I’m back in the classroom learning to speak French in Paris. We are here because of King of the Mountain’s new job.
We have chosen to send our children to a bilingual school; the kids are taught in French and English with the option of learning German or Spanish once competent in the host language.
And, not to be outdone by my children, who in a few months will be gabbling away in French, I have enlisted in French classes.
The last time I was in the classroom learning French was way back in the 80s when I was grappling with verb conjugation, comprehension, essays and dictation for my French O’ level, which I hated. What was the point, I was never really going to use the language. And I didn’t, until now.
There are many options for learning French in Paris. I have chosen to study with Alliance Francias, which is located in the South of Paris, near Montparnasse.
Alliance is a big outfit, with centres around the world and a huge range of classes and workshops, which you can sign up for straight away – once you have completed the placement test.
This test is part conversation, with a tutor, and part written exercise, covering who I am, where I live, why did I like where I lived, how long was I in Paris for.
During our conversation I struggled to form a coherent sentences her polite tres biens disguised the fact I spoke like demented toddler – I go park, I like Paris, I go supermarket.
I was graded A1 pretty much what I expected – back at the bottom illustrating I had retained nothing from 1985.
Living as an expat it is easy to link into Paris’ vibrant, multi-national, multi-ethnic, English speaking expat community and get by knowing a minimal amount of the host language. Google translate is a God send and with Facebook groups and MeetUps, you can find English speaking groups from mums to have coffee with, book clubs, yoga, bootcamps, running groups,gourmet cookery tours. Who needs to learn French!
But what’s the point of living here if I am not going to pick up the French language and culture? Or be able to help the children with a bit of homework.
Learning French in Paris, what are the options?
Firstly invest in a good French/English dictionary and a grammar book and start getting you head round verb conjugation.
I like the Collins French Dictionary and Grammar (Collins Dictionary and Grammar) get a copy and start memorising all those regular and irregular verbs.
FLE Qualite is the French as a Foreign Language Quality label undertaken by three French ministries: the Ministry for Higher Education and Research, the Ministry of Culture and Communication, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Here is a list of their accredited schools.
If sitting in a classroom is not for you, why not consider a boutique school such as French As You Like It who can organise one to one classes.
Local town halls, or Marie have French as a Foreign Language courses.
WICE is an Anglophone organization, which does a whole range of courses including French from beginners to advanced, and has a conversation group. In January I’m trying out their cookery class.
Schools like My French Coach will teach you French in cafés and take you through real life situations to help you learn the language.
There are a number of Meet Up groups such as Parler Parlor where you can get together with French speakers to practise the language. I intend to do this once I can string more than a basic sentence together.
Who knows, maybe when we return Tooting I may almost be fluent.
Other than Alliance Francais, I don’t have personal experience of the other schools mentioned in this post, and I am not making any personal recommendations. This post informs you what type of schools are available. You can visit the schools’ websites to check class times, size, and fees and decide what’s best for you.
(First published 18/12/15)