success story

Success Story Leigh from New Zealand – How coming to alpha.b changed their life

A new section about our very own success story will be on our blog each month.

Some former students from alpha.b French school now live and work in France and they wanted to share with you how coming to alpha.b changed their life !

So if you dream about changing your life, if you are wondering if a French course abroad can help you, maybe their testimonials can help you answer this question with the affirmative.

This month, we will talk to Leigh, who came to alpha.b twice before moving to France.

Tell us about you:
I’m Leigh, I’m 20, from New Zealand and I teach English at a primary and maternelle school in Castres, a medium-sized town an hour away from Toulouse. My interests include dance, writing, photography and French!

When did you start learning French?
I started learning French in high school in New Zealand, at 14 years old. In fact, I was never planning on taking French. If I was to choose a language at the time, it was going to be Spanish. But my school didn’t offer Spanish, and I was never going to take it seriously. I now do not regret taking French in high school, because look where I ended up with it! Some amazing international friends, a wider perspective of cultural understanding and my favourite is translating between English and French. An experience I would not have had if I had given up earlier. It gives me a sense of joy and achievement. It was never always easy, and you do get moments where you want to give up.

Did you always dream of coming/living in France?
When you live in New Zealand, which is so far away from the rest of the world, you always dream about travelling. I really fell in love with France, the language and the culture, when I came to France in 2015 with my high school class when I was just 15 years old. We spent a week in Nice learning French at Alpha B, then one week touring Paris. For me, France is the only place I want to be for now.

Why do you think it is important to learn French in immersion rather than in your own country?
I believe it is very important when learning a language, to spend some time where that language is used everyday. You pick up things in the language that you could never have in the classroom or in your own country. Familiar language, the way to talk to children and adults, and putting into practice everything you already know. I may not be fluent in my knowledge of words, however everything I already know, and I can say it fluently and don’t have to think before I speak it! It just comes naturally now.


How long did you stay at alpha.b ? What was your level when you arrived?
I have been to alpha.b twice now; one week in 2015 with my school, and eight weeks in 2019 doing the French Intensive Course over summer. My level when I arrived was very early stages of B1. Now I’m very confident in what I know, so much so that I am at a high B1 level, almost B2. I speak fluently, however I still miss a few vocabulary words which will come in time! I have recently broken the barrier that had me translating as-I-hear French straight into English. It’s exhausting, and I never thought I’d break it. But I’m glad I didn’t give up!

How did it help you for your actual life in France?
Going to alpha.b those eight weeks before starting my job and life here, helped me become better at communicating my thoughts, ideas and opinions. Every week we touched on the subjunctive, which in turn really helped me use it when talking to the children. We touched on the plus-que-parfait in one brief lesson, and I now use it frequently!
I definitely felt the difference from when I arrived to when I left. The intensive course gave me an understanding of French culture and also gave me the opportunity to talk in a comfortable environment. The teachers were happy to help correct you, and take the time to listen even if you forgot a word or two! This massively helped my confidence. And there are some words that I learned which I hear often, and before I would not have known what they meant. I’m grateful to have spent time in the school before going into employment in a school where only three people speak English.
My skills in French were stronger with writing and reading than listening and speaking. Now my speaking and listening is the strongest it has ever been. When you live in a country where your second language is used, it’s much more useful to know how to speak it properly. Alpha-B helped with this for me.

Tell us about your life in France now, what do you do?

Since my course in Nice over summer, I have been teaching primary school and preschoolers English since September 2019. I get to speak French everyday, but also give them the opportunity to learning English which I think is going to benefit each and everyone of them in their future.

Where do you live?

success story
I live in Castres, which is a medium sized town one hour from Toulouse, known for rugby. Very convenient since I am from New Zealand, which is always a good conversation starter. In Castres, not many people speak English, so it’s not as tempting to switch to English because “it’s the easy way out.” It keeps me learning new things everyday, about the language, the people and the culture. Everybody is so relaxed in the smaller towns. Pushes me even further to become fluent, and everyone is so nice and willing to help me to become a better speaker!

What do you like about living in France?
To me, France reminds me a bit of my own country. With the weather, the people I meet, and how relaxed the town I live with is, compared to the town I’m from. So for me, there isn’t a lot that I have here that is different, other than the language and the beautiful old buildings. So I like the tranquillity of the city I live in, and that I get to use my second language everyday!

Do you think you will stay in France or go back to your country in the future?
I would love to stay in France for as long as I can! I’m getting the hang of speaking French everyday, and would hate to go home and lose it quicker than I gained it! So I would love to stay and get the real benefit of becoming “an honorary French person” before I even think about going home!

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