A message arrived to my inbox this morning: “Voici les informations de ta famille d’accueil…” (Here is the information about your host family)…
Deep breath, it just got real!
In a few days, I will be in Biarritz, France taking French classes at a language school and immersing myself in the language and culture. This has long been on my bucket list. I’m finally going to study French in France! When I say that out loud, my whole face turns into a huge smile. This is something I’ve always wanted to do!
I am a language nerd. I always have been, and I always will be. Language is what started and kept me going on my full-time travels in the first place. It’s a major part of who I am.
And lucky for me, you don’t have to be a college student to study abroad.
This will be my fourth study abroad experience. I learned Spanish in Costa Rica in 2003-4, then Italian in Italy 2005-6, then Portuguese in Brazil in 2008, and now… exactly ten years later to the month, I’m finally going to study French in France.
Immersion is the only way to truly master a foreign language, and a home stay is the key to expediting fluency. If you want to learn a foreign language, carve out time to make this happen. I always say that studying abroad is the best thing I ever did, three times. Here’s to a fourth, and it won’t be my last.
Related: Why (and How) You Should Learn a Foreign Language
FAQ: How I Decided to Study French in France
When I enrolled at my university (back in the day), I had to declare both a major and minor right away. I chose to major in Spanish, that one I was sure of. I hadn’t studied another language yet, so I randomly selected French as my minor. I figured it would be easy and right up my alley. Throughout college, I stuck with the Spanish major, but instead of minoring in French, I ended up studying abroad in Italy and minoring in Italian.
After college, I went to Brazil on a whim to learn Portuguese, and now that I’ve collected three romance languages, I’d like to round it out by adding French. I really can’t stand being so “close” to a language (linguistically speaking) and not actually being able to speak it.
Besides, as a traveler, a linguist, and a polyglot, it is only natural that I should want to throw French into my mix. I could use it in so many countries and with so many French travelers all over the world.
Do I speak any French already?
En petit peu. I am not conversational (I struggle to put sentences together), but I do know a lot of vocabulary. I can read it okay, and I could get by in a desperate situation.
Eleven years ago (eek), I studied French for a semester in college. I aced the class and had to give a presentation or two in French. Because I have studied four romance languages and I understand how they work, French is still very much within reach inside my language brain, but I absolutely do not claim that I “speak” it… yet.
I learned Portuguese in less than a month, and I’m hoping to be fully conversational in French by the end of my month in Biarritz. Think I can do it? 🙂
I am not a city girl, and Biarritz is a small town. I knew I didn’t want to study in Paris or anywhere near it. I’ve never been to the South of France, but it always sounded nice to me. Also, since my window of time to do this is late winter, I wanted to be as far away from snow as possible. I did not seek out Biarritz itself, it was actually the school that attracted me the most.
Related: Southern France on a Budget
How did I pick the school?
I opened Google and typed “French language schools in France” exactly like I recommend doing in this post. Then, I clicked on the map option and began browsing schools that were in the South of France. I did a lot of research, read reviews, compared prices and lodging options, and decided SOFI 64 was my number one choice. Then I contacted the school and enrolled.
Why SOFI 64? For the following reasons:
- It’s in a small town
- It has a beautiful website and social media (they are active and up with the times)
- It offers a French and Yoga program, so I could do more than just language classes
- It offers homestays
- It was in the right price range
How much does this cost?
I opted for the French and Yoga program for 4 weeks. There is a 2-week minimum, beyond that you choose how many weeks you want to stay. My tuition is 1,341 euros, or around USD $1,650.00. This is tuition only, not counting accommodations.
I opted for a homestay, which includes breakfast and dinner every weekday and all meals on weekends. My homestay for 4 weeks is 924 euros, or around USD $1,140. Homestays can, of course, be hit or miss, but if a school has a good reputation and good reviews, chances are they work with great homestays.
In my experience, it is the homestay that ends up being absolutely priceless.
The total comes to about $2,800 for an entire month of lodging, most (home-cooked French) meals, French classes and immersion, and yoga!
Prices as of February 2018.
You can do it too, here’s a discount!
I’ve worked out a special deal with SOFI 64 to offer YOU a discount if you want to study French here! They are offering 5% off any program they offer, to any BMT readers, any time. Simply enroll online, and type JACKIE5 in the “Message” section of the enrollment form to get your discount. Pretty cool, huh? Let me know if you do it so I can give you a high five! (And any tips I learn along the way).
If you have questions, ask me in the comments. I’m excited to share this journey with you.
Author’s note March 2018: I did it, and I can speak French now! Read about my experience of study abroad in France.