Do you have a passion for languages and language learning?
Do you love discovering new ways to learn English, even if you’ve been learning for years?
Then I think you’ll love Fabienne’s story. Fabienne teaches English, but she’s always looking for new techniques and ideas as well as ways to improve her listening comprehension and learn new words, phrases and slang.
She joined “Movie Club” in February 2023 and I chatted to her about her experiences after 2 months of watching movies with the other club members and working on her listening and speaking skills through film.
The blog post below is based on our audio interview which you can also listen to here.
Over to you Fabienne!
Can you tell us a bit more about where you’re from and your background? And why you’re learning English?
Fabienne : Yeah, of course. I was born in Belgium where English is really a key language. It’s essential to communicate between the different groups because lots of people speak French, the other ones speak Flemish and a minority speaks German. So sometimes they know one another’s language, but sometimes they don’t, especially in companies. But all of them speak English, so it’s a great way to communicate between people.
Cara: Interesting! Yeah, that’s a little bit like Rosa, who I also spoke to, who’s in Switzerland. She’s in the French-speaking part and she speaks Italian and German too. But English is really important just because there’s so many expats. I suppose Belgium is a little bit different because English is a common language that you can you can all use to communicate.
Fabienne: Yes, that’s similar to Switzerland. And now I live in the western part of France where I got married, in the rural and green department of La Mayenne. Nobody knows La Mayenne. It’s in the countryside, but it’s rather pleasant and it borders Normandy and Brittany. The climate is temperate and life is pleasant, comfortable, and quieter compared to Paris or other places.
Cara: Are there many opportunities to speak English in La Mayenne?
Fabienne: Well because I graduated at university as a translator, I became a teacher when I came here. So I have been teaching French to international students and English to French people, especially adults lately. And so I have always looked for opportunities to meet English-speaking people. And there are English-speaking people here in La Mayenne. They like they like it here, especially the people who have horses or pets. They love the way of life. And also sometimes, because it’s not far from Le Mans (famous for its “24 Heures duMans” race), they love cars, classic cars. Some of them make a living here, some of them like to stay here.
Cara: It’s true that there are a lot of English speakers in the west of France.
Fabienne: So indeed there are quite a lot of opportunities. Not so many opportunities compared to Normandy or Brittany, but quite a lot as well. Also you can buy, well, I don’t know if it’s still true, but you can buy mansions, beautiful houses for a reasonable price and all that helps, I think. And now we have so many opportunities on the web, but before I met lots of people face to face and we became friends sometimes, or sometimes I taught them French when they had just arrived.
Cara: Great. Okay. So you have opportunities through your job and also where you live to interact in English. Okay, well let’s talk a little bit more then about “Movie Club”, which you have been in for two months. Can you tell us a bit about what it is in your own words?
Fabienne: Yes. So I just wanted to add that as a teacher, I’m also a student forever. And I’m always on the lookout for new gripping ideas for myself, for my students. You know, like quizzes or talks or articles. And I thought, oh the Leo listening Movie Club, why not? Of course, if you like the cinema, it’s a great opportunity to learn more about films and also to interact with other people.
Cara: Great. Okay. Well, I’m glad it’s been useful for you as a learner and as a teacher. So can you maybe talk a bit more about how we interact, what types of things we’ve discussed?
Fabienne: Yes. So so when I joined I wanted to learn more vocabulary, slang, phrases and continue improving my listening comprehension as a non-native English teacher. And so we chose fantastic films in my opinion by Clint Eastwood. So the first one was “The Mule” and the second one was “Invictus”. I had seen the films before, but I have learned a lot. For example, in the first week we choose a film we and then we had to answer different questions related to that movie. In the second week it was particularly interesting too, because we had dictations to do. I think that really helps us to improve our listening comprehension. Or at least understand how it works. How do people speak the way they speak fast in everyday life, and also in films or songs? In the third week it was challenging, but also really worthwhile – we had to record our voice, we had to speak about clips with our own words. And I think this is a very good exercise as well to improve everyday speech, not only small talk, but also advanced talk, to discuss great ideas.
Recording your voice to speak about movie clips is a good exercise to improve everyday speech, not only small talk, but also advanced talk, to discuss great ideas.
Cara: I have to say, I really appreciate your contributions in our group on WhatsApp. You’ve shared some really thoughtful reflections about the issues raised by the movies, whether that’s to do with elderly people in the US having to work beyond retirement age or more recently about, Mandela and his attempt to win the Rugby World Cup in 1995. I really appreciate your very thoughtful reflections and all your contributions. Because that is an important part of “Movie Club”. So can you tell me does participating in Movie Club help you feel connected to others?
Fabienne: It did because we had a little group on WhatsApp so we could share our ideas. Well personally I think I would have liked to have Zoom meetings, but I know it’s probably another price and it’s more complete. And I chose the Light version also because I didn’t have much time. So it’s good as well to have the choice between the lighter version or more complete version of “Movie Club”, Premium level.
Cara: Okay. Although you have had the chance this year, because this is new for 2023, we’ve been experimenting with Meetsy so that you can meet with other members of the club for discussions. So I know you’ve had some short discussions with the others.
Fabienne: That was great. We could speak a little bit. I don’t know why Meetsy didn’t really work, but we spoke on WhatsApp so that was okay.
Cara: We’re still figuring out exactly how to make it work. But it’s useful for finding times that suit each other and getting organised. So you mentioned how in “Movie Club” you’re not just making small talk, you’re talking about deeper topics. And sometimes not easy topics, controversial topics sometimes. How do you feel about having these kinds of conversations that are less superficial and are more deep?
Fabienne: I just wanted to add that you also have “Movies on the Run”. I had great fun doing that. Listening to the movie quotes and doing the dictations. I really enjoyed that exercise too.
I had great fun doing your audio course, “Movies on the Run”, listening to the movie quotes and doing the dictations.
Cara: You did the course before joining the club. And when people join this time as well, if you join quickly after enrolment opens on April 11th, you’ll get “Movies on the Run” free. It’s a nice way to prepare for some of the things that we do in the club. It gets you used to doing dictations. How do you feel about the deep topics we discuss?
Fabienne: Well, I think it’s amazing how many topics we can deal with. Because first you just watch the film and you think, okay, there is not much I can say about this film. Or it was just gripping and fascinating or I had a great time, but that’s all. But then for example with Nelson Mandela, I loved the poem that inspired him, Invictus. It’s a Victorian poem and it inspired him, it gave him courage when he was in prison. So I just read a few words, but it inspires us too, I think.
Well, I think it’s amazing how many topics we can deal with when we watch a movie.
Cara: I’ve been writing about “Invictus” this week on LinkedIn and I was feeling really strong emotions coming up every time I think about what Mandela did, what happened to him. In the film “Invictus”, we don’t really see that he was in prison for 27 years under the apartheid regime. We see when he comes out and he starts building the new South Africa around forgiveness and reconciliation. And you think, how can a man who spent 27 years in prison come out and want to forgive the people who put him there? One of the characters in the movie asks himself the question and it’s just incredible what he did. You’re right – there’s so much to talk about. And on the surface, it’s a movie about rugby, which, I don’t know about you, but I’m not really into rugby!
Fabienne: It’s not just a rugby team, it represents the country. This is what Nelson Mandela wanted for them to represent the blacks and the whites together. And to win of course!
Cara: But it’s not so much the fact that they win, it’s where they come from at the start of the movie. There’s just no chance. And so many people hate this rugby team and they hate what they represent. And the way that Mandela holds the vision for the country is no, this rugby team is gonna bring us together and we’re going to win. And against all odds they do. And I mean, it’s a true story, but it sounds like a story from a film.
Fabienne: It’s unbelievable
Cara: Yeah it is! And it gives me so much hope and strength when you see that story. You’re right, it works on so many levels as well.
Fabienne: It would probably help us I suppose if we had very challenging situations, thinking we can do it.
Cara: Yes, exactly. If he can do what he did, then we can too. Definitely. So can you talk a bit about how the club improved your English?
Fabienne: It helps a lot with my listening comprehension. And also I think probably what I have done before (the audio course, “Movies on the Run”) helped a lot as well. And I think I noticed that I have improved a lot. I’m pleased by that because it took me so many years to improve my listening comprehension. Compared to French, English is really challenging, especially because of the word stress, the way people speak and the accents. It’s the opposite! Before we didn’t have so many opportunities either to listen to films in their original version or speak to people about such interesting topics. I was really pleased with myself because of course, it’s challenging, but also it was not too difficult for me. I don’t mean I understood everything a hundred percent, but quite a great deal. And well, of course I keep learning a lot of phrases, slang, and vocabulary. This is never finished, but it’s, it’s great.
The club helps a lot with my listening comprehension and I noticed that I have improved a lot. I’m pleased by that because it took me so many years to improve my listening comprehension!
Cara: Fantastic. That’s a really good result after just two months. But it’s also a sign of your years of learning English and your passion for this language. So, that’s really good. And it’s good that it’s the right level for you, like you say, the right level of challenge, but not too much. Not too hard, not too easy, just right!
Fabienne: Yeah, exactly. And well, you were speaking about people who live in the country, and I thought, oh dear I don’t live in an English-speaking country. Of course, it’s very useful for foreigners who live abroad. But for me, I thought, I don’t live in an English-speaking country, but it helps. It fills a gap.
“Movie Club” helps me even though I don’t live in an English-speaking country.
Cara: That’s fantastic. And what about the best part of movie club? Is there a particular activity or element of the club that you really love?
Fabienne: I really like the dictations. I think it helps you realise the way people speak compared to what you write down. So the dictations and the recordings too when we had to speak with our own words. And I appreciated the questions too. If I had more time in the future, perhaps I would choose the Premium level for a bit more personal feedback related to the recordings to see if it’s okay or if there are mistakes or to get extra speaking practice. That would be possible perhaps in the future if I had more time, but not at the moment. And I really enjoyed speaking about the film’s deep questions and knowing more about it. And also the idea of sharing in a group is good because it’s so hard to learn by yourself. It’s much better with other people. Being part of a group is important.
And also the idea of sharing in a group is good because it’s so hard to learn by yourself. It’s much better with other people. Being part of a group is important.
Cara: So to finish off, if you were to recommend Movie Club to a friend, what would you tell them?
Fabienne: I would say go ahead, do it, especially if they like movies! And you can choose, of course you need to agree with the group, but it’s very nice because you can share the films you like. You can choose the topics. So you are really a part of it. You’re not a passive member. It’s not a traditional course. And also you have some freedom because you can choose between the Light version or the Premium version. And also if you don’t have much time, you can just answer a few questions or you can do more if you wish, but you can organise your own time. If you work, you can do it as well. It’s not like a traditional lessons where you have to be somewhere at a precise time.
You can choose the topics. So you are really a part of it. You’re not a passive member. It’s not a traditional course.
Cara: You can fit it in and like you say, you can always do more. There’s always options. But sometimes you can even just benefit from reading other people’s answers when you haven’t got as much time. Well thank you so much Fabienne, for sharing your thoughts and experiences about “Movie Club”. I really appreciate you being there and you sharing with us. So if other people want to join “Movie Club”, then the time is now as enrolment opens on April the 11th. I look forward to seeing many more of you in the next round of “Movie Club” from May to July. So thank you, Fabienne. Take care.
Want To Participate Actively In The Club And Improve Your Listening Comprehension Too?
“Movie Club” is a supportive and friendly community of movie lovers where you can learn and practice your English in a safe space. The club opens for enrolment three times a year. The next round, May to July, will open in April to new members. Find out more and join us.