Spend a day exploring languages at Christ Church

posted by Lynton Lees

Join us for our Modern Foreign Languages & Linguistics Study Day on Thursday 16th March 2017!

Are you in Year 11 or 12 with a keen interest in Modern Foreign Languages
Are you considering studying a Language and/or Linguistics at university? 
Or are you interested in studying a language alongside another subject (such as EnglishClassicsHistoryLaw or Philosophy)? 
Do you want to learn a new language at degree-level, such as CzechGermanGreekItalianPortuguese or Russian
Christ Church, one of the colleges of the University of Oxford, is hosting our first ever Modern Foreign Languages Study Day on Thursday 16th March 2017!
This event is open to all Y11 and Y12 students in UK state/maintained schools or sixth-form colleges who are interested in finding out more about what it’s like to study languages and/or linguistics at a top university. The day will include a dynamic and action-packed programme of taster lectures and workshops led by Oxford students and tutors, as well as helpful sessions on making a competitive application to a top university to study languages and linguistics. This is a fantastic opportunity to visit a beautiful Oxford college while finding out more about what a degree in languages and linguistics could have to offer you so don’t miss out!

This event is free of charge and lunch will be provided. This event is also open to any teachers interested in finding out more about applying for language courses at Oxbridge and other top universities. Accommodation on the night of Wednesday 15th March is available for attendees travelling long distances, and we are able to offer assistance with travel expenses to students who require it. For full details please see the information page here. Please share this information with any students or teachers you think would be interested in attending!

To book a place please complete our booking form here. Registration will close at noon on Thursday 9th March. We recommend you book early to avoid disappointment! For questions please contact Lynton Lees, our Access and Outreach Officer (Lynton.lees@chch.ox.ac.uk).

We look forward to welcoming you to college!

L’Étranger: When does Meursault tell his story? (Part Two)

posted by Simon Kemp

Last week we saw the slippery way in which Meursault tells his story from different points along the way, without drawing attention to the fact that he’s doing it.

I left you with the opening lines of the story, which contain the first of Meursault’s time-slips, with an invitation to look at the verb tenses and catch him in the act.

Here’s the passage again, with all the verbs in different colours used to highlight the présent, futur, passé composé, imparfait and futur antérieur (‘will have done’) tenses:

Aujourd’hui, maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas. J’ai reçu un télégramme de l’asile: “Mère décédée. Enterrement demain. Sentiments distingués.” Cela ne veut rien dire. C’était peut-être hier.

L’asile de vieillards est à Marengo, à quatre-vingts kilomètres d’Alger. Je prendrai l’autobus à deux heures et j’arriverai dans l’après-midi. Ainsi, je pourrai veiller et je rentrerai demain soir. J’ai demandé deux jours de congé à mon patron et il ne pouvait pas me les refuser avec une excuse pareille. […] Pour le moment, c’est un peu comme si maman n’était pas morte. Après l’enterrement, au contraire, ce sera une affaire classée et tout aura revêtu une allure plus officielle.

J’ai pris l’autobus à deux heures. Il faisait très chaud.

You can see first of all just how complex it all is when you use tenses to work out how everything relates to everything else in time. In the first two paragraphs, the present tense is used to set the scene with facts (L’asile de vieillards est à Marengo) and to tell us Meursault’s current situation (he doesn’t know when his mother died, the line in the telegram doesn’t mean much, it is a bit like she’s not dead). From that present tense anchoring us in now, we head back to events in the past: his mother died, he received a telegram about it, he asked his boss for some leave. With the imperfect we get a situation in the past (his boss wasn’t able to refuse), and a hypothetical alternative present (it feels as if she weren’t dead). We look ahead to a future in which Meursault will get the bus, will arrive at the old people’s home, will watch over the body, will come back home, and the whole business will be over and done with. And finally Meursault imagines looking back to the past from the future, from which point everything will have taken on a much more official air.

So, as you see, the opening lines establish a knot of past and future events around Meursault’s now, from which he’s telling his story, a point after getting the news of his mother’s death and speaking to his boss, but before heading off to the funeral. Straight away, though, when we get to the third paragraph, this now has shifted. The action that Meursault got on the bus and the situation that it was hot are now in past tenses, which means the events are in Meursault’s past, and his storytelling now must have shifted some way into the future.

There are other odd little references to the storytelling now in the book. In Chapter Four, as Meursault is telling us about the day Raymond’s attack on his girlfriend brought a policeman to the flat, he starts by saying what happened ‘ce matin’ suggesting that he’s narrating the chapter from later the same day. And the last chapter of the novel seems to pull a similar trick to the first: the opening lines are narrated from a now before the prison chaplain has come into Meursault’s cell, and then at some point we jump forward, and the chaplain’s visit is told in the past tense. That means there are at least five different points from which the story is told, and probably more — perhaps every chapter is told from a different moment in time.

So what’s the point of doing this?

One important effect is that it makes the novel immediate. Meursault is always telling his story from a point close to the action, either in the heart of events or shortly afterwards when they’re fresh in his mind. This makes the novel much more vivid, and allows us to share Meursault’s experience much more closely, than we would if he were telling us the story retrospectively from a point after it was all over.

Secondly, a related effect is that the story being told feels raw. Because he’s telling us the story more or less as it happens, he hasn’t had much time to process or analyse it. That means he gives it to us straight, without having really thought deeply about what things mean, but also without trying to present things in a way that might put him in a good light. This makes the storytelling seem honest and sincere.

And lastly, the intermittent time of narrating means that Meursault has no hindsight. As he’s telling us about the funeral, he doesn’t know the terrible consequences that his trivial actions will have when they’re brought up at his trial as evidence of his heartless nature. As he agrees to write a letter for Raymond, he doesn’t know that he’s taking the first step along the road to his own conviction for murder. Camus’s philosophy of life, like that of his friend, Jean-Paul Sartre, emphasised the randomness of life. For them, life, unlike stories, was not heading for a particular conclusion and had no meaning or message to impart along the way. Camus’s way of telling his story as it goes along is part of his attempt to capture a vivid sense of life as unplanned and unpredictable.

As a guy who takes life as it comes, going with the flow without too much thought or effort, Meursault doesn’t seem the type to keep a diary. Nor is he the sort of person who’d be writing an autobiography for publication, or even someone likely to recount his story to friends over a drink. This might be why the novel keeps its unusual storytelling in the background. We’re meant to feel that the narration is close to the action, but perhaps not enquire too closely as to how, why, and to whom Meursault is telling his story.

 

 

L’Étranger: When does Meursault tell his story?

posted by Simon Kemp

Aujourd’hui, maman est morte.

It’s one of the most famous opening lines in modern literature. And it sounds like it answers our question right away. If Meursault says his mother died today, then, clearly, that’s when he’s telling us his story: on the day that he gets the telegram from the old people’s home informing him of her death.

Except that can’t be right, because everything in the story happens after that moment, and he can’t tell his story before it happens. We follow Meursault through the funeral, through work and leisure back home in Algers, through the shooting on the beach, imprisonment, trial and verdict, and by the time we reach the end of the story, a year has passed and summer has come around again. The last sentence of the book is narrated in the past tense (‘il me restait à souhaiter…’) from a point some time after Meursault has thrown the chaplain out of his prison cell and (we presume) before he gets his head chopped off by the guillotine. So the Meursault telling the story on the last page of the novel is at least a year older than the one who started it on page one.

Most stories that are told in the past tense by a first-person narrator, as L’Étranger is, pick a moment some time after the whole tale is finished and make that their time of narrating (the ‘now’ of the storytelling voice). One of the unusual things about L’Étranger is that Meursault seems to tell his story from several different points during and after the events he’s telling us about. To use the precise terms, it’s narrated intermittently (from time to time through the course of the story) rather than, as is usually the case, retrospectively (looking back from after it’s all over).

You do see first-person narrators in other novels who, like Meursault, tell their stories intermittently. Greg Heffley is one. Bridget Jones is another. Antoine Roquentin is a third. All these stories, though, draw attention to their intermittent narration by using the diary form. Greg, Bridget and Antoine let their reader know clearly when the time of narrating changes by marking a new entry in the diary. (As well as diary entries, a similar effect can be used by telling a story through letters, probably the most famous example of which in French literature is Les Liaisons dangereuses.)

Meursault, though, slips between different times of narrating without always making it clear when he’s doing it… or why.

Here’s the first time it happens, in the very first lines of the story:

Aujourd’hui, maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas. J’ai reçu un télégramme de l’asile: “Mère décédée. Enterrement demain. Sentiments distingués.” Cela ne veut rien dire. C’était peut-être hier.

L’asile de vieillards est à Marengo, à quatre-vingts kilomètres d’Alger. Je prendrai l’autobus à deux heures et j’arriverai dans l’après-midi. Ainsi, je pourrai veiller et je rentrerai demain soir. J’ai demandé deux jours de congé à mon patron et il ne pouvait pas me les refuser avec une excuse pareille. […] Pour le moment, c’est un peu comme si maman n’était pas morte. Après l’enterrement, au contraire, ce sera une affaire classée et tout aura revêtu une allure plus officielle.

J’ai pris l’autobus à deux heures. Il faisait très chaud.

Take a look at the tenses of the verbs in this extract, and see if you can unravel how the events fit together in time, and how the time of narrating changes. Next week, we’ll pick it apart in detail together, and think about why Meursault, and Camus, might choose to tell their story this way.

Creative Multilingualism

posted by Simon Kemp

Last Friday, Oxford University kicked off a four-year, multi-million pound programme of research, outreach and public events around the theme of Creative Multilingualism.

We’re looking at connections between the ability to speak or learn more than one language and creativity of all kinds. We’re convinced there are vast reserves of multi-language ability and language-related creativity even here among the British who so often see themselves as lacking the gift or enthusiasm for languages. As the project leaders themselves put it:

British society perceives itself as monoglot, but nothing could be further from the truth: many schools teach pupils with some 100 languages between them, and many workplaces are veritable hubs of multilingualism. Nationally, this is an under-valued resource, not only economically but also educationally and culturally. One aspect that is under-valued is the creative potential of a linguistic diversity that interacts productively with cultural diversity.

Even those of us who grow up using only one language are born with the capability of using more than one, and we never completely lose that talent. In fact we deploy it routinely in our day-to-day lives as we move between different linguistic contexts at home, at work or at school, and in leisure pursuits. This involves a continuous process of creative adaptation. When using our language skills, we draw all the time on an individual creative capability that may also inspire us to experiment with language in monolingual or multilingual language play or poetry.

Over the next four years, the online hub for the project will be here:

http://www.creativeml.ox.ac.uk/

Please do check it out to see what events are planned, what the research strands are exploring, and how you or your institution might like to get involved.

It’s also an information hub on language learning in the UK. You can, for instance, find out about current issues in school language qualifications (including work to address A-level grading concerns) here.

Or see a breakdown of the kinds of jobs that language graduates go into after university here.

Or head over here to discover a wealth of bite-sized language facts, including which breakfast cereal goes Knisper! Knasper! Knusper! in German, and why Finnish people pace around hot porridge like a cat.

As the research programme develops over the course of the next four years, the Creative Multilingualism website will grow and grow. Please do check back from time to time to discover what’s new.

Bons mots: savoir-faire

200_s  posted by Simon Kemp

We already know what ‘savoir-faire’ means, don’t we? After all, it’s part of the English language.

The Oxford English Dictionary says that it usually refers to…

the ability to speak or act appropriately in social situations.

They give a few examples of usage, including this one from 1924:
He had, it seems, spent previously some months at Deauville and Paris… and there acquired that polished French and developed that savoir-faire, both so typical of him.’
And this one, about the British Queen Mother in 2000:
‘Her savoir-faire was as much instinctive as learned.’

It’s about sophistication, elegance, good manners and suave self-assurance. It basically means this:

andrews-sophisticated-couple

Right?

Well, yes, that’s what it means in English, but would you be surprised to learn that that’s not what it means in French?

According to the Larousse dictionary, savoir-faire means:

compétence acquise par l’expérience dans les problèmes pratiques, dans l’exercice d’un métier.

… in other words, it’s know-how (a term that’s also used in French as a synonym for savoir-faire).

So not so much them…

andrews-sophisticated-couple

as him:

img-handyman-skills

It can mean being handy with putting up shelves, or good with IT, or having organizational skills. Savoir-faire in French is any kind of practical competence (especially job-related) that you’ve learned by experience.

 So, if savoir-faire in French means know-how, what’s the French for savoir-faire (in the English sense of the word)?

It’s savoir-vivre.

Savoir-vivre is defined in the French dictionary as:

Connaissance et pratique des règles de la politesse, des usages du monde.

…which is basically the same idea of social sophistication that we saw in the original English dictionary definition of savoir-faire.
Bizarrely, then, when you’re translating between the two languages:
if you see savoir-faire in an English text you should probably translate it as savoir-vivre in French
and if you see savoir-faire in a French text you should probably translate it as know-how in English.
How did this odd situation come about?
Well, it seems that when the term first came into English, it had the same meaning as in French. The Oxford Dictionary first records it being used in 1788 in the following line:

‘I have a very great opinion of your savoir faire, especially in the articles of sugar and rum; but for your savoir vivre—none.’

It’s pretty clear that both savoir-faire and savoir-vivre are being used here in their original French senses of know-how and sophistication respectively.

Over the course of the next century or so, savoir-faire in English gradually came to get its present overtones, either because English speakers associated the French with being sophisticated, or because being able to drop French words into your English conversation was itself seen as a sophisticated thing to do. Probably a little of both.

It’s actually quite a common phenomenon. A word that’s fairly ordinary and neutral in French, will come over all sleek, sexy and stylish once it’s borrowed by the English.

It happened with le savoir-faire.

It happened with un je-ne-sais-quoi, which means ‘a certain something I can’t quite put my finger on’ in French, and ‘a certain stylish and sophisticated something I can’t quite put my finger on’ in English.

It happened with un rendez-vous, which in French is the normal, and entirely neutral word for an appointment. If a French person has un rendez-vous with their dentist, it likely involves fluoride gel and oral hygiene tips; if an English speaker has a rendez-vous with a dentist, we expect roses, wine and sugar-free chocolates.

And it happened with la lingerie, which to French people means pants of both the lacy, exotic variety and the sensible, practical, keeping-everything-warm-through-the-winter kind. (It also refers to women’s nightwear of all sorts, and to places where underwear and nightwear are manufactured, sold or stored).

ruedelal

There are several other examples. Can you think of any?

If a language can have an inferiority complex, then it seems English might have got one. If it’s trying to express a certain je-ne-sais-quoi, a kind of effortless, stylish, savoir-faire, then  only French will do.

belle-epoque

Try out life as an Oxford student for a week this summer!

posted by Simon Kemp

Would you like to spend a week with us this summer, living in an Oxford college, learning about a modern foreign language and its culture, and getting a taste of what it’s like to study here as a student? All entirely FREE of charge, food and accommodation included? (We’ll even pay for your train ticket to get here.)

If you’re currently in Year 12 of a state school, and have some free time in July this year, please do think about signing up for the course, or for one of the dozens of others on offer, including German, Spanish, or ‘beginner languages’ to give you a little experience of Russian, Portuguese and Italian languages and cultures. The French summer school runs from 2-7 July this year as does the Linguistics summer school.  Spanish and the Beginner Languages school both run from 16-21 July, while the German summer school is from 23-28 July.

Here are the details of the French week:

This UNIQ course is a chance to immerse yourself in the literature, theatre, poetry, film and linguistics of the French language.You will spend daily sessions at the Language Centre practising and improving your existing language skills, followed by fascinating lectures and seminars, and the chance to use the world famous Taylorian and Bodleian libraries for private study.

Our aim is to give you a taste of what it is really like to read French at Oxford, and to give you a sense of the unrivalled breadth of our course. Throughout the week, you will have the opportunity to hone your language skills and consolidate your knowledge of French grammar. You will also participate in classes introducing you to an exciting array of topics, ranging from Linguistics and 17th-century tragedy to French-language cinema and 19th-century poetry.

You will be expected to do some preparatory reading before the course so that you can make the most of the week you spend here: we’ve chosen Annie Ernaux’s 20th-century classic autobiographical text La place.  We will post a copy of the book to all successful participants in early June. Following a lecture that will explore some of the key themes and contexts surrounding Ernaux’s book, you will have the chance to test out (and flesh out) your ideas in a seminar. On the Friday, you will even experience an Oxford-style tutorial, in which you and three other students get to discuss your close reading of a poem with a specialist.

Student Experiences

“I really enjoyed the intimacy of the Alumni Dinner. Also, I enjoyed the morning grammar classes and the 17th Century French Theatre lecture as I was not expecting to enjoy it but really loved it!”

“The mentors were really friendly and easy to relate to, and the tutors were not as scary as I had thought they would be! It was a real adventure and one I wouldn’t hesitate to do again.”

You can find details of all the courses on offer here, along with information about how to sign up. The deadline for applications is January 24th, so you don’t have long to think about it, I’m afraid. We hope to see you in July!

Literature Masterclass at Oxford

Image result for taylor institute oxford

On Tuesday in Oxford, the French department opened its doors to sixth-formers from local state schools for a new kind of outreach event. With the new literature component in A-levels, many students are faced for the first time with the prospect of having to write short essays in French about famous French literary texts, from Moliere’s Tartuffe to Delphine de Vigan’s No et moi. Since teaching people how to analyse French literary texts is very much our thing, we thought we might be able to help out.

Over a hundred students from a dozen schools were invited, filling the Main Hall of our modern languages faculty. We started with a session on techniques of analysis, talking about words and imagery, perspective, tense and theatricality in the literary text, and attempting a little live analysis of a text. Then, after refreshments, we split into small groups for some close study of text that students are, or soon will be, studying in school, including L’Etranger, No et moi , Un secret and Un sac de billes. With lunch at an Oxford college as well, it was hopefully a useful introduction to literary study and an experience to remember.

We’re hoping to build on this with more online posts relating to A-level texts, of which last week’s look at Un sac de billes was the first. Further literary posts are on their way throughout the coming year.

 

 

 

Un Sac de billes: What does the bag of marbles have to do with anything?

billes

posted by Simon Kemp

Joseph Joffo’s memoir of his time as a Jewish ten-year-old on the run with his older brother in Nazi-occupied France is justifiably famous, and it seems to be a popular choice among the set texts on the new A-level syllabus. As the first in our series answering questions about these texts, let’s see why the book has the title un sac de billes, given that marbles don’t feature in the book beyond the opening chapters.

Marbles are, of course, where we start in the story, with the game being played in the street between Jo and Maurice. Why start the story at this moment? Well, the episode is filled with foreshadowing of the story to come:

  • Maurice and Jo will return from the game to find two S. S. officers at their father’s barber shop, leading to their first real encounter with the Nazis and their antisemitism.

 

  • The game of marbles itself is watched by Mémé Epstein, who, Joffo mentions, is a Jewish woman who has found safe haven in Paris from the pogroms, attacks on Jewish people in Russia and Eastern Europe earlier in the century. A repeated theme in the story will be the fact that this kind of mass persecution of the Jews has happened before (including to Jo’s Russian grandfather), and that means it could happen again in the future.

 

  • And, most clearly, marbles come to symbolize the bond between the brothers. Maurice wins Jo’s last marble off him, fair and square, but, knowing how much he likes it, gives it back to him:

 

Un frère est quelqu’un à qui on rend la dernière bille qu’on vient de lui gagner.

 

The bond between the two boys is a central theme of the story, and their concern for each other is what will allow them to survive the coming ordeal.

 

The returned marble itself is also rather special. It looks a little like a miniature globe, and Jo likes to pretend he has the world in his pocket:

 

Il est bon d’avoir la Terre dans sa poche, les montagnes, les mers, tout ça bien enfoui. Je suis un géant et j’ai sur moi toutes les planètes.

 

There’s not much in the way of symbolism or metaphor in Joffo’s memoir, but this is one definite symbol. The world-marble gives Jo a fantasy of immense power, which is ironic as his extreme powerlessness is about to be brought home to him. But there’s also the fact that there actually is now a giant holding the whole planet in its grip, metaphorically at least. Fascism’s influence over the  world, its threat to humanity as a whole, and its pervasive power that can’t be escaped, no matter how far you run, is implicit in the image.

 

But hang on a minute… what about the bag?

 

There’s no bag of marbles in the opening scene. In fact, Joffo specifies that the marbles are in Maurice’s pockets, which are bulging with them : ça lui fait des poches comme des ballons.

So where’s the bag of marbles?

billes2

It turns up in Chapter Three, in a much briefer scene than the opening marbles game, but one that reinforces many of the same themes. Jo has gone to school with a yellow star sewn onto his clothes for the first time, and as a result has found himself insulted by his classmates, ignored by his teacher, and finally, beaten up in the playground. His non-Jewish friend Zérati, who feels guilty at having drawn attention to Jo’s star in the first place, runs after him and proposes a trade:

 

Mon étoile. Pour un sac de billes.

 

The marbles are handed over in another act of kindness : not between brothers this time, but between Jo and a non-Jewish person, foreshadowing the unexpected kindness the brothers will encounter from French people as they travel, and perhaps showing a better world of common humanity that the coming years will very nearly snuff out entirely.

billes3

So the marbles play a double role in the story, covering the twin themes of the book: on the one hand, immense power holding the world in its grasp in Jo’s fantasy, and its flipside of vulnerability in Jo’s real status, and on the other hand, the solidarity that will enable Jo and Maurice to survive the années noires of the Occupation.

 

And as well as all this, the marbles are just what you know marbles are: a children’s game. Perhaps that game in the street, just before meeting the S. S. officers at their home, is the last true moment of childhood in Jo’s life. Certainly, his childhood is over a little while later as he leaves home with his brother. Looking back, Joffo remarks of that night:

 

C’en était fait de l’enfance.

 

His childhood is over, not only because he will lose the security of home and the care of his parents, as he has to fend for himself in the world. It’s also over because any childhood illusions he may have had – that grown-ups are wise and good, perhaps, or that the world is a safe and predictable place – are about to be brutally dispelled.

 

There’s a reason marbles don’t feature in the book beyond the opening pages. They’re for children, and Joseph Joffo’s childhood ended at the age of ten.

Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année

noel

posted by Simon Kemp

This blog is about to head off on its Christmas break, with just time for a 2016 round-up before we go.

photo [8485]

We started the year on a culinary theme with the delicious French tradition of galette des rois, and revisited the topic of food from time to time with a Belgian stew called Waterzooi, marmite from Geneva, some big, round bread, and the great oignon/ognon spelling controversy.

choix

Further language horrors were on view in French translation fails and tattoo fails, and we examined the French language from its ancient Frankish roots to the modern-day twittersphere.

livre-en-gros-caracteres-meursault-contre-enquete

We’ve also suggested some French novels you might like to try, including D’argile et de feu, Meursault: contre-enquête, and Eux sur la photo, and talked about the film Persepolis.

blog2

Along the way, we’ve also found time to explore a lively range of topics, such as French theatre in the time of Shakespeare, French kids’ books in the nineteenth century, the colourful life of Jean ‘Nicotine’ Nicot, and the curious tale of the Bodleian library’s fake book.

libe

The prospect of Brexit dominated much of the year, and we considered its impact on modern languages in universities. We also managed to find out what our students and your teachers have been up to recently. We launched our 2017 French Film competition, and the new Spanish flash fiction competition alongside it. And lastly, slipped in here and there, were a few posts about what you can do here at Oxford University, why you might want to, and how you can go about applying to come and study with us.

billes

We’ll be back on the first Wednesday in January with the first in a new series of posts answering a question about an A-level set text. We’ll start by asking why a memoir that doesn’t really seem to be about marbles (or, for that matter, bags) should have been given the title Un sac de billes.

French Film Competition (Now with added Spanish Flash Fiction Competition!)

gasoil

posted by Jenny Oliver and Jonathan Patterson

UPDATE: For details of the Oxford Spanish Department’s new ‘Flash Fiction’ competition, see below, after the French Film Competition.

The Department of French at Oxford University is looking for budding film enthusiasts in Years 7-11 and 12-13 to embrace the world of French cinema. To enter the competition, students in each age group are asked to re-write the ending of a film in no more than 1500 words.

You can work in English or French. No additional credit will be given for writing in French, but incorrect French grammatical expression will not be penalised: this is an exercise in creativity, rather than language!

The judges are looking for plausible yet imaginative new endings. There are no restrictions as to the form the entry might take: screen-play, play-script, prose, prose with illustrations. We’d also love to see filmed YouTube entries: feel free to experiment!

For 2017 we are inviting you to choose one film, either classic or contemporary, as per your age bracket:

Years 7-11:

Jean de Florette (1986, dir. Claude Berri) [PG]

OR

MicMacs à tire-larigot (2009, dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet) [12A]
Years 12-13:

Paris nous appartient (1961, dir. Jacques Rivette)  [12]

OR

Microbe et Gasoil (2015, dir. Michel Gondry) [15]

 

To help you choose, here are the trailers.

For Jean de Florette:

For MicMacs:

For Microbe et Gasoil:

And, instead of a trailer, a scene from Paris nous appartient:

 

A first prize of £100 will be awarded to the winning student in each age group, with runner-up prizes of £25.

For further details about entering the competition (including the points in each film where we’d like you to take up the story), see the FAQs below. Each essay should be accompanied by a cover sheet.

Essays and cover sheets should be submitted by email to french.essay@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk by noon on 31st March 2017.

 

And now, a message from the Oxford Spanish department:

Spanish Flash Fiction Competition: NEW!!

Did you know that the shortest story in Spanish is only seven words long? Here it is: ‘Cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí’ (Augusto Monterroso, “El dinosaurio”).

Write a story in Spanish of not more than 100 words, and send it to schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk by noon on Friday 31st March 2017 with your name, age and year group, and the name and address of your school.

A first prize of £100 will be awarded to the winning entry in each category (Years 7-11 and 12-13), with runner-up prizes of £25. The judges will be looking for creativity and imagination as well as good Spanish! The winning entries will be published on our website.

 

 

 

FAQS:

  1. What counts as ‘the ending’ of the film?

We’d like you to start your re-writing from the following points:

Paris nous appartient: from 1:52:55, when Philip asks Terry, ‘Pourquoi lui as-tu dit de venir?’

Jean de Florette: from 1:38:34, where Ugolin confronts Jean and says: ‘Monsieur Jean, il faut que je vous parle franchement…’

Micmacs from 1:16:44, when the message is relayed: ‘On lance!’, ‘On lance!,’ ‘On lance!’

Microbe et Gasoil from 1:29:23, when Microbe says ‘C’est possible de changer l’aller-retour contre deux allers, s’il vous plaît?’

  1. Does ‘re-writing’ mean I have to change everything?

There is nothing stopping you from watching the ‘real’ ending and then modifying it as you see fit. Indeed, you might find this helpful. Please note, though, that we’re looking for creative, entertaining and inventive new endings, which address as fully and plausibly as possible the strands of the story that are left unresolved at the end-points we’ve specified above.

  1. What form should the essay take?

There is no particular expectation as to how you submit your entry — you might like, for example, to submit it in screenplay format (with descriptions of camera angle, voice-over, lighting etc.), or as a play (with speech-prefixes and dialogue) or in prose, as in a novel. You might even like to submit your ‘new’ ending via YouTube or other social media! If so, email us the link with your attached coversheet. The form should be the one you feel shows your creativity in the best light.

  1. Where can I or my school/college get hold of the films?

The DVDs are readily and affordably available via Amazon (http://www.amazon.co.uk or http://www.amazon.fr). 

  1. Is there a limit to the amount of entries any one school can make?

Yes. There is a limit of 15 entries per school per age group.

  1. Should I enter as an individual or can I enter as part of a group?

We would ask you to keep to individually-named submissions, please: this is just to ensure as much as possible parity and fairness between entries, and to avoid any distinction between smaller and larger groups.

 

A blog for students and teachers of Years 11 to 13, and anyone else with an interest in French language and culture, written by the staff and students of Oxford University. Updated every Wednesday!