That magical time of year when some of us may be lucky enough to have a break from our usual routine.
But what to do with that time?
There’s internships, volunteering, lazing around at the beach, you name it.
But have you considered using your summer to immerse yourself in French?
Now is the perfect time to get registered for a French summer school program!
Why French Class Is Still the Best
You may really benefit from spending some time in a classroom, especially if you’ve never taken French in school before. Taking a class can create a foundation for you to continue to build on with a variety of other methods and resources. Here are a few more specific benefits of heading to French class this summer.
Personalized, real-time attention from professionals
Professors are trained to teach French to absolute beginners or learners of whatever your level may be. That means you don’t have to worry about things like where to start or how much to practice. They handle that for you. Getting used to the type and frequency of class activities and homework will give you a better idea of how to learn a language independently later on.
Many good French classes leave English at the door. When I first started a French course, the professor introduced herself in French, and we never once spoke English. Sound intimidating? Not at all! A classroom is like an instant immersion bubble where you’ll make rapid progress. Within one class period, we were speaking short sentences and reading simple passages!
New language learning buddies
Some of the best friends I have I met in French class. To this day, we exchange French letters. Being in a class with 30 or so fellow learners makes learning much easier. Your classmates will give you tips and pointers and might even help plug you into speaking groups or clubs.
I’ll talk more about exactly how to find classes later in this post, but chances are that at least some French class is held in your area. At my local community college, for example, an entire semester (four months) of French costs only $200! Not many paid methods can beat that. The challenge, of course, is to find these classes in summer when you have time, but many schools offer summer programs. Worried you’re too old to take classes at your local college? No need! Language classes attract a variety of age groups.
Why Summer Is the Best Time for French Class
Starting or picking up your French in the summer has several advantages.
You may have more time to devote to it
If you’re younger, in college for example, you might have a major that doesn’t allow much time for language learning. Summer is a great time to juggle just one class and a summer job. For those of us beyond college years, whether or not summer’s a better time to learn French depends on circumstances. Teachers might have an easier time taking a class than lifeguards, for example! But if you have a flexible schedule, it still might be worth planning on taking French in summer for the reasons below.
More opportunities for immersion trips are available in the summer
If you’re in the US, especially in the Northeast, all the great French-language attractions in Quebec City are open in the summer (if you saw their winter, you’d know why tourism tapers off). Ditto for Normandy if you’re British. More open activities mean more learning opportunities. For those of you who plan on studying French abroad (see below), field trips to local attractions will likely be an integral part of your curriculum.
Many programs are one to three months long
Not only do a lot of French programs take place in the summer, since that’s when most people have time to devote to them, but the average time of many programs (between one and three months) is really the ideal length of time if you don’t have anything else going on: short enough that you’re not taking time off from life, long enough that you’ll make some real progress.
Finding Summer French Classes Without Going Abroad
This might seem obvious, but you can easily find French classes in your own backyard, and not all are in colleges. Indeed, French is a popular foreign language to study in all English-speaking countries.
Do you have a local Alliance Française?
Like Germany’s Goethe-Institut or the Chinese Confucius Institute, the Alliance Française is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and teaching French language and culture worldwide. Most major cities in the English-speaking world have chapters. Not only do they offer intensive summer programs taught by native speakers, but they host cultural activities and volunteer opportunities.
The first step is to find your local Alliance Française chapter. If you’re in the States, go to Alliances Françaises USA, click on “show chapters by state,” and find the chapter nearest you. On the chapter’s website, info on class schedules and pricing should be clearly marked. The process is similar for other countries.
Looking for French programs for teens? Consider the French Institute in New York
A lot of demand for summer French classes comes from parents looking for programs for their teens. Many organizations offer summer-camp-esque programs where kids can learn French while making new friends. One of the most popular is the summer immersion class for kids aged 11-17 hosted by the French Institute Alliance Française, a New York based non-profit connected with the Alliance Française. Simply click the first link and click “Register Now.”
Are you Canadian? Try MyExplore.ca
Luckily for Canadians, no other English-speaking country offers as many opportunities for English speakers to learn French. All over Anglophone Canada, classes and immersion programs are geared towards encouraging Canada’s official bilingualism.
Explore, offered by the Council of Ministers of Education, is five weeks of intensive immersion available throughout Canada. Canadians are encouraged to meet others and find out about different regions of Canada while learning French. To participate, click on the previous link followed by “Apply Now” and follow the prompts.
British? Check out the Institut Français
If you’re in the UK, you have access to the Institut Français, which is like the Alliance Française except directly funded by the French government. Due to proximity to France, there’s no shortage of French classes with native speakers in Britain. In fact, French is the most studied foreign language in England, which makes sense considering historical ties between the countries.
To enroll in a summer course, click the previous link and click “Group Courses.” Now choose “Summer term courses” on the left and note the price of the course you want to take. On the left, click “How to Enrol” and complete the form (or take the online test).
Working this summer? Get your workplace involved
If you work for a large company, maybe you could sell your bosses on the value of language training. Companies like Berlitz have options for teaching languages to employees who work or have contacts abroad. They offer the advantage of very practical French, thereby getting you up to speed fast.
Want a challenge? Try intensive summer French at your local university
I highly recommend this if you have time to spare. Basically, some colleges offer intensive French in their summer semester, which can consist of two semesters in about two months! You’ll make rapid progress, but be prepared to be in class four hours a day, with at least two hours of homework afterwards. If you’re up for the challenge, you can meet with other dedicated learners in a small class setting.
Going Abroad to Learn French This Summer
If you want to go the extra mile, many universities and cultural institutions in France and other French-speaking areas offer affordable programs to learners. Some of these services are only open to immigrants, but luckily, many schools also offer similar services to international students who need a helping hand with their French. But where to start looking?
Start your search with CampusFrance
CampusFrance is a great directory of French classes and degree programs open to foreigners. Depending on the country you’re from, you may apply for programs directly through university websites, but CampusFrance groups all the programs you’re looking for. Once registered, you can narrow your search to include only French as a second language classes.
The CampusFrance site is large and offers many services depending on the level and type of program you’re seeking. If you want to actually register for a course, click “Sign in” on the right and “Create your personal space ‘My Campus France.'” The site will guide you through the rest. In my experience, it’s very straightforward!
Okay, so let’s say we’re on the CampusFrance website and want to find a summer program in France. Luckily, this is a popular study option, and CampusFrance provides a comprehensive directory of programs. On the home page, check out the pull-down menu under “Prepare for Your Stay,” then select “Learn French in France.” From there, you can scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the directory.
72 programs found! Now let’s narrow our search, so on the left check “Beginner” and “Summer.” Now you should see 19 programs to choose from. Let’s check out “French courses in Montpellier – Summer Campus.”
Montpellier, being in southern France, is an ideal summer getaway! Under “Pedagogical content and organization” we see that the Institut Européen de Français offers 2-to-4-week courses from April to October. Extremely flexible! Now click on “Registration and Contact” and they direct us to head to the link above. On the Institut Européen website, click “Registration” and follow the prompts. This is just one CampusFrance search session. You can tweak results based on time and difficulty.
An alternative for teens who want to learn abroad is the French courses for teenagers offered the by the CIA (Centre International d’Antibes). After clicking the link, scroll down and click on the city where your teen wants to stay. The site will walk you through the rest.
Curious about Quebec? Try Laval’s summer program
It’s a shame more American French learners don’t pay attention to Quebec. Heck, those of us in the North are more likely to encounter French Canadians than French people! Some people say Montreal’s the best city to visit for learners, but it might be too tempting to revert to English in this bilingual mecca.
For that reason, you may want to check out the intensive courses at the Université Laval in Quebec City. To get set up, click on the “intensive courses” link above and click “Registration and Payment” followed by “I want to take a non-credit programme in French as a Foreign Language,” and follow the instructions. Spend a summer learning French while immersing yourself in one of North America’s most unique cities for probably a fraction of what it’d cost to go to France.
An alternative to touristy Quebec City is the French as a Second Language summer program at the Université de Moncton in bilingual Moncton, New Brunswick. Registration couldn’t be easier. After clicking the previous link, click “Register Now” and fill out the online form.
Finally, Edu-Inter’s French summer camps for teenagers is a great alternative option for teens who want to learn in Quebec City. You can follow the prompts on the site to register or get advice.
Want French immersion down under? Try New Caledonia
Aussie learners don’t have to go all the way to France to spend a summer in French immersion. CISaustralia offers a course in January in New Caledonia, a French overseas territory off the coast of Australia. You’ll take small, personalized classes on a beautiful island where English is very limited. Simply click on the January in New Caledonia link, click “Apply Now” in the top right, and follow the prompts. This is a great opportunity for young Australians, but it’s only open to current university students.
The rest of us can try CREIPAC, the Centre de Rencontres et d’Échanges Internationaux du Pacifique, a New Caledonia based organization that promotes French in the Pacific region. To see about taking an intensive course, click on the previous link, scroll down and click on “More information about courses,” then scroll to “Intensive Course for Adults.” You can inquire about course offerings at the email address provided.
French Summer Classes Give You a Solid Foundation
Whether you want to go halfway around the world or stay closer to home, there’s a program out there for you.
It’s never too late to take French classes.
And let’s face it. Unless you’re learning French while living in France, spending some time in a classroom is probably going to happen anyway, so you might as well make it a memorable experience.
A few weeks to three months over the summer isn’t a huge commitment timewise, but the progress you’ll make will be huge.
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