Learning French in France

By: Dennis Cordy

Learning French in France is a great thing to do and I wouldn't want to put you off it for a second. There is perhaps no better way to improve your French than to be surrounded by the language and the sights and sounds of French life.

Paris, for example, is a beautiful city and you can imagine the joys of a French lesson followed by a walk along the Rive Gauche of the Seine, stopping at a riverside cafe for a coffee or a glass of something and just watching the people go by - to my mind it's a marvellous way to pass an hour or two. What about Nice or Cannes? Places rightly renowned for their style and glamour. "Immersion Learning" is one of the current buzz-words when learning French so what better way to immerse yourself than to go to France?

If that's the case, you might ask, why on earth would I suggest that learning French in France might not be the best way?

Well if you've got deep pockets then I'd thoroughly recommend it. As I said there's probably no better way to improve your French. But the important word there is "improve". If you haven't got deep pockets and you're just starting with learning French, I'd have to say there are not only much cheaper ways to learn but ones which, given your situation, are actually better for you, easier and will help you learn French faster.

The drawback with learning French in France if you're just starting out is the pressure you're almost certainly going to put on yourself. Many of us learn French long after we've left school, and we're not all together comfortable with going back into the classroom situation. OK, you'll be surrounded by like-minded individuals and it's going to be a bit different to when you were fifteen, but it's still a classroom.

On top of that, you will have travelled a long way and paid a considerable amount of money to be amongst four, six or eight people you probably haven't met before and who almost certainly all have different levels of French language skills. It can therefore be quite difficult for the teacher to give you adequate attention and you won't be able to get the best out of it. The result is that you might well feel dissatisfied with your progress, you'll put more pressure on yourself and end up trying to study outside of class time when you should be enjoying the many pleasures and beauties of France!

Now if you're thinking of going to France on vacation, don't let me put you off in the least. You'll get on better if you can speak a few words of French, but if you're in one of the larger towns or cities you can probably get by just fine with English. Go, you'll have a great time!

But if you're thinking of learning French in France - and I mean going there specifically to study the French language - I'll offer a small piece of advice if I may, as someone who's been there and done it. Before you invest a thousand dollars there, invest a few dollars - and I mean around $100 - in a good home study course which gives you computer-based exercises, interactive games, written texts and MP3s that you can listen to at your PC or copy to a player to carry around with you.

Do that first, get a bit of a grasp of the basics, then go to France. Trust me, you'll be so much better prepared and you'll enjoy the whole experience so much more. As I said at the start, learning French in France is a great thing to do - a little work before you go can make it the trip of a lifetime.

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