Students of French have been traveling to France to practice their French for ages. They usually choose a school, a host family or just go to France, and hope to meet French people and make friends.
Maybe you’ve experienced such travel in your life, and had a blast. Unfortunately, I also heard many reports of French students – especially adult students – who didn’t have such a good time.
In this article, I’ll tell you why I strongly believe doing an French immersion homestay at a French teacher’s home is the best way to boost your French studies.
A True French Immersion in France
I’m sorry to break it to you, but it’s not always easy to find people to talk to in France. If your French is really advanced, if you’ve picked the right spot for a French speaking vacation, and if you’re really outgoing and lucky, you may very well meet French people who are happy to speak French with you, welcome you to their friend’s circle, and you reach your goal of practicing your French in France.
However, a lot of tourists will tell you that the French immediately start speaking English when they meet an English speaker. This is particularly true in larger cities.
Furthermore, many French people don’t “make friends” that easily. They may be open to striking up a conversation in a café, but this doesn’t mean they’ll invite you to spend the afternoon with them and introduce you to their friends.
It might happen. If you’re really lucky.
Chances are that it won’t be that easy.
That’s why traveling to France with a French language buddy is invaluable. If the aim of your trip is to practice your French, you better plan ahead and not rely only on your outgoing personality – or you risk being quite disappointed.
A French Language Buddy Who Can Adapt To Your Level Of French
Another big problem you’ll face when meeting French people is your level of spoken French.
Many students learned French in books, or in a classroom environment which mostly prepared them for interactions in formal, overly enunciated French. However this is not the reality of today’s French.
So many students of France are appalled when they get to France and don’t understand a word of what the French are saying… “they speak so fast”!
Yes, we do speak fast, but it’s not only the speed that’s problematic. It’s the whole spoken French language that’s different from what you’ve learned: the French pronunciation, the sentence structure, the word order…
Would you like to check your understanding of spoken French? Take my free French quiz!
So even if you’ve aced your French exams, even if you consider yourself an advanced student of French, there may be quite a gap between your understanding of formal and everyday French…
A French immersion professional will be able to adapt their language to your level. They will gently change the way they speak so you can understand them, and little by little, introduce you to spoken French, and ease you into the reality of French today.
A True French Language Companion
Traveling to a foreign country can be a bit unsettling for people who are not used to it. Even if France is not that different from your own culture, it’s not going to be the same and you may find yourself out of your comfort zone.
When this happens and you don’t even have the landmark of your own language, it can be quite a shock. You can end up feeling quite lonely, a bit depressed: “Lost in Translation” (if you haven’t see the movie, I recommend it since it perfectly describes this situation).
Staying in immersion at a French teacher’s house is the perfect solution to that problem. You’ll be swept away in your own private teacher daily routine. Every activity – something as mundane as playing a game, going to the market or sharing a cup of tea will become French language practice!
You’ll probably also get introduced to your teacher’s friends and extended family… Not only will you get a ton of daily practice, but all these people will come naturally to you: you won’t have to go out of your way to try to initiate contact.
French Immersion Homestay = The Safest Way To Travel To France
You may be quite street smart in your own country, it’s easy to feel a bit disoriented in a foreign land.
Traveling in France is quite safe. Especially in smaller towns and in the countryside. Larger cities may have some unsafe neighbourhoods: would you know which ones they are?
I once helped a family of tourists in the Paris subway. They were a bit overwhelmed, traveling with children and many large suitcases… They were trying to go to the Barbès neighbourhood where they had rented an AirBnB… I didn’t say anything but that’s not the neighbourhood I would have picked as it has the reputation of being quite unsafe at night…
Some places may be fine during the day, and get iffy at night. Some superb touristic attractions, like Montmartre, are right in the middle of questionable neighbourhoods.
Same goes for public transport: if you go to see Monet’s house in Giverny for the day, you may want to avoid changing train at Mantes-La-Jolie on your way back at night…
These kinds of things are known by the locals. Your French immersion tutor will double as your guide. That’s why I believe staying with a French language professional is an option that’s particularly pleasant for people traveling by themselves.
French Immersion Homestay = A Cheaper Way To Travel To France
So, what about the cost? When they add up all the services they’re getting, students soon realize a French immersion is a pretty good deal.
First there’s the price of the accommodation: French immersion homestay programs would offer a comfortable accommodation option: it may be a bedroom in their own house, some have a whole suite for their students with a private bathroom and often also a dedicated study room, and some even have a separate guest house for their immersion students, with a kitchen, several bedrooms…
When you’re staying with your French teacher, they may prepare and share meals with you. This option will be much cheaper than going to a restaurant, but you’ll still enjoy fresh, quality home-made French food and will certainly enjoy discovering the typical meals of French family cooking.
A French immersion teacher may also offer some tailor-made classes to their students: so the immersion program cost will include private French tuition.
Whether your immersion host is a certified French teacher or not, the aim of a French immersion professional is to entice you to practice your French with them. There’s nothing like learning French in context of real-life activities: many immersion hosts will also offer cooking classes, or yoga classes… They will take you to the market with them, guide you around their region and help you make the most of your French vacation.
All in all, most immersion teachers end up spending a very big part of the day with their student: they may keep a few hours aside for themselves, but students are amazed how generous these immersion professional are with their time. Well, they tend to be passionate about their job and don’t count the hours.
All these reasons are why I personally believe that if you want to travel to France to practice your French, there’s no better, safer, cheaper, most definitely efficient way to achieve your goal than residing with a French immersion teacher.
I invite you to browse our French immersion listings and see all the options these innovative French language professionals offer.
I wish you a fabulous French immersion experience!