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Working and Learning French in Montpellier, France

by Christina Rebuffet-Broadus

Institut Européen de Français in Montpellier
Photo courtesy of Institut Européen de Français in Montpellier.

Learning a language in a new country can be one of the most memorable experiences you can have while traveling. Working and studying in a different place goes one step further, carving out your place in a community, contributing to its growth and your own. But with tightening borders, piling paper work, and growing unemployment, how do you convince an employer to open his doors to you as one who has just arrived in the country, will be leaving in less than a year, and are less than fluent in the language? It may sound impossible, but by studying French and participating in one of the following programs, you can mix work and fun under the Mediterranean sun.

In Montpellier, a southern French city known for its dynamism and warmth (both from the weather and the people), a work study program can open all kinds of doors, notably those of a French employer.

Why Montpellier? Because this young city offers a chance to combine language lessons and internships, volunteer programs, and short terms jobs. Because the city exudes an energy that will make you want to become a part of local life. And because Montpellier calls itself a French learning destination, showing just how dedicated the community is to welcoming foreigners looking to improve their language skills.

To help you find the best mix of working and learning, here is a list of five programs that will let you get the most out of your time spent in Montpellier as both a student and a worker.

Institut Européen de Français

A joint project between two language schools, the IEF welcomes over 1,800 students every year. With programs ranging from general to intensive to reinforced French, this school looks to satisfy the range of learners' needs. The IEF also prepares students wishing to take DELF/ DALF exams as well as the International Baccalaureate. And for students learning French with a very specific goal in mind, internships in local businesses put your French to work in a professional setting.

Of course, the French language also expresses the French culture and the IEF makes sure that students immerse themselves in the vivacity of their new language with outings in the historic city center, but also to surrounding jewels like Aigues Mortes. The school even offers a discovery stay based around meetings with local food producers, cultural figures, and the art and history of this thriving city. 

A gold mine of information on their programs and prices, www.institut-europeen.com should answer any questions you may have. And if you still want to know a little more, contact info@institut-europeen.com.

Institut Européen de Français in Montpellier
Photo courtesy of Institut Européen de Français in Montpellier.

Institut Mediterranee de Langues/Services (IMLS)

Working with Montpellier's other learning facilities such as the Sup de Co business school and the Université Paul Valéry, IMLS offers students a choice in how they wish to learn French. For students wanting to really live the French language from the inside, the university-partnered program offers at least 200 hours of classes each semester. Before enrolling, the institute tests students to place them in homogeneous groups.

For business students just wanting to get their French wet, the IMLS, in cooperation with the Montpellier école supérieure de commerce, proposes undergraduate and graduate business programs in English. But why come to France to study in English? Because, even if you cannot parler enough français to survive two hours of lectures by a professeur, studying in France gives you a global perspective, which is so indispensable in today's business world. Plus, with the French language and civilization module included in the business program, you will at the very least learn enough French to enjoy Montpellier a little more deeply.

The IMLS also helps drop the social barriers that foreign students sometimes face by organizing volunteer community service. Students contribute 10 hours of their week to French humanitarian associations such as Les Restos du Coeur soup kitchen or Pharmacies Humanitaires Internationales. In this program, practicing French goes far beyond the café and boulangerie, as students really see French society from the inside and giving something back to the community that welcomes them for a semester or a year.

As one former student described, "not only did I learn French by speaking every day, but I also became a working member of the community, I became a Montpellieraine...I am coming home with the realest education that I could have ever hoped for."

The www.imls.fr website has all the information on programs and housing, including a downloadable application form.

Association Rencontres Autour du Monde (ARAM)

More an association promoting linguistic and human exchanges than a typical language school,  ARAM offers three different programs according to the students' age and desires. ARAM really aims to create connections between the "students" and their host families, and no matter their age, each student becomes part of the family to whom they open up their home and their French lives.

For children aged 13 to 18 years, a year spent in a French high school immerses the student in a new environment where he or she will learn a new language, a new life, and make new friends. ARAM supervises each student, placing them in carefully selected host families so that they really live à la française.

For learners of all ages, ARAM offers the opportunity to actually live with your teacher for the duration of the course. For a few weeks, students really soak up French in an intense but friendly atmosphere. And for business people, lawyers, doctors and other specialists, ARAM even finds teachers with the precise language skills for whatever field you need.

For 18-30 year olds, an au pair position lets you really become part of a French family who are entrusting you with their most precious treasure. A great way to confirm your sense of responsibility, you will also learn French from both the parents. And for au pairs choosing a semester or year program, French lessons boost your learning by reinforcing the language picked up at your home away from home.

For more information, visit their site www.aram-france.com.

Montpellier Espace Langues

Along with language classes, Montpellier Espace Langues also organizes au pair and internship placements. Both are combined with obligatory French classes, insuring that you get the most out of your immersion experience.

The school tends to follow the scholastic calendar, with classes running from September to October, but a summer program also runs from June to September. For French film buffs, the school hosts a DVD library and weekly film showings followed by a debate, the perfect chance to develop your argument skills--so necessary to really becoming a part of French society.

As for classes, Montpellier Espaces Langues offers standard, intensive, and extensive classes--as well as one-on-one sessions for more specific needs. You can even choose to live with your teacher for round-the-clock learning. For professionals needing to conduct les affaires in French, their business and professional courses show you how to do so à la française.

You can find out more about Montpellier Espace Langues' offer at www.cours-francais-montpellier.com.

Contact Europe

A bit different from traditional study abroad organizations, Contact Europe organizes internships for students already enrolled in a university in their home country and professionals up to age 35 wishing to learn French by working in any sector except finance and law. Contact Europe is not your typical language school, but what better way to learn a language than by having to work in it?

During a one to six month internship, Contact Europe can organize language classes for those who need formal language training. Even better, internships lasting longer than three months come with a paycheck. And to make sure that you are feeling comfortable in your new work environment, Contact Europe holds monthly meetings with its participants.

Their web site is under construction at the moment, but for more information you may contact Contact Europe's director, at info@contacteurope.fr.

Working in another country gives you the chance to really live a new language all the while developing your professional experience. If you prefer to focus on learning the language in one of the city's many language schools, you can find out more by reading Studying French in Montpellier, France.