French Listening Practice with Amélie

The movie Amélie or Amélie from Montmartre is a famous display of a poetic vision on French culture by its director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It was released in 2001, with the title Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (= The Wonderful Destiny of Amélie Poulain, in the original French version.)

You can use it to practice and improve your understanding of fast spoken French!

I’m going to show you something that you can do with any French movie or TV show that you like. This can help you a lot! Let’s dive in.

1) Understanding Fast Spoken French with “Amélie” : The Scene
2) Understanding Fast Spoken French with “Amélie” : Full Subtitles
3) Understanding Fast Spoken French with “Amélie” : Vocabulary
4) Understanding Fast Spoken French with “Amélie” : Process

Want all the vocabulary of the lesson ?

1) Understanding Fast Spoken French with “Amélie” : The Scene

First, in the video lesson above, I selected a dialogue scene in the French movie Amélie.

It’s a scene at the café, with a few characters:

  • Amélie as une serveuse (= a waitress)
  • Gina who is sa collègue (= her coworker), currently giving a neck massage to a patron
  • Madame Suzanne, la patronne (= the boss)
  • Hipolito, un écrivain raté (= a failed writer) and un habitué (= a regular, a patron)

Written French abbreviations:

  • Madame = “Mme” (= Mrs.)
  • Monsieur = “M.” (= Mr.)
  • Mademoiselle = “Mlle” (= Miss)
  • Mesdames = “Mmes” (= Mrs. in the plural)
  • Messieurs = “MM.” (= Mr. in the plural)

2) Understanding Fast Spoken French with “Amélie” : Full Subtitles

Here are the subtitles that we added to the scene, in one go:

Et votre livre, sinon… ? C’est une histoire d’amour?
And your book, by the way…? It’s a love story?

Non, c’est… l’histoire d’un type qui écrit son journal.
No, it’s… the story of a guy who writes his journal

Seulement au lieu d’écrire au fur et à mesure ce qu’il lui arrive,
Except, instead of writing every day what’s happening to him,

…il écrit à l’avance la version catastrophe de ce qu’il pourrait lui arriver.
He’s writing in advance the catastrophic version of what could happen to him

Du coup, ça le déprime, et donc…
So he gets depressed, and so…

Il fait rien.
He doesn’t do anything.

Bref, en gros, c’est l’histoire d’un type qui fait rien !
So basically, it’s a story about a guy who does nothing.

Tenez, Mme Suzanne, je vais vous dédicacer le manuscrit qu’ils m’ont envoyé.
Here, Mrs Suzanne, I’m going to sign you the manuscript they sent me back.

C’est ça, il vous dédicace son manuscrit, et vous, vous passez l’éponge sur son ardoise !
Yeah, that’s it, he’s going to sign you his manuscript, and you’re going to erase his tab!

Ah, j’échange ses chefs-d’œuvre contre mes hors-d’œuvre. Allez ! C’est du sponsoring.
Ah, I’m trading his masterpieces for my hors-d’oeuvres. Come on! That’s sponsoring.

3) Understanding Fast Spoken French with “Amélie” : Vocabulary

Let’s review some of the vocabulary that they use in the scene:

Short expressions to make your French flow better:

  • Du coup (= Therefore, As a consequence), a short expression that’s used almost as a filler word.
  • En gros (= “In big” = Basically)
  • Bref (= “Short” = In short / Long story short)
  • Au fur et à mesure (= as it goes, bit by bit).

Two “bons mots” (= “a good word”, a witticism) from the scene:

  • Vous, vous passez l’éponge sur son ardoise.
    = You erase his debt. / You pass a sponge on his slate.

→ Use of La reprise (“Vous, vous…” = As for you, you…), and fun play on both physical and metaphorical meanings of passer l’éponge” (= pass a sponge / forgive) and son ardoise” (= his slate / his tab at the café.)

  • Allez ! J’échange ses chefs-d’œuvre contre mes hors-d’œuvre.
    = All right! I’m trading his masterpieces for my appetizers.

→ Use of Allez ! + fun parallel between un chef-d’œuvre ” (= a masterpiece) and un hors-d’œuvre” (= an appetizer.)

Un chef = a boss, a master, a chief
Hors = Outside, Out of
Une œuvre = work, piece of work
Un chef-d’œuvre, des chefs-d’œuvre = Masterpiece(s) (same pronunciation in plural and singular, the “f” is silent)
Un hors-d’œuvre, des hors-d’œuvre = “Outside the piece” = appetizer (same spelling and pronunciation in singular and plural!)

4) Understanding Fast Spoken French with “Amélie” : Process

In the video lesson above, I lead you into watching the scene five times:

First time: full speed, no subtitles
→ What do you understand?

Second time: 0.75 speed, no subtitles
What more did you catch?

Third time: 0.75 speed, with French subtitles
Which words did you not understand? Look up their translation and write them down.

Fourth time: 0.75 speed, with English subtitles (and French if possible)
What did you misunderstand before? Which translation surprised you?

Fifth time: Normal speed, no subtitles (like the first time!)
Check that you understood everything. Revisit the words you didn’t hear, or the strange pronunciation!

Now that was a few minutes of work, on one scene. But if there’s one thing you should take from this lesson, it’s that you can do that work yourself.

Whenever you take time in your day to practice French, you can take a scene of a French movie or TV show that you like. And break it down, until you’re fully confident in your comprehension and pronunciation.

I made other full lessons about Amélie, and the same exercise with the French Netflix TV show “Call My Agent.”

Click on a link to find your next step towards understanding real spoken French:

À tout de suite.
I’ll see you in the next video!

→ If you enjoyed this lesson (and/or learned something new) – why not share this lesson with a francophile friend? You can talk about it afterwards! You’ll learn much more if you have social support from your friends 🙂

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Join the conversation!

  • Magnifique Géraldine. En fait, c’est nécessaire pour améliorer la compréhension, mais petit à petit on arrive à la solution. Merci beaucoup …

  • Géraldine,

    I love Amélie, its one of my favorite films of all time and this video was just great!

    I did not know that the f in chef d’oeuvre is silent!

    I am on Duolingo and they teach us to pronounce it, like here;

    It makes sense, so if I do hear it pronounce like in des chefs d’oeuvre, then I would instantly know it is plural!

    Also, now that I am here, yesterday it was announced that our forums to discuss these issues on Duolingo are to be shut down.

    But instantly an independent forum ( was set up for all the language learners independent of Duolingo, you might be interested in visiting and contributing there, it could drive traffic to your blog and youtube videos, I know they would love this video on Amélie, it was just wonderful.


  • Excellent! Mille merci et parfait pour mai maintenant…watching Fr Netflix Amélie with no Eng subtitres disponible ;((

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