Thursday, 5 June 2014

Tank Man
(Level: Intermediate to Upper-Intermediate / B1 to B2 / ** to ***)

You are going to watch a Sky News report focusing partly on Tank Man (also called the 'Unknown Protester'), an anonymous rebel who came to stand in front of a column of tanks and brought it to a halt. 

This happened after the Chinese authorities had decided to put an end to the Tiananmen Square protests, an event which was later called the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

If you want to know more about the Tiananmen Square crackdown, here are an article (China, the world remembers Tiananmen massacre), a timeline, photos and a few CNN videos.  
Click HERE

Tiananmen Square
Picture credit:

Tank Man
Picture credit:

Before watching

The following words and notes could be useful:

Tiananmen: a famous monument in Beijing which was first built in 1420 and which is often referred to as the front entrance to the Forbidden City.

The Forbidden City: was the imperial palace from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) to he Qing dynasty (1644-1912) and is located in the centre of Beijing. It has been the Palace Museum  since 1925 and it houses the imperial collections of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The place has also been a World Heritage Site since 1987 as it was listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. 

The Forbidden City
Photo credit:
Gorbachev (born in 1931): here are a few facts about him, in a nutshell. 
He was the last President of the Soviet Union (until 1991), and had been before General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
He worked in his teenage years on collective farms.
He graduated from Moscow State University in 1955 with a degree in law and joined the Communist Party.
He was appointed First Secretary to the Supreme Soviet in 1974 and became a member of the Politburo in 1979.
He contributed to the end of the Cold War thanks to his policies of glasnost (openness), perestroika (restructuring) and his reorientation of Soviet strategic aims and later to the end of the Soviet Union as such.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.

If you want to know more about Gorbachev, here is an interesting biography; click HERE

defiantly: with a lot of defiance; boldness          avec beaucoup d'audace
last stand: last fight     baroud d'honneur
to reminisce: to talk, think or write about events that happened in the past     se rappeler / se souvenir
to reckon: to think; to consider        estimer
to turn nasty: to become terribly unpleasant; very dangerous...      devenir méchant; dangereux / prendre une sale tournure / prendre une tournure désagréable
to gather momentum: to get strength; stronger         prendre de l'ampleur / s'accélérer
to run out: to be used up; to come to an end       arriver à terme / s'épuiser
from on high: from somebody in a position of power or authority      d'en haut 
staggering: causing astonishment; overwhelming         étonnant; stupéfiant 

While watching

Answer the following questions in French:

  1. Under which circumstances had journalists come to Beijing in the first place back in 1989? Why had they decided to stay a bit longer?
  2. What did they come to realize once they saw what the man, later called Tank Man, was up to?

You can also watch the video on Sky News by clicking HERE

When you are finished, you can check your answers


Les journalistes étrangers étaient venus initialement pour couvrir la visite d'état de Gorbatchev en Chine mais avaient décidé de rester quelque temps encore parce qu'ils se doutaient que les mouvements protestataires, quoique pacifistes, notamment sur la Place Tiananmen risquaient de prendre une tournure plutôt néfaste, voire fatale pour les manifestants. Leurs craintes se sont avérées exactes à la vue de la colonne de chars qui défilaient sous les fenêtres de l'hôtel où ils se trouvaient...

Quand ils ont vu l'homme se planter, seul, devant le premier char de la longue colonne, bravant ses occupants, les forçant à s'arrêter un temps, risquant de se faire abattre à tout moment, ils ont su qu'ils détenaient des images fortes, emblématiques d'un combat perdu d'avance. Images qui allaient être à la une de tous les quotidiens mondiaux le lendemain et qui allaient symboliser à tout jamais les événements sanglants de Tiananmen et la résistance pacifiste insupportable au régime chinois...

If you want to know more about Tank Man, you can click HERE and read an article (Tiananmen Square: What happened to Tank Man?) by Heather Saul (The Independent).

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