If you really want to get fluent, at some point you’ll need to learn French immersion-style.
If you are a beginner, learning French through immersion will immediately get you talking and building basic conversation skills.
In fact, being courageous and immersing yourself from Day One may be very helpful for cementing solid language habits and avoiding falling into incorrect language patterns, or the dreaded Franglish.
If you are an intermediate or advanced learner, an extended French immersion course will do you one better. It will turn you into a natural-sounding Francophone, i.e., a genuine speaker of French!
- Why Go Total French Immersion?
- Common Myths About French Immersion Learning
- What to Look for in a French Immersion Course
- Our Recommended French Immersion Courses
Why Go Total French Immersion?
Bonne question (good question)! Learning French through immersion will enrich your connection with the French language and, of course, your language skills. Let’s look at two specific advantages that a French immersion course and experience will give you.
Access to French 24/7
In an immersion environment, you will be speaking, listening and reading in French nearly 100% of the time. It’s one thing to go to a language class. It’s completely different to turn your life into a full-time language class.
In true French immersion, you are not allowed to speak English… with anyone, period. This can be a bit uncomfortable at first, especially for beginners, but that’s the whole point! Never forget that learning a language also means learning to accept and work with discomfort. This pushes you to keep growing.
It’s okay not to know everything, but make sure to ask questions! You can bet that in a Francophone environment you will always have an answer to your comment dit-on… en français (how do you say… in French)? With open ears and an open mind, you will build your vocabulary and improve your pronunciation around the clock, seven days a week!
It’s no secret that immersion is one of the most effective strategies for language acquisition. It’s hard to learn a language in isolation.
When you learn French through immersion, you get quick results in your language progress, even within the span of an hour. It’s quite amazing! You may not notice it at first. However, all of those around you, including teachers and classmates, certainly will.
With these rapid results, you will gradually develop a “French brain,” or the ability to think and speak in French naturally without the French to English translation process, which will in turn give you the ability to speak faster and to follow conversations much more quickly.
Eventually, you will notice that you are even speaking to yourself in French! Over time, you will begin to feel, dream, think and perhaps even experience life as a Francophone would… awesome? Mais oui ! (Oh yes!)
Pretty great advantages, don’t ya think? Despite this, many learners still decide not to invest in immersion courses due to certain prevalent myths. Let’s do some good ol’ language myth-busting!
Common Myths About French Immersion Learning
Myth: “It’s too expensive.”
Truth: Many immersion courses cost the same as regular French-language courses, and as an added bonus, many provide paid work experience following academic courses, so you can make most (if not all) of your money back… while using your French!
You can also opt for an online immersion program (like FluentU, which pairs authentic videos with interactive learning features) or create your own immersion-from-home environment. You’ll get a glimpse of the perks and evaluate whether you want to take a full in-person immersion course.
Myth: “It’s too difficult. I’m only a beginner.”
Truth: Immersion is good for all language levels. For beginners, learning French in an immersion setting develops listening and comprehension. Intermediate and advanced learners, on the other hand, get access to a 100% Francophone environment where they are challenged to speak and express themselves. Although it can prove difficult to adhere to the “100% French” rule, the quick results you get are worth it.
Myth: “I never did this kind of thing in high school, so I can’t now.”
Truth: Never forget that immersion is for anyone and everyone. French immersion courses are abundant at the college/university level (and, increasingly, at the school level as well) but there is also an array of private language schools that provide intensive French immersion courses open to all ages, occupations and nationalities.
So the next time you hear one of these myths, or tell one to yourself, think again!
Let’s now take a look at what elements you should look for in immersion courses in order to ensure you invest your time, money and efforts wisely.
What to Look for in a French Immersion Course
Again, French immersion courses are abundant these days, but the key to a successful immersion experience, one that really “sticks,” is a course that also provides you with a real-life experience of some kind. This means using your French outside of the classroom, which can be accomplished with one or both of the following:
- A family homestay during your immersion course.
- A direct work experience during your course or a work placement following your course.
I consider these the two “make or break” elements because you need to make sure you put your French to practice in real-life situations, either at home with a local host family or at work. So give preference to courses that have one or both of these elements incorporated, as these are what will provide you with an all-around immersion experience (and also lasting memories!).
Attention (Caution): Make sure to research any immersion school or program before dishing out your cash. Keep an eye out for programs that only offer something like two-hour “on-site” language training, as these are simply language courses and not immersion programs. Read the program descriptions thoroughly and ask questions.
Now, let’s take a look at some actual French immersion courses that will get you speaking, thinking and dreaming in French in no time!
Our Recommended French Immersion Courses
Location: Canada (various schools)
Description: Explore is a French-language immersion program offered by the CMEC (Council of Ministers of Education, Canada). You can sign up for full-time spring and summer immersion sessions at accredited Francophone universities, along with homestays at some locations and work placement options following the program. Pick from over 20 locations, ranging from small towns to metropolitan Montreal, to study, live and work in French!
Cost: If you are a Canadian citizen, you may be awarded a bursary that covers the majority of your expenses. You may also be eligible for various travel discounts. If you are not eligible for a bursary, you will be more limited in your choice of institutions and the full price of the program may range from 3,000 to 4,000 CAD, but remember, you can make your money back working!
Location: Quebec City, Canada
Description: Edu-Inter offers comprehensive French immersion courses for teenagers and adults, where you have the option of specializing in various subjects, such as business and music. All courses have mandatory workshops and conferences in French language and culture. The program offers homestays with local families right in Quebec City.
Cost: Prices vary depending on the type and length of course but start at about 200 CAD per week (not including accommodations).
3. The American University of Paris
Location: Paris, France
Description: The American University, an accredited private university in Paris, offers a three-week summer French immersion course. There is no work placement, but if you go to Paris with a working-holiday visa, it should be easy to find work following the course.
During the tourist-heavy summer months, many restaurants and cafés look for bilingual students to work part-time!
Cost: €1,800 (or €3,760 to receive course credit), plus accommodations.
Location: Vichy, France
Description: This program, brought to you by the Alliance Française, offers courses for a variety of learning needs—from academic French, to professional French, to a “super intensive” general language course.
The program is pricey, but can help prepare you for official examinations (DELF/DALF). They even have specialized courses like French and gastronomy and French for seniors.
Homestays with local families are available upon request. The great thing is that courses start the first Monday of each month all year round (except for complete beginners), making it quite flexible for your scheduling needs.
Cost: Around €1,260/week, plus accommodations.
Location: Spa, Belgium and Kerfiac, France
Description: This is a customizable French immersion program with an on-site homestay included. This is the most expensive program on the list, but the school’s small, intensive environment provides the ideal learning opportunity for students who seek a true immersion experience.
Cost: €2,600 to €3,800
French immersion learning, anyone? Sign me up!
Explore your possibilities and never forget that you need to practice, practice and practice in order to build fluency in French.
A French immersion course will put you right on track. So start filling up that piggy bank to save for your French-language adventure.