Mastering French is often one of the big challenges for expats arriving in France. Even though English is the international language, it is still highly recommended to learn French to be able to get around. It will facilitate your integration and your daily life. Not all French people speak English well enough to accept to speak it. Taking language classes is often a budget, so I have listed for you some good deals and tips to find free French classes in France.
Free French classes
If you are currently unemployed make sure you register with Pôle Emploi, the French job centres. Even if you may not be entitled to unemployment benefits in France, you can still get access to different types of assistance to look for a job, such as free French classes in France!
You can either register to Pôle Emploi directly online or go to your local Pôle Emploi branch and get some help to make your registration. You can also ask the French training centre if they can help you to do your Pôle Emploi registration, some of them provide this assistance. This will only be possible with the centres in partnership with Pôle Emploi.
You will be offered an interview with your designated Pôle Emploi counsellor. You should request the language classes directly to your counsellor. The Pôle Emploi financed trainings are not automatic. Your counsellor will decide if the classes will help you to find a job.
Pôle Emploi works with many different language training centres which provide the training. About 3 months classes either part-time and in some instances, full-time will be financed by Pôle Emploi.
Local associations providing free French classes in France
Take classes with the French Red Cross
Many local associations provide French classes as a foreign language to help with integration in France.
The French Red Cross is one of the oldest NGO as it was founded in 1864. The French Red Cross has been providing French language classes all over France in its 150 centres. They provide classes for adults, both French as a foreign language and alphabetization classes. Depending on the local centres, they can also provide homework assistance if you are struggling to help your children with their French homework.
Homework assistance for foreign pupils with the Secours Populaire
As well as the French Red Cross, the Secours Populaire is a renown French NGO and it has made children’s assistance its priority.
Pupils with difficulty in French, whether it be in grammar or verbs or even spelling, can make have French classes with the Secours Populaire. You will have to make an appointment with the local Secours Populaire centre and a counsellor will meet you with your child. Your child’s level and assistance needs will in French but also other subjects will be determined.
After this initial meeting, a volunteer with the required competencies will assist your child with his/her homework. It will usually be 2 hours per week at your home.
A side note regarding the French homework, you may also want to contact the school or the parents association as there can be an association to help your school’s pupils with their weekly homework. My mother has been part of such association for many years and there were a few foreign children taking part as well as French pupils.
Besides the national association stated before, there are many local associations all over France. Here is a shortlist of free French classes in France, but there are certainly many others. Some are not free but nothing compared to language private schools.
Associations providing free French classes in France
Region of Bordeaux
- Centre Social d’Arcachon : about 6h/week, the classes take place at Rue Albert 1er, 33120 Arcachon.
- Remue-Méninges: 33130 Bègles. They offer day group French classes and also help to write letters for administrative processes. Annual membership of 10 €. Free classes. Contact: email@example.com
- Association Familiale et Laïque de Bordeaux Nord : 223 rue Achard, 33300 Bordeaux. DELF and DALF preparation on request. Day group classes. Annual membership of 14 €. Free classes. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Centre d’animation Saint Michel: 25 rue Permentade, 33000 Bordeaux. Day conversation classes. Annual membership of 9€. French classes for free. Other public centres offer French as a Foreign Language in Bordeaux. You can find the list via this link.
Region of Lyon
- Coup de Pouce Université: Coup de Pour Université also called CPU offers French classes exclusively to foreign students, which also includes PhD students. Classes are given by the association volunteers. They also help to correct PhD student thesis and final academic projects. Annual subscription: 90€/year (discounts available).
- Fil (Faciliter l’insertion par le langage): 4, rue Claude Boyer 69007 Lyon. Fil organises evening and day courses in five different locations of Lyon all along the school year. Registrations are accepted all year long. Subscription from €30 to €60/year.
- Association Aicell: 14 rue du Capitaine Ferber, 69300 Caluire. Free conversation classes. Annual membership of 25€.
Region of Lille
- Association La Clé: 28/30 rue Ernest Deconynk, 59000 Lille. One-to-one or group classes for adults, teenagers and children. DELF and DALF preparation on request.
- Lire, écrire et comprendre: 24 place de la Liberté, 59100 Roubaix. One-to-one classes, French culture courses and visits for adults.
- Union Française de la Jeunesse: rue du Mal Assis, 59000 Lille. French as a Foreign Language class for adults. Full price: 140€/year, discount price 70€/year.
If you are looking for French classes as a Foreign language in another city, I recommend you to contact the City hall, they will be able to inform you of the available subsidised French courses.
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I love going to language exchange meetups!
They are a great way to meet people, maybe make new friends and practice French. Many French people go to these events as they are a great way to practice a foreign language. Many have lived abroad and wish to meet international expats. Some are planning a trip and want to practice a foreign language. You will find language exchange in many different languages.
I have listed below the 2 language exchange meetups I used to go in Lyon, but you can find them in most of the more or less big French cities.
Le KoToPo: 14 rue Leynaud, Lyon 1er. KoToPo is an association offering monthly convivial free language exchanges between French-speakers and speakers of other languages in about 15 different languages!
Conversation Exchange Meetings organised by the Polyglot Club at the Aromo Bar, 15 rue Montesquieu, Lyon 7 on Wednesdays.
You can easily find language exchange groups on Facebook, with a Google search or on the Meetup platform for example. I hope you will find some you like in your French city of residence.
Online tools and apps to learn a language are more and more common. I personally I’m not a big fan of the learning apps, it may still suit some of you. I will share other types of online tools such as video platforms, cultural TV programs or free online courses.
Watching movies and series in French is one of the best ways to sharpen your era to French. I’ve been watching movies and series in English, even when I was still struggling to understand. I was, of course, using the Teletext or subtitles option. I still use the English subtitle option when I’m tired and can’t be bothered to focus.
Here is my list of other options, I hope you will find some you like.
- TV5 Monde: TV5 Monde, formerly called just TV5 is a French television network, broadcasting several channels of French-language programming subtitled in 5 different languages. They have a learning section with a wide range of interesting content, short French learning videos sorted by level. You will find content about grammar, vocabulary, French culture and more.
- Alliance française de Paris Ile-de-France prepared a free MOOC (Massive online open courses – cours gratuits en ligne) called “Vivre en France”. It is available to everyone on the platform France Université Numérique (FUN). You will find courses from A1 (beginner) to B1 level (upper-intermediate) and also a professional French course. You will need to do a free registration to France Université Numérique (click on sign up at the top right-hand corner) to be able to access the online “Vivre en France” course and many others.
- Local public libraries: Many public libraries offer French online courses but not only. They also organise conversation groups, reading events or other activities for their members learning French but not only. You will need to be a member of the library, check their events and courses when you register as often it is accessible to a limited number of people.
Some examples of the possibilities:
- Bonjour de France: It is a free online magazine for learning French via articles, revision sheets, online tests…
- Conversation Exchange: this website puts you in contact with French-speakers looking to learn your language via bilingual conversations. Via the site, you can organize face-to-face meetings, chat/webcam conversations and email exchanges.
Learning a new language, especially for adults, is a long journey, with ups and downs, a long plateau with the feeling that no improvement is made. But this is usually when everything that was previously heard or read is being assimilated. It takes time and a lot of perseverance. Multiplicating the different ways of being exposed to French will help in your learning process. I hope these tips will give you some ideas. Don’t give up and be kind to yourself! My personal advice would be not to expect to be fluent after 6 months in France, this is why many learners give up because they think it comes fast and easily. Unfortunately, it never does… Every little improvement is good and having an intermediate level is enough to get around. No need to be fluent even if some people make to feel you should.
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