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Excellent French Immersion Program in the South of France

I attended the Institut de Français (although I feel strange not calling it "l'Institut de... read more

Reviewed 3 days ago
danajacksam
,
San Francisco, California
One year later... I am so pleased I went

I attended the Institut last December and the positive Tripadvisor reviews were a major help in... read more

Reviewed 1 week ago
joely_k57
,
Guildford, United Kingdom
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All reviews learn french four weeks learning experience fellow students immersion program speaking french language school beautiful location entire month studio apartment won t having fun cap ferrat bonne chance morning news st paul de vence work hard
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Reviewed 3 days ago

I attended the Institut de Français (although I feel strange not calling it "l'Institut de Français" now) for the month of October 2018, and it was easily one of the BEST experiences of my life. I have always wanted to learn French but had grown up in Southern California so I was encouraged to learn Spanish (which has been extremely helpful up until now). This year, however, I was ready to dedicate some time to learning the beautiful French language. I knew no French beyond "bonjour, au revoir, merci" a month before I arrived in Villefranche-sur-Mer, but I took private lessons for a few weeks to give myself a small base of knowledge (very small!). I still wasn't really able to speak more than the simplest of sentences which were not very practical before I began this program, and I certainly still couldn't understand when people around me spoke French or, God forbid, to me! However, the amount of progress I made at l'Institut was AMAZING. I am fully able to get around France now on my own and communicate with the locals, Uber drivers, hotel staff, restaurant staff, boutique owners and other friendly people I have met along the way. I am far from fluent, but I can absolutely get by and speak in complete sentences with proper grammar.

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and a Master of Arts degree in Education, and I am absolutely impressed by the professionalism, dedication and effectiveness of this program and its staff. I spent several days in Paris testing this out before I returned to the US less than two weeks ago and had the time of my life.

When I went to France two years ago, I was unable to communicate by myself with the locals throughout the country. The difference between then and now is astounding, in both my enjoyment level and my ability to get around easily.

Also, I made lifelong friends from around the world at the school and plan to return in 2019 for another wonderful month of language and cultural learning in the gorgeous south of France. I have so many wonderful memories I could share, and I will revise my review soon to add more photos.

My professors were Frédéric and Arnaud, and I couldn't have expected better teachers than those two. They were gifted teachers who also made you laugh about a hundred times a day which definitely made the days sail by. I also had the pleasure of getting to know several other teachers who were also wonderful, including Syvie, Julien, Evelyn, etc. I was so very sad to leave, but I take comfort in knowing I will be back there soon.

I also want to add, that I would take the poor reviews with a grain of salt. If you are a self-assured person who is willing to leave the teaching to the experts and invest yourself in the wonderful program they have created, then you will reap the rewards. If you fight the process and decide that you know better than they at the Institut do, then you shouldn't attend. The literature states the program very clearly, and if you truly want to learn French and don't need to be treated as if you're special then you will do just fine...in fact, much, much better than fine! Many business leaders, etc. attend this school, but everyone is treated equally. It's one of the parts the students loved the most.

I'd also like to add that the attitude of the students in my particular class was very positive and upbeat every single day. We were all there to learn and take in this unique experience away from our everyday lives. This benefited us tremendously, I am convinced.

By the way, my friends and family back here in California cannot believe that I can now communicate in French just one mere month after leaving for France...and either can I!

Thank danajacksam
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed 6 days ago

Here's a variety of thoughts that I had about the program which I did in 2018.

Notes - it is HIGHLY discouraged to take ANY notes at all during class.

Questions - The teacher refuses to answer questions and will berate students for doing so. I've never experienced this in all the years of schooling that I've had. Perhaps this is the French way. It felt almost Napoleonic.

Organization - The organization of the course feel haphazard, with some subjects covered, other subjects glossed over, and no clear order as to when anything is covered.

They observe that there is a distinction between understanding and expression. But the way they teach expression is thru endless repetition of the same example.

The focus of the school is on spoken French, not written French. But they don't bother to show the written French. The school is so focused on speaking rather than writing, students emerge deficient in spelling and language structure.

No textbooks. Handouts are sometimes given, but only after the end of the session. It's as if they're saying here are the notes that you might have taken. This is VERRRY different than how things work when it's actually important that the audience learn what the presenter has to say. For example, in a company board meeting, board members will receive a document a few days ahead of time and they come to the meeting prepared with questions about the material. No good board member comes to a company meeting completely unprepared. Yet, this is precisely the style of learning that this school embraces.

AV materials are from the last century. There is no utilization at all of YouTube, podcasts, or any kind of internet resources.

No discussion of art, music, or literature, or any meaningful discussion of French culture, other than the most simplistic types of questions like, "do you like music?"

They don't even provide a wifi signal for students to use.

Over reliance on socratic style teaching, with little to break things up in terms of field trips, video, music, or group projects.

Arrogance - There's a definite arrogance which exists, with their sense that because the place has been around since the 1960s their method is the best for teaching French.

Formal - the class structure is very formal, with the instructor standing in front of the classroom for many hours and the emphasis on precise listening to exact phrases, with precise answers to those exact questions required.

Creativity - is not something that is valued at this place. If the teacher asks a question, you answer that question, exactly that question, with no creativity, and zero self-expression. This is great for any aspiring francophone robots. Anyone else bay be frustrated with this.

Lack of Syllabus - Most college professors prepare a syllabus to describe the course and the major points that will be covered. The Institute does appear to have such a syllabus.

Lack of testing - Schools test. The Institute does not test its students, and so, is more of a resort than a true school.

Food - Students are required to remain on campus for lunch, and encouraged to be there for breakfast as well. The food is pretty good.

Homework - though there is a modicum of homework, it tends to emphasize a single concept, not a broad set of concepts. It's like doing two digit multiplication ten times.

I thought it was odd that my course seemed to have exactly ten people. And for someone to be added to the room it seemed like someone else had to leave the room. For someone to move up, someone else has to move down.

Would have been a good idea to do more of rotating teachers and classrooms.

Gossip - the staff is a huge gossip chamber. There's no such thing as a private conversation with any member of the staff.

Thank anon20180430
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed 1 week ago

I attended the Institut last December and the positive Tripadvisor reviews were a major help in persuading me to go. It's been nearly a year since I attended so I wanted to add my thoughts on the school.

In short, I am so happy I went to the Institut. I arrived in France, as a complete beginner barely able to ask if someone spoke English and I left able to happily to chat to my taxi driver for the forty minute or so drive to the airport.

The value of this course is the depth of understanding that students are given. The school seems to cover less ground, in terms of new vocabulary, than other comparable courses in favour of providing a foundation for students to really understand the structure of the language. I was able to join a mid-A2 level course (DELF standard) on returning to London and I am planning to take my B1 examinations in the new year. In short, I am well on my way to achieving my goal of professional competency ( I also managed to meet a French partner along the way!).

My advice for future students would be to really throw yourself into the experience by speaking up in lessons, doing the homework and practising outside of class.
The days are long and so the only real times for sightseeing are during the weekends, so make sure you don't mind that before signing up!

Finally I just wanted to thank my teacher Sylvie, who was brilliant and very supportive to everyone in the class.

Thank joely_k57
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed 1 week ago

I just returned from spending a glorious month in Villefranche. I adored every second. Being a student again at a certain age, ahem, can be a challenge but the work was fun! We laughed everyday, all day. The location is gorgeous and the teachers and my fellow students were inspiring. If you love French, treat yourself. Thank you to everyone at the school who works so hard to make Institut de Francais the very special place that it is. I hope to return.

Thank Go40591314424
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed 4 weeks ago via mobile

The institute lives up to its reputation with its first class programme for teaching french. The teachers are especially excellent for ensuring students of all levels learn how to speak French. If you love to work hard and play hard with students of all ages,from all over the world ,in a beautiful setting, then you will love this amazing school. The school offers an intimate window into French culture and everyday life while teaching students how to speak French. A truly unforgettable experience!!!!

2  Thank sficek19
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 20, 2018

The Institut provides an intensive learning experience for anyone who wants to learn spoken French. Plan on 8 hours a day of intensive French instruction by highly qualified/experienced instructors. Rooms good to excellent. Meals are excellent. Students are from around the world and friendships made are lifelong. For those who want to learn French by total immersion, I highly recommend the Inttitut. I am returning next year for my fourth time.

3  Thank CharlieGol74
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 14, 2018

I spent 4 weeks in the fall of 2016. I was placed in an upper intermediate group and my main teacher was Peggy.

Positive aspects:

Interesting people who had come from all corners of the world to participate.
Wonderful location

Negative aspects:

Outdated material and teaching methods

Teacher had obvious favorites who got called on 2 or 3 times as often as others.
As we all had paid the same obviously very unfair.

Food greatly overrated (however nice kitchen staff).

Whatever was taught each day could have been done in half the time.

Other comments:

I have been back to Villefranche and taken intensive courses in Nice at AF.
Look into them as an excellent alternative.

4  Thank Linnea F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 2, 2018

I had planned to attend a course at the Institut de Francais and this year I was finally able to travel to Villefranche to “submerse” myself in the French language and French culture. It is 4 months since left the Insitute and I have been reflecting a lot on the experience I went through the 4 weeks I was a student. It was by far one of the best experiences of my life. I cannot praise the institute enough all though I will highlight a few challenges I think is important to address. For me it was an excellent holiday with a meaning full purpose in beautiful surroundings. I met and interacted with other students from many different parts of the world and fantastic teachers; very dedicated, experienced and used to teach adult students. I made friends from all sides of life and I know I will stay in touch with most of my classmates for years to come.

The teaching method used is unique and is based on phonetic/oral which will give you a “French platform” quickly. After you leave the Institute, you will be encourage to continue your “journey” in the French language by Alliance Française or other providers of French tuition. I have continued my French journey more or less since I left Villefranche.

The teaching method used at the Institute is certainly not for everyone. Many of us have obtained our previous education by taking notes, using books etc. Suddenly phonetic / oral is the methodology; trust your teachers and you will experience that it works. The fact that you are on the same level as your fellow students in your group means that topics and sentences will be repeated over and over again and slowly you will discover that the method works. You will from time to time receive paper work for home work etc. I would suggest that the Insitute makes a working book instead and handing out this book to the students the first week.

Like in most course settings, you will meet the “Assistant Professeur” in your class. These students think they have more progress than you and they will constantly answer on your behalf. The teachers are very good stopping this and will ensure that your given time to answer in the class setting as well as receiving feedback from the teacher. I felt I was struggling more than other students in my class. I went to my teacher discussing this and she gave me advice and recommendations I followed and the progress came. I used evenings and weekends for my own studies which was well invested time. I also think that the teacher responsible for the class should have a weekly session with each student discussing the students’ progress and challenges during each week. 5 to 10 minutes should be sufficient and it would be a useful excise in my view.

All the teachers are amazing in my opinion. I had Sylvie and Julien most of my time and they are both exceptional talented, experience teachers able to make the most tedious lecture amazing. All the teachers have many years of teaching French to adult students so you will find yourself in very good hands. I have nothing but praise for the Administration staff who provide me with all the necessary logistical support I needed prior to my arrival. This involved booking a studio apartment for me as well as organizing pick up at Nice Airport.
And then there is the food. During breakfast and lunch which is included the students are expected to speak French and during the lunch service, the teachers will eat with the students to ensure that French is spoken. Chef Nathalie and her team were outstanding! Fresh, healthy, tasty and balanced meals with careful consideration for allergies/restrictions.

8 hours of French pr. Day is a tough call but indeed very well balanced. In the evening you will usually also have some homework and there are plenty of activities facilitated by the Insititute with Professeur Julien by the helm which is another way of learning about French culture, the region and more importantly opportunities to practice French.

The Institute is by no means cheap, but you will obtain a good foundation for further studies. I will certainly recommend the Institute and my time in Villefranche gave me exactly that.

Bonne Chance!

6  Thank josorb
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 25, 2018

About three years of research culminated in me attending the four-week December 2017 session at l’Instutut de Francais in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

For those of you who want the bottom line: They delivered on every promise they made, and they exceeded expectations. If you’re considering a language immersion program, sign up.

For those of you who’d like more details, it’s a challenge to take something so experiential and explain it, but here goes.

The first day, the only day when English is spoken by the staff, and after several listening/reading/writing tests and a personal interview (all conducted on site) I was placed in the “advanced beginner” class.

The second day (and every day thereafter,) when only French is allowed, I remember sitting at the breakfast table not knowing what to say after “good morning, how are you, I am fine, please pass the coffee.”

The last day, again at breakfast, I was having a basic conversation with one of the advanced students about my work, my plans for returning to the US, and how we might collaborate on a project.

Progress.

A few days into the course, I reviewed their website, and a particular sentence jumped out at me: “…from the outset the student is plunged into the French language without recourse to his or her mother tongue.”

I had taken the terminology to be a rather dramatic, classically French, and perhaps exaggerated, turn of phrase. It was nothing but accurate. You literally had nowhere to go in your mind, except to do whatever you could to string together some words and hope you were understood. Moreover, we were asked not to take notes except when the instructor directed us to, as the course was laser-focused on listening and repeating, and then growing our speaking skills with our classmates in guided conversation.

A note that you can participate as fully or a minimally as you like. Besides being in class, there is daily homework. There are several optional opportunities for learning, including a welcome buffet and dance, a Monday / Wednesday / Friday morning review of the news in French prior to classes starting, a French movie night, offered three times during the month, three evening excursions (two dinners and one wine tasting), and a day-long trip to Saint-Paul-de-Vence.

I should add that breakfast is an option as well (about half the students made use of it) as is afternoon tea, with maybe a dozen people showing up. I took advantage of every opportunity, because why wouldn’t you?

L’institut de Français clearly understands their brand, and the promise that it represents. They position themselves as the best of the best, and everything, from the location, to the physical plant, to the instructors, lives up to the promise.

Though we had one primary instructor for the entire month, each day, we might sit with a different instructor at lunch, or during the hour after lunch when we would learn about some practical aspect of French life, such as ordering in a restaurant, or having a conversation on the phone.

I was fascinated that every instructor used the same language and gestures when correcting our pronunciation or grammar. No matter which instructor you were dealing with, if you needed to truncate the ending of a verb, for example, they all made a scissor motion with their extended index and middle fingers.

A special shout out to Cyril, my primary instructor, to Frédéric, and to Julien, and to Natalie, the chef, and her team, who produced restaurant-worthy lunches every day

When speaking with one of the instructors, I asked him why he and the other professors chose to teach here. He said it was because of the commitment of the students. He knew the sacrifice that most people had to make: one month away from family and work, airfare, a significant tuition and housing cost, and spending eight hours a day immersed in a language that was not our own. He told me that his commitment was to make sure that every student felt that it was money well spent.

The night before I left France for the US, at my hotel at Charles de Gaulle airport, the bartender struck up a conversation in French about how slow things were that evening. After chatting with him for a couple of minutes, I realized how much my language skills had improved.

I’ve continued my studies since arriving back in the states at the Alliance Francaise, as well as reading daily and using Rosetta Stone and Duolingo. I also review the substantial amount of materials that we were given during our stay. It’s helpful, without a doubt, but there is no substitute for immersion. If you’ve ever considered it, enroll. You won’t find a better school, more qualified instructors, or a more beautiful location.

6  Thank KenMosesian
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 24, 2018

Attended the Institute in Oct 2017. Enjoyed the experience so much that I came back in April 2018 and about to participate again in June. What more can I say…you should go!

The teachers are smart, witty and funny.

The location is parfait - who wouldn’t like studying with a view of Villefranche-Sur-Mer and the Mediterranean.

I loved the intensity of the immersion experience where you can’t speak English for 9 hours and are fined 2 euros if you do. In October, it was a bit stressful when I began because I was nervous to be called on in class. But you get used to it and everyone is so encouraging (both the teachers and other students regardless of level). At breakfast, during the breaks or teatime there is also plenty of opportunity to mingle with the other students and practice speaking in French.

The emphasis of the program is on proper oral expression learned through audio/visual technicals. This is very different from typical classroom teaching. You take an exam on the first day (to be placed) and then a final exam (to see how you improved). My verbal French definitely improved both times which was my personal goal.

There are also various activities that are organized by the Institue including dinners, a wine tasting, movie nights, boat ride to Monaco (seasonal), day trip to St Paul de Vence, etc.

So don’t think about it anymore…go!

8  Thank SFHungryTraveler
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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