10 great contemporary French films to watch

The following films, all successful on the international stage, showcase some of France’s best known actors and directors of this era. Included amongst them are Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard, Audrey Tatou, Mathieu Amalric and even British actress Kristin Scott-Thomas. All are well worth a watch and will really help your pronunciation, your vocabulary and, of course, your listening skills.

1. La Haine

Released in 1995, this globally acclaimed film depicts the racial tensions and riots that occurred in many Parisien ‘banlieues’ around this time. Shot in black and white, La Haine follows the movements of three young men over a period of twenty-four hours. All three, of different ethnic origins, have grown up in these French suburbs and have experienced the clashes with police first-hand. One of the group, Vinz (payed by Vincent Cassel), comes into possession of a missing police firearm and vows to use it and get the respect he ‘deserves’…

2. Amélie (originally Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain)

Released in 2001, Amélie is a unique, upbeat film that launched the international film career of actress Audrey Tatou and was nominated for five Oscars. Amélie is a fantastical story about a girl of the same name who missed out on a normal childhood due to her father’s mistaken concern that she had a heart defect. As a result, Amélie was starved of any real life social contact and retreated to her own make-believe world with dreams of love and beauty. Later, when Amelie moves to Paris, she decides to help those ill-fated lovers around her and along the way, falls into a love story of her own…

3. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

‘Le Scaphandre et le Papillion’ as it’s called in French was released in 2007 and soon became a global hit. It was based on the amazing book by Jean- Dominique Bauby (former editor-in-chief of Elle magazine), who, out of the blue, fell victim to ‘locked in syndrome’, which brings about almost total paralysis of the body. Despite being unable to speak or move, Jean- Dominique succeeded in painstakingly committing his story to paper using only blinking movements, a specially devised alphabet, and the aid of a companion to transcribe. Despite its theme, the film is very funny in parts, and although a very sad and moving story, it serves as a great reminder for how easy it is to take life for granted.

4. La Vie en Rose

Another film from 2007 is the fantastic ‘La Vie en Rose’, a biography of adored French singer Edith Piaf. It’s renowned French actress Marion Cotillard who plays Piaf in the film, and in fact it was this role for which she won an Oscar – it was the first time the award had been given for a French language role. Gerard Depardieu also stars in the film, which spans the whole of Piaf’s life, from her humble beginnings in the slums of Paris to the international success but personal tragedies that she experienced prior to her death in 1963.

5. Il y a Longtemps Que Je T’aime

‘I’ve loved you so long’ as it translates in English was released in 2008 and won a BAFTA for ‘best film not in the English language’. It was also nominated for scores of other awards, including a Golden Globe and a Critics Choice Award. In the lead role is fluent French speaker Kristin Scott Thomas, who plays a woman reunited with her sister after a 15-year jail term. The film explores family relationships and social stigmas, but there is more to the story than we are first led to believe…

6. Entre les Murs (The Class)

This Paris-set film was also released in 2008. It is based on an autobiographical novel by François Bégaudeau and is another film that explores life in the Parisien banlieues. This time, the story follows the lives of a class of school children as they approach their final years at school, and the teachers who attempt to educate and inspire in a tough inner city environment that does the opposite.

7. Coco Before Chanel

Another fantastic biopic of a French icon is Coco Before Chanel, a film released in 2009 that tells the life story of world-famous fashion designer Coco Chanel. In the lead role once again is Audrey Tatou, who superbly depicts Coco’s rise from poor, provincial seamstress and performer to the personification of Parisien chic that she became.

8. Un Prophète

‘A prophet’ as it translates in English, is a hard-hitting film about a young Arab man who is sent to a French prison. Although an unwilling subject initially, he soon finds himself tasked by the Corsican mafia who rule the roost, and works his way up the ranks to become prison ’kingpin’. Released in 2009, it received critical acclaim on a global level and was nominated in the following year for best foreign language film at the Oscars.

9. Gainsbourg

Released in 2010, this is the story of French singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. The film spans his eventful life, from his formative years in 1940 occupied Paris to his success as a song-writer in the 1960s and the complicated relationships that came alongside it.

10. Mésrine

Another film starring Vincent Cassel is Mésrine, the story of notorious French gangster of the 60s and 70s, Jacques Mésrine. Infamous for his bravado and numerous prison escapes, he carried out numerous robberies and murders in a criminal career that spanned continents until he was shot dead in 1979 by France’s equally as notorious anti-gang unit. Completed in 2008, the film was made in two parts, and although lengthy is well worth a watch.

Cactus Language offer French courses in the UK, New York, France and Canada!

10 little-known facts about Costa Rica

Here are ten little-known facts about this small but fascinating Central American country:

1. Costa Rica is bordered by Panama to the south and Nicaragua to the north. The Pacific Ocean lies to the west and the south and the Caribbean Sea to the east.

2. Costa Rica has subtropical as well as tropical climates. The dry season in Costa Rica runs from December to April, while the rainy season is usually from May to November. December is the wettest month on the Caribbean coast.

3. The highest mountain in Costa Rica is Cerro Chirripo, a volcanic mountain that stands 3,810 metres tall.

4. Costa Rica is a democratic republic. The country has enjoyed around sixty years of uninterrupted democracy, which is much longer than many other countries in Latin America.

5. Costa Ricans refer to themselves as Ticos (males) or Ticas (females).

6. The Guanacaste is Costa Rica’s national tree and the clay-colored thrush is the national bird. The national flower is the guaria morada, a type of orchid.

7. Unlike many of their Central American neighbours, present-day Costa Ricans are largely of European descent. However, an estimated 10% -15% of the population is Nicaraguan, of fairly recent arrival. Few of the native Indians survived European conquests and the indigenous population today is estimated to make up less than 1% of the total population.

8. Costa Rica is divided into seven provinces – San Jose, Alajuela, Heredia, Cartago, Guanacaste, Puntarenas and Limon.

9. Costa Rica hosts more than 5% of the world’s biodiversity even though it constitutes than 0.5% of the planet’s total surface. There are more than 850 species of birds, 220 species of reptiles and 9,000 types of plants in the country.

10. More than 25% of Costa Rica’s land is dedicated to national parks, reserves and wildlife refuges. There are more than 100 different protected areas to visit.

Cactus currently offers Spanish courses in Colonial Heredia & Playa Samara, Jaco Beach, Manuel Antonio and San Jose.

10 reasons to learn English in Dublin

Below are some of the top reasons to choose Dublin as your English study destination.

1. Friendly people and a unique culture

Irish people are famous the world over for their open and friendly nature, and Dublin is no exception. Local people will go out of their way to make you feel welcome and will love teaching you about their city, their customs and the culture that is so unique to the ‘Emerald Isle’. Integral to the traditional Irish way of life is family, religion and music and dance, and the same importance is still attached to these aspects of life today. Irish people tend to be very proud of their celtic roots, and the traditional music that is still played so widely around the country very much reflects this.

2. A fun-loving city with a lively atmosphere

Dublin is well known for its nightlife, in particular the area around Temple Bar, and outside of lessons you’ll have plenty of opportunity to practise your English in the city’s bars and restaurants and experience what the Irish call the ‘craic’ (fun). Going out in Dublin can be expensive, but the ‘inside’ knowledge you’ll gain from staff at the school or the host family you stay with will mean that you can avoid the tourist traps and head to the less expensive and more authentic places.

3. Standard English with a nice accent

A standard form of English is used in most of Ireland, although it is spoken with a soft accent that many people consider to be one of the nicest in the English-speaking world. The accent that you’ll hear in Dublin is easier to understand than some of the others in Ireland, and you’ll enjoy listening to it – if you’re lucky you might even pick it up!

4. Small enough to get around easily

For a capital city, Dublin is relatively small in size, which makes it really easy to get around. Much of the city centre can be explored on foot, and if you want to venture further out of the city into the suburbs or the surrounding towns and villages there’s a really good network of buses and trams to get you where you need to go. Dublin also now has its own bike-sharing scheme, whereby anyone over the age of 14 can pick up a rental bike from one of the 42 stations around the city – it’s a really quick and easy way to get around, and you can choose a long term hire card (10 euro) or a 3-day card (2 euro).

5. The same currency as many European countries

For European students who want to learn English, Dublin can be a great option in that the currency in Ireland is the Euro. Not only will you have to get used to using a foreign currency, it will also save you having to incur fees exchanging money before you go and during your stay.

6. Easy access to and from Europe, the Americas and the Middle East

Dublin has its own international airport just outside of the city where you can take flights to and from all kinds of cities in Europe, America, Canada and the Middle East. There are scores of airlines that operate from the airport, including low-cost carriers like Ryanair, Aer Arann and Germanwings, with whom you can get inexpensive flights if you book in advance.

7. Lots of events and attractions to enjoy image

Quite simply, you will never be short of things to do in Dublin. The city is home to an array of entertainment and sporting venues, including O2 and Grand Canal Theatre for gigs and concerts and Croke Park and Landsdown Road stadiums for domestic and international sports events. Dublin also hosts several festivals each year, including the fantastic St Patricks Day celebrations in March and many more cultural and literary festivals throughout the year. As the capital city of Ireland and the seat of Irish parliament there are plenty of grand buildings and monuments to enjoy, including Customs House and the old university buildings of Trinity College and University College Dublin. And of course, there’s the world-famous Guinness factory, a piece of history in its own right and one of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions!

8. A long and interesting history to explore

Dublin has a really long history that dates back to the 10th century. Over the centuries the city changed hands several times, and saw some bloody battles – perhaps the most severe during the revolution of 1919-1921, which resulted in the establishment of the Irish Free State. There is a huge amount to learn about Dublin (and Ireland’s) history in the city, which you can get by visiting museums such as the National Museum of Ireland (Archeology, Decorative Arts and History and Natural History), the National Leprechaun Museum and the James Joyce Museum. James Joyce was by no means the only successful writer or poet to come out of Dublin – also counted amongst Dublin’s greats are Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett, WB Yeats and Seamus Heaney.

9. Attractive surroundings and nice architecture image

Dublin enjoys a fantastic location at the head of a lovely bay and close to hills and mountains. There’s a range of sandy beaches where you can enjoy nice walks and picnics in the summer, and to the south of the city lie the Dublin and Wicklow mountains, which provide some great hiking opportunities and some lovely views of the city.

Within Dublin itself there are some lovely squares and parks, but one of the city’s finest features is its architecture. In addition to its splendid public buildings, Dublin has lots of 18th century architecture, including impressive Georgian mansions, many of them with historical association. It’s the southeast area of the city centre, around Baggot Street, Merrion Square and Fitzwiliam Square, where most of the original townhouses remain.

10. A great base from which to explore the rest of Irelandimage

As the principal city in Ireland, Dublin has by far the best transport links to other cities and areas of the country. Should you wish to take a day or weekend trip to Cork, Waterford, Galway or Limerick for example, you would be able to take a train or bus direct from Dublin and be there within a couple of hours at the most.

Cactus offers a range of English courses in Dublin, including General, Intensive, Individual and Combined English. Also available are Juniors English courses, Teacher Refresher courses and a range of Exam Preparation courses. For full listings of courses in Dublin and Ireland, please visit the Cactus Language website.

Top sites to see on your New York trip!

1. Go to the Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller centre on a clear day, the view from the 70th floor is really amazing. It’s $20 or $30 if you want a double entry pass so you can go back at night. Some people say it’s better to do it from the Empire State building instead (100th floor) but then you don’t get to see the Empire State so…

2. Go to a Knicks or Rangers game at Madison Square Garden. I saw the Rangers and it was amazing. I’m not even into it but it’s not the point, the point is to drink beer, have a hot dog and sing along with the crowd or shout at the players 🙂

3. Go out in the Village (Greenwich Village), it’s such a cool area. I especially recommend the Fat Cat and Arthur’s Tavern. The first venue is good for Jazz (which I don’t like, but it’s a cool bar anyway), and the second one is amazing for blues,

check out Sweet Georgia Brown, she’s awesome. Then have a hot dog at the Five Guys on Bleecker Street, best hot dog I’ve ever had!

4. Go to a Broadway show and as a tourist Million Dollar Quartet seems a must… Make sure you get your tickets at the TKTS booth on Times Square though, you can get up to 50% off on same-day shows, so anything between $40 and $60 depending on the show.

5. Go to a comedy show, I went to Ha next to Times Square and it was really, really funny. There are guys selling tickets along Times Square for just $10 for same-day shows.

6. Take a cruise to Liberty and Ellis Island. There is only the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island but the Immigration Museum on Ellis Island is definitely worth a visit, most cruises visit both islands.

7. Have a beer (or five) at the Bohemian Hall Beer Garden in Queens. I was there for Halloween and it was a tad too cold for it but in the summer it must be amazing.

8. The MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) is free on Fridays between 4-8pm in case you’re into museums (I didn’t go but I wish I had).

9. Go to D.C. for the weekend or 3 days if you can, only 4 hours by train. It’s a great city and the opposite of NYC (clean, green, historic) so a nice change of scenery. Walk from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol and take in all the war memorials, the White House and the Washington Monument on the way. Go for a stroll in Georgetown too, which is a cute neighborhood with lots of shops and restaurants.

Portuguese study destinations: Rio de Janeiro


Rio de Janeiro, or Rio for short, is located on the southeast coast of Brazil and is the capital of the State of Rio de Janeiro. It was the capital of Brazil until 1960 as well, and is Brazil’s second largest city with over ten million inhabitants. Rio was first discovered by Europeans on 1st January 1502 , hence the name, which means “January River”. It is also known as “A Cidade Maravilhosa” or “The Marvelous City”.


Famous landmarks in Rio include Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor), the giant statue of Jesus on top of Corcovado mountain; the Sugarloaf mountain (Pão de Açúcar), which you can climb via cable car; and one of the largest football stadiums in the world, Maracanã. The city is also home to the largest urban forests in the world: Floresta da Tijuca and the forest in Parque Estadual da Pedra Branca.


Rio is a cosmopolitan city with residents and visitors from all over the world. It is also a city of contrasts with very rich areas and large shanty towns or favelas in close proximity to one another. It’s famous for its music, especially samba; its sport, especially football; and its lively night life, and the locals, known as Cariocas, certainly like to have fun on the beaches, and in the bars, restaurants and night clubs. There are also museums, theatres and plenty of other attractions to visit.


Rio enjoys a tropical climate with annual average temperatures of between 23°C and 26°C. At times it can get up to 40°C, though sea breezes help to moderate such highs, and rarely falls below 10°C. It can rain quite a lot between December and March, and much less between May and September.


There’s no shortage of Portuguese language schools in Rio which offer a range of courses, including general and intensive courses, preparation for Portuguese proficiency exams, Portuguese for business, individual lessons, and combinations of Portuguese lessons with samba, capoeira, cooking, music or other activities.

Cactus Language offer a variety of Brazilian Portuguese language courses in Rio De Janeiro, Sao Paulo, UK & US.

Cactus Staff Review: Portuguese course in Lisbon

When I decided to take a Portuguese course, I was hesitating between going back to Brazil, which I already know and love, and going to discover Portugal. Brazil was more tempting for obvious reasons but in the end Portugal won as it was closer and cheaper to fly to, especially for one week only. So I headed off to Lisbon, which I chose over the Algarve as I thought that at this time of the year – October – there would be more people to meet and more things to do. Read more

Our favourite English words & expressions

It doesn’t matter how much time your English teachers at school spend explaining the differences between American and British spelling or how often they tell you to pronounce privacy (with a short “i”) instead of priiiiiivacy. With American TV-Series, books and adverts abound, most non-native English speakers will likely end up with American vocabulary and a ‘weird’ accent.

There is not much you can do about the accent, only practice – my tip: listen to the BBC and you’ll get it eventually.

As far as vocabulary goes, here are some very useful tips:

– a biscuit is a biscuit, not a cookie

– something goes in the bin, not in the trash

– don’t use “awesome” too often

– and most important: don’t finish your sentences with “Dude!”

In addition to that, here are some great, funny and very British expressions, which will help demonstrate your grasp of Her Majesty’s English and earn you respect with her subjects:


“Wonky” is used to describe something that is crooked or not straight, e.g. he has a wonky nose, that shelf is wonky.


It might look, like someone just made this up or drunk-texted it, but the word dates back to the 18th century, meaning astonished. How flabbergasting!


Not a rival to a popular chocolate bar, but a rather cute way to describe ladies’ undergarments.


This is really confusing for people who visit the UK for the first time, as it’s not only used as a toast when raising one’s glass “Cheers!” but can also be used to thank someone, to end a conversation or simply to say goodbye.

Rubbish – noun & adjective

“Rubbish” is another very useful word that may be used in a lot of different situations. As a noun it can simply refer to litter, which belongs in the bin, not trash (see above). Similarly it can be used as an adjective to describe something or someone (not very nice!) as being poor, worthless, very bad or worse… e.g. “His new song is rubbish!”

“Awesome sauce!”

A funny expression I found online along with this humorous description: “The invisible substance emitted by anything awesome, inherently making itself, and anything it covers, awesome.”

Please see warning notes re frequent usage of “awesome” above. “Awesome sauce” on the other hand, is safe and can’t be said often enough.

Shenanigans or Malarkey

“Shenanigans” was one of my favourite words long before I even knew what it meant, namely nonsense. As it turns out there is a wealth of words on offer to paraphrase “humbug” including another favourite of mine “Malarkey”.

knackered – adjective

Another great word that reminds me a lot of “knickers” (although there is no relationship to my knowledge) – it’s a quintessentially British way of describing that something or someone is extremely tired or worn out.


If you’re bored of calling your better half “my dear” or you simply like to stand out from the crowd, you should definitely go with “snookums” – defined by the Urban Dictionary as an endearing nickname, often with a gentle note of sarcasm or humour – also a small blue dinosaur from Moshi Monsters….

We hope you have enjoyed Clara’s journey through Her Majesty’s English and will find use for some of the words and expressions – which will have you sounding more British than 007 in a jiffy.

Join us again next time for more of our favourite foreign words and expressions!

Next up: French

The most delicious idioms in the French language

The French boast one of the most refined and delicious cuisines in the world and amazing, subtle idioms alike. A significant number of them are inspired by gastronomic references. 

Idiomatic expressions exist in all languages but they do not always use the same images for comparison of one object or phenomenon with another. The food-centred expressions are based on the names of fruits, vegetables, desserts, the most common and popular dishes.

Everybody seems to be familiar with la crème de la crème, the expression indicating something superlative and the very best. One of its meanings, the highest social set, has another edible idiomatic synonym, tout le gratin, meaning the upper crust, everybody who’s anybody, while le gratin itself is a baked dish with crusty top, common every day dish enjoyed by all the French.

Être tout sucre tout miel, literally to be all sugar and honey, refers to acting in a polite and considerate way, sometimes hiding negative feelings. Ménager la chèvre et le chou, to tend both goats and cabbages, stands for having a foot in both camps, in English. Tomber dans les pommes, to fall in the apples, is nothing else but a more elegant way of saying to faint, to be unconscious, to knock out even if there is no obvious link between apples and passing out. Making things up, telling tales becomes raconter des salades in French, which evokes the green lettuce, a typical French starter or a side dish.

La lune de miel, another honey-based metaphor, seems to be a literal translation of honeymoon with exactly the same meaning of the happy holiday taken by the newlyweds, which is in French a calque from English. Etymologically, the sweetest first month of a relationship was linked to a phase of moon, which has produced the same image in a variety of languages. 

A similar image is used to say ‘it’s a piece of cake’ (c’est du gâteau), both referring to something easy and enjoyable. When a French speaker feels like drawing a line between their own private space (or a garden ?) and that of the curious neighbour they usually say occupe-toi de tes oignons (Take care of your own onions) sounding as rude as ‘that’s none of your business’. It is not all sugar and honey, you see!

It would be wrong not to mention cheese-related idioms in the context of food-centred expressions since France is proud of its various sorts of cheese, and one of the most common is the idiom, en faisant tout un fromage (making a whole cheese out of it), which translates as to ‘make a big deal’ out of something.

Such idioms often sound funny and it takes not only an excellent command of the language itself, but also a good sense of humour, to appreciate them fully. For example, comme un cheveu dans la soupe means literally like a hair in soup, while its figurative meaning is to appear unexpectedly, as a surprise, to be inappropriate. 

The French delicious idioms se vendent comme des petits pains chauds, they ‘go like hotcakes’ being des cerises sur le gâteau, cherries or icing on the cake in terms of language learning – they make everybody’s speech spicier and savvier. In the classroom, they introduce a relaxed atmosphere, getting students more motivated to learn long lists of vocabulary and to work on sophisticated recipes language-wise. Making up dialogues as pair work on delicious idioms, flashcard activities or even writing a one page long short story using a sequence of as many food and cuisine-related expressions as possible that makes sense is an extra challenge for French learners. 

For more sweet and salty idioms and food visit https://www.chocolateandzucchini.com.

Cactus Language offer a variety of French language courses in the UK, New York, France and Canada!

October 2012: Time for some fun this autumn…

With the new school year acting as perfect incentive to learn something new, and summer now behind us, October is a good month to get those grey cells working. How better to brighten up the darker evenings than to learn a language and dream of exotic, far-off locations…we have new autumn evening courses starting this month, and are excited to be launching long-term academic courses in the new year.

Click here to read the newsletter

Cactus announces winner of 2012 Suzanne Furstner Foundation Scholarship

The Suzanne Furstner Foundation supports language and educational training across the world. Introduced in 2007 in memory of a friend and colleague who died tragically in a road accident, the foundation funds an annual scholarship enabling one aspiring TEFL teacher to take a training course to help them on their way. The TEFL course has been offered in a different place each year: Seville, Playa del Carmen, Milan, San Francisco and Barcelona. This year, applicants were competing for the opportunity to take a CELTA and a language course close to Suzanne’s home, in the seaside town of Brighton.

All scholarship applicants are assigned a task, involving both a language awareness exercise and a piece of creative writing based around the TEFL course destination. As ever, the standard of the applications that we received was exceptional, and it was a very hard choice. Anna’s entry was original, touching, passionate and relevant, and we would like to congratulate her on her success.

We all loved reading Anna’s piece and hope that you will too.

Congratulations Anna!

6 Weeks in Brighton: – A girl named Su.

We met at a pancake party. That’s what she called it. In fact, it was Pancake Day and us Brits had congregated with our new international friends to celebrate. At home it was an occasion that passed many of us by, however out here it seemed to be an integral part of our cultural heritage.

I’ve been friends with her since then. Her name is Su.

Su made the ideal companion for a culture shocked English teacher embarking on a South Korean sojourn. She was born and bred in the city of Busan. Su is a seaside girl. The lure of other coasts took her to Brighton to learn English, but now back in Busan and educated in the British lingo, Su was on hand to educate me. Whenever I muddled my way through a menu of unrecognisable letters, fearful of ordering live octopus or silkworm, Su was there to ensure the table was filled with soups, dumplings and Korea’s own spicy take on a pancake.

Six months on, the world around me had become more familiar. Coming up the steps of the underground I barely noticed the old lady behind me tugging on the hem of my skirt, fixing a loose thread. Or the tie-dyed puppy in front of me, with it’s teeth wrapped around the strap of my bag. These occurrences had become everyday. I had far more pressing matters. Typhoon Bolaven was forecast to strike in the coming hours and the black clouds were looming over Busan. I was more than a little nervous. However, Su had convinced me that my worries were unfounded. ‘They say it won’t be that bad,’ she had told me over the phone earlier. ‘Sort of like a British summer day.’

‘Anna.’ She waved. She whisked me away from the neon glow of the main streets to a road which was empty, except for one solitary wooden coffee hut. ‘This is my friend Hyong. Introduce yourself,’ she said with wicked encouragement. ‘Jonun Anna immnida! Bangapsamnida!’ Her friend’s eyes lit up at my attempt at basic conversation.’

‘You see, that’s why I learnt English,’ she sighed. ‘I just wanted to be able to talk to people.’ Su and I always ended up discussing our passion for language and affectionately mocking each other’s cultures. Our coffees arrived. ‘Do you have an extra sachet of sugar? Do you know if you are going to use it?’ I asked. ‘No, it’s all yours.’ She gave me the sachet and smirked.

‘That’s what confused me the most when I first arrived in Brighton. I thought I could speak English well. But this British way of speaking, I didn’t know if it was a question or a request or a statement.’ Having confused many non-native speakers with my own convoluted British indirectness, I am sympathetic. I recalled the array of cross-cultural mishaps I have been involved with, or the cause of. One particular with a melon, but that’s a story for another day. It reaffirms to me that the language classroom has to be brought to life. Real life.

She continued, ‘But you’ve just got to let yourself get it wrong. If you want to learn a language you have to open your mind first. ’ She doesn’t know how perfect a soundbite she has whipped out for me. But there is no PR spin behind her statement. It ’ s honest. She’s been through the exhilarating, exhausting, baffling and life changing process of learning another language.

They say that the course of true love never runs smoothly and my own route to becoming infatuated with English was a tumultuous one. In fact, I had to break contact with my native tongue altogether before I returned enamoured , with my tail between my legs. After University, I moved to Germany to become an intern at a cultural organisation. I barely spoke any German, but I threw myself into it.

It wasn’t the shuffling around of verbs that surprised me, or the cases. I knew what I was letting myself in for. However, what blew my mind was getting to understand the true meaning of words. The world became a different place when I spoke German. After that, all the idiosyncrasies of English came to light and I suddenly wanted to go around and tell everyone about grammar and semantics and tenses. I didn’t, instead I decided to become an English teacher.

I think about how learning a language has changed me and influenced the choices I have made in my life. I think about all the people I met because I was able to communicate with them. I look over at Su and think about who she is and who she’s met and the world she has got to know. She may have been born and bred in Busan, but when she speaks English, she is a Brightonian.

She is Su, the girl who used to go to the corner cafe every weekday, and chat to the owner whilst he made her a sarnie.

She is Su, who used to sit on the promenade with her friends, eating mushy peas and cheek biting vinegary chips.

She is Su, who drank a cuppa every morning with her single parent landlady nattering about the unpredictable British weather whilst the kids ran around looking for their thingamajig.

She is Su, whose weekends included pubs, tea rooms and pavilions. Piers, greasy spoons and boutiques. She met hippies, rockers and old ladies sat on benches and Spanish friends who told her to take a Friday afternoon siesta, in preparation for those weekends.

After a year of testing the TEFL waters, I am sure this holiday romance is going to get serious. A CELTA is what I need to make this my future. I imagine that future. I’m back in England, standing in front of classroom full of adults from all around the world. I’ll tell them that they aren’t too old to learn a language. I’ll tell them that they aren’t naturally bad at languages. I’ll tell them my story. And if they still don’t believe it. Well, I’ll tell them about Su.

If you are interested in being considered for future Suzanne Furstner Scholarships, please find more information here: https://www.cactustefl.com/about_us/suzanne_furstner_foundation/

Tags: scholarship, iatefl, efl, course, cactus, learning, tefl, english, tesol, language, celta, england,

Please read about previous Suzanne Furstner Scholarship winners:

Winner of the 2011 Suzanne Furstner Scholarship

Winner of the 2010 Suzanne Furstner Scholarship

Winner of the 2009 Suzanne Furstner Scholarship

Winner of the 2008 Suzanne Furstner Scholarship