Learning French

In France, unfortunately, very few services and forms are available in languages other than French. Learning French will be essential for some of the things you have to do and could be very useful when it comes to finding a job. Whatever your initial level, there are many solutions available, both free of charge and at a cost.

Verified by Émilie Mathieu-Benoit on 29/11/2023

If you are not fluent in French, there are many options, both free and at a cost, available to help you acquire the basics that will be very useful for your life in France.

With time and regular practice, you can learn French at any age.

Assessing your level of French

In general, administrations and French companies refer to a European classification called the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL) or “Cadre européen commun de référence pour les langues (CECRL)” to assess levels of proficiency in a foreign language.

This classification spans six levels ranging from A1 for beginners to C2 for experts.

  • When you receive a document authorising you to remain in France called a “titre de séjour”, or residence permit, French Immigration and Integration Office or “Office français de l’immigration et de l’intégration (OFII)” asks you to sign an agreement called the “contrat d’intégration républicaine (CIR)”.

    This is an agreement entered into between the French state and a foreign national who wishes to settle permanently in France and commits to integrate into French society.

    In this context:

    • They will ask you to take a written and oral French test on their website.
    • Depending on your results, they may ask you to complete language training, mandatory or optional depending on your level. This training is free of charge.
    • You will receive a document confirming your level of French, known as an “attestation”.
  • You can also have your level assessed by registering for a test recognised by organisations, such as universities and the administrative authorities responsible for examining applications for residency rights known as the “préfecture”.

    This test can be:

    • The “test de connaissance du français (TCF)” administered by the organisation entitled “France Éducation International”. You can search for a test centre near you on this website.
    • The “test d’évaluation du français (TEF)” awarded by the organisation known as “Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris Île-de-France”. You can search for a test centre near you on this website.

    Test fees can range from 90 to 220 euros depending on the centre chosen and the number of tests taken.

Signing up for courses

There are many services available to help you learn French, both online and face-to-face.

To find free courses tailored to your level, you can start by asking your local town hall or “mairie” or organisations offering free services called “associations” specialising in the rights of foreign nationals.

The site Refugies.info offers a map by town or city. Here you can also specify your level of French.

  • Many services offer French language courses online.

    These options are free of charge:

    • The Duolingo app allows you to learn a foreign language while playing online games. The exercises adapt to your level.
    • The app Français premiers pas is for complete beginners. Its aim is to encourage the integration process for people who have recently arrived in France. 
    • The app superFLE - Français, DELF, TCF allows you to revise and improve grammar, conjugations and vocabulary, and to train for “FLE” tests and certifications, whatever your level.
    • The app J’apprends is particularly suitable for people who have reading and/or writing difficulties.
    • The TV5Monde website and app “Apprendre le français avec TV5Monde” offer videos to watch and then you can take quizzes to test your knowledge.
    • The site RFI Savoirs offers many quizzes sorted by level and topic, easy French news and “TCF” language test training.
    • The organisation “Alliance française” offers French language learning videos on different topics. These courses are offered at several levels:
  • There are many options for in-person French courses.

    Free or low-cost courses

    To find out about free or low-cost courses offered near you, you can ask the local administrative authority of your town or city known as the “mairie”.

    Unfortunately, availability varies greatly between different towns and cities.

    In addition, some organisations called “associations” offer free services. You can search online by typing free French classes or “cours de français gratuits” and the name of your town or city.

    French courses offered by the “France Travail” (free of charge)

    If you are registered with the national support service for people who are unemployed, called the “France Travail”, you can receive free French language courses. Talk to your adviser at “France Travail”.

    Paid courses

    There are also a large number of organisations that offer French language courses that are available at a cost.

    For example, you can:

    • Search for a course on this website, which offers a map of available courses by region. To search for courses in your town or city, first click on the map of France by selecting your region, then type the name of your town or city in the “Ville” search bar.
    • Contact the organisation “Alliance française”, renowned for offering quality French courses.
    • Take private lessons with an individual teacher by searching on sites such as Superprof, Kelprof, Italki or Acadomia.
  • While courses are a way to learn the basics, it is by practising as much as possible that you will make the most progress.

    Here are some tips from people within Women for Women France team who have done it before:

    • Listening to the radio and watching TV in French every day is a great way to improve your understanding.
    • When watching films in French, put the subtitles on in French as well. This will help you to understand better and get used to the way the words are written.
    • Practice reading French texts out loud. If you have relatives who speak French fluently, ask them to correct your pronunciation.
    • Spend as much time as possible with people who don’t speak your native language, even if it seems tedious.
    • Don’t censor yourself – it’s not a big deal if you’re searching for words or making mistakes. No reasonable person would ever judge you, because they will understand that you are not French and that you are learning.
    • Speak in French whenever you have the opportunity. The more you practice, the more confident you become.
    • Take part in activities near you. This will be a good opportunity to practice speaking French with new people who don’t speak your native language.

    Don’t get discouraged. By applying these tips on a daily basis, you’ll be able to make progress in just a few weeks.

Find support

In France, there are many services that can support you, give you advice, and assist you with procedures and paperwork. Most of them are free of charge.

  • France Travail” helps people find employment, and can advise on business creation. They also manage French unemployment payments or “allocations de retour à l’emploi” commonly known as “chômage”.

    • This service is free of charge.
    • To use this service, you must first register with them online. You will then receive an appointment at an agency near you.
    • Languages available: mainly French.
    • Contact: registration is done online on their website. If you need to contact them, there are several ways:
      • you can send them an e-mail from your personal space after creating your online profile
      • you can call them on 3949, a free number available Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
      • you can visit an agency near you, in person, without an appointment  from Monday to Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
  • A “Mairie” is a local administration in charge of local policies. Its main role is to help its citizens in difficulty. They can inform you about your rights and the financial assistance available, direct you to relevant organisations, and even help you with certain administrative procedures.

    • This service is free of charge.
    • Language available: mainly French.
    • Contact: you will find the contact details of your local “mairieon this site, by specifying the name of the city or town where you live.
  • Associations” are organisations that offer various services. Some are specialised in immigration.

    • These services are free of charge.
    • They can inform you about your rights in France, and sometimes support you with immigration procedures.
    • Language available: mainly French.
    • Contact: you can search by region and department in this directory.

While the utmost care has gone into providing you with the most accurate and up to date information, this page is not intended to replace legal or professional advice. Laws and procedures change regularly so it is important to consult qualified professionals.

You may also be interested

Studying at university in France

Studying at university can allow you to obtain a degree, which can be useful for finding a job in…

Finding a community in France

Far from family and friends, it’s normal to feel isolated, especially if you’ve experienced domestic…

Finding work and doing vocational training in France

Looking for a job in a country you didn’t grow up in can seem daunting, especially if you don’t…

For police intervention:

Scroll to top