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Study French in Tours, France—the “Cradle of the Language”

Every month hundreds of students of all ages and nationalities descend upon the picturesque university town of Tours, in the heart of France’s Loire Valley. They come for the opportunity for French immersion in the region that prides itself on having the purest accent and on being “the cradle of the French language.” The Institut de Touraine has been providing short- and long-term French courses since 1897. Last summer, my daughter and I spent the month of August sipping coffee in touristy Place Plumereau, eating pastries in the sunny school courtyard, and dramatically improving our spoken and written French.

All arrangements to attend the Institut can be made over the Internet at their multilingual website. If you have additional questions, Courses are offered in 2-week to 9-month increments at a cost of €520 to €5,400. Payment for the Institut must be made in advance by credit card or money order. The Institut does not have residences but will, upon request, make arrangements for you to stay in a dorm at the Univ. of Tours, board with a local family, or rent a furnished apartment. Typical residence costs are approximately €400 per person per month.

It’s easy to get to Tours from Paris. We landed at Charles de Gaulle and took the TGV to Tours in an hour and 40 minutes. It’s only 55 minutes from the Montparnasse station. On the first day of school, we did a placement test that assessed our ability to read, write, and comprehend written and spoken French.

There are 35 teachers at the Institut and class sizes are small—about 12. A typical day of classes began at 9 a.m. with three hours of grammar instruction. In the afternoon, our already small class was divided in two for classes emphasizing spoken French and language labs. Free optional classes were available in French Civilization and Culture, French Literature, and Art History. We had 18-22 hours of compulsory instruction each week with another six hours of options. Specialized classes are also available for French teachers, business French, French for the tourism industry, French for secretaries, and the Institut is a testing site for DELF/DALF examinations (French Diploma and Advanced French Diploma given by the French Ministry of Education).

At the end, we were given a written report card that assessed every aspect of our program. I got university credit equal to six credit hours and my daughter compressed a full year of high school French into one month at the Institut. My plans for this summer include two more months at the Institut de Touraine—much to the envy of my daughter who won’t be able to join me this summer.