Recommend a Montreal language experience for a vacation?
July 5, 2022 8:54 AM   Subscribe

It's been years since I've been in Montreal due to the pandemic, and I've spent that time learning French. It's not great but I finished everything Duolingo has. I'd love to spend some time in Montreal for my return and put this language to work. Do you have any suggestions?

Ideally, I'd love something social and immersive, maybe even combined with physical activity or cycling. I really like Montreal (have little interest in continental France) and have fantasized about living there. I don't want to go to there to spend all day in a classroom. An hour or two, sure, but more than that, please, no.

Maybe I can even take a shot at the TEF/TCF (the language test for citizenship)? I don't expect to pass, but it would be nice to know what it's like.

Or should I just:
* walk around and talk to randos (tougher because they'll switch to English)
* volunteer where they'd be grateful for my labor in exchange for some language practice
* maybe drop in on a French-language meet-up
* or something social and low-stakes like a board-gaming meet-up?

Just spitballing right now.
posted by Borborygmus to Travel & Transportation around Montreal, QC (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Any interest in Quebec City? You might have an easier time getting a fully immersive French language experience there since people are less likely to switch to English.

I can highly recommend the YMCA language school French courses (downtown Montreal), although they're somewhat expensive and are also 5 weeks long, which might be too long for a vacation.

I know friends who have had great experiences volunteering at Le Chainon. Not sure how long a commitment they want, but worth contacting them to ask. (Unless you're confident in your ability to write a professional French email, I would recommend writing to them in English; you'll get a better answer that way.)
posted by mekily at 9:11 AM on July 5, 2022 [7 favorites]

I had a good experience volunteering at Sentier Urbain.

There are some good board game cafes in Montreal but I am not sure how difficult it might be to pick up a game with strangers.

For what it's worth, a few years ago I needed to find a volunteer work experience in Montreal (this is how I ultimately ended up volunteering with Sentier Urbain) and I could not get anyone to write me back when I was writing emails in English. I had to start writing emails in French to get any answers.
posted by Jeanne at 9:45 AM on July 5, 2022

> For what it's worth, a few years ago I needed to find a volunteer work experience in Montreal (this is how I ultimately ended up volunteering with Sentier Urbain) and I could not get anyone to write me back when I was writing emails in English. I had to start writing emails in French to get any answers.

Yes, good point, it depends on the organization. For Le Chainon I have the impression that they work with a lot of anglophones so they should be comfortable corresponding in English, but in general it's best to reach out in French.
posted by mekily at 10:27 AM on July 5, 2022

I would recommend doing some formal learning for part of each day or a few times a week, such as a program that is intended to help immigrants to Quebec learn French and then spending your free time putting what you've learned to use. Duolingo and the like do great at setting you up with the basics but a course in Quebecois-specific language will help you put that learning into practice (the accent, in particular, can be a challenge).

In my Duo experience, having completed a full course has put me in a solid intermediate level, so look for classes at that level - though they'll usually test you when you arrive so they can place you appropriately; if they don't they're not worth your money. Sometimes they also offer cultural experiences through the language schools, so it's worth looking for something like that that is specifically intended to help your language learning.

I wouldn't spend your time specifically working toward TEF/TCF (although especially in Montreal/Quebec lots of the available schools will have this focus, since there are so many recent immigrants who need to attain those levels), since you can probably do those tests somewhere near where you currently live and then can spend your time in Montreal enjoying yourself without such pressure.

Also, aim to spend time in the more traditionally Francophone areas of the city. The more central neighbourhoods, such as downtown and around McGill etc, are typically much more default-Anglophone. The Plateau-Mont Royal and Mile End are somewhat more francophone, though you'll likely get a lot of the switching to English you're trying to avoid. Typically, the more east you go, the more francophone the neighbourhood will be and the more west, the more anglophone.

Cycling stuff wise (assuming you mean urban cycling and not recreational long-distance cycling) maybe see if you can do a tour with someone involved in the cycling community in Montreal. Someone who comes to mind is Bartek Komorowski, who does cycle track design. Or else there are a handful of cycle and other tours in French offered on AirBnB. This one looks particularly interesting.
posted by urbanlenny at 10:37 AM on July 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

Def go to Quebec City; I did a 3mo exchange to Montreal and it took months before people stopped switching to English for me because they were 1) busy 2) empathetic to my language struggling. Whereas… as soon as you get out of Montreal and even in touristy area Quebec City they will stick with French.

Google around for language programs and government language programs as there are many.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 3:28 PM on July 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

Maybe climbing? If you haven't done it before you could do the 1/2 day intro followed by the 2 day exterior top rope class (see the bottom of the page under Montreal). After that you could try and meet up with other climbers or maybe you'll have made some friends to climb with. Worst case scenario you can climb/boulder at Allez Up or boulder at Bloc Shop or Cafe Bloc. The climbing gyms tend to be friendly, social spaces.

The problem (as everyone else is noting) is that in Montreal tons of people are bilingual and will switch to English for you if your French isn't great. You'll have to be adamant about sticking to French. If you really want to immerse yourself you should try hanging out in Chicoutimi for a while!
posted by Cuke at 8:12 AM on July 6, 2022

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