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French language immersion schools/experiences

Looking for recommendations please for someone 50 plus.

Posted by
5119 posts

CAVILAM (Alliance Française) in Vichy has the reputation of being very effective, with lots of immersion and students from all over the world. No direct experience, but the foreign students at my university were sent there for the summer before classes started, and all started the year with workable French.
It does skews "student age" but seems to cater for all ages.
Edit: looks like they have a dedicated program for 50+

Posted by
292 posts

I think the Alliance Française is probably one of your best options; it ensures a certain standard of education and gives you options as to where you can go. If you stop and start up later, you'll have a stronger notion of your current level. You'll also more likely get a wider range of ages as opposed to the FLE (French for speakers of other languages) department of a university. Here are the locations in France. Technically you could also go to one of these anywhere in the world where there is an Alliance Française, but of course the immersion experience will be best somewhere with a significant population of French speakers outside of the school!

Whatever you do, I think it's best to start with something structured, particularly if you have limited time. While you will absolutely make more progress when you "have" to use language, you're more likely to make progress if you have instruction AND immersion happening. People often talk about this idea of just being dropped into a culture and how they're sure they'd pick up the language just like that, but unless you'll be somewhere for a long time, it's less likely to happen that way. Of course, everyone's a slightly different language learner, so if you've already learned another language, your results may vary!

Posted by
9171 posts

Looking at the Alliance Française map Amy provided is a good start. Keep in mind that Aix-en-Provence and Montpellier, among others, are university cities. Places such as the AF forces you to interact on a daily basis with locals if you want to est and sleep. Whereas, some places offering short courses with room and board included, interaction with locals is limited. Obtaining some structure as you acquire the language helps broaden your emotional expressions beyond “oh la vache.”

Posted by
557 posts

I know a number of people who like CLE in Tours; they have home stay options with half board with French families. I've also heard good things about the Institute de Francais in Villefranche-sur-Mer. I'm a member of the Alliance Francais in the US, and their affiliates are of a high, well known standard. Just be wary of specialized schools that market to college students, as I can imagine you know from your post, as with many the students are not serious.

Posted by
292 posts

Well, it depends on your level in the language going in.

Totally agree! OP doesn't mention previous language experience, so I assumed limited experience, beyond perhaps studying in school with a gap in time and studies between then and now. For most individuals in that situation, it's going to be very helpful to acquire a foundation that they can then practice "in the wild," so to speak.

Posted by
782 posts

I attended the Institut de Francais in Villefranche sur Mer about 10 years ago, I was in my mid-40's. I did the month long program using their private studio apartment option which was about 5 minutes-10 minutes walk to the school. It was long days 5 days a week, with breakfast and lunch included, but you must speak French all day including meals. At lunch, a teacher sits with you and engages in light conversation, gauging your level.

On the first day, you have a written and verbal test. The verbal is a conversation with a teacher; mine used a cartoony like story of day to day activities and they asked me to describe what is happening in each panel, i.e., the man wakes up, has a shower, eats breakfast, etc etc. We were placed in groups depending on the outcome. I was in the beginner group as I had not really reviewed any materials prior to attendance.

The learning was quite rote for part of the day in my class, but in discussion with others during break, in the not allowed English, they had more open conversations. During the week, there was always a more conversational discussion about day to day French, like making the phone reservation for the restaurant, then arriving a the restaurant, to getting the bill, etc. There was a language lab, using headphones and you had to filling the blanks of what was on the screen or in the audio, the teacher could listen in to ensure you were not lagging behind or sleeping. The teacher was at the head of the room, so could see us all. Classes were small with maybe 8 of us in a tiny classroom. For some of the conversational classes we joined with other groups.

There were some included outings, for instance, we went to St Paul de Vence (I think that was it) and perhaps another day long outing that I cannot remember.

It was a fabulous experience and I fell in love with the town of Villefranche and have returned numerous times since then. The owner of Chez Betty (Betty), who is ageless, corrects my French when I returned a couple of years ago; I commented that the bar area was new and she corrected my feminine/masculine. A few of us hung around together going for meals or drinks. Others kept to themselves during their time there.

I would do it again, but I would do some review prior to that.

I have also attended a month long more touristy language training in Aix-en-Provence through AHI travel, through my University of Alberta Alumni association. The group was varied, mostly older than I was; I attended 7-ish years ago. there was a half day of classes 4 days a week and one day a week was guided touring of somewhere on a bus. There was a guide for the times together. some suppers and lunches were included. We stayed at an Adagio apartment hotel, but only the first and last breakfast was included. We also were placed in classes after a short verbal testing, and maybe there was a self-assessment prior to arriving. The school was more relaxed and more focused on day to day conversations; for instance, one day we had to go out and buy a newspaper shared by 2 of us and choose a headline article, attempt to read it and have a discussion with your small class of 8-ish People.


Posted by
1 posts

I had a wonderful experience during a one-week intensive course at LSF in Montpellier. The teachers and curriculum were excellent, the classes were interesting and helpful and the city itself is wonderful. LSF offers excellent extracurricular activities, including an initial on-foot tour of the historical center, a visit to a local winery and many other options. I think a week is too short to make dramatic improvements, although I did manage to nearly master the challenging subjunctive! You can stay in a private apartment or with a French family for a full immersive experience.
I also frequent the wonderful website, which offers thrice-weekly free email lessons as well as more intensive audio courses one can download to computer and/or smart phone. The site also has made arrangements with French instructors throughout the country that include 1-week stays in an instructor's home, with three hours of instruction each day. I haven't tried it yet, but the descriptions note that the instructors frequently will have friends over for dinner or wine, so one can be immersed in conservations with the instructor and their friends. The prices are very reasonable, ranging from 1,000-1,500 Euros. This includes lodging, one or two meals each day, and one or two afternoon day trips to local historical sites and trips to markets and subsequent cooking lessons. That's a steal IMHO.
I cannot say enough about the quality of French Today. The teacher, Camille Chevalier, teaches not the formal French we all learned in school but the REAL French the natives use in their daily lives. For example, on the street one does not hear the phrase "je ne sais pas" (I don't know). Instead, native French speakers shorten this phrase to "shay pas." Since learning this I have heard it used dozens of times in France.

Posted by
292 posts

Normally I don't hop in to older posts that have been "reawakened" (I remember this one from the fall) but... yikes.

Sure, you can sightsee in France without speaking French, but I'm guessing the experience could be even better if you do. I am a French speaker, and I have a suspicion that some of the experiences I've had would be inaccessible to someone who didn't understand the language.

And regardless - maybe OP would like to learn French for the sake of learning French, and that's okay. I've combined travel with language learning in a few countries, and found it to be very rewarding. I may be "young-ish" now, but I hope that I'll be like OP twenty years down the line.

Posted by
1240 posts

I am a French teacher here in the USA with plenty of experience under my belt studying abroad in France.

I highly recommend the following:
- L'Institut Catholique in Paris
- L'Institut de Touraine in Tours
-L'Alliance Francaise de Normandie in Rouen.

Also, prices in Quebec are amazing compared to the US dollar. I also highly recommend
- Ecole Quebec Monde in Quebec City

All of these schools welcome adults as well as younger learners. The best means of attaining French is having a host family and all of the places above will find host families for you. Though as we get older it seems silly to live with a family, but it really is the best way.

Posted by
1934 posts

Bonjour Alexander!

I agree, living with a family is a wonderful way to learn. That's what our grandson did.

The OP didn't tell us her prior experience with French. I took French for two years in high school. I took the optional AP test when I took the SAT and that qualified me to skip a couple of quarters at UGA. I freaked out and dropped my French class, which I regret.

Even though that was over 50 years ago, I've been surprised how much I retained. I remember enough to follow simple conversations, but not near enough to function.

Alexander, I'll take this opportunity to update you on Will. He is attending the University of Tours and is in his second semester. He was supposed to come home for Christmas, but the strikes stuck him in Tours. Luckily he has a good friend whose family lives in Nantes and they invited him to spend the holidays with them. He had a great time. He's doing great and we're impressed that at 20 he's living in a foreign country and thriving. Of course, when we were his age, we moved from Macon to L.A. which is like moving to a foreign country!

Posted by
11453 posts

"I took the optional AP test when I took the SAT and that qualified me to skip a couple of quarters at UGA. I freaked out and dropped my French class, which I regret."

Oh my DougMac, I burst out laughing when I read this. Yes, Ditto. University of FL. 1 quarter into German and it was the equivalent of at least 2 years HS language. I have never worked so hard for a C. Quit dating the guy who spoke German and moved on to a major that did not require a foreign language....

Also - thanks for the update on your GS. Sorry he got stuck in France with the strikes but so happy someone took him home!

In regard to the shocking post upthread - some neuroscientists recommend learning a language to keep older brains active and making new connections in an effort to delay onset of Alzheimers.

Posted by
1934 posts

I have been thinking of what I'd like to do as my third act. Right now, I'm thinking of pursuing an MFA. Georgia offers free tuition to people my age. My main motivation is that I'm the only member of my family who does not have a graduate degree, although I do have two bachelor's degrees (BFA and BS).