One of the most important things you will decide once you have come to France, is to invest in learning French. You will have to invest your time, and your money, if you want to grow here in France, or to take back an added quality with you when you leave this country after having spent some months or years studying and working here.
Once you have taken the decision to learn French, you will have to go hunting for a school that will give you the best value for money. Here are some of things that you can follow while choosing your French language school.
Make sure that it’s a legal one. If you are giving your money to an institution which is not an established thing, there will not be any guarantee of the quality you may get, or there will be neither any guarantee that your class won’t stop mid-way through. You can check whether this is a registered company by going to the website of Infogreffe. This is a government service where we can get information about any company working in France. Some may suggest you check in Societe.com, which is also a very good service, however, we need to remember that Societe.com is a private service and not always up to date as the website of Infogreffe, the later reflects the government database in real time.
Make sure that the class will really happen. There are many schools in France which hide this fact while subscribe that they have a minimum number deal. If the number of students enrolled is below a certain threshold, the class gets cancelled, and some schools make it even difficult for you to get back the money you gave while taking admission. Ask them what minimum number they require to hold a class.
Check the price. The price of learning French vary greatly depending on a number of factors, and contrary to many things, here price do not necessarily reflect quality. The way to check the price is to calculate the price per hour. Let me explain. You will find a school offering you an A1 class for 300 euros, and another school for 450 euros. For an uninitiated person, the school offering A1 class for 300 euros is the cheaper one. However, if we dig deeper, we may find that the school charging 300 euros, is offering only 20 hours in their curriculum, and the other one, charging 450 is offering 60 hours. You learn a lot more in 60 hours, compared to other school which is offering only a 20 hours program.
Check the class size. A class size between 8 to 15 students is optimum, to have enough number to enjoy group games, and not too many to make it a chaos. One very famous school of Paris (famous for its affordable cost) let in 25 – 30 students per class. Stay away from such places, as the time which you will share with your teacher in such a school will be far from optimum. Besides, there are some schools which will tell that their number varies between 5 to 20 for the same class. Take that with a pinch of salt as well, since what you are looking for is a class where the number of students does not vary from one day to another to this extent and you are in a healthy class where people enjoy being and coming to the school. You are not only learning French, you are also developing a healthy social network.
How is the teacher. The most important thing in a school when it comes to your learning experience, is the quality of your teacher. Ask the school to learn more about who is going to teach you. Ask also if the teaching is totally in French, or grammars are explained in English, and whether you can ask your questions in English if you don’t understand. As a matter of fact, most French schools teach French in French from the very first class, which makes things extremely difficult for newcomers as you are not getting even a single word of what the teacher is telling.
Ask also whether the teacher is a native speaker. Language is more than only grammar and syntax. Its also an accent, and its also a culture. A native speaker will not only teach you grammar and syntax, but also the accent and shades of culture what a nonnative speaker can rarely convey. Think about the Indians, a significant number of us speaks English and can even teach the language, but how well we master cultural things what a Brit kid will learn in her house while growing up from her grandmother!
The other thing important is the number of years of experiences. Many schools, to reduce expenses take younger teachers who comes cheaper than the experienced ones, but then, you don’t learn the same thing from someone who is teaching for 1 year and someone who has been teaching for 10 years. Think about a musician. Think about a coder. Are we remain the same or we develop better techniques with experience!
Last but not the least, ask for professional background the teacher may be having. Again, for budget cut, there are schools who won’t hesitate to take a native speaker who stopped her studies after 18 years, did odd jobs for some years and then moved to teaching. Or a geologist or a journalist changing professions in her mid-career. Then there are others who is a clerk in the day and teaching French in the evening. You are looking for a quality teacher. A quality teacher is the one who is having a master’s degree in French language teaching, called FLE. A quality teacher is the one for whom teaching is the full-time profession, as then she can design and develop tools which half timers cannot.
Once you have taken all the measures necessary and found a good school which you think is perfect for you, invest yourself in French. Proper French language skills will change your life – it will add tremendous value to your profile. Here, or anywhere else in the world.
Sourav Choudhury is a social entrepreneur working for the cause of Indian community living in France, since 2003. He is founder of multiple projects: the largest social network of the Indian community of France, a French language school for english speaking expatriates, this website, and several other projects.