How To Learn French Through Study Abroad

by Adrienne Erin

Tips to Learn French Before, During, & After Study Abroad

Going abroad is the reason many students decide to learn French. But, the end of your study abroad program doesn't have to be the end of the language learning process for you. It is more than possible to learn French before, during, and after your study abroad program. If your heart is set on studying abroad and you want to know how to learn French, then we have some specific tips for you!

For those of you who are serious about speaking this romantic language, there are tons of ways to practice before, during, and after your study abroad program! Whether you need to prepare for your semester studying French abroad, shop in a French speaking market today, or keep your days studying in Toulouse or Bordeaux alive back home, these steps will help you learn french for LIFE!

1. Before Going Abroad

Tourist looking on The Louvre
Prepare for a trip to The Louvre with tips for learning French no matter where you are or when the trip may be.

Get a Penpal.

The single best thing to do before studying abroad, hands-down, is getting a penpal. Students connect with penpals after beginning their language studies and can have a year of speaking with a local under their belts before even getting on the plane. Imagine having a friend waiting for you upon arrival. If they are in another city it will create a place to stay and a great resource for visiting the area. Travel together then stay in contact after returning home.

There are websites out there specifically created to connect English speakers who are learning French to French speakers who are learning English -- you don't have to look far! Language partners are the new age form of penpals after all!

Soak in the Media.

One of the easiest, most fluid ways to learn French is simply to inundate your life with it. Listen to French news, watch French movies and TV shows, rock out to French music, and find French websites. The local library likely has a collection of foreign films to rummage through; if not, ask your French professors. At the very least, you can find some French-language tunes on YouTube; try these three favorites to get started: Cœur de Pirate, Camille, and Les Cowboys Fringants.

Take a French Class – And Dive In.

It's one thing to take a French class for academic credit – it's another thing to go above and beyond the course requirements. Participate heavily in class if you really want to learn French, and study like a sponge trying to soak up all the knowledge it can. Collect your favorite words and stay on the lookout for more -- building your French vocabulary is the first step to learning how to speak French. Anything academic will ultimately be beneficial, and help your grade, so go for it! If you're advancing ahead of your class, it doesn't hurt to try testing ahead into a more advanced French class (look at you!).

Arc De Triomphe Paris, France
Arc De Triomphe Paris, France

Don't Miss Out on Opportunities at Your Home University.

The university environment is a bottomless trove of resources for language learning. Many colleges have weekly or even daily French language tables at lunch or dinner, where students of all levels can practice speaking. Some have French film nights, while others even have a French house, society, or the resources to let you start one. All you have to do is ask, search, and contact your fellow students who are also trying to learn French!

2. During Study Abroad

Opt for a Homestay.

Staying in a French household is the best form of language immersion there is. While the experience varies from household to household, many study abroad programs will match you to a great host family that is ready to help you learn French. You'll also learn about their jobs and daily routines, meet their pets, and eat homemade French meals -- talk about learning "French"! 

Use French in ALL Conversations.

Talking to people is a logical way to practice your French, but it can be surprisingly hard to accomplish depending on the program or city you choose. Keep in mind that some study abroad programs do not enforce French-only in their classes – so find one that does! In a bigger city, as soon as some people detect an accent they'll switch to English. It can be frustrating, but don't be afraid to insist on speaking in French for the duration of your study abroad program.

Travel Solo.

More likely than not, you intend to do some traveling during your study abroad program which is great, just don't make it the only objective! Don't go jet-setting every weekend, or at least make it a point to stay in French-speaking places most of the time. Paris is not all there is to see if you are studying French in France – there are many other great cities just begging for a day trip or a short trip. Unless you can find a friend stubbornly committed to speaking only French, try traveling solo. Traveling with a friend, especially someone from an English-speaking country, results in the temptation to switch to English at the slightest hint of tiredness or confusion. But when traveling alone, you'll be forced to strengthen and rely on your own language skills.

3. After Returning Home

The Magic of Skype.

Keep in touch with French-speaking friends from abroad – and not just via Facebook or email. Skype with them. Not only is it more personal than communicating in writing, but you'll get to practice speaking with someone more familiar with French than you. Don't be embarrassed or annoyed by corrections – once out of college and the academic environment, corrections are few and far between, so you can end up making the same mistakes over and over and over.

Find a French Meetup.

This wonderful tool can be found even in small towns. Use websites like Meetup.com to look for one nearby, or start your own if you feel particularly ambitious.

Eiffel Tower, Paris 
Eiffel Tower, Paris 

Now that you know how to learn French, it is time to find a program!

Here are four of the best ways to learn French abroad to get you started on your search:

  1. Attend IAU College located in Aix-en-Provence, Frane
  2. Experience French Language Immersion in Nantes, France with IES Abroad
  3. Spend Summer in Grenoble, France with Boston University Study Abroad
  4. Pack a year's worth of French into a semester of classes with USAC in Pau, France
  5. Commit to a full year of French with AIFS in Paris, France
France, France, France - are there other places to learn French abroad? Why YES! Here are three ways to learn French outside of France:

  1. Take Intensive French Courses in Senegal through the University of Minnesota
  2. Live & Learn French in Monaco with Languages Abroad
  3. Study French in Morocco through AMIDEAST

Not convinced any of these French programs are for you? Don't worry, we have plenty more ways you can learn French abroad. You already know how to learn French, so finding a program will be a piece of cake.

Browse more opportunities to learn French abroad now!