Reader question: I am interested in adult evening classes to learn new skills. What is the best way to find out more?
Evening classes are commonly taken by people in France who want to learn a new skill such as a foreign language. Information sources on the classes, locations and times available vary depending on the subject of interest.
For example, most universities in France offer language evening classes from beginner to advanced levels. Being a student at the university is rarely a mandatory requirement for participation in the classes.
Evening classes – cours du soir – are offered, for example, at the University Bordeaux-Montaigne and the Institut de français langue étrangère at Nantes University, a quick internet search reveals.
French classes are often classified on university websites under the name FLE or Français Langue Étrangère. Other languages such as Italian, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, German or English are also often available.
Most universities also have two enrollment windows during the summer and winter for classes taking place from September to December and January to May/June, following the usual French university calendar.
France’s chambers of commerce also offer language evening classes run by organisations called Centre d’études de langues (CEL) in various French regions. Students learn in one-to-one or group sessions depending on demand.
Associations and private tutoring businesses can also offer evening classes if your area does not have a university or a CEL. It may be worth asking your mairie for more information on what is available.
Among associations offering evening classes of various kinds are the universités populaires, a network of local organisations found in many French towns. Many, but not all, are part of l’Association des universités populaires de France.
Otherwise, do a web search with the term and your department number, for example, to see if one operates near you.
The Conservatoire national des arts et métiers (CNAM) is, meanwhile, the go-to website for learning about many craft and trade skills through evening classes, whether to pick up a skill for interest or for a change of career.
On it you can find a search bar where you can narrow down the options depending on the subject and the area.
Foreigners with a non-student carte de séjour can apply to learn any particular skill in which they have an interest. You do not need to have a minimum level or take any tests to sign up for the classes.
The applicants will be considered as working members of the public and not students. The classes are called UE (unité d’enseignement) and can be taken as a one-off or as a course completed over a year or several years.
Cnam has a two-window enrollment system like universities, with first semester classes running from October to December and second semester classes from late February to June.