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Your master cheat sheet for choosing a French immersion program

avril 5, 2024

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Your master cheat sheet for choosing a French immersion program

If you are thinking of learning French, you may be asking yourself how long it will take, especially when scouting out potential language schools and immersion programs. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. Before choosing a language immersion program to learn French, you need to initially understand your starting point and keep in mind several factors when considering learning French as an adult.

Learning French as an adult

Above all, it is important to remember that learning a language is a complex process, especially when you’re an adult. It challenges your brain to build new cognitive frameworks that are different from your native language. According to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, your current cognitive skills for your mother tongue, say English, can actually get in the way of you learning another language, such as French.

As with any language, learning French is dependent on a variety of factors. For one, what is your previous language learning experience? If your first language is English and you are fluent in another language, like Spanish, the odds are it will be easier for you to pick up French. Bilingualism is indeed a precursor to learning a third language. If you studied French in high school or college, you ending up sprucing up your French skills faster than someone without prior experience.

Second, you may find it easier to learn French if your mother tongue shares its roots with the language. This means that any language derived from Latin, including Spanish, Italian and Portuguese—all known as the Romance languages—will make it easier for you to learn French. Latin languages all share similarities in terms of their history, evolution, synthetic character, phonology, typology and grammar. As you learn French, you will notice the resemblances to the other Latin language(s) you master.

Third, consider how you learn and what means you have chosen to learn French. There are many different types of learners; each individual has a preferred way to absorb, process, understand and retain information. While various theories abound about learning styles, suffice it to say that some French language students may be more visual or more auditory. Some may prefer reading and writing, while others are more kinesthetic. Furthermore, the time it takes to learn French will be influenced by what French language classes or immersion programs you take—and how they cater to your learning style.

Finally, learning French takes a lot of sustained practice and time, particularly if you want to be fluent for, let’s say, a new job or living in a French-speaking country for a long period of time. Frequent study and/or exposure to French is, by far, the fastest way to learn the language. That is why many people decide to sign up for language immersion program abroad to learn French over the summer or learn French on an extended vacation, for example.

Evaluating French language levels

Before deciding on a specific language class or immersion program, it is always a good idea to ask that the educational institution to evaluate the level of French you currently have. Many institutions use the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This system has established common reference levels and details what a student should be able to read, listen, speak and write at any given level. Moreover, this framework coincides with programs offered by the Alliance Française and prepares students for exams recognized around the world, such as the DELF, DALF, TEFaQ, TFI and TCF.

How long does it take to learn French?

At Edu-Inter, thanks to our long-standing experience and proven track record in French immersion classes and educational stays, we have put together some ballpark figures as to the time it takes to learn French as a second language.

Cumulative weeks of study Ideal for what type of use? Level of French
5 weeks Beginner A1
12 weeks Elementary A2
14 weeks Intermediate B1
16 weeks Upper intermediate B2
Specific to each student Advanced C1
Specific to each student Proficient/Native speaker C2

Ideally, if you are interested in learning French for an upcoming vacation, a 12-week course or a French course during summer vacation is ideal. Learning French for higher education or work requires learning French in at least a year.

The benefits of French language immersion programs

French language immersion programs go far beyond “simply” learning a new language; instead, they help students to discover a new culture and group of people who share a common language. Immersion programs offer a different cultural lens and foster a deeper understanding of a country or region’s history, heritage, mores, values, etc.

Moreover, French language immersion programs, as the name implies, immerse students in language. That means you are focusing purely on language acquisition. Because you are surrounded by people speaking the language you want to learn, you have perfect opportunities to put your learning into practice. In fact, in order to go about your day-to-day life, you have no choice but to speak the language in order to communicate.

Finally, French language immersion classes allow you to spend time with equally committed learners, which can be of huge help to overcome shyness, share experiences, facilitate learning new concepts and words, and…practice!

Choosing a French language immersion program

There are many different types of French language immersion programs to choose from. From the get-go, you should first determine how much time you have to spare. There are many immersion programs that enable you to learn French in four to six weeks, learn French in three months, learn French over the summer, or even learn French over an entire year. Some programs are ideal for people on vacation: they offer French language programs that last between one to three weeks. Thanks to such a variety in program duration, the only limit is your time!

Once you have decided on the time you can spend in your immersion course, the next step is to evaluate your goals. Yes, you want to learn French. But don’t restrict your goals to just learning or improving your French skills. Are you hoping to migrate to a French-speaking country or city? Dreaming of taking a sabbatical and travelling in countries where French is spoken? Looking to wow your French in-laws the next time you visit them? By defining your goals, you will have a better idea as to the type of French immersion program

Next, consider where you want to learn French. Obviously, you need to choose a location where everyone speaks French and you are “forced” to interact in French. Oftentimes, major cities like Montreal or Paris are such international metropolises with a kaleidoscope of cultures that locals will switch to English to assist people who they deem as tourists. Smaller cities, such as Québec City, are more conducive to learning French because local citizens may be less bilingual—ideal to put yourself out there and speak French!
Other aspects that will impact your choice of a French immersion school as well as how fast you can learn French is the program’s approach. Does the program offer a holistic approach with grammar and communicative skills? What is the type and quality of the educational material used? How qualified are the teachers—and how skilled they are in teaching French? Are they able to adapt to different language learning styles?

Some French language immersion programs focus solely on theory. Theory is important to build the foundation of your new language. However, it is crucial for people learning French to participate in extra-curricular activities, and practice. The more immersed you are in learning French, particularly during an activity or hobby that truly interests you, the faster you will learn.

Embarking on a journey to learn French

There are no one-size-fits-all approaches to learning French and there are a myriad of French language immersion programs out there to suit all types of students. There are many factors to take into account as to how long it will take you to learn French. With the right dedication and lots of practice, you’ll be saying more than Bonjour! in French in no time!

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