Sure, you can recite “Parlez-vous français?”or quote Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast, but do you REALLY know French? Maybe not yet, but you will if you study French in Paris! The prevalence of the French language in modern history has earned it a place as an official language of both the Olympics and the UN. Paris alone receives over 20 million tourists annually, making it one of the most visited cities (read: most loved) in the world. While you can study French abroad in a number of fantastic cities, each one pales in comparison to Paris, a city famous for its art, fashion, food, and more! Language programs in Paris are an opportunity you can’t say Non to.
Language Programs in Paris
According to the French constitution, French is the only official language of France. So, in short, you picked a good language to focus on for your language study in Paris (#highfive). There are a few different types of French language programs in Paris that you can choose from, depending on how much you want to delve into language learning.
Some of local universities, like the Catholic University of Paris, the American Business School of Paris, and the Sorbonne provide a range of French language courses, often as part of larger study abroad programs. Language programs in Paris at local universities, therefore, often vary in length from semester to summer terms. Studying French at a local university will provide students with a great backdrop to get a real taste of French student life. French universities are also great places to take French language courses in Paris because students will be able to meet local students and converse with them in their free time, which will double as extra practice of their newly acquired compétences en français.
French language learning centers or language schools in Paris are a good option if you are looking for a quick and dirty (yet effective) French language program abroad. These are usually easy to find and sign up for, and are typically shorter in duration than university courses. Courses at language schools in Paris will be specifically focused on language acquisition, and teachers will focused solely on teaching students French. French classes may range from four to six hours daily and cover everything from the basics of French grammar and conjugation to the more fun (and tasty) stuff, like learning French cooking vernacular. Extra ambitieux students can also tack on a private tutor alongside their regular class schedule. Intensive French language programs in Paris aren’t easy, but they are powerful in terms of rapid language acquisition.
The typical school year in Paris runs from the beginning of September to mid-June. There is usually a longer break around Christmas and the New Year, and shorter breaks at the beginning of November, for All Saints Day, as well as in February, April, and May. The city of Paris is especially busy year round, due to the high influx of tourists, except for the month of August when it is basically deserted; this is also because the French get a mandated minimum of 30 days vacation time and almost everyone uses their vacation days before the school year starts again. If you want to make sure you can interact with the locals during your language program in Paris, then be sure to avoid the month of August!
Life in Paris
Daily life for language students in Paris will be very exciting. Although many French people speak English (as well as other languages native to neighboring countries), they are very proud when they come upon foreigners who are taking an interest in learning more about their language and culture.
French people enjoy their leisure time, and food plays an integral part in their culture. Breakfast is eaten before work/school, lunch usually lasts an hour and a half, snacks (goûter) or coffee (café) are the perfect after work or school treat to tide you over until 8 p.m., when dinner is typically served. If you are invited out by a local friend, you should not pass up the opportunity! Not only will you learn from the locals, but you will also learn from your surroundings. Traveling from place to place, partaking in any event or social activity, and hearing the people around you speaking in French constantly can be more effective than any ol’ textbook!
Parisians also love to socialize in cafés; no matter the season, outdoor sidewalk seating is a must! More specifically, many of the seats tend to face outward toward the sidewalk and street, which is a perfect opportunity to people watch, observe, and learn more about French customs, nuances, and habits.
When you’re not hitting the books, Paris houses a loooong list of tourist sites and activities to keep you busy, such as movie theaters showing French and international titles, museums (cough LOUVRE cough), concert halls, and many parks. Oh, and a few little things called the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Versailles, and Notre Dame.
Costs & Affordability
Language courses in Paris vary in cost depending on how long you plan to attend and where your courses take place. A two-week language course in Paris will usually cost around $2,000, which may or may not include things like meals, housing, course supplies, and special activities. You should always verify what’s included, or not, beforehand.
Paris is a pricey city to live in, in comparison to more rural areas of France, so you should keep in mind what you can afford when it comes to daily living. For example, an inexpensive meal for two people might cost between $12 and $16. If you are a college or university student, you may be able to use your home school’s tuition to go overseas for language study in Paris, so you should check with your home institution to see if this is possible for you.
Accommodation & Visas
The most immersive accommodation for language program in Paris will no doubt be a homestay. Although you will be able to practice your French skills in the classroom, living with a homestay will give you more opportunities to practice in your free time and while you are at “home.” Host families can vary in size, from a larger family to a single mother, but no matter their size, they have signed up to help you with your language learning so they won’t let you down! Homestays are also a great way to learn the ins and outs of Parisian life. Your homestay family will even be able to give you great recommendations of where to go and when to go to various places and events in Paris; they will basically be a free source of knowledge just for you!
Other types of accommodation provided to language students in Paris are shared apartments or dormitories. These are also fairly immersive, however not as much as homestays. One benefit of these housing arrangements are that you will meet other people your own age and be able to make new friends and explore Paris together. The setback is, if you meet other people who speak your native language then you might not practice French as much! However, some language programs in France will put in place a “language pledge,” in which students from any and all countries vow to only speak the local language throughout the duration of the program.
If you are not a university or college aged student (aka a nontraditional student), you can also ask to have a single room or apartment to yourself. These tend to be pricier, especially in Paris, so you should make sure this is something that you definitely need before committing to the price.
The need for a student visa will depend on your nationality. For example, if you are from the United States and your language program in Paris lasts for less than 90 days, then you will not need a visa. However, if you plan to stay in Paris for longer than 90 days, then a visa is required for all students; although, E.U. and E.E.C. passport holders are exempt from this requirement. All participants should check with their local French consulates and program provider at the beginning of the application process (even before!), so they know the proper requirements. Visa processing can take a minimum of two weeks, and often much longer, so starting early is always the best policy.
Benefits & Challenges
Excited locals. The French are very intelligent and love to teach their language and culture to those who are interested. Once they find out that you are curious to learn more about their lives, they will always help you out during your language studies in Paris.
Many opportunities. The city of Paris is bustling with places to go and people to see. Its public transit system (the Métro and buses) is very well connected, making activities and adventures a cinch!
Smoking. While many recent health laws have made cigarettes more expensive and people more likely to quit, Parisians are still heavy cigarette smokers. This can make some students very uneasy while they are around locals who smoke. Even though this is the case, the recent health codes have allowed for a much more smoke-free city (and country as a whole!)