This is an absolutely amazing opportunity to practice and learn French with native speakers in France. I booked to take part at ILA my French language school in Montpellier and I left thinking about what great value for money it was and how chuffed I was to have taken part. It’s an authentic, cheap, fun and unbelievably useful experience which I think I will be attending each week.
WeGoLingo French Language Exchange Set Up
This was my first time attending any French language exchange in France and I wasn’t too sure what to expect. From talking to other French students it sounded like a fun structure so me and a couple of my classmates signed up which you could do right at the reception at the ILA French language school in Montpellier.
My French classmates and I headed off to Café Oz, the Australian Bar in Montpellier. When we arrived we were greeted by the first of many French speakers, Lola. Lola is the organiser of the event and an incredibly friendly French native. If there was anything you didn’t understand about the dynamic when she explained it in French she spoke perfect English so any misunderstandings could be ironed out.
The structure was simple; we were assigned a table number to begin with and we were told whether we were a ‘mover’ or a ‘stayer’. You would be sat with a different partner each round and would chat for 16 minutes; 8 minutes in English and 8 minutes in French in any order.
Lola gave us a little blue token which we could use to claim a free drink at the bar and we headed over to the tables in the main room. The bar is a bit of an institution for French students at ILA language school in Montpellier; it’s nice and big and doesn’t get really busy until later in the evenings so we had tons of space and nice big wooden tables to relax and chat around.
Let’s Get Started Using my French Language Skills
Waiting for me at the table was Bruno; a middle-aged native French speaker who was born and raised here in Montpellier, France. So off we went! Starting off in English Bruno and I had a very interesting conversation, we began at the classic starting block for these exchanges; ‘Why do you want to learn English/French?’ I found it fascinating to hear all the different reasons people had for wanting to learn my mother tongue and to hear how they engaged with it in different ways. Bruno for example was planning a 3 month long bike ride from Scandinavia all the way down to Portugal and wanted to learn English to better communicate with the people he will meet in the countries he passes through. He talked about how he wanted to have a deeper connection with other Europeans and although he could probably get by with French and his basic English he wanted deeper interactions.
Then Lola stepped into the centre of the room and tapped on a big gold gong to signify the end of the first 8 minutes and just like that we jumped into speaking French. It felt great to give my French a go with a native speaker, quite a different experience to talking with my French teachers and other students at the ILA French immersion school. I wasn’t just talking though and Bruno was well and truly testing my French ears. It was such a wonderful feeling hearing him use things I had literally been learning that day and made me feel like I was gaining momentum with my French.
Who do you meet during a French Language Exchange in Montpellier?
After another gong sounded Bruno thanked me for the nice exchange and moved over to one of the other English speakers. I was then joined by Melanie; a middle-aged woman who was also learning English for the purposes of travel. Although she had no intention of going to Britain the countries where she was going were more likely to speak English than French. A recurring theme amongst those learning English.
And so it went! I spoke to Jouness an Italian of Moroccan descent who moved to France two years ago, Jeremie a pilot, a few students and a couple of people who were just doing it for the pleasure.
The experiences they spoke of really mirrored my own and those of the other students at the ILA French Immersion School in Montpellier. I made some good connections and swapped information with a few people so I left with some new French friends who I can explore Montpellier and practice my French with.