Improving spoken French in France

Feb 5th, 2014, 05:29 PM
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Improving spoken French in France

What small towns or cities would be good locations for an older adult who wants to settle for a week or two---maybe more---in one place and, with a private tudor, attempt to improve her conversational ability? This would be in the summer or fall, 2014. I am interested in history and maritime activities. I am trying to avoid places with hills and a lot of steps. ZZ
Zambezi is offline  
Feb 5th, 2014, 06:17 PM
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I'm going to make two suggestions. First, check out the possibility that your hometown might have a French speaking 'club' like the Alliance Francaise. (This is the link to the Canadian website, but there should be some answers to your questions regardless.)

Next, instead of a tutor, consider hiring a private guide for museums, etc. in your interest areas. Indicate to the guide what your objectives are, i.e. that you want to converse, not just listen; also, that you want to avoid steps, etc. This way you get many, many options for what to do, and you also get to kill two birds with one stone (enjoy some sightseeing AND improve your conversational ability.)

Bon voyage.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Feb 6th, 2014, 01:47 AM
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I'd also look at the use of Skype and the possibility of having an internet coach. Some very good people out there in low cost countries offer some chance to get some time in.
bilboburgler is offline  
Feb 6th, 2014, 05:37 AM
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I see there are lists of schools such as I have no personal experience with any of these. It would be prudent to investigate legitimacy of institutions from many angles. These places often require non-refundable deposits, and I suspect they might attract questionable outfits.

I think most places offer small group classes as a default.
greg is offline  
Feb 6th, 2014, 06:26 AM
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There are loads of groups in Paris that do English-French language exchange. Google the phrase "english french language exchange paris" and you'll get loads of results. Here are just a few:
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Feb 6th, 2014, 06:29 AM
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Ah sorry, I see you want to be in a small town or village and there are just so many small towns and villages that your request really covers the entire country. Focus on where you'd like to go first and then focus on finding a tudor in that area. The Dordogne region might be good since there are so many Anglophone expats there so I'd imagine chances are good you can find a French teacher there or other types of language exchange opportunities.
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Feb 6th, 2014, 06:48 AM
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From the tenor of the answers thus far, I infer that I have not made my question clear. All of the suggestions are good. I live in a large city with an active Alliance Francaise and I have taken courses there, as well as had private tutoring. Twice, I have been in immersion courses in France and stayed with a French family (Vichy and Tours). Now, I want to go to a town or small city, wander about there and in the adjacent area as an ordinary person, and have a session every day or so with someone who specializes in helping foreigners improve their spoken French. Naturally, I want to go to a town/region that is interesting, has some scenic value, and offers a few cultural opportunities. Maybe I'm being simplistic about what is involved. France is a big place. I've already checked out many towns and, for one reason or another, passed over them. For example, Brittany, from many standpoints, would be a great place to visit, but I fear that spoken French there might be different enough from the standard elsewhere as to be a problem. (I spent a month in Quebec once trying to learn French.) ZZ
Zambezi is offline  
Feb 6th, 2014, 06:51 AM
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FrenchMystiqueTours: I was in process of writing my last post when you posted yours. Thanks for that information. ZZ
Zambezi is offline  
Feb 6th, 2014, 07:08 AM
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I couple of years ago, we were considering a long-term rental in the south of France. We found this publication very helpful in trying to focus in on smaller towns in a region with a decent sized expat community, which has excellent links to language courses so that one could learn good every-day conversational French. We've traveled a good bit throughout France, and thought there was a bit "too much" English in the Dordogne (although we LOVE it) and the southwest surprised us as there was a lot going on that kept a vibrant population of all ages employed, and everyday life bustling. That is, you might visit some "market towns" on a bustling market day in the Dordogne or Provence and think what a cool place to live, only to come back on a day with no market, where there was barely anyone visible on the pretty (but empty) streets.

Our favorite town was Pezenas, but there are also others in the wine region, or closer to Toulouse, that offer some good opportunities. Not a small town, Montpelier totally blew us away as a wonderful little city. Perpignan is also delightful. Nimes might also be good, although we really didn't get to spend much time there.
uhoh_busted is offline  
Feb 6th, 2014, 07:59 AM
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La Rochelle may be the place for you. It is maritime, with few steps if any, and is an attractive city, at least in its core.
Michael is offline  
Feb 6th, 2014, 08:06 AM
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Also, if you are looking for a private teacher google the words "cours particuliers de francais" followed by the name of the town/city that interests you.
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Feb 6th, 2014, 08:11 AM
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Like Michael I was thinking of La Rochelle. We have a house near there in St Palais sur Mer and have been going there now 30 years and there is very little English spoken in our village or that area.

I was also thinking about Nantes-a bit bigger than La Rochelle-again that maritime feeling and a University city, so it feels youthful and has lots of activities. Both La Rochelle and Nantes have TGVs to Paris (2 hours to Nantes, 3 hours to La Rochelle). I will say that in the summer, La Rochelle will feel more touristy than Nantes if that makes a difference to you.

Another city that we love is Toulouse-although not maritime-oriented and summer can be hot....
jpie is offline  
Feb 6th, 2014, 08:20 AM
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And in terms of Brittany I think your fears of a regional accent difference are not a concern. If Brittany interests you then go for it. I have several friends from Brittany and although my French is far from perfect I have no trouble understanding them and can't detect any accent when they speak. My French wife agrees with me that this shouldn't be a concern for you. I've written a couple of photo reports about exploring two areas in Brittany, one about the Gulf of Morbihan and another about exploring near Dinan. You might get some ideas about where to stay and see if these areas interest you:

Near Dinan:

Gulf of Morbihan:
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Feb 6th, 2014, 08:27 AM
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I like the idea of La Rochelle also.
StCirq is offline  
Feb 6th, 2014, 11:43 AM
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I don't fully agree with FMT on Breton French: the area known as Basse Bretagne (Finistère and anywhere near it) is characterised by a strong regional accent. But in Haute Bretagne accent should not be a problem.

Your problem in Brittany might be the great tourist appeal of the towns and villages near the coast. The people you encounter as you move about might be used to dealing with English-speaking tourists, and be reluctant to converse with you in French.
Padraig is offline  
Feb 6th, 2014, 12:43 PM
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I don't know how you'd find some tutor that easily, but for some maritime activities, how about Antibe or Cassis? Cassis is a small village, Antibe is not, but at least is isn't as big as Nice or Marseille (which is where I think you'd be more likely to find such a tutor, or perhaps Montpellier). They have lots of French language courses in Montpellier so I imagine there would be tutors around. It's not far from the coast.

Antibes is kind of glitzy, actually, people with boats are there and they are not poor.
Christina is offline  
Feb 6th, 2014, 04:17 PM
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As a French person with what is considered a "neutral" accent I don't find any part of Brittany to have a strong regional accent nowadays. It used to be true in rural Finistère as it used to be true in most of rural France but apart from some older people this has died out and small town people no longer have an easily noticeable accent.

The parts of France with a strong regional accent are the south west, the south east, Alsace and the very northern part of France. Anywhere else would be considered "standard French" or close enough to "standard French". As far as vocabulary is concerned, regional differences are now minor (only some words here and there) and most noticeable in the south east (Provence and Côte d'Azur) and north (Nord Pas de Calais).

Nowadays social and rural vs. urban language differences are much greater than regional differences.

FrenchMystiqueTours2 is offline  
Feb 7th, 2014, 05:52 AM
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Let's not get sidetracked too far into comparing experiences of Brittany. Most of my Finistèrien friends and acquaintances are, like myself, of an older generation than Véronique (as is OP).

A little story. A friend decided that we should take a hike in "la Bretagne profonde" to visit a small but interesting chateau. The path he found petered out in a farmyard. So he decided to ask the farmer for directions. To my surprise, I found the farmer's French sounded particularly correct and easily comprehensible to my unschooled ear. My friend also thought it worthy of note, and asked "Vous etes bretonnant?" (Are you a Breton speaker?). To which the answer was "Oui". Which proves nothing about anything.

We never did find the chateau.
Padraig is offline  
Feb 7th, 2014, 06:02 PM
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You might google IIe=Institute of International Education and
CIEE+Council on International Educational Exchange.
330east is offline  
Feb 7th, 2014, 09:38 PM
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Having spent a week in Brittany solo I found people more interested in speaking with me in French (mine being particularly not awesome) than English - much more so than in many other places in France. Lovely part of the world - would love to go back.
Hez is offline  

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