It’s been a long year at ELC, but we have enjoyed every minute: catching up with our regular students and meeting new ones. In June this year, we created our highly acclaimed (ahem) Youtube channel and sent the ELC message to the whole world and beyond. In December, we had our 2nd Qualiopi audit and were validated to carry on training for another 18 months! Youpee! There will be a new website in the New Year, thanks to our fabulous communications agency, L’Esperluette and more madness on the social networks for you to follow, but for now, it is time for the whole team to hibernate for 2 weeks and re-energise to be on top form for the challenges and the excitement of the New Year.

ELC uses a bit of elbow grease

This month Katie and I had the opportunity to take part in an annual charity event with our friends at #Onet. The objective was for a group to spend the day repainting a women’s shelter.

For me, this meant 8 hours of spilling paint on the floor and on myself while trying to get a minimum on a wall or two. As surprising as this may sound, I had never actually painted a wall before, so it was a great learning experience as well. Some people may say that I still haven’t painted a wall, but at least now I have some experience trying.

Apart from my questionable painting skills, doing something to aid others is a rewarding exercise. There are so many different ways that we can help in the community. I must admit that I don’t help as much as I should, and so having this opportunity was a chance to reflect on the positives of charity work, and how a little effort for us can translate into making the experiences of others a little better. I had a great day, especially as it had three great aspects—I was able to do something helpful, I got the day off work, and I got a free t-shirt. You can’t get much better than that!


Top Trumps

New terms begin with introductions: Hello! How do you do? We’re delighted to meet you! Did you have any trouble finding us? What lovely weather we’re having for the season!

For those of you who don’t know us already, we are ELC: the Dream Team for your English project: be it general English, banking English, legal English or learning enough English to ask a dolphin for directions as you cross the Atlantic.

We’re a small team, but as we say in English, “small is beautiful”. What? You want to know more? Well, here is all you need to know ….

Postcards from the edge of sanity

Ouf! It is getting dangerously hot, isn’t it? And these new spicy hot temperatures are not adapted for our bodies and minds. We have read studies which suggest that in Mexico, there is a 1.5% increase in the number of murders for every degree that the temperature rises! Now, this kind of madness is not something that would affect your favourite English team of course, but on the hottest of days, we have been known (dare I say it) to honk our horn (klaxonner) at a particularly naughty motorist or even …. say a rude word to a bee if we swallow it whilst eating a jam sandwich. And this is why, as France hits its meltiest period, we turn off our smart phones and computers and put ourselves on holiday to recharge. ‘But where are you going?’ we hear you cry! ‘What if we have a particularly sticky present perfect question for you?’



ELC does a 30-day challenge


ELC puts “flexibility” at the heart of its offer by Amy

Ever since I was a little girl, I have been bendy and most of my youth was spent in a strange gymnastic position: as a crab, doing headstands, handstands, cartwheels, back walkovers, front walkovers, ….

At 50 years old, I realise that it would probably be a mistake to attempt any of these again, especially on my own as no-one would be able to rescue me if I got stuck or cartwheeled off a terrasse, BUT …. As I intend to live to the age of 115 and as I intend to be bendy and stretchy to the end, my 30-day challenge is to succeed in doing the splits once again.

 So this is me at the beginning of the challenge.

Objective: full splits with no permanent damage to my social life by the end of September. To be continued … 

Bendy Flexible
Headstand Le poirier
Handstand L’appui renversé
Cartwheel La roue
Back walkover Une souplesse arrière
To get stuck Rester coincer
To do the splits Faire le grand écart



30-day Challenge by Nick

Amy suggested we take a thirty-day challenge to achieve something we had always wanted to do. It was the first day back at work, and I was already exhausted! My holiday had been spent moving everything out of my flat to live permanently in the countryside; coping with a broken water pump and picking up my family – and that was just the first day! For the next month I was running around looking after anything between six and ten people and smoothing the inevitable minor disagreements between teenagers.

My immediate thought was to take the ‘do nothing’ challenge. Doing absolutely nothing at all for thirty days straight called seductively to me. Just take a snap of myself napping every day for a month!

But after a good night’s sleep and the realisation that work had, indeed, started again, it was clear that that was not a viable option, however tempting it may be. Exchanging ideas and seeing the problems and delights of learning a language with my students slowly lit a bulb in my head: learn a language! Languages are both my business and my passion – I speak three fluently and manage to garble a few phrases in two others. One of those two is Spanish, and I decided to put myself to the test and have given myself the challenge of learning Spanish in thirty days. The first three days have flown by in a flurry of excitement, but I can barely say anything more than when I began. I think the real test will be to see if I can keep it up, every day for a month… and how much I’ll learn, of course.

I’ll keep you posted!


30 days of illustrations by Katie

I grew up with a big sister and a big brother who teased (taquiner) me mercilessly…as older siblings (frères et sœurs) do. One of my big brother’s favourite pastimes was to invent stories to terrify me; including tales of how they found me in a turnip field (un champ de navets) when I was a baby and how my twin brother ate too many bananas, turned into (se transformer en) a monkey and escaped to live at the zoo.

Luckily, instead of traumatising me for life, the teasing made me stronger, made me creative and develop a sense of humour. So, Amy and Louis…thank you for that!

One of the stories, which originated from my grandmother and was twisted (tordu) by my brother was the story of a little boy and a cat. The little boy is curious how the cat makes a purring (ronronner) noise when it’s happy, so the cat opens its mouth to show him the machinery inside….that’s where it gets a little dark.

My family still remember this story even years later (my parents were both equally proud and disturbed by my brother’s creativity) so one day, my sister and I decided that it would be a good idea to write it down and illustrate it.

This was a few years ago and unfortunately the project remains unfinished.

All is not lost though, because the 30-day challenge is my opportunity to finally complete our book.

“Peter and the Cat” is not a long story, but we have many more in mind, including the character that Amy and I created: “Louis Zoover and his Magic Hoover”.

If I can work on an illustration every day, we will soon be the new Grimm siblings and I will be able to terrify my own children in turn. What a nice thought, I can’t wait to get started!

My 30-day Sporting Challenge by Daniel

Personal challenges: easy to say, easy to start, easy to stop, easy to forget. The tough part is getting past the start, when you’re very motivated and very serious about your new life-changing decision. Motivation, however, is like a child carrying an ice-cream; sometimes they won’t drop it straight away, sometimes they’ll get half-way across the room and drop it when they see a cookie, and sometimes they’ll ignore it because Peppa Pig is on the TV.

My own history with personal challenges is inconsistent, to be honest. Countless times I’ve declared that it’s time I ate healthier, or will learn to paint, or learn Arabic, or learn programming, or some other amazing idea. Immediately after declaring my intention, however, I quickly pretended I never said it. No witnesses means no accountability!

There have been times, though, when I did something for longer. For example, once I had read about people that would run at least 1 mile (1.6km) a day, every day. Some people had been doing that for years, and the record was about 40 years of running every day. If you could run at least 1 mile every day for a year then they would put your name on a website. “I can do that,” I said to myself, “I want to be on that website,” and hurried to look for my running shoes at the back of the wardrobe. I actually lasted 144 days, running at least a mile a day, many times much more, before the flu and a trip overseas made me stop. I didn’t get my name on that obscure website, but 144 days is still a pretty good effort.

Why am I talking about challenges, though? Well, the holidays are over, and it’s time to start a new year of work. We’re all (hopefully) refreshed and full of energy, and so it’s a great time to declare a new challenge. Not every challenge needs to be a grand adventure though; there’s nothing wrong with choosing a smaller, modest challenge. In fact, small things can lead to big things. My challenges tend to be focused on exercise or sport, and that will continue this year. Because I recently purchased a gym subscription, my 30-day challenge will be to go to the gym at least 5 times a week. I think that’s a good mix of ambitious and modest; not easy, but not impossible.

Let’s see how I go…

Happy New Year, but before you forget 2020 …!

As per the usual tradition, ELC will be presenting its very annoying Quiz of the Year to all its lucky readers. How much do you remember of what happened during the pandemic? What were the main geopolitical hot spots of the year, what happened in the sports industry (not a lot, admittedly), and just what did Kim Kardashian get for her 40th birthday?! Suspense!!

ELC goes green

Amy barks up the wrong tree

I have always loved plants.
When I was an infant child, my mother used to stimulate me by asking me to point to the different species growing around the house whilst I sat in my pushchair. “Where’s the begonia?” she would say, and I would smile sweetly, while thinking “Yes, but do you mean the “begonia semperflorens” or the “begonia coccinea”, mother?”

When I grew up and went to university, my mother bought a Baby Tears plant (or “Soleirolia soleirolii” for those plant lovers among you) and explained to me that she would always know whether I was happy or not at university if the Baby Tears was green and healthy or not. From then on, the Baby Tears became something of an obsession and when I came home during the holidays, one of the first things I would do was to check whether my plant avatar was indeed happy and healthy. If it wasn’t, I would take myself straight down to the local pharmacy for a dose of vitamins and then straight down the pub for some natural fertilizer.

When I met my partner in Marseille, I was living in a flat with morning glory (“Ipomoea nil”) creeping up the outside walls and threatening to come in through the front door, and ivy (“Hedera Helix”) growing up the inside walls and threatening to strangle me as I slept. In spite of my obvious first love for greenery, he still decided to stay.

And now, we are lucky to have our own plant babies. Lili and Lulu, (in human form), the most beautiful flowers of the valley, and, since September this year, 30 olive trees which we will love and care for while we comb their lovely branches for olives this month, for it is harvest month and we are about to make our very first olive oil.

Very proud!

Thoughts from an Italian Garden

In this strange, unsettling year of 2020 where even the most ordinary things have taken on extraordinary dimensions so that we no longer know if we’re living in March, June or November, the simple rules of social living have gone out of the window and we’re not quite sure if it will ever end, I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy the unchanging cycles of the seasons in my garden, here in the south of Italy.

The first lockdown coincided with the advent of spring which meant I had the time to plant and prune as the roses and hydrangeas began to bud. At the same time, the birds started mating and I had to do the hard work of cleaning up after the ravages of winter: of course, my machinery was all seized up after four months of disuse and it took weeks to get the wild grass eliminated and to scrub down the patio and pathways. But the cats followed me around and basked in the sun, a pair of peregrine falcons nested in the camphor tree and little by little, the garden became a mass of green and colour as the scent of wisteria filled the house.

As spring turned to summer and the heat stopped up all desire to work, I took to basking like the cats, or staying late into the night talking with friends, the background sounds of cicadas giving way to the crickets and the occasional night-owl. Colour was everywhere: the bright yellow lantana, the purple South African plant whose name I don’t know, the red, white and pink roses, the bottle brush trees and the clouds of daisies and gaura, with a hundred butterflies flitting through the haze. If it were not for the mosquitoes, it would have been paradise.

Now, as we prepare for another lockdown, it’s autumn, the nights are drawing in and the leaves are falling. The roses are flowering again and in these mild days of an ending October the coral tree dominates the garden with its tall spikes of red flowers. But the nights are growing cold and I need to chop wood and prepare for the winter days ahead.

Many things have changed this year, but as I prepare to cook the mushrooms we picked this afternoon in the forest, some things never change.



Green fingers by Katie

In Yorkshire, I grew up surrounded by green. My family lived next to a wood and our garden was small but abundant with wild flowers, thick grass, invasive ivy and three silver birch trees.
We even had an extra plot of land where my father would show me how to grow all sorts of vegetables like peas, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and we’d often have competitions to grow the highest sunflower.

Moving to Marseille, I realised that I had taken all this greenery for granted and how much I owed to the English weather. I tried to fill my life with plants but little did they know that it was just the beginning of my reign of terror. I shamefully started accumulating pots of soil and dead twigs, unable to throw them out.

Then, when I moved into a new flat with my husband, my mother-in-law bought me a yucca as a house warming gift. She was well aware of my reputation as a notorious plant killer so she told me she had chosen something that needed the least attention possible.
“Maybe this is the one”, I thought to myself. The next day I chose a bright pink pot for “Yuccalanda”, repotted her and lovingly placed her in the corner of my balcony. There she stood for the next few years; through mistrals, rainstorms, scorching summers. Never complaining, just surviving.

I must admit, once she’d accumulated a few spiders, my visits became less and less frequent. (Also, I had a real baby and choices were made.) Until one day, I went out to my balcony to visit her and found that she had given up and wilted. Disappointed in myself, I gave her some water (for old times’ sake) and left her in her corner.

Happily, this wasn’t the end for my tenacious Yucca because the very next month, new leaves were already sprouting. Like a phoenix, but green!

Proof that even when times are tough and space is restricted, life still finds a way and we should never give up hope.

I certainly won’t give up until I’m once again surrounded by green and with Yuccalanda by my side, I can do anything!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

ELC reads some books

Summer is a time I always put aside to catch up on the numerous books that I have wanted to read during the year. I put my subscriptions to newspapers on standby and instead turn to the joys of “real reading”.

On a trip to Book-In-Bar in Aix in July, I was drawn to the recently published “Too Much and Never Enough” by Mary Trump, niece to Donald, and, in spite of my misgivings, decided to buy it.

There is nothing in this book which will make you change your mind about Donald Trump. If you are an avid fan, you won’t read it, if you are not, then you will not suddenly find yourself suddenly sympathetic to the family and the man. There are no state secrets revealed, nor are there any surprises about his personality.

The book is more a chronological account of the Trump family, from Donald’s grandfather who fled Germany so as not to do his military service, to Donald’s father, who used state subsidies to become a highly wealthy (and rather unscrupulous) property-dealer, to the five children, including Mary’s father, Fred who died of a heart attack, aged 42 …

Now a clinical psychologist, Mary Trump describes the lack of empathy in the family which creates the sociopathic behaviour in later life: Fred Senior’s emotional absence creates either complete neurosis in some of his children or the hugely inflated ego that we recognise in Donald.

There is also insight about Trump’s ineptitudes as a businessman and the numerous bankruptcies which occur as a result of his out-of-control spending, his lack of business acumen, his ability to listen to anyone and his over-riding feeling that he is always the most intelligent man in the room.

As daughter of Donald’s “loser brother”, and someone who was written out of the biggest part of the Trump fortune, there is always a little feeling that “Too Much and Never Enough” is revenge for a life of family injustice, but the book is an interesting insight into the dysfunctional and twisted world of the Trumps and it is definitely worth reading.     

By Amy


The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

Over the summer I allowed myself the pleasure of rereading the four Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante back-to-back.

If you are unfamiliar with the books they trace the relationship between the narrator, Elena and her best friend Lila, from their childhood in the years just after the second world war to their late middle age. There are three main reasons why I find them compelling reading: the quality of the writing; the lucid and honest exposition of feeling that bleeds into thought and action; the evocation of Naples as an active participant in the lives of the characters.

Ferrante’s writing is direct, concrete and focused. Her detailing of childhood friendship with its passion, misunderstandings, jealousies and reconciliations is so accurate it makes you feel you are reliving your childhood in a new setting. The directness can be breathtaking, because rooted in physical reality: the concreteness makes you feel emotions physically, the focus allows you to share in the intensity. Greater even than this is her ability to show how deeply childhood is the foundation for future life, and how the insecurities of youth infect the certainties of adulthood. We understand deeply how the ‘brilliant friend’ of childhood becomes the empty parallel of unfulfilment in later life, a blank mirror for the unsuccessful relationships that lurk beneath outward success.

Accompanying this, or rather, omnipresent in this, is the fact of Naples itself, developing as the characters grow up. Like Marseilles, and very few other cities in my experience, Naples is a city that you are forced to relate to, it is never a passive background to people’s lives – it takes an active part in them. In the novels, Naples is at first the simple neighborhood where the girls grow up, with its unspoken rules, its clan-like mentality and grinding poverty; then the changing, broadening perspective as the city opens up with increasing prosperity and hot water; finally it is menacing, a mockery of ambition.

If you have not read the novels, I encourage you to do so.

By Nick


Mo Willem’s Goldilocks and the three dinosaurs.

A small girl learns an important life lesson while trespassing in a suspiciously large house. If you like adventure and chocolate pudding, then this is the book for you. An emotional rollercoaster set in a time when dinosaurs and humans coexist. Packed with highs (Papa Dinosaur’s chair), lows (the brazen youth of today) and mystery (why is one of the dinosaurs Swedish?). All with a simple yet invaluable moral to conclude:Lock your doors!

Julia Donaldson’s A Squash and a Squeeze.

A perfect book to read during a lockdown. A thought-provoking story about an elderly lady living alone, who takes dubious advice from a “wise” old man. You can really sympathise with the old lady in her small house filled with bad mannered farm animals, but don’t worry, the story has a satisfying ending….and no animals were harmed in this book.

By Katie (and Maddie)


In 2016, ELC went through a transformation. Our website was overhauled, our corporate identity revisited with a chic black and gold colour scheme, our business cards were made smooth and tactile, we ventured onto the social networks for the first time ever ….

And all this was made possible under the caring and attentive eye of the team at Esperluette: Naïs, Julie and Magali, three dynamic, creative, pragmatic, customer-focused professionals with a sense of fun, a sense of solidarity and a sense of style.

Whether it is for consulting, events planning, community management, creation and branding, PR or content drafting, they are the Dream Team for you!

And on top of that, they speak English and are trained on a regular basis by Katie!

Happy summer to all! 

Love, Esperluette & ELC


As those of you who read these newssheets avidly will remember, last month, the team at ELC got all creative and began a competition to recreate our favourite works of art.

This month, we will be relieving you from the agony of suspense by revealing the answers. And here they are below:


This is one of the Dutton family’s favourite artists: the inimitable Beryl Cook, a British artist best known for painting flamboyant characters enjoying themselves in pubs and out shopping.

This one was taken on the roof of Katie’s office opposite Onet! 




This rather glum image is Manet’s Bar at the Folies Bergères. Interesting detail here: we drank all the bottles of wine in order to prepare this reconstitution.





This brilliant reconstitution is The Arnolfini Wedding Portrait by Jan Van Eyck. Notice Katie’s pet lamb, Sherbert! 






This uncanny likeness is Arcimboldo’s “Summer”. No vegetables were harmed in the making of this painting! 







No prizes for guessing Andy Warhol’s painting of Marilyn Monroe here. Interesting fact: Katie actually rouged up for this one and almost ended up looking like an Oompa Loompa for life. All for the love of art.





And finally, Yvette Guilbert as painted by Toulouse Lautrec, which I have loved since aged 15 when I saw it in his museum in Albi. Love that pout!


Love, ELC