Essentials of concours

There are three principal entrance tests that students who wish to enrol in commerce schools in France target. These are ECRICOME, CCIP and IENA.

The presentation (“Essentials of concours“) takes you into the essentials of what the writing component of these tests entail. Globally speaking, there are three major sections in the writing component: version, theme and expression orale. Each test has its own set of rules, regulations and grading scales for each of the sections.

Understand the system so you can work better to achieve your goal!


The 13 killers

A group of teachers at the university of Grenoble 3 teaching at the Applied Linguistics department of English studies have identified thirteen grammatical mistakes that students make while translating from  French into English. In the first year of university, students are expected to work very hard at not making these mistakes and if they continue to do, are penalised very heavily at the exams. These mistakes have thus been baptised “13 Killers” as the presence of even a single one of them can result in a straight zero out of four marks!

I personally feel that these rules are not only applicable to students studying translation but also to those who want to avoid making basic mistakes in the English language.  Avoid them and your language will know new heights. 

Here’s a list of the 13 killers:

  1. Incorrect use of the present perfect with a past time reference
  2. Incorrect use of for, since, ago and during
  3. Incorrect formation of common irregular verbs
  4. Incorrect formation of basic tenses 
  5. Incorrect use of auxiliaries in questions and negation 
  6. Incorrect formation of modals
  7. Incorrect formation of the passive voice
  8. Basic errors involving the genitive
  9. Basic errors involving the article
  10. Incorrect use of “-s” with adjectives or noun groups
  11. Incorrect expression of quantity and price
  12. Absence of capital letters for days, months, nationalities, languages
  13. Gruesome gobbledygook and truly awful barbarisms

The powerpoint presentation The killers” should give you a better idea of what these killers mean and how to avoid making them. Feel free to download it, study it, work on it.

Don’t forget to drop me a line if you find this useful.

“Harrap’s Grammaire Anglaise”

I love this black book for its wonderful colours and illustrations that make me want to open it and read it. While “Le Robert & Nathan anglais grammaire” is a must-have for serious students studying English grammar (read my book review here), Harrap’s grammaire anglaise would appeal to students who aren’t too interested in the nuances of the language, but who are happy with having all the grammar in one book they could carry around with them.

It seems to have it all, be it articles, nouns, the genitive, adjectives, voice, modals, speech etc etc. Each grammatical rule is explained quite lucidly with relevant examples in English, translated into French. There are sections on pronunciation, spellings, irregular verbs. I would use it as a teacher with young students studying the English language at the lower levels. I might even use certain sections as reminders for grammatical rules. The exercises however are quite basic in nature and don’t really go beyond the letter of the rule. So I don’t think I would use those with advanced-level students or with adults.

I feel this book would be an excellent compromise between a serious “Le Robert & Nathan” and a flaky English textbook that doesn’t go beyond the comprehension of basic passages. For you to decide!

“Le Robert & Nathan anglais grammaire”

This is a book recommended by university specialists who teach translation and applied linguistics in English.

The blurb at the back of the book reads “La grammaire de référence indispensable !” and I couldn’t agree more! The book is designed for the French and written almost exclusively in French, barring the words and expressions mentioned in English. The book is divided into three major sections: Grammaire Fondamentale, Dictionnaire Grammatical and the Annexes. The first section on fundamental grammar reviews every grammatical aspect that a student is expected to know in English. It defines and describes the aspects, throws light on its various nuances, and follows every sentence in English by its appropriate translation in French. A few sentences are proposed at the end of every sub-section to be translated and the answers are given at the end of the book (annexes).

The second section or the grammatical dictionary presents a list of difficulties in the English language that are then explained, again, complete with their nuances.

The annexes provide the key to the sentences meant to be translated but also a list of irregular verbs that must be studied by a student of the English language.

I would certainly recommend this book for serious French students who wish to improve their grammatical base in English and study translation.

“Le thème anglais expliqué”

MAURY, Virginie. (2012). Le thème anglais expliqué. Paris: Ellipses. 

This book is meant for students appearing for entrance tests in France and/or those who have to study translation from French into English. Thus said, it is for amateur student-translators and wouldn’t really appeal to (nor to those aspiring to become) professional translators.

Personally, I found this book pretty useful as a teacher, as it provided blocks of text that can be used in a classroom with students. It is easy to use and its structure is thematic. The first fifty odd pages deal with certain grammatical aspects that need to be taken into account when translating. The aspects dealt with are tenses (la perception du temps), modal verbs (les modaux), conveying one’s wishes (le souhait, le regret), causative structures (la traduction de “faire faire”), translating “dont” and articles. The next section provides literary passages in French with its English translation, and the third section has passages based on what the French call Thèmes de civilisation. These are passages that relate to politics, culture, history, or society in general in the US and in the UK. What is even more interesting is that the translation provided for the passage is followed immediately after by a commentary on the various grammatical aspects used (which structures have been used and why), which is, in turn and at times, followed by a vocabulary bank around the theme of the passage.

This might interest students who would like to practise translating passages themselves and have an in-depth understanding of which grammatical aspects to use where. On the other hand, what disappointed me was the quality of the translation proposed in English. I can’t really find fault with the translation per say, but with the quality of the language used. For example, on pages 96-97, “Comment allait-il expliquer à son directeur qu’il serait en congé…” has been translated as “How was he going to explain his boss that he would be on sick leave…” You explain “something TO someone”, you don’t “explain someone”. Minor mistakes like this might influence students to write incorrect English if they are not proficient in the English language.