While you can get by in Paris without speaking French (particularly if you speak English), it’s not a strategy I’d recommend. You will be constantly frustrated, both by your inability to fully understand what is going on around you and your inability to say what needs to be said. And the people with whom you are trying to communicate will get crabby too. So do yourself a favor, even if you think you have no talent for languages, and make an effort.
In the city of Paris, every mairie (town hall for the arrondissement) offers some kind of instruction for French language learners. These vary in their intensity and quality; what they do have in common is they tend to be close to your home and the fees are quite reasonable. The downside is that the instruction is variable and the classes often quite large. These sessions fill up quickly so don’t mess around once you figure out when registration will take place.
There are dozens of options in Paris for language learners. Here are a few that seem to pop up on everyone’s list. As always, leave a comment if you have information to share about these or other programs.
101, boulevard Raspail
Rolling enrollment; options range from 4 to 20 hours per week.
6, rue Spinoza
Standard and intensive courses with class size limited to 15 students; rolling enrollment with courses starting throughout the year.
French As You Like It
Private French lessons focused on learning grammar and vocabulary for practical everyday purposes. Learn the French you need for business or to go to the market. Private and semiprivate (up to 4 students) offered for children as well.
Institut Catholique de Paris
21, rue d’Assas
A wide range of French language programs are offered on a traditional academic calendar, although there are also intensive short courses.
Institut de Langue Française (ILF)
3, avenue Bertie-Albrecht
A variety of courses offered at all levels including private instruction and special courses for kids. Standard courses are 10 or 20 hours per week with courses beginning the first of each month; classes limited to 15 students.
27, boulevard des Italiens
General courses are for 15 or 20 hours per week with workshops also offered in conversation, phonetics, and written French. One on one instruction is also available as is a special program for au pairs.
23, boulevard Sebastopol
Intensive and standard courses with start dates every Monday. This school also offers short courses for those whose schedules do not permit them to attend regular classes as well as private and semi-private tutoring.
30, rue Cabanis
Small group instruction at range of levels with new courses starting each month; courses range from 2 weeks to 9 months.
16 bis rue de l’Estrapade
The Sorbonne’s courses in French language and civilization are suitable for levels from beginner to advanced. There are a lot of options in terms of intensity, time of day, and focus.
18, rue Martin Bernard
Small group (no more than 6 students) with instruction daily (1.5 hours per day) and the expectation that you will complete 1.5 hours of homework daily. Courses start every Monday. No advanced courses.
Deciphering Acronyms Used by French Language Programs
CECR : Cadre Européen Commun de Référence
CFTJ : Club Français du Tourisme des Jeunes
CIDJ : Centre d’Information et de Documentation Jeunesse
CIJP : Centre International des Jeunes à Paris
CIEP : Centre International d’étude Pédagogique
DALF : Diplôme d’Approfondissement de la Langue Française
DELF : Diplôme d’étude en Langue Française
ECTS: European Credit Transfer System
FLE : Français Langue Étrangère
TCF : Test de Connaissance du Français
TEF : Test d’Évaluation du Français
Special thanks to Maureen Bartee for collecting much of this information.