French language and culture
Do you already speak French but wish to improve ? Do you want to learn French ? This page is for you !
Today, there is more than 270 millions of French-speaking people around the world. Learning this language opens up new horizons for progress and exchange of knowledge in both cultural and professional fields.
Use your stay in France to learn French, it is the best way to do it.
Learning French in your home country
You might decide to take French classes before your arrival to France. Outside France, there are three types of official institutions providing French classes:
- Institut français: a network of French institutes and cultural centres, which depend directly from the French Embassy;
- Alliance Française: these language schools are part of the Alliance Française foundation and are attached to the French Embassy;
- University French studies departments, which are attached to the Ministry of Higher Education in your country, sometimes supported by the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie (Francophonie University Agency)
Find out if you can find these organisations in your home country and how to enroll in classes.
Learning French in France
In France you will find a large offer of language schools and services. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced learner, coming for a short-term or long-term stay, you will find a course adapted to your needs.
- Centres labelled "qualité FLE" (FLE quality)
This certification for French training centres is a guarantee of high quality linguistic training. For more information and to find the whole offer of courses, please consult the FLE website.
You will also find the list of these centres on the catalogue of short programmes and summer schools published by Campus France.
Please note that some French EURAXESS centres have partnerships with local language centres or provide advice on which course to choose according to your language level and your needs. Feel free to ask around before choosing your course.
Try an app!
Download a free mobile application Immersion France which will provide you with all the information you need to learn French in France.
You can also learn French online!
- To become familiar with French language and culture, try watching TV5 Monde, the international Francophone channel. The Apprendre platform offers interactive exercises adapted to all language levels.
- RFI Savoirs is a Francophone radio station offering exercises, informative dossiers and helps to learn and teach French.
- Agence nationale pour la formation professionelle des adultes, AFPA (French National Agency for Adult Professional Training) offers MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses), in particular in French as a Foreign Language (FLE) to teach beginners the basics of the French language.
- There are many Alliances Françaises that offer online French classes. Check the Alliance Française website for more information.
Are you ready to live in France, have you just arrived? Read this brief introduction to French culture.
Whether it refers to French refinement, gastronomy, republican values of "freedom, equality, fraternity" or other things, French culture is well known outside its borders, for several reasons. The first reason is its dissemination throughout the world at the same time as the French language. After being a land of migration, France also colonized other countries of the world, particularly in Africa where French coexists with many national languages, and also sometimes with English, Arabic, Spanish or Portuguese. Look at this map of the distribution of French-speakers in the world.
A two thousand year old culture
From its Celtic origins until today, including the Roman Empire, the monarchical power and the Revolution of 1789, France is an "old nation", as many commentators are accustomed to say, rich in a important and varied cultural heritage.
The French Revolution occupies a special place in the history of the French nation, as the change of society it inaugurated was important. The guarantee of the fundamental liberties of the individual, inherited from their promotion by enlightened thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment, is part of this pride that French often has with respect to its culture.
A very centralized state
Contrasting with the distribution of power in force in other European countries, particularly in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Italy, the majority of decisions in France are taken at the state level. Since 2003, however, the Constitution of the French Republic has stipulated that "the organization of the Republic is decentralized", even if the financial autonomy of its collectivities is still relatively relative today.
This tradition of centralism is also reflected in the field of culture. For 60 years, the French Ministry of Culture has played a role in protecting French cultural productions from the free trade rules, a specificity often referred to as the "French cultural exception". This is reflected in particular by a system of internal repayment in the fields of cinema, theater and television, in order to be able to financially help creations.
Access to culture
In accordance with its ideal of equality, and as in other areas, the French State tries to make culture accessible to everyone, regardless of their place of residence, age or income. Its efforts are focused on young people, as evidenced by the launch in February 2019 of a "culture pass".
In general, each cultural establishment decides on its pricing policy, some offering specific rates for each type of audience (reduced if one is a student, for example), others not. The Louvre Museum in Paris does not offer a student rate, but offers free admission to the museum to anyone under the age of 26, who is a national of the European Union, upon presentation of the identity card or passport.
The way of living in society
As with any culture, French culture has its specificities in terms of values and social interactions, which it is good to know in order to blend with ease in your new environment.
French legislation has constantly reinforced this principle since the beginning of the 20th century. Women have the same rights as men in all areas, whether in their personal lives or at work.
At work :
In a professional context, the most common way to greet another person is to shake hands with them, especially if you meet them for the first time. This habit will be kept between male collaborators. If you are a man and the other person is a woman, the greeting can also be followed by a simple "hello" without shaking hands. However, it is possible that this person offers one day to make you "the kiss", a gesture that should be interpreted only as a mark of sympathy in a strictly professional sense. In any case, do not take any initiative in this sense, each female colleague decides how she wants to greet each of her male collaborators.
In social and friendly life :
In this more informal context, the custom in France is to kiss friends, and even people who are presented to us for the first time in a friendly atmosphere. This is especially true between men and women or between women; the men between them opt either for the handshake or the kiss (which is then the sign of a certain friendship). How many kisses do you make, will you ask? This is where things get a little complex and subtle, since the number of kisses to give varies depending on the region you are in! To guide you, a website has even been created to give you a tour of the regions of France in terms of "bise".
As for the hug, it is, in France, reserved for people of whom we are very close. It is therefore unwise to propose it outside this framework because it would be perceived as a gesture of imposed intimacy.
Meals in France are a real institution, the French spend more time eating than others. They are an opportunity to strengthen the links between people, whether in the professional or personal sphere.
Three meals are taken in France: breakfast (consisting, not fat), lunch (usually with a main course and a dessert, sometimes a starter) and dinner, more or less light according to the tastes of each. Nibbling is not really valued; in its place, a fourth light meal can be taken around 4 pm and is called "goûter".
It is customary when sharing a meal with others to wait until everyone has been served to start eating. Similarly, when you are invited to eat at someone's house, it is customary to wait for the person who invites to say: "Bon appetit!". If you are invited, you can also suggest to offer something for the meal (usually something to drink). It is also possible, as it is very common in France, that you are invited to take an aperitif at someone's place, or "apero" in its current version: you will then be invited to have a drink and appetizers / tapas.
Unlike other countries, expressing ostensibly, in the eyes of all, that one has money is generally frowned upon in France.