French is one of the world’s most beautiful languages, with people from all over the world and every walk of life breathing new life into it every day. Consistent with its background as a romance language, French is a language of love, and those who study it and speak it carry this mindset with them everywhere. Regardless of if you are looking for the passion of bustling Paris, the excitement of wildlife in Madagascar, or the warmth and sunshine in Haiti, there is a French language program abroad that is perfect for you. Say it with us: oui oui, mon ami!
French is one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world with over 80 million native speakers, so it is natural that there are 29 different countries across three continents where French is an official language (not just France!). Therefore, students have their choice of learning French in a more traditional European setting or venturing to Africa, Canada, or the Caribbean to study French abroad. However, three of the most popular countries for French language learning abroad include:
France. As the home of French language, France is the first choice for most French language learners. Whether you are yearning for the loud and passionate Paris or a quainter setting, like Strasbourg or Bordeaux, France offers French language schools for every level and schedule. France is famous for its rich history of artistic innovation, and this romantic and artistic perspective translates into their language greatly. Students who choose to learn French in France will be surrounded by deep pride for their language and culture, and you are guaranteed to come back with a very firm understanding of French.
Belgium. Often overlooked due to its more popular neighbor, Belgium is becoming a popular destination for French language learning, especially for students seeking out a more unique and affordable location. Despite its small size, Belgium is home to over 40 different universities, three official languages, and over 11 million people. It is also one of the most important political locations in the world. As a founding member of the European Union, Belgium hosts several of the EU seats and is home to many international organizations, like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In addition to obtaining firm French language skills and a guaranteed global mindset, students often seek out French language programs Belgium because of its top-performing educational system and budget-friendly cities.
Canada. So you want to learn French abroad, eh? Canada is one of the most diverse and welcoming French-speaking countries, and it also happens to be huge. Most people assume that Canada is barren and covered in a harsh blanket of snow year-round, but this is only true in the very northern parts, where practically no one lives. Most Canadian cities are bustling multicultural centers with large universities and hundreds of thousands of people, surrounded by snow-capped mountains or pristine lakes. The people of Canada are known as some of the friendliest and relaxed French-speakers, so those who choose French language courses in Canada will have no problems assimilating and quickly learning the language.
French Language Programs
Since French is such a widely spoken language all over the world, there are an unlimited amount of ways to study French abroad. Whether you prefer a quiet classroom setting or a large university with students from all over the world, there is a French language learning opportunity out there to fit your needs.
University Courses. Definitely the most popular way to take French language courses abroad is through a university. By enrolling in a large international university, language students will have the option to take many different types of classes and create a full understanding of both the language and culture of their French-speaking destination. Intensive French language programs at a university usually include the regular grammar classes as well as art, history, politics, and humanities classes taught in French. Having a broad range of courses like this helps students learn French in many different settings, ultimately creating a very well-rounded knowledge of the language.
Private French Language Schools. Considering the importance of French on a global scale, private French language schools have been gaining popularity in recent years. The individualized curriculum, more flexible schedule, and oftentimes more affordable cost make them the natural fit for students, professionals, and even families. French language schools focus on helping students to learn the language as quickly and fully as possible, so packaged programs frequently include cultural excursions, history and cooking classes, and other outside activities.
Tips for Gaining French Fluency
Becoming fluent in any language takes hard work, a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone, and some time. There is no getting around any of these if you want to truly delve into the French language. Learning French abroad (or at home) will not be a quick or easy process. That being said, there are some other factors to consider during French language learning:
Most French-speaking people are extremely proud of their language and culture, sometimes giving them a reputation of automatically disliking non-French speakers. While this is not always the case, someone who is looking to quickly gain fluency in French can use this to their advantage. Having the people around you refuse to speak to you in any language but French will force you to adapt and pick up the language faster. This is not the case in many other cultures, so instead of viewing the French-only mindset as rude or close-minded, try to appreciate the language and the benefits full immersion will give you.
Beyond just surrounding yourself with only French speakers, get involved in anything and everything you can to really boost your French language learning. Whether taking art history classes in Paris, learning a traditional dance in Haiti, or dogsledding in Quebec, anything you can do to learn more vocabulary and practice with locals is going to help you in the long run. Not to mention, you will also learn important things about their culture AND have fun doing a unique activity! This mindset extends into your type of living situation as well, and for those looking to really become fluent in French, the best thing you can do is to live in a homestay during your French language program abroad. Homestays are a guaranteed way to become immersed, constantly practice your French with locals, and learn more about the customs, habits, and typical lifestyles of the culture you are living in.
Benefits & Challenges
Depending on the type of French language courses you choose and your goals in taking your French language learning abroad, there are both benefits and challenges you will both enjoy and be faced with. Just remember, learning a new language abroad is not always easy, but the rewards are well worth any challenges you may face.
Hirable Skill. Since French is such a popular and widely spoken global language, having the ability to speak French is an incredibly valuable skill. Whether your goal is to be a translator, an artist, an immigration lawyer, or a CEO, being able to communicate directly with the people you are working with is a huge selling point. Not only that, but you will also understand the cultural nuances of the people you are communicating with, ultimately creating stronger relationships. Who wouldn’t want to hire you?
Growth. Language learning abroad pushes you outside of your comfort zone and makes you bend and adapt to new ways of living and day-to-day communication. This is particularly true with French language programs, especially for those who choose to take French language courses in off-the-beaten-path in parts of Africa or the Caribbean. Not only will you be challenged on a communication-level, but also from a lifestyle and personality perspective.
The Right Dialect. Since it is possible to study French in so many different parts of the world, it can be difficult for language learners if you have previously studied a certain French dialect and are heading to an area that speaks a different one. Be sure to do your research before selecting a location so that the type of French you will be learning will fit your goals.
Many French speakers get a bad reputation as being close-minded and proud, but this overwhelming pride for their language happens for a reason. French is a language of intense love, power, and triumph, and the people who speak it live and breathe this passion. Learning French abroad will take you far beyond strengthening communication skills; it will ultimately bring out your passion, too.