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The Globetrotter’s Guide to Learning French in Africa

You’ve courageously decided that it’s time for you to get out of your comfort zone and go abroad in your own quest to learn French.

But now you’re left with one big question: where do I go?

Most likely, you’ll begin by considering cities and towns in France. You may also know that Luxembourg, Belgium and Switzerland can be hot spots for French learners, or Canada where you can visit Francophone regions like Montréal or Québec.

Yet, it might surprise you to know that of the many Francophone countries in the world, a very large portion of them come from none other than Africa!

In fact, Africa is the world’s most multilingual continent with UNESCO estimating that there are around 2,000 languages spoken there.

According to L’Organisation internationale de la francophonie (The International Francophone Organization), 55 percent of French speakers live in Africa, making it the continent with the largest number of French speakers.

For French, a language ranked the sixth most widely spoken in the world with over 220 million speakers, this is no small figure.

So now you face another big question: what are your options for learning French in Africa?

We’ll show you three diverse answers that French learners of any level and background will be interested in!

Learn a foreign language with videos

Why Go to Africa to Learn French?

While it would take us a long time to discuss all of Africa’s amazing attributes, here are just a few reasons why the continent is one to put on any French learner’s must-see list!

First, Africa is an extremely diverse continent full of varying climates and landscapes. You can find everything from tropical forests in French-speaking Benin to the Sahara Desert in Algeria. Not to mention other natural wonders across the continent such as the Serengeti, Mount Kilimanjaro and the Nile river!

Second, since so many different countries have French-speaking populations, you have the freedom to choose the country and natural surroundings that interest you. You can also do a bit of traveling around the continent while you’re there, all the while furthering your goal of practicing and learning French.

Finally, Africa offers new and exciting cultural experiences that differ from those of the Western world where perhaps the majority of prospective French learners will consider going first. Why not discover a place that differs enormously from your own country while learning French at the same time?

African Countries That Speak French

More than 20 of the countries in Africa speak French, largely due to France’s vast colonization on the continent.

These include countries such as Algeria, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Morocco, Rwanda, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Tunisia.

Of these countries, Gabon comes in first as the African country with the greatest percentage of French speakers (80 percent) with Mauritius taking second at 72.7 percent and Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal tying for third with 70 percent.

3 Valuable Opportunities to Learn French in Africa

The ways to realize your dream of traveling to Africa and learning French are endless. Below are just a few ideas to get you started!

Don’t forget that you can start your immersion before you go from your own home with FluentU!

FluentU lets you learn French from real-world content like music videos, commercials, news broadcasts, cartoons and inspiring talks.

Since this content is material that native French speakers actually watch regularly, you’ll get the opportunity to learn real French the way it’s spoken in modern life.

One quick look will give you an idea of the diverse content found on FluentU:

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Love the thought of learning French with native materials but afraid you won’t understand what’s being said? FluentU brings authentic French videos within reach of any learner. Interactive captions guide you along the way, so you never miss a word.

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Tap on any word to see a definition, in-context usage examples, audio pronunciation, helpful images and more. For example, if you tap on the word “suit,” then this is what appears on your screen:

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Don’t stop there, though. Use FluentU to actively practice all the vocabulary in any video through word lists, flashcards, quizzes and fun activities like “fill in the blank.”

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As you continue advancing in your French studies, FluentU keeps track of all the grammar and vocabulary that you’ve been learning. It uses your viewed videos and mastered language lessons to recommend more useful videos and give you a 100% personalized experience.

Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes store or Google Play store.

1. Intern in Morocco

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Finding an internship in Morocco can be a great way for anyone with wanderlust to discover Africa and learn French.

For starters, Morocco is located at the northern tip of Africa, making it just a short trip away from Europe. You can go from the popular Moroccan city of Marrakesh to iconic Paris, France in just about four hours. In this way, you can have a truly wide-ranging French immersion experience.

Furthermore, French is widely used in commerce and trade in Morocco, which makes the country of extra-special interest if you want to learn business French or plan to use your French to further your career at some point.

The best part is that finding an internship in Morocco isn’t as difficult as you might think. To get started, check out the many opportunities available through Projects Abroad. These include options for teachers, healthcare professionals and students, human rights workers and many more. So no matter what your job is or where your interests lie, you should be able to find an internship in Morocco that works for you.

As an added bonus, you’ll not only learn French and experience a new culture, but add something great to your resume at the same time while maybe even scoring some college credits out of the deal if you’re still a student!

2. Volunteer in Senegal

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Beyond the obvious benefits of giving back to a community and developing deep connections within the area in which you’re living, volunteer opportunities are usually practical for language learners because most placements will include housing with local host families.

This means you’ll be immersed in the language day in and day out, and will gain a more authentic cultural experience.

In addition to practicing French in daily life, as it’s the main language spoken in Senegal’s commercial industry and will be necessary when communicating during volunteer hours, most opportunities include options for additional French study.

Finally, if that’s not enough to reel you in, Senegal itself offers a rich cultural experience with its numerous famed beaches and celebrated artistic scene, making it an incredibly vibrant place to live.

Projects Abroad is again a great place to look for this type of opportunity. It offers a four-week intensive language program on Senegal’s Saint Louis Island that includes 60 hours of one-on-one classes before beginning your volunteer project.

There are general volunteer opportunities that include working with local children in need, building and renovating houses or teaching English. You’ll also find some of the more specialized internship opportunities similar to the ones in Morocco.

3. Take Language Courses in Côte d’Ivoire

Mariage en tenue traditionel Bété (Centre-Ouest de la Côte d'Ivoire)

If you’re looking to learn French through classes as well as through daily life in a French-speaking country, Côte d’Ivoire is perfect for you as it not only has one of the highest levels of French speakers in Africa but is also home to L’Institut Français de Côte d’Ivoire (The French Institute of the Ivory Coast).

They offer French classes at all language levels and have many different course plans so that you can pick the plan that’s affordable for you and works best with your schedule.

What’s more, they offer all of the exams officially recognized by the French government such as the DELF and the DALF. These are helpful if you plan on proving your French level to a university, future employer or government if staying in a foreign French-speaking country for good.

They even go as far as offering the TEF and the TEFAQ for naturalization purposes in France and Canada.

Besides, you really couldn’t pick a better place to take French classes as Côte d’Ivoire has some of the most beautiful beaches, national forests and natural sites in all of Africa!

 

With French becoming an increasingly important world language, Africa is a great option to explore when considering to move abroad and learn French.

You’ll get the double benefit of experiencing two cultures at once (a mix of French and local culture) and can pick from tons of places to be stationed.

If you’re looking for a unique cultural experience, Africa truly has some of the best opportunities out there!


Camille Turner is an experienced freelance writer and ESL teacher.

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