Immersion programs -- French and others

SInce I started learning French, people are always asking me when I’m going to France.

I think back to my trip to London and I couldn’t get a conversation going to save my life. And I’m a native English speaker, American anyway. (It was different in Dublin. The Irish will talk to anyone, it seems. :slight_smile: )

So I’m not optimistic about a trip to France as a way to improve my French. Initiating conversations with strangers in French sounds quite daunting.

However, it occurs to me that attending a French immersion program in France could work. So how to choose?

I’m looking at Institut Linguistique Adenet (ILA) in Montpellier. It’s a bit pricey, but looks good. I’m thinking about it.

Have you tried such a program in your target language? What did you think? What do you advise?


Last summer I attended Russian SLI at UVA in Virginia. It was very helpful. 8 weeks five days a week all day. I chose that program because it’s an old school program that takes a mostly grammatical approach. Most if not all other programs even at UVA will take the now common thematic approach. It gave me what I needed to resume self study when I got back home.

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I was incidentally just at ILA in Montpellier last week!

I was there for a B2-level course and I highly recommend based upon this recent experience. Everything was top notch: the city, the location, the facilities, their being organized, the content, the instructor, the teaching methods, the classmates, the evening activities, and the homestay family.

However, I’m glad to have taken this course in France at an upper intermediate level. At the A2 level, I did a lot of iTalki. At the B1 level, I shifted to more formal online instruction (especially grammar!) with Lingoda. I should wrap up taking all of Lingoda’s B2 courses in a few months. From there, I may check out the quality of Babbel Live since they offer C1 online courses.

Anyhow, I had a great experience at ILA.


I made a few friends online before going to France. Is that an option? that way you have people to talk to when you get there. though a course would make finding friends and practice partners easier to find

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In my recent experience, the French will be pleased to speak to you in French, at hotels, restaurants, and museums.

And in my less recent experience, if you leave the big cities and venture into the countryside, for example do a bike tour of Bourgogne vineyards, folks will be even friendlier and more open to speaking French.

Another idea, Meetup exists in France. Depending on where you go there are language exchanges, potlucks, hikes, coffee meetups, and many other opportunities.

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@gmeyer Cool that you know ILA! Thanks for your report. ILA goes up another notch in my planning.

I was so inspired by this idea that I am booking an immersion home stay north of Paris for 2025! I have no patience for classes or homework any more, I did my time already :rofl:, so I told the host / teacher that I just want a week speaking nothing but French, with feedback, and enjoying the family and community.

Thanks for the idea!


You don’t have to go to France just because everyone is asking you when you are going to France.

Unless you are really interested in being taught grammar in a formal environment, if you really insist you must go to France because everyone keeps asking you and you want to sit back and let it all be organised like an intensive language course (instead of organising it yourself), consider signing up to a tour. Of course you can do tours for French speakers in other countries, but then you won’t be able to answer all the questions of when you are going to France. By doing a tour of France in French:

  1. the guide will tell you the history in French (lots of input)
  2. you can ask the guide clarifying questions in French and they will respond in French (practise speaking and conversations)
  3. everyone else on the tour also speak French and you will talk to them over meal times, on the buses, etc. and may be lucky that you end up making friends with them
  4. have a holiday, learn some French history, etc.

To find such tours, you’ll need to google search in French or maybe make an international call to a French travel agency to ask about a week or a two-week trip of France.

To get the most out of these in-country trips, you really want your language as high as possible before arriving. Ideally B2+ and above.


Of course. That was just a fun opener for my comment. I’ve been ignoring other people’s ideas about what I should do since I was a teenager. :slight_smile:

I’m obviously not at B2+, so a tour is not much use to me, Nor am I really a tour person.

If you aren’t actually considering going to France to get people off your back, I do question why you are doing it.

Personally, I consider intensive language courses to be of medium efficiency. Private tutors cost more, but are significantly more efficient (if you get a good one and direct them accordingly). You aren’t wasting time like in intensive language schools, because the teacher is busy helping the other ten students in your class. Though, if it’s not about learning the language, there are definitely reasons to go to private languages schools (such as to get a visa, try and make friends with other foreigners also learning your language, you need to piece of paper for various reasons, maybe it’s free and you don’t have much money, etc.).


I found that very funny. I have always found it hard to know when someone else’s suggestion is top notch, or idiotic. I have always managed to studiously ignore the former and follow the latter.

You can often hire tour guides on a one on one basis. It costs more of course, but you can have a conversation. Obviously if you end up not understanding them, you’re up the proverbial creek.

Many decades ago I toured round France by train on an Interrail ticket (cheap), and stayed in youth hostels (YHA). Museum attendants, shop staff and YHA residents can be very chatty.

Someone suggested to me doing a working holiday. The idea is that someone invites people over to do unpaid work and they provide food and lodgings, though the latter may be basic e.g. tents. The work could be for a nature charity, archaeologists (building a replica stone age dwelling) or even helping build a barn for a private individual. I know you’re not young, but maybe there’s something that suits.

Do you have hobbies other than French? Maybe you can combine those with French study. Maybe you have a skill that a charity could use, and they would provide some modest payment e.g. food.

And to state the obvious, Quebec is probably cheaper for you due to proximity. They do though have an interesting (and pleasant) accent. But avoid Montreal, most speak English, and many resent the English, or anyone not a native French speaker.

Incidentally thank you for asking this question, the answers are informative.

And yet an online language tutor does not require that you buy an air ticket, and pay hotel and restaurant bills. I’ve never used online tutors, but I have attended classes, and I agree they are not that effective.

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I live in Montpellier and it is hard to get practice with locals, even for me. Interactions in stores and restaurants are definitely useful, but tend to be repetitive, until you get comfortable enough to go beyond the basics with the staff. The staff are usually very patient and friendly, especially the girls, but that may be because I am a 70 year old man and young french people are trained to be nice to old folk like me. But at best, these are short but fun exchanges.

To get real practice, you would have to join some sort of group meant for natives, like some sort of class or tour. This will probably be too much for you, unless you are solid B1, or preferably B2. I belong to a photo club and next year I hope my french is good enough to take flying lessons at a glider club. These club meetings are humbling affairs for me, but I stick with them and people are patient with my efforts.

An intensive conversation course at a language school might be useful, if you don’t mind practicing with non-native speakers. Personally, I don’t like learning bad habits from other learners, but this is probably the easiest route.

Actually, the easiest, most reliable way to get practice is to hire a tutor or tutors on Italki. I probably get 80% of my conversation with my native French iTalki tutors.

Bottom line, even for someone who lives in France, you have to be creative to get practice. I get far more listening and reading practice from using LingQ than from going about town, but conversation practice is the ultimate goal and something you just need to keep striving to do.

Good luck!


Well, I’d certainly like to get you off my back. :slight_smile:

I like the idea, perhaps misinformed, of an immersion program because I would be in an environment explicitly designed to increase my exposure to French and offer/demand my verbal participation. Plus this would be somewhat geared to my level.

Not to mention I would like to go to France and soak in some of the culture firsthand. If I wait until I’m B2+, it could be a long wait.

As I expressed in my initial comment, I suspect that just going to France would be a pretty hit-and-miss way to improve my French.

I see what you did there!

Me too.

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