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How to choose an excellent French language school (and avoid a bad deal)?

You are considering learning French in France. You will spend a certain amount of money and time on this project, you want to find the best price quality French language school in France, not just the cheapest, offering poor service and unqualified teaching. You want to avoid frustration by having chosen the wrong French school? You feel a bit lost when you look at all the offers to learn French on the internet since all promise a lot. In order to avoid disappointment, take these suggested points to help you when deciding on a French language school in France. You will only learn French well if you choose the right French language school in France!

This is your best guarantee for excellent French teaching, services and for a successful stay.

There are 4 important quality labels for French language centers:

  • 2 top quality international accreditations: EAQUALS and IALC
  • 2 top quality French accreditations: LABEL QUALITE FLE and the GROUPEMENT FLE

These are very prestigious, well known and serious labels awarded after rigorous quality inspections made locally over several days by highly qualified, independent inspectors, who then suggest the school to a committee who will decide on attributing the label or not. Regular re-inspections guarantee continuous high services and excellent teaching.

ILA is the only French language school in Montpellier recognized by all 4 most important quality accreditations. Additionally, in Montpellier only ILA is recognized by both of the two leading international quality accreditations IALC or EAQUALS.

Many French language schools in France show nowadays on their websites a number of misleading “labels” like “quality school awards”, “customers choices”, “recommended on” etc.

These “labels” are not official accreditations. They are pure marketing and sales tools of online language centres directories listing hundreds of French language centers without having checked their quality or having inspected them. They do not assure the seriousness of an institution!

ILA in Montpellier refuses to publish those labels on its sites although we were provided with most of them.

Look on the schools websites for references of former students, contact them about their experience. Look if there are references from well-known companies the school works with. Important companies select their partner language center very carefully. See ILA references of former students and company references.

The Common European scheme defines 6 language levels. Ensure you choose a French language center offering these 6 levels (or more) YEAR ROUND. Nothing can be more frustrating than being in a course with fewer levels and you find yourself in a class by far too easy or by far too difficult. Make sure the school allows you to change level if necessary and that the level testing is done prior to your course starting date.

Prices depend very much on this factor. The smaller the classes sizes, the more attention you will get from your teacher, but then the more expensive your course will be. Class sizes of maximum 10 students are ideal, leaving enough time for each student to participate actively in class, and offering the teacher the adequate time to look after each student’s progress. The nationality mix of students is often very wide since this formula applies to students worldwide. Prices for these class sizes stay reasonable compared with prices for Mini-group courses were you might pay double price for having max. 5 or 6 students per class.

Beware of language centres not showing class sizes or expressing the number of students per group in a misleading way, like “max. 12, but according to level placement maybe more”, “max.10, in high season more” etc.

Some French language schools in France employ teachers that are not fully qualified, and/or not experienced, or teachers to be, still in their studies. Obviously salaries for those teachers are much lower (or even none if it is a practical training) enabling centers to offer cheaper prices, but the quality of teaching will not be what you expect.

Look if you find information on schools website about qualifications and experience of teachers. Teachers need to be fully qualified, experienced and well-trained in the teaching method. They obviously need to receive an adequate salary to be well motivated as well as having a working contract (see our teachers). Check if the center has a proven teaching method and if you find information about their teachers on the website. See the ILA teacher team and the ILA teaching method.

Some centers limit the number of staff (or employ low qualified staff) in order to save costs. This can be a big problem if you need to speak (maybe even in English) to the accommodation officer or course coordinator in case something goes wrong and nobody is there to help, to support or to understand you. Look at schools websites if you find a staff list (see our ILA team) to find out who will be there for you in case of need.

Does the school offer a wide range of accommodation options? Is the accommodation placement done in-house, so that they know their families and residences? Is there a contact locally you can meet in case you wish to change? And most important, does the school allow you to change accommodation? Do they charge for this? Do they act according to a quality chart for accommodation, such as the IALC accommodation charte?

Is the school well located in the city center easily reachable by public transport or on foot from your accommodation? Will you find a good infrastructure nearby with sandwich bars, restaurants, café terraces, shopping? Are all classrooms well equipped for multimedia activities in order to learn French well? Are all premises fully air-conditioned? Is a resource center available for self studies activities? Is WIFI available in the whole premises and free of charge?

Bigger cities or well-known touristic places in Southern France may attract, but they are very expensive for accommodation, daily cost of living, going out and enjoying your free time. Accommodation can be far away from school in the less attractive outskirts. Choose a medium sized city, ideally with a student atmosphere and student price level. A place with a warm welcome where you can meet easily French students and students from many different countries – like Montpellier.