France has so much to offer visitors that a huge number of French people still choose to holiday in France, as they feel it has everything to offer and think “why leave?” From the culture, style, and fashion of Paris to the sun and beaches of the mediterranean to the surfing beaches of the west coast, the wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and, of course, Champagne, and the breathtaking French Alps, France has something to offer everyone, especially those with a desire to learn French.
You will find language schools all over France, in large cities, in beach towns, on French châteauxs in the centre of France, and nestled amongst the mountains in the Alps.
If, like Coco Chanel, you are more of a city chic than a outdoorsy type, then you should probably start your search for language schools in Paris. As the fashion capital of the world, Paris boasts numerous universities, colleges, and language schools offering a wide range of courses. Culture vultures love Paris for its museums, galleries, concerts, events, and simply wandering through the beautiful streets taking in the sights, smells, and atmosphere.
However, if you are more of a sun seeker, and enjoy nothing more than lounging on a beach in the sunshine, then check out language schools along France’s Mediterranean coast. Antibes, Nice, Montpellier, and Marseille are all home to language schools, and offer individuals the chance to learn a new language and soak up the sun at the same time!
For sports lovers, try French classes with surfing lessons on the side in Biarritz, language lessons with hiking opportunities in the Alps in the summer, or French with skiing in the Alps in the European winter, which lasts from December to April. Both Morzine and Chamonix offer students the chance to ski or snowboard every morning and take French language classes in the afternoon. Follow this up with some après-ski and a dinner with your host family or fellow students and you’ll be tired, but happy, and ready for a good night’s sleep. And then you’ll get to wake up to the French Alpine air and magnificent views once again.
Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne offer budding sommeliers the chance to sample some of the world’s best wine after they have learnt their verb conjugations, and students often say that a glass of wine relaxes them and helps their spoken French. Be careful to only have one or two glasses though; you want to be relaxed, not slurring your French pronunciation that you’ve been working so hard on!
Language Programs in France
So France, as a country, has won you over, but what about the language courses that France has to offer? Of course France’s national language is French, the “language of love.” A beautiful language, when spoken well French can sound almost like a song. So, how do you learn French in France so that you can also speak the language beautifully?
Many types of educational institutions offer language courses in France, including the grandes écoles, language schools, and individual French tutors teaching people in their own home. French people are very proud of their culture and language, and are even more passionate about sharing it.
Most language schools in France offer several different types of language courses. The most popular type of language program in France involves intensive language courses, which consist of 15 to 20 hours of lessons over the course of a week. During these language lessons, students usually study all aspects of the language, including grammatical structures, vocabulary, pronunciation, and anything else their teacher feels they need to know in order to improve their language skills.
If the latter course doesn’t sound intense enough for you, most language schools in France also offer a super intensive course, which can be up to 30 or even 40 hours per week. Sometimes this is solely group-based lessons, but more commonly schools combine group tuition, private tuition and multimedia or language lab activities in this type of course.
Traditionally, language programs in France have been quite grammatical, but, while the grammatical structure of a language remains very important, there has been a shift in some language schools’ styles of teaching to offer a more modern, communicative approach. French teachers, like the majority of the French population, are very proud of their language, heritage, and culture, so they feel passionate about sharing it with their students. In most language courses in France, students also learn about French culture and teachers often use rich media based teaching materials to bring both traditional and modern French culture into the classroom.
Accommodation & Visas
If you are looking for a true immersion experience, then you should also give careful consideration to your accommodation choice. If you have a chatty host family who you eat your meals with, take the time to talk to you in French in the evenings, take you to local events, explain words you don’t understand, and introduce you to “real French family life,” then you will no doubt leave France not only having drastically improved your language skills, but also with a greater understanding of French culture and everyday life.
If you opt for an independent studio apartment, you won’t get the same opportunities to mix with French people outside of the classroom, so this is something that can make a significant difference to your language program in France! If you want some independence, but also the opportunity to meet other students, then apartment or residential accommodation is a popular option. In these housing arrangements, students will often have only French as their common language, creating a good compromise.
Another idea, if you are taking language courses in France for an extended period, is to try both housing options, so that you get the best of both worlds. Most language schools in France offer a choice of host family, apartment, or student residence accommodation, depending on where the school is based and the type of accommodation commonly available in the area.
To study at language schools in France, students from outside of the European Union will need a visa to stay for longer than three months. For shorter stays, students from countries in the Schengen Zone can take language courses in France without obtaining a visa. However, it is best to check with the French Embassy in your home country well in advance, as France is notorious for bogging people down with over-complicated paperwork, so it is a good idea to be prepared! Most language schools in France will offer students help with visa requests or at least provide letters of acceptance so that students can request their visa in good time.
Benefits & Challenges
So, now you have chosen France as your language learning destination and you have a better idea about where you might like to study, which type of course might interest you, and some ideas about accommodation options. Next up: what are the best things about language programs in France?
Students often take a while to adapt to French customs and way of life; however, once these habits have formed, France has a way of trapping you and making you want to stay longer. Many expats start off as French language students and end up settling and spending the rest of their lives in the country!
Geographically, France has a lot to offer: cities, beaches, mountains, lakes, rivers, wine, and of course, culture. However France is also a great place to base yourself to also explore other neighbouring European countries, such as Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Belgium, and the UK.
And as the saying goes, it is better to be prepared, so there are also a couple of things to be aware of before you begin your language courses in France:
The French love complicated paperwork. Language schools in France will probably ask you to complete complicated enrolment forms, and accommodation providers may do the same. If you come into contact with French Embassies or any governmental authorities, then come prepared with originals and copies of any official document you have ever owned!
France is well-known for its great food and wine, and quality of life. But this means that compared to some countries, French businesses, including shops and restaurants, have strict opening times. Most French shops, banks, post offices, and the like will close for two hours somewhere between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. French restaurants often serve lunch 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. only, and open for dinner no earlier than 7 p.m. And, if you want to try and do some shopping on a Sunday afternoon, then good luck! Sundays are sacred as a family day in France, so Sunday opening is strictly regimented, as French love to spend the day as a family taking their time over a long lunch that can go on for hours.
However, these little foibles will become things you come to love about France; so, why not come and experience at least some of what France has to offer and improve your skills in the language of love, while exploring one of the most visited countries in the world!?