Modes of transport

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Unit 1 - | Corpus Sujets - 1 Sujet   Modes of transport

Séries générales • LV1



Espaces et échanges


Polynésie française • Juin 2013

Séries générales • LV1

text 1

How we choose to journey reflects and shapes the way we think

Slumping into the cramped confines of my seat, recovering my composure after a frantic, protracted check-in that made me mislay my wallet, almost miss my flight, and become €100 poorer, the result of my experiment in travel seemed obvious: boats and trains beat the pains of planes any day.

But the real problem with air travel is not the carbon footprint, the hassle of security checks, the tedium of the boarding gate […], [or] the soulless sprawl of the hire car lot […]. The deeper issue is that how we travel reflects and shapes the way we think, and we have become a society of airheads.

I started thinking about this because of a recurring desire to recreate an annual childhood journey by ferry and overnight train to visit our family in northern Italy. Was it just nostalgia pulling me, or is something of real value lost at 30,000 ft I decided to go to Italy the old way and return the new, to see how the experiences really compared.

The passenger terminal at Dover docks did not provide the most promising start, having all the charm of a 1970s coach station. But once on deck, with the white cliffs fading into the distance, I had a real sense of a proper trip starting, something that the palm-sweat-inducing jolt of take-off doesn’t provide. The sedate passage of the ship, the gradual emergence of the French coast, and the disembarkation in the open air, with a real town in clear sight, provided a sense of the continuities between places. In contrast, planes simply transport you from one anonymous, homogenous edgeland to an­other, between airports virtually identical in their black and yellow signage and multinational franchises. It’s the difference between travel – a movement between places in which the journey is part of the experience – and transit, the utilitarian linking of here and there, in which the destination becomes all that matters and the transfer simply something to put up with. […]

Consumer culture has made us too accustomed to getting only what we want, no more and no less. […] It is a contemporary malaise to avoid things that require effort but are rewarding in favour of gains in convenience that come at the price of blandness and loss of variety. […]

It might be objected that “slow travel” is just an indulgence of the time and cash-rich. But you actually gain holiday time when travelling is an integral part of the experience, because you lose none to mere transit. […] And yet despite all I’ve written, I admit I have another trip coming up and, guess what, I’m flying. I’m just another airhead, led by apparent ease and convenience away from what is more profoundly rewarding.

Julian Baggini, in The Guardian, September 30, 2012.

text 2

Travelling by train

Occasionally he would look up to see if he knew where he was but saw only the darkness and himself reflected from it. The streetlights of small towns showed more and more snow on the roads the further north he got. To stretch he went to the toilet and noticed the faces as he passed between the seats. Like animals being transported. On his way back he saw a completely different set of faces but he knew they looked the same. He hated train journeys, seeing so many people, so many houses. It made him realize he was part of things whether he liked it or not. Seeing so many unknown people through their back windows, standing outside shops, walking the streets, moronically waving from level-crossings – they grew amorphous and repulsive. They were going about their static lives while he had a sense of being on the move. And yet he knew he was not. At some stage any one of those people might travel past his flat on a train and see him in the act of pulling his curtains. The thought depressed him so much that he could no longer read. He leaned his head against the window and, although he had his eyes closed, he did not sleep.

Bernard Mac Laverty, “Life Drawing”, in A Time to Dance, 1982.


Text 1

1 Who do the following pronouns refer to

1. I (l. 11 : “I started thinking…”)

2. Us/we (l. 32-33 : “made us / what we want…”)

3. You (l. 38 : “You actually gain…”)

2 Focus on the first three paragraphs. Which means of transportation are mentioned What does the author think of each of them

3 The journalist mentions his “experiment in travel” (l. 4) when visiting his family.

1. What did he do

2. Why did he make this choice

4 Focus on the fourth paragraph (up to l. 24 “… between places”). Justify your answers using the text.

1. What part of the journey is referred to

2. What are the author’s impressions

5 Focus on the passage starting line 24 down to the end. The journalist gives two definitions of going from one place to another.

1. What are they

2. Explain the two different concepts.

Text 2

1 What do the following pronouns refer to

1. He (l. 1)

2. They (l. 7)

3. They (l. 11 and 12)

2 What is your interpretation of “he had a sense of being on the move. And yet he knew he was not” (l. 13) 

3 Describe the character’s state of mind at the beginning of the passage and then at the end.

Both texts

Find three elements in text 1 and two elements in text 2 showing that travelling is not always a pleasure.


> Choose one of the two subjects, 1 or 2.

1 How we travel “reflects and shapes the way we think.” Discuss.

2 Old ways and/or new ways of travelling: which would you favour and why

Texte 1


Julian Baggini (né en 1968), écrivain et philosophe britannique, est cofondateur de The Philosopher’s Magazine. Il écrit pour le grand public et collabore à la rédaction de divers journaux, en particulier The Guardian, qui est reconnu comme faisant partie de la presse dite « de qualité ». Fondé en 1821, devenu quotidien en 1956, ce journal se veut politiquement indépendant bien qu’il soit considéré comme orienté centre gauche.

Pour en savoir plus :

Le thème

Dans cet article, Julian Baggini établit un lien entre notre façon de voyager et notre façon de penser, d’appréhender le monde. Les critiques qu’il émet sur les voyages en avion s’articulent autour d’un argument original : voyager en avion nous rend idiots. Julian Baggini raconte une expérience qu’il a menée à ce sujet : se rendre en Italie en faisant l’aller en bateau et train, comme quand il était enfant, puis le retour en avion. Le trajet en bateau a fait de son voyage une expérience « authentique » unique, et lui a procuré d’entrée le dépaysement que l’on attend des vacances. Tandis que dans le voyage par avion, ce qui compte essentiellement est la destination – non l’expérience vécue dans le mouvement du voyage.

Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension

To slump, l. 1 (s’affaisser)  cramped, l. 1 (exigu)  to mislay, l. 3 (égarer)  a wallet, l. 3 (un portefeuille)  a footprint, l. 6 (une empreinte)  a hassle, l. 7 (les tracas)  the sprawl, l. 8 (l’étendue)  an airhead, l. 10 (une cruche, un crétin)  proper, l. 20 (ici : véritable)  a jolt, l. 21 (une secousse)  signage, l. 27 (signalisation)  blandness, l. 35 (fadeur)  indulgence, l. 37 (vice)  rewarding, l. 43 (enrichissant, gratifiant).

Texte 2


Bernard Mac Laverty, romancier britannique né en Irlande du Nord (1942), vit en Écosse depuis 1975. Ces deux pays ont eu une forte influence sur ses œuvres, où il traite notamment de la religion catholique et de la culpabilité.

Pour en savoir plus :

Le thème

Cet extrait de roman décrit les impressions sinistres d’un voyageur au cours d’un trajet en train : il déteste le train, le temps déjà sombre se gâte, tous les passagers se ressemblent, toutes les scènes qu’il aperçoit par la fenêtre sont identiques. Il se rend compte pour finir que ce voyage oppressant reflète son état d’esprit.

Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension

To stretch, l. 4 (s’étirer)  moronically, l. 11 (stupidement, comme un crétin)  a level-crossing, l. 11 (un passage à niveau)  at some stage, l. 14 (à un moment ou un autre)  to pull the curtains, l. 15 (fermer les rideaux)  to lean, l. 16 (appuyer).

Les points de convergence

Les deux textes traitent du voyage, et en particulier des modes de transport. Le choix du moyen de transport peut être en relation étroite avec la façon d’appréhender les choses, de même que l’expérience du voyage peut être liée à l’état d’esprit du voyageur.

Le sujet d’expression 1

Pistes de recherche

L’affirmation à discuter pose un double constat : d’une part, la façon de voyager reflète la façon de voir les choses du voyageur  d’autre part la façon de voyager influence la façon de voir les choses. L’interaction est réciproque.

Vous pouvez associer des modes de transport au type de personnes qui les choisissent généralement : familles, jeunes ou personnes âgées  hommes d’affaires ou vacanciers… Ou encore les associer à des façons d’envisager le voyage, au plaisir que les uns ou les autres peuvent y trouver ou y découvrir : voyageurs pressés vs voyageurs qui aiment prendre leur temps, voyageurs à la recherche de souvenirs, voyageurs souhaitant être pris en charge vs voyageurs voulant organiser leur voyage, etc.

Vous pouvez organiser vos idées par modes de transport, par types de voyageur ou en opposant aspects positifs et négatifs.

Vocabulaire utile

Mind-set (état d’esprit)  to outline (exposer les grandes lignes)  to run the risk (courir le risque)  luggage (les bagages)  to stray from the beaten track (s’éloigner des sentiers battus)  it is safe to say (on peut affirmer sans trop s’avancer)  to get something out of it (en tirer quelque chose).

Le sujet d’expression 2

Pistes de recherche

En voyage à quel mode de transport vont vos préférences  La question est très personnelle, et liée à votre expérience passée et présente. Aussi pensez aux voyages que vous avez faits ou que vous rêvez de faire. Peut-être s’agira-t-il d’un road-trip à l’américaine, ou, pour les amoureux de la nature, d’un raid équestre… Donnez plusieurs exemples afin de montrer que vous pouvez parler de transports et exprimer vos goûts.

Vocabulaire utile

To take to the road (prendre la route)  the thrill (l’excitation)  a narrow boat (une péniche)  bliss (le bonheur)  what a waste! (quel gâchis!)  to jet off (prendre l’avion)  clear-cut (évident).



Text 1

1 1. “I” refers to the author: Julian Baggini.

2. “Us/we” refer to modern consumers.

3. “You” refers to travellers.

2 The means of transportation dealt with are air travel, ferry crossings and train journeys. Baggini’s view of trains and ferries is linked to his childhood: he has a nostalgic love for these two modes of transport. As for air travel, he mentions only negative aspects: cramped conditions, stress, expense and also the influence it has on our mentality.

3 1. He decided to travel to visit his family in Northern Italy. He went by boat and train and he came back by plane.

2. He wanted to see what the differences were between the old and new methods of travel. He wanted to see if something was actually lost in the travelling experience by flying or if it was just his nostalgic memories of childhood that were influencing his opinion.

4 1. He refers to the ferry journey from the UK to mainland Europe. He leaves from “Dover” (l. 17) with its “white cliffs” (l. 19), he is on the “deck” (l. 19) of a “ship” (l. 22) heading for “the French coast” (l. 22).

2. Despite the departure from the docks being not up to modern standards, he compares them to “a 1970s coach station” (l. 18), he feels like he is going on a real trip, experiencing the transition from one place to another as a process: “a sense of the continuities between places” (l. 23-24).

5 1. The first definition of going from one place to another is a movement where “the journey is part of the experience” and thus brings pleasure wher­e­as the second definition is a simple transportation from a to b: where “the destination becomes all that matters”.

2. Slow travel by rail or by boat needs implication by the traveller but is also more rewarding as it adds to the holiday experience. On the contrary, all airports are the same, as well as being convenient and easy to use.

Text 2

1 1. “He” refers to the traveller, a man on a train journey.

2. “They” refers to the faces of the other train passengers.

3. “They” refers to the people the train passes.

2 This sentence refers to actually moving from one place to another: the train he is travelling in is moving but he isn’t progressing in his life perhaps he is going back to a childhood location or more profoundly has a feeling of not being able to accept his life and move on.

3 At the beginning of the passage the traveller seems curious about where he is going. The scenes he observes out of the window are dark, snowy and unfamiliar. At the end of the passage he seems more depressed and pessimistic because of the sameness of the other passengers and the people he passes. He seems to have lost any hope and enthusiasm he once had.

Both texts

The texts are both quite pessimistic about travelling. In the first extract, Baggini describes the cramped conditions of air travel, the stress encountered during the check-in period and the expense of travelling in general (l. 1-5). In the second extract, the author concentrates on the way other passengers can make you feel: they are all the same “Like animals being transported” (l. 5-6) and being one of them takes away your individuality. Besides, when the protagonist sees people going about their sad and meaningless everyday lives he realizes that he too could be seen by other travellers: a rather disconcerting thought for him.


1 Guidelines

Travelling is a way of discovering the world: different people and different cultures. The way we travel is obviously influenced by the way we think but also shapes and changes our mind-set.

Let us look at three main transport methods used to travel: rail, air and road.

During a year out, many young people choose to go ‘euro-railing’: after outlining a basic itinerary, you go to the local train station and book your train – Berlin, Paris, London, Prague and more! Travelling over land in this way is cheap, convenient and convivial! You can access major cities easily and meet people along the way. But travelling by train with children can be an unpleasant experience: the journey is often long and with no privacy, a lot of noise and other passengers around.

Air travel is the faster option for families but you run the risk of delays and have to arrive in advance at the airport. Flying can also be considered the most impersonal form of transport: you leave the middle of one country to arrive in the middle of the next with no concept of the transition. The cultural elements are often lost: all airports being very similar, an example of our consumer society.

Driving allows more flexibility for families: you can stop when you want to, take as much luggage as you can fit in the car. You can admire the view and stray from the beaten track to see as much of the countryside as you wish. The distance is more limited: you can hardly drive to Australia or the USA!!

Overall, it is safe to say that how we travel depends on our concept of the travelling experience and what we want to get out of it. Is the objective just to get from a to b in record time or is the actual movement from one place to another part of the adventure