LEARNING THE LINGO
You could start by simply brushing up what you learned as a youngster. Certainly, just by listening and talking to native speakers, you will soon gain confidence, and probably learn some vocabulary that somehow got left out of your school course. However, practising on the street can hardly replace a systematic approach to language learning. Therefore, there is an abundance of language schools to help you improve your French. Almost all of them offer courses for all levels, that can be started any time and taken either during the day or at night, for individuals or entire companies. Before commencing a course, they ask you to do an assessment test, and in the end you obtain some kind of certificate or, if you wish, you sit one of the standardised exams. In addition, most organise outings and cultural activities, and have an accommodation service.
Your final decision will probably depend heavily on the school's location-and your budget, as rates vary considerably. The best thing to do is to contact the schools in your area, and ideally visit them, to get a feel for the ambiance of each place. This can be more important than anything in determining the success of your course. The following information will give you a rough overview of what is available in Paris, and where it is.
5th: The Paris American Academy was originally founded as a bilingual university for Fashion, Interior Design and Fine Arts. The language courses were designed to support the students, as they had different backgrounds and different levels of proficiency. With increasing demand for language courses, the language department has now been developed, and one can specialise in French or English as a foreign language without being enrolled in the university program. Intensive courses begin every Monday, based on a core of 15 hours a week that can be amended by three weekly private lessons, the latter also allowing students to specialise in fields like Business French. There are also options to include extra lessons in gastronomy, art history, fashion and fine arts, benefiting from the expertise of the staff.
You can, of course, still follow the Art, Interior Design and Fashion Programs. Those run either in intensive seminars or in three and four year curricula leading to a university degree. Alternatively, the Paris American Academy also offers part-time study programs with two to three hours a week for 30 weeks.
6th: The Alliance Française offers a wide range of French courses. Worldwide, yearly 360000 students brush up their French at the Alliance, and 2000 do so in Paris. Courses can be started every month or mid-month. You can also focus on special aspects of the language and be prepared for several standardised exams. In addition, they run trips out of Paris to discover the rest of France.
8th: The Institut de Langue Française has a very flexible approach to language learning. You can choose to follow an individual tailor-made course with a qualified teacher, or join up with others in classes no bigger than 15 students. The school also offers a wide range of options which cater for those who simply want to refresh their French in the school holidays, or are looking to get to grips with the technical vocabulary of the workplace. They also prepare people for exams accredited by the Sorbonne and the Chambre de Commerce de Paris The abundance of cultural heritage that surrounds the Institute's buildings on the Champs-Elysées has not failed to rub off, and cultural courses and visits are frequently organised.
10th: At CFILC, a smaller language school, you can study French, Spanish, Arabic or German in groups of no more than 10 students. Altogether there are five levels, and you can follow courses from one week up to a year, but most students stay for two or three months. Beginners might have to wait until the beginning of the month, but others can start anytime. The student body is very international, and five teachers make sure that everybody makes quick progress. The average age of students is about 27, but 15-year-olds, retired people and all ranges in between participate regularly. New technology is very important at the school. Regular multi-media sessions with CD-Rom and video take learning to another dimension. The school also offers IT programs for individuals and companies, covering text processing, spreadsheets and the like on PC and Mac.
11th: If you want to obtain more than just a diploma, EVS Enseignement could be the place. The teachers here aim to convey a more than usually profound knowledge of the language you are about to acquire. Thus, they developed a method of their own to teach French, Spanish and English. It begins with individual lessons to help make the student feel at ease with the new language and to form the foundation for the following sessions, held in classes of no more than five. Focusing on cultural values and customs, learning a foreign language also becomes a learning experience about one's own language and culture. The entire philosophy of EVS Enseignement builds on those principles, and as a result, both teaching and learning are supposed to serve more than just practical purposes. Hopefully, they will be fun at the same time.
12th: The American Dream Centre is a smaller school with a very personal atmosphere. It helps people achieve the dream of feeling at ease with a foreign language and integrating into a foreign society. In addition to courses and private lessons, the Centre teaches American English as a foreign language. A distinctive feature of the American Dream Centre is its children's' program. Classes start for kids aged three, and children can attend bilingual lessons on Wednesday afternoons. The school is open from 10h to 21h and offers Saturday classes. It also caters for the needs of companies.
Every Tuesday night, as part of the impressive calendar of social events, anybody who wants to meet people, practice foreign language skills or simply have fun, is invited to a centre where they can also enjoy a buffet for a small fee. This evening is not restricted to enrolled students, but open to anybody. Currently, the American Dream centre is hoping to expand and to, eventually, offer courses in Spanish, Italian and other languages.
14th: The ECOLE EIFFEL possesses impressive new buildings and spacious class rooms, yet classes are never bigger than ten students. With six professors for about 70 students a month, the student-teacher ratio reflects the close attention that is paid to learners here. The average age of students is about 25, and so far, people from 53 nationalities have attended courses at the Ecole Eiffel.
15th: The Institut Parisien has been training adults in French for ten years. It also works together with au pair agencies and thus caters for the particular needs of those helpful hands, offering special programs in French for tourism and business French. The school is open all year round and you can start every Monday at one of nine levels. The basic program consists of 15 hours and can be amended with gastronomy or fashion options. The latter can also be taken on their own or combined in any way, thus allowing for the student to choose a program according to his or her objectives, schedule and budget. The Institut has spacious buildings and also houses a cafeteria.
18th: Atouts Cours is a small association of teachers with a very individual approach to learning. It offers an extremely wide range of language classes, ranging from French for foreigners to Japanese, Russian, Spanish or Portuguese and many other languages. Classes are offered in individual lessons or in groups of two. Thus, the teachers are able to tailor the class to the students' needs and to pay close attention to their progress. If need arises, or if companies request so, Atouts Cours also arranges group sessions. Courses can be taken at the association itself, in homes, offices or wherever students want.
Suburbs: EFI LANGUE, situated in the delightful suburb of St-Germain-en-Laye, focuses on conversation in groups of no more than five students. You can also take private lessons at the school, your home or your office. This way you can specialise according to your personal needs and objectives. Moreover, EFI Langue offers courses for children and teenagers as well as a special program for ten to 18-year-olds during school holidays. If you don't already have a place to stay, they will help you finding accommodation with a French family or in a hotel.
Lastly, Berlitz is a very big foreign language institution with schools in almost every country, covering courses for almost all languages you can think of. In addition, Berlitz offers classes on cross-cultural issues to help you settle in a foreign country and understand its customs, do business with foreigners and prevent culture shock for you and your family when returning home. They have a bureau in St-Germain-en-Laye, as well as offices in the 5th, 8th, and 9th arrondissements.
For a full list of language schools click on The Yellow Pages