By Miguel Scaccialupo
There are many approaches to second language learning, but few methods produce better results than studying a language in the country where that language is spoken. Daily immersion in language and culture is the key to gaining real proficiency in any language. So where better to learn the French language than in France itself! France is a fascinating and diverse country with an astonishingly rich cultural heritage and simply fantastic food!
Learning a language in the country where it is spoken is easier and more efficient, any invariably produces better outcomes. Learners become intimately acqauinted with a people and their culture, as well as their language. Language learning involves much more than simply memorising grammatical structures and vocabulary – genuine fluency involves learning to communicate with the people that speak the language. By speaking and listening to native French speakers in authentic real-life situations daily, you learn how to think and behave in French.
French language schools are found throughout France, from Paris in the north to Nice in the south, and choice of location is an important factor in deciding which language school to attend. In the process of acquiring real language fluency, time spent outside the language classroom is as at least as important as time spent in class. In larger cities, language programs frequently emphasise amenities and activities but, depending on overall class sizes, may neglect individual student needs. While there may be no shortage of cultural activities and museum visits in large cities such as Paris, Lyon or Marseille, more intimate cultural experiences are typically found in smaller towns and villages. It is also much easier to fall back on speaking English in larger cities, which of course defeats your original purpose entirely!
The type of French language program you choose will of be determined in large part by your particular needs. There are many different types of program offered by language schools in France, including general French, French for business, French for academic studies, and French for art courses, music, design and culinary arts.
Whichever program you opt for, there are several characteristics to look for which are shared by all quality programs: flexible, communicative teaching methodologies, a friendly atmosphere, personal attention, enthusiastic and qualified teachers, and small class sizes. Depending on your requirements, the program should also provide a language qualification recognised by national and international colleges and universities.
In summary, to get the most out of a French language program in France, seek out language schools with qualified native-speaking teachers, small groups and programs providing ample opportunity for individual student attention. Excursions and other extra-curricular activities are all important elements in a cultural program, but such activities should not substitute for genuine language learning which always occurs best in smaller, more intimate contexts. Whatever happens during your time in France, the most important objective is of course that you thoroughly enjoy your learning experience! When all is said and done, you will learn much more much faster if you are happy with your program and enjoying yourself!