French is one of the world’s most-studied languages, with 132 million learners, according to the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie’s Observatoire de la langue française.
In France, there are a number of different centres and schools where you can learn la langue de Molière, with all levels catered for.
Learn in a class
If you are taking a class through a school or institution, it is best to find one labelled qualité FLE.
This guarantees a certain standard of teaching and means it will be taught within the français langue étrangère (French as a foreign language) framework.
You can take French classes through institutions such as the Alliance Française or the Institut Français, of which there are hundreds around the country.
The former’s prices generally start at around €10 per hour-long class.
They offer group or individual courses that usually last several weeks, split into different difficulty levels.
You are given a short, informal test when signing up to see where you are best placed.
You can also learn with a university through the network of Campus FLE.
Alternatively, there are many different websites where you can find individual private lessons, online or in-person.
These include Preply, Superprof and LanguaTalk.
The website italki.com lets you find either amateur or professional teachers.
Amateur teachers are usually students offering cheap conversation classes, while professionals are trained and offer higher-level French lessons which are generally more expensive.
You might also want to take a test to prove your level.
This might simply be because you want to challenge yourself, or because you need the test as part of a citizenship or visa application.
To gain French nationality, you must have proof of having at least the level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
This is a lower intermediate level.
The scale goes: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2. B1 means you should be able to hold a conversation on a range of topics within a controlled context.
You can prove your level by taking a test, the best-known being the test de connaissance du français (TCF) or test d’évaluation du français (TEF).
You are exempt if you have a health condition which prevents you from taking a test or if you already have a French diploma of studies at least of Brevet or CAP/BEP level.
Visas and residency cards
There are no language requirements for visas and residency cards of no more than a year’s duration, but if you are seeking a multi-year card, you will typically be asked by the Ofii immigration service to take a test to judge your level.
If you do not have at least the very basic A1 level, then you must agree to take a certain number of lessons.
The government has spoken of toughening these rules and requiring proof of a certain level for these cards.
Non-EU citizens applying for a carte de résident de longue durée – UE (issued for 10 years) or a carte de résident permanent (allowing you to stay in France indefinitely) need to provide proof of having French to A2 (basic) level unless aged over 65.
Share your experience
Any tips for learning French that have worked for you? We also want to speak to readers who came to France without any (or very minimal) French and have managed to learn it here from scratch.
Get in touch via email@example.com