are, or illustrate, attempts to change something or stop something changing. They do not simply portray or depict political events.

What were the objectives of 

Those who put up the original statue

Those who pulled it down

Bristol council

The museum

The artist who put up the alternative statue

The makers of the website with a lesson plan about Cable Street

The Daily Mail

Now, these intentions may not be easy to identify, which is why “hedging” is essential: that is, expressing uncertainty and probability. Here are some good  examples:

The museum may be trying to encourage debate about the statue.

The artist is probably hoping to get a message across about what role models he would prefer to be celebrated with public statues.

The local government, when they pulled the statue out of the river, may have been worried about the reaction of some local voters if they did nothing. The Bristol community must have been divided on this question.

The webmasters may well be hoping to encourage history teachers to include the events of Cable St in their lessons, since it is often forgotten.

The Daily Mail seems to be denouncing what they take to be the disrespect shown to Colton’s statue both by the demonstrators and by the museum, although for the sake of balance they also quote sympathizers of the demonstrators.

British context

These two conversations: how to deal, in history classes, with the events of Cable Street and what to do with statues which were erected a long time ago but celebrate people who are contested by antiracists today, take place in a context. 

When doing this kind of exercise, one of the most important questions is “How typical are the events, opinions and attitudes shown in the documents”. This question allows you to show you know lots of examples *which are not in the documents *, which is essential.

Recent laws in Britain have tried to reduce racism at work by making it an obligation of public bodies to fight indirect discrimination by “promoting racial equality”, a particularly British approach. A specific law was brought in to oppose religious discrimination, especially islamophobia. The Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Bristol can be seen as wanting to go further, and look at discrimination in symbolic public spaces.

At the same time, over the last twenty years, governments, in particularly Conservative governments, have been commenting negatively on multiculturalism, suggesting it causes separatism, or even that it was one of the causes of jihadist terrorism ( three of the four terrorists in the terrible 2005 attacks, which killed 52 people, were born and bred in England. Governments, partly responding to racist sentiment, have said that the most important thing is “community cohesion” and have introduced reforms such as the UK Citizenship test, allegedly to encourage such cohesion.

The referendum which led to the UK leaving the European Union involved significant amounts of anti immigrant campaigning, in particular by Nigel Farage.

So, we have a situation where both moves against racism and negative feelings about immigration are very much present.

Friday, January 21, 2022

agrégation anglais civilisation britannique méthodologie commentaire

 The commentary exercise, for the agrégation interne, is only required at the oral exams (and so, not next week).  Of course, if you are enrolled for the agrégation externe, this exercise is present at the written exams.

I gave this class for a group of agrégatifs who are not at Rouen, but I think you will find it useful (to listen to in February or March!)


It only remains for me to wish you the best of luck with the exams next week.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

agrégation anglais civilisation britannique dissertation/composition méthodologie: cours

 J'ai donné un cours de deux heures sur la méthodologie de la dissertation en civilisation, pour la question de la BBC. J'ai donné ce cours à distance deux fois, pour deux universités. Here is a recording of the best take.

Indispensable, à mon humble avis


Boris Johnson

 The UK Prime Minister is under pressure to resign. Here are two of today’s newspapers.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Agrégation thème

 Cours avec Mme Vallée. Préfabriqué 1, 15h30

Agrégation interne yesterday's class

 You will find Monday evening's class recorded on MP3 here:


Last Saturday's class will follow shortly.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Thème concours blanc agrégation décembre 2021

I still have a few scripts here on my desk from this exam. If you want yours back, send me an email and I will photograph it.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Agrégation BBC Director-Generals and Commissions of Inquiry

As you know, the Commissions of Inquiry, and the arrival of  Director Generals, are important  milestones in the history of the BBC. You clearly need to know, at least approximately, the dates of the most influential ones (I say "approximately" because sentences such as "Reith left the director-general's post at the end of the 1930s" are completely acceptable.)

Last year, some smart student came up with a mnemonic to memorize the order of the Commissions of Inquiry. It went like this:

"Some Charming Student Used His Brewed Potion And Progressed!"

This year some student asked me on my YouTube channel if I had a mnemonic sentence to memorize the order of the Director-Generals. Since you don't need to be a historian to make up mnemonics, I told them it was their job to find one. But then I did make up this rhyme about the Director-Generals, which may be a little helpful (I didn't want to be excessively helpful either).

BBC Director-Generals 1922-1995

Johnny and Freddie and Cecil and Bob were the first chappies to handle the job…

Billy then followed, and Ian and Hugh, taking us up to the sixties: who knew?

Charlie then Ian then Alisdair and Mike ended the eighties: what’s not to like?

But let’s not forget the last one, John Birt; ther's just him and Mike now who ain’t bit the dirt.

As you can see, if I get fed up with history, the music hall is waiting for me.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Corrigé concours blanc thème agrégation



The passage to be translated is above.

General points: 

The book was published in 2018. The husband plays at Mario 64, which came out in 1996, and was popular for a few years ; this part of the story takes place in 1997,as is mentioned in the passage. This makes a difference for some points of translation.


In France in  c2014 there were still around 1500 level crossings which were staffed by a guard, who sometimes lived in tied housing just next to the crossing.


Because the style of the writing is fairly informal, you may have been tempted to use contractions (“My husband didn’t believe me”; “I might’ve told him the truth”). I do not recommend this: although the jury might decide than in some sentences it is acceptable, they might not.


Suggested translation


To cheer him up, I handed him a piece of paper, which was headed “Cemetery Warden, a Job with a Future”. 


“I handed him” is better than “I gave him”, which is an undertranslation.


[Alternative translations which are completely acceptable are marked in this docuent with the sign “/”]


/I held a leaflet out to him.


I assume this is an official, glossy leaflet. Since I think these words were the headline, I have capitalized them according to English capitalization rules.


Because it is an official document, not a literary or colloquial one, it will say “cemetery” and not “graveyard”.


“Attendant” is almost as good as “warden” (wardens work in parks and prisons for example). Attendant does sound a little less of a permanent job with varied responsibilities ( We say “fairground attendant”, “lavatory attendant”, and so on)


“Cemetery caretaker” is fine, though I think since the leaflet is wanting to be very positive about the job, the slightly more prestigious term “warden” is best.


“Cemetery keeper” sounds strange. (zoo keeper, goalkeeper, wicket keeper, peacekeeper,and in the biblical quotation “am I my brother’s keeper” said by arch-baddy Cain in Genesis: 4)


“Cemetery guard” makes it sound like there will be guns involved.

“Cemetery guardian” sounds strange.


A sexton is employed by the church, so the word does not fit here.


/ So as to cheer him up.

In order to” is too formal in register


I do not think there are many alternatives to “cheer him up”. “ raise his morale” would sound like a military psychologist.


/ So as to raise his spirits 


Even in handwriting, do not use “des guillemets français” («»). You will lose marks.


/ A Position with a Future


He looked at me as if I had lost my mind.


Not *had lost my head. To lose your head is to temporarily lose control because of emotion. To lose your mind is to become insane, a much more long term event.


 In 1997 he looked at me every day as if I had lost my mind. 


(Since there is repetition in French, we must repeat in English)


A few people confused “everyday” and “ every day”. “everyday” is an adjective: everyday clothing, everyday worries, everyday experience. Every day is not an adjectival expression.


Does a man who no longer loves his wife look at the wife he once loved as if she had lost her mind?


This sentence stays in the present even in English, because it is a general reflection on men who no longer love their wives, always and everywhere.


It is over translation to use the expression “in love”.


/ who does not love his wife any more

/ who does not love his wife anymore

I explained to him that I had chanced upon this advert, and that the local council in Brancion en Chalon  were looking for a couple who would work as attendants and take care of the cemetery.


“Je lui ai expliqué que j’étais tombée…”. A frightening number of students did not use a form with “had” to translate “j’étais tombée “. These are careless, and expensive, mistakes.


Here, la mairie is not the building (“the town hall”), but the institution. I have translated “local council”. One could say “the mayor’s office” or even just “the mayor”. Having said that “the town hall is looking for” is not impossible, it is just rarer than in French as metonymy. Note that “town hall” is two words, not one.


/I had come across the advert by accident.

Not *”I had run into” which would involve something bigger (I ran into your mother in the supermarket)0


/I had stumbled upon this job offer by chance.


/ad is, unusually, acceptable here because it is rather informal. VBe careful, though: “ad” is much over-used by students of English.


/ tend to the cemetery


I reminded him that dead people have fixed working hours and they would make less noise than trains do.


She is, of course, being humorous. In their previous job, they had to lower and raise the barriers every time a train passed, from early in the morning until late at night, and in this sense did not have normal working hours.


/ dead people kept to a fixed timetable

/ the dead had fixed schedules


Note that the French structure “les morts, ils avaient des horaires fixes” show that very common French tactic of the doubled subject (Mon frère, il adore Picasso), which is almost completely non-existent in English


/were quieter than trains


And I told him I had spoken to the mayor of the town, who was ready to take us on at once.


Since our story is in France, the mayor, who is elected, has a certain power to make such decisions. In Britain, in small towns, the mayor is an honorific position, and not an elected one, although we have elected mayors in London, Manchester, Liverpool and other large metropolitan areas.


“He was ready to hire us…” is, strictly speaking American English. So, strictly speaking, if you wrote “hire” you should follow other American usages such as spelling “neighbor” and not “neighbour”.


No capital letter for “mayor”. It is a common noun here (every town has a mayor or mayoress). It takes a capital when it is part of the ofificial title “Mayor of London” and so on.


My husband did not believe me. 


He said he did not believe in chance. 


He would rather just bloody die than go “down there” and make a living from corpses.


“He would rather” is considerably better than “he would prefer”, because prefer is somewhat more formal. If you did use “prefer”, however, note that you must say “He would prefer to die” and not “ he would prefer dying”. The second, with the ING is a reference to the general experience of dying , and give the impression “every time I die, I find it unpleasant”. “He would prefer to die” refers only to the present decision.


what should we do with “crever”? “He would rather kick the bucket” is good. I liked “I would rather be stone dead”. “I would rather drop dead” is good. I have preferred to use a fairly mild swear word.


Someone tried “I had rather die”. This structure does exist. It has the same meaning as “would rather”, but it is old fashioned and literary, so not appropriate here.



[innit, though?]


·       “this vulture of a job” is wrong (in any case it is more the “job of a vulture”).


“That dirty job” is an under translation but is not bad.


“Ce métier de charognard” is obviously difficult to translate. The idea seems to be that it is dishonorable to make money from the dead, hence my translation.


He switched on the TV and started playing at Mario 64. 


I do not think that “he switched on the Telly” is justified. It is not quite as slangy as “la téloche” but …


The aim of the game is to collect all the stars in each world. 


Not *the game’s aim

Not *of each world.


As for me, the only star I wanted was a lucky one. 


I decided on “as for me” to translate moi. Do not do this by typographical means ( that is to say, do not underline the word: eg *My only aim …).


The word for word translation “the right one” Is not the meaning. I have chosen the only expression with “star” which fits.




That was what came to mind when I saw Mario running around trying to save Princess Peach from the clutches of Bowser.


“Around” is often used to mean without specific direction or visible objective.


I’m planning to spend Saturday just sitting around.

Stop standing around and give me a hand.


·       “Running in every direction” is clumsy.


/ running all over the place.


/ , who had been kidnapped by Bowzer

/,  who had been abducted by Bowzer


Adding the “who had been” is important.


Notice there are two capitals for Princess Peach, Lady Diana, Count Dracula, Doctor Jekyll, Queen Elizabeth etc.



So, I kept at him. 


Avoiding a latinate verb like “insist” is a very good idea. I had a look at the British National Corpus and “insist” is rare in conversational style.


Somebody wrote “I did not let it go” which is very good.


I told him that if we got taken on as cemetery wardens, each of us would have a wage, and a much better one than we got at the level crossing: dead people were more profitable than trains. 


(In the following section in French, we have a long series of sentences, each beginning “Que”, which is equivalent to “je lui ai dit que”, in which she expresses a series of arguments to try to persuade her husband to accept the job (spoiler: he will). In English, we cannot write a series of sentences beginning “that” (it would mean sentences without an explicit main verb, and as we know, English tries very hard to avoid such sentences. The best option is to use “style indirect libre” and, every few sentences, to remind the reader of the context by an expression such as “I told him that”).


“Wage” is better than “salary”. Teachers and nurses might speak about their salaries; bus drivers and cemetery attendants talk about wages.


A couple of students tried to use a lot of semicolons… which reminds me: please make sure you know how to use semicolons. Several of you need to look at this urgently!


This site is good https://www.sussex.ac.uk/informatics/punctuation/colonandsemi/semi 


/If we got the job as cemetery wardens

“If we became cemetery wardens” is acceptable


And we would have a really pretty tied house, with no utilities to pay. 


(I think the meaning here is that gas, water and electricity are provided and not billed).


/ with no bills to pay.


/ And we would have a really nice house provided

/ And there was a really nice house that went with the job


The expression “voiture de fonction” is often translated “company car”, literally “voiture d’entreprise”. Since here we are speaking of a local authority and not a private company, we cannot say “company lodging”.


*fees are typically paid to middle class professionals for one-off services. Solicitors’ fees, court fees, private school fees, vet’s fees, surveyor’s fees, golf club fees, accountant’s fees. This is not the right word here, when a working-class woman is speaking of everyday expenses.


That would make a change from the place we have been living in for years, which was a ramshackle old place which leaked like a sieve in the winter and was as hot as the North Pole in the summer. 


( If a bicoque was made of wood, or corrugated iron, or made by the inhabitants as best they could, then one could translate “shack”. However, this is 1997 in France, so the house was not made by amateurs or of wood. It was no doubt simply not repaired or maintained, and so had all the problems of old houses: damp, leaks etc.


The reference to the North Pole being hot is odd (it is not hot) but has little effect on the translation.


It would be a new start for us, I told him, and we needed one. 


/It would be a new beginning is a little less informal in style, but is fine.


We would put pretty curtains up at the windows so as not to see the neighbours, the crosses and widows and all that stuff. 


(Because “joli” is used in a very light way, I think “nice” is perfectly acceptable.)


/ We would put nice curtains up

/ We would hang pretty curtains


I said these curtains would be the frontier between our life and other people’s grief. 


/ The dividing line is fine.

 Grief is more likely to be associated with death and mourning than is sadness. However, using “sadness” here makes it a little easier to make the link to the following sentence


“Others’ sadness” is theoretically possible, but the two s sound smake it inelegant. “Other people’s” is far better.


I could have told him the truth, told him that they would be the frontier between my grief and other people’s.


But that was the last thing to do. 


/ But I definitely should not do that.


/ But that was the last thing I should do. / But that was the last thing I must do.


(Note that this use of must is possible here when we are sort of imagining what she is saying to herself in the past.)


(We follow here the general rule of adding conjugated verbs with subjects, to replace sentences in French which have no verbs or only infinitives. Remember the title of the famous book by Lenin: in French Que faire; in English What is to be Done.)


I had to keep quiet, and put on a good show.


I had to pretend, so that he would give in to the idea.


Various language points.

A number of students used “do reinforcement” incorrectly (*I did insist). Remember that these structures with “do” do not express any old emphasis. They are almost always connected to contradiction, explicit or implied.


A: well, since you don’t like chocolate…

B: I do like chocolate.


A: it would have been better if you had told him.

B: I did tell him!


A: I know you are not keen on modern art

B: I do like Picasso.


Others were tempted to show emphasis in dialogue by underlining words.  Not a good idea: find some grammatical way of showing reinforcement