Where to study French in France?
May 24, 2007 7:32 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I want to spend about 6 months in France learning French intensively. Where should we go to study?

A trawl of the web reveals a wealth of possible schools charging a wide range of prices. We are willing to pay more for somewhere really good but are not sure how to judge between them. Our primary emphasis is on conversation - then reading and finally writing. Some kind of certificate to go for at the end might be useful and in a qualification that had a good level of prestige within France would be best. We are both basic level speakers at present (we would probably be in different classes however) and are willing to be located pretty much anywhere. We are not sure on the extent to which a course based in Paris would give us a wide range of options - we also love Montpelier.

I've looked at related threads on Language Immersion and Studying French but neither helps us directly with this question.
posted by rongorongo to Education (4 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Wow, 6 months is a long time! I just spent two weeks in Aix-en-Provence doing 3 hours of lessons a day and it was exhausting. But great, my confidence in French is much higher.

If I were you I'd focus first on what experience you want to have for six months, and only later on exactly which school you go to. Where do you want to live? City, town, countryside? How much time a day do you want to study? Can you afford private lessons for you and your wife? You mention that you and your wife would be in different classes, but if you think you'd get along I strongly recommend studying together instead, even if it means one person goes more slowly at first.

The school I went to is called IS Aix-en-Provence. My partner and I did private lessons together, which was great because it meant during the lesson you had to work very hard. Group classes there seemed good as well and of course, cheaper. I'd say 2/3 of the students were there to learn French for some job related reason, the other 1/3 were tourists who love France. I think the business is run out of Sweden, the teachers were all native French and the students were from all over. All instruction is in French but the teachers I talked to all spoke enough English to help where necessary.

IS is a member of EAQUALS, some quasi-EU organization of language schools. EAQUALS seems to be about quality control. I certainly wouldn't demand a school be a member to study there, but they may have a good list of schools for you to consider.

Ask about certificates. We were given a formal certificate of completion along with a measure of our level. Levels are standardized in European language instruction from A1 to C2. I'm at B1 after about 24 weeks touristing in France and a year of occasional lessons.

Six months is so long that if it were me, I'd find a place in Paris to live for 6 months and try to find an individual to be my private instructor for 90 minutes a day. The trick is finding someone qualified and well trained; I don't now how to do that. The American Church would be one place to start looking, it's also an expat community center with job postings. If I only had two weeks I'd do something like the school in Aix again, only I'd pick a different part of France for variety. Probably the Loire, maybe the Lot/Dordogne.
posted by Nelson at 8:32 AM on May 24, 2007

I know this place to learn French quite well and would recommend it:


I grew up in this town. As the site says, it is in the Loire Valley - is inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage List, for the quality of its architectural heritage and its outstanding cultural landscape, which illustrate to an exceptional degree the ideals of the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment on western European thought and design.

A lot of the best french wine a food come from this region.

Tours is 50 mns away from Paris by Train (TGV), has maybe 300.000 inhabitants (I think), cheap rent and amazing old apartements and houses downtown.

The Loire Valley is also supposed to be where French is at its purest, reason why the Institute I mentionned is quite popular amongst students from around the world.

Good luck!
posted by Sijeka at 8:54 AM on May 24, 2007

ps - you get a diploma after following courses at this Institute as well.
posted by Sijeka at 8:54 AM on May 24, 2007

David Sedaris did this, and then included stories revolving around his class time in Me Talk Pretty One Day. IIRC, he mentions the name of the school/class on more than one occasion.
posted by thanotopsis at 10:00 AM on May 24, 2007

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