Let’s begin from the beginning. Roberto is 43 years old, and I am, Sandra, 39 and we thought: why don’t we quit our jobs and go to France to study French in France for a couple of months? It sounded crazy, but it’s the reality. What’s the best we can do? Invest in ourselves. So let’s go to France so that we can improve as much as possible… as fast as possible.
We are going to tell you our experience at “French in Normandy” school of French after having studied there for two months. As you may have guessed by the name of the school, it is located in Normandy, more precisely in Rouen, the capital city of the region. Normandy is an ideal place to study French in France for adults o for teenegers. By the way, if you decide to start a course with them, tell them that you have discovered the school here and they would treat you with a lot of love.
UN VISTAZO RÁPIDO
Before arriving, we were sure that we wanted to do an intensive course. We are quite intense, so the course had be so! Jokes apart, we didn’t have much time for this adventure, so we wanted to be very productive. Our objective was studying 24/7 and, because of that, we wanted classes in the morning and in the afternoon. Three hours in the morning, two more in the afternoon, a while in the school library and even more time going to different activities with our classmates and teacher. Yeah, you’re right, pretty intensive 😉
Why did we choose to study French in France? Obviously, there’s no better way to learn a language than going to the country where that language is spoken. Besides, France and Spain are neighbours, so it’s really easy to get there. And, although we could have arrived by plane, train or however, we could go by car, something that is very helpful for us to move in.
Why did we choose to learn French in Normandy? Everyone had told us that “North Men” (once in Normandy you’ll understand why normands are the “North Men”) were very nice, open and talkative. After two months walking around Normandy, we can absolutely confirm what we had heard. And, if you are a big traveler, in a 3-4 hours driving distance you can visit the whole Normandy, Bretagne, Nantes, Paris, Lille, Belgium or Luxembourg.
Normandy is in the North-West of France, very close to Belgium and, of course, Paris with all its attractions and its international airports. A perfect location. And if you like driving, you could get there very easily from other countries such as the Netherlands, Germany or Switzerland. We arrived from Spain by car, so… why not.
Rouen, the capital city of Normandy, is a small charming city. Translated: you can find whatever you need, but without the floods of people or the traffic of a big city. We were living in Sotteville-lés-Rouen, the newest part of Rouen because the school is near there and we preferred to go walking to the classes. “French in Normandy” looked for the accomodation as they always do with the students that ask for help. They offer two different options: a stay with a French family (host family) or an apartment. We opted for the apartment because we were two and we thought that it could be better.
Our apartment was located in a building dedicated to students and workers that come to Rouen principally during weekdays. But we can assure that the atmosphere is so calm. You can have breakfast in the cafeteria, use the laundry room and get a free internet connection. Ah, they change your linen and towels once a week and the heating is just great 😉
We chose to study French in France and, firstly in Normandy, because it is a quiet region, not yet conquered by armies of tourists. Of course, the Mont Saint Michel is in Normandy and the island is possibly the most visited spot in France, but even that Normand jewel is quite empty out of the super high season weeks. Normandy is still local and you can enjoy a lot of different markets, small traditional shops and farms where you can buy directly from the producers. That is, you discover the real Normandy with no need to spend a fortune. Normandy is your place if you are looking to learn french in France in a cheap way.
And as I told you at the beginning, besides the relatively low cost of life, normands are great. Everytime that someone listened to us speaking in Spanish, they stopped and started talking to us with a lot of curiosity. Always kind, smiling and helpful, they patiently tried to understand our French.
Obviously, there are many different French courses in Normandy, but we chose “French in Normandy” school since we loved that it was created a lot of time ago ( experience is always a must) and we discovered that it has a pile of awards and the recognition of the government. If we looked for a guarantee of the quality of the courses, we could not ask for more.
Once there, we realised that they work side by side with NGOs and that protecting the environment and recycling is a sacred law. And one of the most important things: everyone is so nice that we didn’t want to finish our stay with them. Eleri, Malika, Jennifer, Soumiya, Fabian, Emilie, Neza, Thomas… and all the others… thank you so much for your help and patience.
We find another clue of the kind of school “French in Normandy” in one small detail. There are teachers that work there since the opening of the center. It’s a good way to preserve a system of teaching French and it shows clearly that there is a wonderful atmosphere.
When I (Sandra) arrived at my first French class, I wanted to die. I did not understand a thing! I had studied just a couple of things in Spain and I realised that if you don’t know even the verb “être” (“to be”), there’s no way to express yourself. Luckily, I was not the only one in the classroom who was a little bit scared. And, telling the truth, that relaxed me a lot.
In order to discover what your level is, that first day you make a short interview with one of the teachers. Afterwards, they decide which one will be your starting point. No difficult questions, just the usual conversation about ourselves, likes and dislikes or what we expect coming to the school. Yes, yes… My interview was really short. 🙂 Besides saying “je suis Sandra”, there was not much more I could say. So, of course, I started my adventure in “French in Normandy” at A1 level. Roberto is quite hateful… he started at B1!
If you want to study French in France, you are going to discover that in your classroom there will be people from Kazakhstan, the United States, Chile, China, Japan… Those were the nationalities I met during my first week. I was the only Spanish person. That’s wonderful in order to study another language. I’m going to tell you how the classes for learning level A1 of French were. A1 is the most basic level. It is french for beginners.
You can go to the school with your own laptop (best and easiest way for me), ask for a tablet in the reception desk or just use your smartphone. The teacher will show on the blackboard a googledrive doc, previously shared with all the students. That way we can write on the document and, at the same, we see everything on the wall.
In that document you can check all the contents of the week. For instance, the first day’s subject was how to introduce yourself. So important to know how to do it! Where are you from? How old are you? What’s your nationality? Why do you want to study French in France? They seem so easy, but always hard the first day. But it’s a very good way to start.
The first day you understand the aims of the week and know all the things you’re going to study. Besides, on the last day of the school week you will receive a new document where you can read some comments about your progression and advices to continue improving. But, to be honest, since I was in A1 level, I had to improve everything!
Just to let you know, we learnt how to ask for the time or the numbers. And we were very busy. Did you know that in French you have to say “four-twenty” to say “eighty”? So, better don’t think about ninety-nine… But don’t be afraid. The teacher are the most patient people in the world. They make magic with the students.
A lot of people think they can learn French by themselves and surely it’s something that can help. But without the help of the teachers of the school I would have been so lost that I would have given up.
This level is quite different and more intense. In the classes Roberto went to, the first day they received the B1 level book, plenty of grammar explanations and exercises and they also used shared documents to follow the class. But, besides the logical increase of difficulty, the teachers paid a lot of attention to oral expression and comprehension. The students are supposed to have a solid base of grammar and they have to work on pronunciation and vocabulary.
Basically, they hear real audios from TV or radio and they read more difficult texts. Sometimes they work in pairs or small groups and after some minutes, they tell the rest of the classmates what they have been talking about. Obviously, under the supervision of the teachers who listen to the students to suggest corrections.
Another activity that they often do is to explain any grammar point. But the main idea is to offer a brief explanation and directly start using that point. The teachers will recommend some exercises to the students that can be done by themselves since the first day. And if in any doubt, the teachers are always there ready to help (in the classroom or by email)
Afternoon classes are a little bit different. We can say that they are more… ¿cultural? ¿Frenchy? The idea is to improve your level of French by getting to know a lot about French culture, history, interests… For example, we talked about “The three musketeers”, Monet, World War II or the countries that are French-speakers. And the subject is the same for all the levels, although the approach to the subject is obviously different.
We can say that the afternoon lessons don’t talk only about the French language, but about France and French people. It has been very interesting because we have met much more than just the people of Normandy.
We were surprised to discover how easily other international students came to the classes via the internet. Some of them come for a week or a couple of weeks, but others follow the classes from their houses for months. The new technologies give the chance of doing it so naturally that you can feel all the students are really together.
They can take part in every step of the day routine. They read all the exercises, texts, explanations… and of course they participate in the speaking practices. How? Very easy. Another student takes a tablet and between them, they can talk perfectly. One in 3D and the other one in 2D!
The first thing you have to do is to be very disciplined. Our experience tells us that, once at home, you have to study all the contents you have learnt that day. That way, you will not forget the new things. And if you want to reach the “pro level”, you can try to use this point in your conversations.
In your idea is to get a first contact with the French language we can recommend you to listen to French podcasts (like “Paris o’clock” or the French in Normandy one for more advanced learners ) or enjoy the music of “Sara’h”, a French singer who sings covers or international successes). Or you can take a walk around Youtube. There are a lot of channels which are useful to improve your French level (“Cindy go”, “Inner French”, “Very Syl”…).
We love reading. Roberto reads everyday and I… nearly everyday. Reading is something you have to do without stopping. Read, read, read… and when you are tired of reading, continue reading! Read books, read magazines, read newspapers, read street graffitis, read even the information of the shampoo bottle. It’s the best way to improve your vocabulary and, above all, your spelling. And you can try to read books specially written for students.
It can sound quite silly, but if you have the chance to read and at the same time “hear the text”, take the opportunity. The French language is two languages in one. The written language and the spoken one are so different. It’s true that there are rules to understand how every word has to be pronounced, but at the beginning it is not easy at all.
We came to study, yeah… but… we also came to discover a region of France, to have fun, to know its culture, to make friends… And that’s a priority for the “French in Normandy” school. The best thing they do in the school is team building. They organised a lot of things just to make team between teachers and students. We have lived the preparations of Halloween and Christmas and it was so nice to be involved in those activities.
Our everyday timetable started at 9:30 until 11:00. After that we made a pause and started again at 11:30 until 13:00. So it is perfect if you want work and learn French in France. Then we had lunch in a room with a microwave oven and, with a lot of energy, we went to the afternoon lessons from 14:00 to 16:00. And it’s then when the after-school activities begin. By the way if you want to learn French in France in summer, you can do it in this school because it not close! 🙂
Every Monday you can participate in the tour around the city of Rouen. It’s a wonderful plan because the new students arrive at the school on Mondays and it’s a good chance to meet other colleagues, teachers and curiosities about the city. The tour is absolutely free and one of the teachers comes with the group as tour guide. On Tuesdays you can go to theatre (a workshop for improving pronunciation), on Wednesdays there’s a workshop of audiovisual contents. That week, on Thursday we decorated the school and on Friday we went to practise climbing.
The activity of climbing was amazing and, of course, you continue practicing your French because we went with one of the teachers and: what language can Spanish, Scottish, Japanese and Brazilian people who live in France use? A perfect plan for learning French in France.
When the weekend arrives, the school offers different plans. We could say that these are more elaborated. Just for mentioning some of them, during our stay in Rouen, there have been plans to go to Paris, the Mont Saint Michel or the Christmas markets.
The truth is that Roberto started in B1 level, but it was a low B1 level because he needed to settle the things he knew before coming to the “French in Normandy” school. Fortunately, thanks to the teachers and with a lot of effort, he evolutioned a lot and he decided to start preparing the DELF exam of the B1 level. The school also offers specific lessons depending on the interests of the students. You can prepare the DELF or the DALF exam of every level, study business French or whatever you need.
The DELF, Diplôme d’Études en Langue Française, and the DALF, Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française, are the official certificates that the Ministry of Education of France offer. They are internationally recognized titles, valid for universities, public administrations…
Anyone can go and take the exam, but it will be so much easier if you count with the help of an official school as “French in Normandy” and receive a specific course to prepare it. There’s no better way than to study French in France. And remember that if it’s not possible to fly to Rouen you can always attend this special course thanks to the online classes.
The first thing you will know is how the exam is. It is composed of four tests. During the week, each day will be dedicated to one of them and the fifth day you’ll have the opportunity of reviewing the exercises and solving the doubts with the teachers. You will have your own book of DELF exercises of your level. It’s like a training for the exam day. The four test are the following:
To pass the exam you will need to reach at least 50 points of 100. You can get less than half of the points of one test if you are able to get a lot of points in one of the others. But if you don’t reach at least 5 points in any of them you will fail the exam.
In these lessons you will improve your French but exclusively oriented to pass the exam. The teachers give you lots of advice, they correct your pronunciation mistakes, teach you language tricks to write better texts…
Another thing that teachers tell you is the importance of time. The exam time is not unlimited. Because of that, they will be very strict. And you will be very grateful getting trained to do so that day of the DELF exam.
In summary, we are so happy with everything we learnt, with our experience in “French in Normandy” school and with our time in Rouen. If you have any questions, don’t doubt and write to us. It’s not possible to tell you everything we have lived just in one article.
And remember to enjoy your stay in Rouen to discover the extraordinary region of Normandy!