ELC = English Lady Cyclists?

ELC are proud to announce that we have made a step into a slightly greener world thanks to the cycle paths now dotting the lovely city of Marseille.

With our brand-new bicycles, we are throwing caution to the wind, putting on our best cycling pants, and treating our clients to the sight of our slightly reddened, slightly sweaty faces as we puff and pant up to their offices to impart our knowledge.

Granted, there are times when we are bumper to bumper with a Range Rover on a steep hill and battling for territory at the traffic lights. Granted we have not yet been on our bicycles in the middle of a tornado, we have not been attacked by a giant gabian, nor have we been caught on the Vieux Port as the Marseille rain sweeps us into the murky waters with all the detritus of the day, but we stand firm, we LOVE cycling and will continue to do so until the whole of Marseille is cycling with us!

And what, you might ask, do we like the most? Well, you may ask of course. What we really appreciate is:

  • The wind in our helmets as we whizz down the Corniche past cars stuck in traffic;
  • The fact that, since we started cycling, we haven’t received a single parking fine;
  • The fact that we can now stop for a chat when we see someone we like, or to help a tourist lost in the grittier parts of the city;
  • Our powerful new leg muscles;
  • The Lycra. (Yes, we admit it)

So, if this starts a biking phenomenon, so be it. We are ready for the cycle paths to be filled with fellow ‘cycologists’! 

Orange is the next ELC

ELC are great fans of our client Onet. https://en.groupeonet.com

They are a great team of people and, on top of that, they are highly trained in environmentalism.

Their cleaning branch has a circular economy called “Biogistics” which means that cleaning is done with eco-labelled products, they have a fleet of electric vehicles, they have a quality of life at work project, they control their waste on-site and off-site with numerous recycling bins, and constant reminders to turn off lights and use the stairs instead of the lift (“Thank you Onet”, for our buns of steel!), and best of all they have a Foundation that gives assistance and support to people living in poor housing.

Hence it was that the team at ELC found itself joining our friends to help out at the CHRS in la Valentine, along with students from the Lycée Pastré Grande Bastide. And how delighted we were when we were given the task of repainting a room ORANGE!

Our favourite colour to paint walls (as it is the messiest but also the happiest colour in the rainbow as far as we are concerned.)

It was a hot, stick and dusty day but morale was excellent, and the rooms looked GREAT!

See you next year, Onet Foundation, for more of the same, please!

ELC cleans up

As avid readers of our Blogs and loyal followers of our Facebook page, you will certainly be familiar with ELC’s ecological values. Indeed, we have very recently even bought an electric bicycle in order to leave only a stream of joy and a smile when travelling to and from our dear students’! And it is FUN!

But on Saturday 7thSeptember, we left our bicycles chained up at the office and headed to the spectacular scenery of the Catalan Beach, equipped with rubber gloves, bin bags and a flask of coffee, to clean up. 

The event was organized by the very fabulous Pure Ocean foundation https://www.pure-ocean.orgalong with the Cercle des Nageurs and held simultaneously on the beach, out at sea by eco-friendly sailors, underwater by undefeatable snorkelers and brave souls on the silty bottom of the Vieux Port. 

And by the end of the morning, the following had been collected: 3,800 litres of waste including 402 plastic bottles, 382 cans, 339 plastic bottles and 10,000 cigarette butts.

Now granted, we at ELC were not responsible for the whole of this 3,800 litre haul, but we did find some interesting trinkets on our treasure hunt, notably thousands of little coloured balls which remain a mystery to this day. Any answers would be welcome from fellow eco-warriors. 

See you at the next clean-up!       

ELC invigilates some exams.

Yes indeed. “Invigilates”. Possibly a new word for our dear French students. To “invigilate” is a lovely verb which means to supervise candidates during an exam. And this is precisely what we have been doing this past month. Now qualified to invigilate both TOEIC and BULATS exams, ELC has been striking fear into the hearts of our dear students with 2-hour long exam fests on-line. Just look how terrified everyone looks above!

ELC goes to London.

Yes indeed!

In the interests of being always better for our dear clients, ELC, as fully-fledged members of the TOLES examination network – that’s the Test of Legal English Skills for the lay folk – decided to go to London, to do a course in legal English.

The two-day event took place at the Law Society in Chancery Lane, the equivalent of the French Ordre des Avocats. Even as we exited the tube, we were aware of entering a whole new world. Busy lawyers strode down Chancery lane, their arms full of briefs, concentration furrowing their brows as they went over their pleas … The shops around us were filled with the wigs and gowns of barristers and our heads were immediately filled with scenes from great works such as “In the Name of the Father” and “The Trials of Oscar Wilde” but also films that we actually understood like “A Fish Called Wanda” and “Legally Bond”.

The event was held in the most beautiful of London buildings and the quality of the lecturers was second to none:

Elahe Ghazinoori, director of the law firm EMG Associates, gave an interesting opening speech on how to fireproof your contracts ahead of Brexit – a topic on everyone’s minds this week.

The author, Ken Adams gave a fascinating lecture on modern contract drafting: a move away from archaic terms and towards simpler, clearer texts.

Alex Hamilton, of the company Radiant Law, London, gave an insightful talk into the role of Artificial Intelligence in the legal profession and how we should neither shy away from nor fear new technologies but work hand in hand with it to improve our methods and make us more efficient.

Richard Lackey, international translator, took us through the tricky practice of translating legal terms from one legal jurisdiction to another and The event was closed by Catherine Mason, founding member and director of TOLES Legal, who gave an in-depth look into the mysteries of this excellent exam.

The quality and the professionalism of the seminar was excellent, but I cannot go without mentioning the warmth, the kindness, the intelligence and the wonderful spirit of co-operation between the attendees.

We cannot wait to meet them again at the next conference!

ELC does some sport

Yes indeed.

Something you might not know about teaching English is that it requires flexibility, stamina and excellent core strength.

It might seem that anyone can sit on comfortable chairs day after day, smile wisely and patiently explain the details of the present perfect with a sparkle in the eye. Alas no. Behind the scenes, there is a punishing training schedule worthy of the Foreign Legion.

The properly trained English teacher can leap on a missed particle in a second, correct a mispronounced diphthong without seeming to leave her seat and, in the blink of an eye, catch a falling flip chart as it slides dangerously towards an unsuspecting student’s head.

The improperly trained English teacher is likely to hide quaking behind said flip chart unable to answer a simple question about diachronic and synchronic language patterns. I mean honestly !

The team at ELC is devoted to the Juvenal philosophy of mens sana in corpore sano and wisely participates in a plethora of sports in order to centre on our chakras and be the best we can possibly be for our students.

It was precisely with this spiritual power in mind, that Katie and I entered the Muddy Angel race in Peyrolles this weekend and bathed in mud and bubbles in order to truly be.

And I think you will find that we are all the better for it.

The year was 1066. The event … the Battle of Hastings

The most famous date and the most famous battle in English history. The year that William, Duke of Normandy crossed the Channel and King Harold got a nasty surprise.

At this time, Saxon England didn’t have any firm rules about who became king. Basically, when one king died, the crown passed to anyone who could show they had a claim to it, or to anyone who was quick enough to take it.

When Edward the Confessor died on 5th January 1066, the King’s Council chose Harold Godwinsson as he was a ‘Nice Man’ who claimed that Edward had promised him the throne on his deathbed …

Everything went well for the coronation but then everything started to go pear-shaped.  Another pretender to the throne, William the Bastard, got word of Harold’s coronation and his French blood started to boil. He was NOT a happy Frenchman!

It seems that William had made Harold promise on holy relics, that he would support William in his quest to be King. And now he realised that that naughty Englishman hadn’t been entirely honest…!

No-one really knows whether this was true or not, but we know what happened next … a flaming ball of fire, described by the Anglo-Saxon chronicle at the time as a ‘hairy star’ appeared in the heavens. William was certain that this hairy star was a sign of God’s anger at Harold for breaking his oath and so it was ample authorisation for him to go to war …


… the very next day, he and his Norman army started building an invasion fleet.

Meanwhile, in England, Harold was having a wonderful time as king. His lover for many years had been the beautiful Edith Swan-Neck with whom he had had five sons and two daughters, but to cement his power with the English aristocrats, he decided to marry Ealdgyth, a woman whose brothers were powerful earls in the country.

He would have been better to concentrate on his other family, however. In the summer of 1066, with unfortunate timing, Harold learnt that his brother (who also would have liked to be king) had gone to see the King of Norway (the forth pretender to the throne) and the two had formed an alliance against Harold. The two had already landed their forces in Northumbria and had taken the town of York.

Harold knew that William was poised for attack on the other side of the Channel, but nevertheless, he marched his troops up Britain in record time, killed both men who threatened to take his throne, turned around and jogged all the way back to London where he collected reinforcements, and proceeded to Hastings, taking position on a hill to have the advantage over the Normans.

And so battle commenced.

Now, you will certainly have noticed that the handsome French are riding horses whereas the English are fighting on foot. Harold’s army did have horses … they rode them to battle, but then they tied them up and went into battle on their tired feet. This, it is said, was the beginning of their endings. The English, after their marathon exploit, were not prepared for the force of the Norman horsemen. There were also slight tactical errors when some of the Saxons left their positions at the top of the hill and ran down the hill shouting English insults at the French. Unfortunately, when they reached the bottom, there was no-where left to go except into the arms of the French who chopped them into pieces.

The Battle lasted six hours, and was one of the longest-recorded military encounters in the Middle Ages, but in the end England became Norman. Duke William of Normandy became England’s third king in the tumultuous year of 1066 and his defeated enemy Harold, lay dead on the battlefield with an arrow in his eye … or so we have always thought…!

The earliest recording of the arrow in the eye story has been found in an Italian chronicle written in 1080, but the more likely account of Harold’s death, written only the year after Hastings, is less romantic. According to the “Song of the Battle of Hastings” by Guy, bishop of Amiens, when Williams saw that Harold was still resisting, he handpicked a hit squad and went off to meet him.… four Norman knights tracked Harold down, and overpowered him, the first striking him in the breast, the second cutting off his head, the third putting a lance through his belly and the fourth hacking off his leg (or possibly another appendix if rumours are to be believed).

When William heard of this mutilation, he was horrified and sent home the knight responsible in disgrace.  However, he still took over the country and for 400 years following the Battle of Hastings, the English were subjected to subjugation, famine, ethnic atrocities and French humour.

And this is one of the reasons why we have so many nice French words in English, like to demand (‘exiger’ – you can see the misunderstanding between the two populations!), beef, mutton, pork, etc .. (notice that the meat takes the French names and the animals: cow, sheep, pig, etc … take the Saxon names….)

And so we see that the Bayeux Tapestry gives us 70m of “proof” (slightly modified over the years by seamstresses from France and England) that history can be just anything you care to make it and a lesson to learn for the future. Indeed, in 1940, when German forces had occupied Normandy and the rest of Northern France, and as Hitler was preparing to invade England, a group of scholars were dispatched to investigate what lessons could be learnt from the record of the last successful cross-Channel invasion! Who knows what would have happened to Churchill’s leg if he had made it across?!

Learning : What an adventure?

A recent article in Cognition magazine theorizes that if you haven’t started a new language before the age of 10, there is little to no chance of you ever being fluent. It seems that our grammar-learning abilities are preserved until adulthood (the ripe old age of 17.4!) and then decline steadily from there.

For anyone struggling with the present perfect continuous, this will come as good news. It’s not your fault. It’s nature!

I remember my very first year of French aged 9 (dangerously close to the limit, you might observe) sweating and straining, sucking my pen top until the ink painted lagoons around my lips, desperately trying to retain a list of ten words of vocabulary.

It was lucky that my parents that year, in a desperate measure to open my unworldly brain to other cultures, broke their piggy bank and took my brother and I to France for a four-week camping holiday during which I barely spoke a word, being painfully shy and averse to talking to strangers of any type. However, I was secretly observing every movement, every gesticulation, every pouted pronunciation and apparently, this was enough to liberate something deep within me, making me much less of a dunce the following year.

So, in terms of fundamental similarities, I think immersion is the number one way for anyone to get closer to fluency in another language, and probably why citizens of countries like Aruba, Luxembourg, Singapore and South Africa are much more successful at being polyglot. They all have either complex colonial histories, strong regional loyalties or the cultural influence of nearby superpowers which mean that their populations are forced into listening to and speaking several languages from birth.

According to the results of a vote organized for European Day of Languages, Britain has been revealed to be the most monolingual country in Europe … quite possibly the world. We really are rubbish. Certainly, a part of this stems from a chauvinistic belief that we don’t need any other languages – that shouting in English at waiters in any country is more than enough to get by. Another part of the problem is that we don’t learn grammar at school. We learn spelling so that we spell things like ‘embarrassment’ right (wait, is that two r’s or one? … dammit!). Thus, at the ancient age of 9 when we finally settle down to learn French, German or Spanish and discover conjugation, it’s just too much to handle.

I recollect being absent on the day our French teacher explained the difference between those verbs which took the auxiliary ‘avoir’ and those which took ‘être’ in the passé composé and it took me a whole year to catch up. It just didn’t seem rational for an intelligent nation to have concocted such a rule!

And yet, once you have learnt your ‘er’, ‘ir’ and ‘re’ verbs (and of course the irregulars), once you have mastered the subjunctive and can perform feats of the impossible such as “j’eusse aimé que tu m’eusses reçu hier”, learning French becomes a wonderful voyage of discovery.

English, on the other hand, seems deceptively easy when you first begin to speak. The present simple …. What could be simpler ….? The preterit? …. The same rules again more or less? The future? Just write “will”? I’ll be fluent in days!

And yet no. It is still so rare to find someone who gets it perfectly right. And why is that? Is it the present perfect that makes everything suddenly so complicated? Is it the numerous phrasal verbs that give English-learners the shivers? Is it the musicality of the language that takes us all over the musical spectrum before dive-bombing to a full-stop or is it the tonic accent which gives people away (I note that even Macron, whose English is incredibly passable, still slips up sometimes on where to stress his words) http://urlz.fr/7372

Whatever it is, it is not a reason to give up. English is a language for communication and even if you spell embarrassment with one ‘r’ and put the tonic accent of ‘anchor’ at the end of the word instead of the beginning, you’re still learning a language, you’re opening yourself up to the world, you’re protecting your brain from Alzheimer’s so you’re still a hero to me.

PARTNERSHIP : ELC and the prestigious Barreau de Marseille

ELC is very proud to be supporting the finest lawyers in Marseille and the surrounding area. Every year, we put into place a legal English course of 18 months, covering many fascinating aspects of English common law, including company law, contract law, employment law, intellectual property, tax law, tort, white-collar criminal law, debtors and creditors, negotiable instrument, anti-trust, etc.

 The lessons take place once a month, on the first Tuesday of the month for a duration of three hours and are complemented by a programme of e-learning between lessons, all culminating in the very prestigious TOLES Legal English exam http://www.toleslegal.com

In order to select candidates for our next promotion beginning in June, we are opening up a one-off session on contracts ands remedies at the Maison de l’Avocat, on Friday 25th May.

We are open to lawyers, paralegals, legal secretaries, magistrates and law students but hurry ….. places are limited !

ELC goes out to play

ELC has been specialised in training adults since 2004 and over the years, we have come to understand that no-one really wants to go back to the school bench, learn long tables of verbs, recite dialogues by heart, have chalk thrown at their head and stand in the corner with the Dunce’s cap on….

And so, what we like to do here at ELC is treat adults like adults. Our aim is to partner our clients, have great discussions with our students, swap ideas with some great people and learn and grow together.

However, this does not mean to say that we don’t like to play. On the contrary, we love to play! One of the best ways to learn is when you don’t even realise you’re learning! It makes the process painless and productive, even if a little pain from time to time is good for motivation.

We LOVE our Big Fat Quizzes at the beginning of the year, we love using the lyrics of songs to test vocab (we have even been known to break into song, mid-lesson), we love our themed Taboo games, our Murder Mystery games and our games of Nonsense

And so it was, that in the spirit of gaming and generally having fun, Katie and I decided to go to the Escape Room in rue Paradis this weekend, where we went back in time to the 1940s and the era of the French Connection. And ooh, we did have fun! We were maybe not the sharpest tools in the proverbial shed nor the quickest, but we solved our crime 2 minutes before our heroin lab exploded and we were blown to pieces, so all was good!

We are putting our stamp of approval and can only suggest that our students do it in English (as is possible! How wonderful!)