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. Time which you will share with your teacher in such a class will be less than what you will get in a class of, let's say, 10 students.
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 something. As a matter of fact, most French schools teach French in French from the very first class, which makes things 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 not always convey.
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 if the teacher has a degree in teaching. A quality teacher is the one who is having a master’s degree in French language teaching, called FLE. Or atleast a DAEFLE. A native person teaching without any training in teaching will be quite different than a native person coming with a training in teaching.
A quality teacher is also 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 living in France since 2003 and working for the cause of Indian community of France, since 2007. 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 few other projects.