Canada might not be the first place you think of for learning le français, but maybe it should be! With about 20% of the population speaking French, Canada is a great place to improve your skills (if you go to the right spots). And, because French Canada has a different history from France’s, you’ll learn a different accent and have a really unique cultural experience. Another bonus: Depending on where you’re from, Canada might be a cheaper option than France – from flight cost to living expenses.
Where to learn French in Canada
The first thing you need to know is where to go. If you end up somewhere on the west coast (i.e., British Columbia), you’ll hear very few people speaking French.
To go where the action is, your best bet is Québec – such as Montréal or Québec City. About 95% of Québec’s population speaks French as either their first or second language.
If you’re not interested in Québec, you could try Ottawa (Canada’s bilingual capital city, which is in the neighbouring province of Ontario), or the bilingual maritime province of New Brunswick.
Now that we’ve got where sorted, we can start talking about how.
How to learn French in Canada
1. Live in a homestay
Any international student will tell you that staying with a local family is one of the best ways to brush up on your target language. Why? Because you won’t be tempted to speak your first language with friends in a private apartment or other travellers in a hostel. Living in a homestay will ensure that you’re speaking French as much as possible, since that’s how you’ll have to communicate with the host family.
Officially registered homestays are typically only available for students, not just leisure travellers. You can find out more information about signing up for a Canadian homestay here.
2. Join a meetup group
A fantastic way to learn and improve your French is to join a meetup group. If you’ve never been to one, they’re often just social events – anything from getting a coffee to going hiking – with a focus on language practice. If you decide to stay in Ottawa (again, it’s right beside Québec), try joining the Club Social Francophone et Francophile group. In Montréal, try the Montreal French and English Language Meetup. Not only are these meetups great for practicing your French in a fun, group setting, but you might also meet a new friend or two! And who doesn’t need more friends to hang out with, especially in a foreign country?
Because of coronavirus, many of these groups are currently holding meetings on platforms like Zoom, but in-person meetups are sure to return sooner or later!
3. Go to the library
Getting a library card can be really helpful on your French-learning mission. On top of a quiet place to enjoy vast collections of French books, many libraries offer additional learning resources.
In Montréal, you can check out the language laboratory at the BAnQ. The language laboratory offers workstations where you can access language-learning platforms and test-prep materials. Most libraries in Canada will issue you a membership card if you provide proof of address, meaning this option is aimed more at students staying in the country for a while (three months or longer) and are living somewhere like a homestay.
4. Talk to locals
This isn’t specific to learning French in Canada, but it’s an important one. To learn “real-life” French, try talking to local French-speakers whenever possible. This includes going shopping on your own and speaking to the employees at the store, ordering your drink at a café or food at a restaurant, and asking for directions or help with public transportation. This can be intimidating at first, but the more you do it, the more confident you’ll become!
5. Take a government-sponsored programme
If you’re going to be immigrating to Canada, you’ll likely be eligible for (usually free) French classes through the Québec government. Depending on the course, you may be able to do part-time, full-time or online classes. Before you begin, you’ll probably be interviewed so your French level can be evaluated.
6. Practice online
Even if you’re doing all the right things while you’re in Canada, you might want to do even more practice. After all, you can’t always be at a meetup group, and your homestay family may not be available to practice with all the time. That’s why it’s a good idea to sign up for an online language programme like Lingoda. With a flexible schedule and 24/7 learning options, this is an excellent way to keep practicing French during your downtime.
Learn French with a Canadian twist
The above tips will help you enjoy your unique French-learning journey in Canada. As they say in Québec, “C’est le fun!”
Start learning French today!
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