ONLINE FRENCH CLASSES FOR BUSY PARENTS AND BUSINESS PEOPLE
by Chené Koscielny
After trying to learn French for over 10 years, I still feel like a three-year-old in most conversations and when I need a cutting comeback to a rude waiter or a sharp rebuke to an indifferent shop assistant, my vocabulary still fails me every time.
I could have paid off a holiday home in Provence with the fortune I’d forked out on ineffective French courses to date, ranging from torturous one-on-one sessions with megalomaniacs to frustrating group classes where only the teacher’s pet gets to speak.
LEARNING FRENCH ONLINE
The one thing I hadn’t tried yet is learning French online. Surely speaking to a teacher on a screen could only be less effective than my efforts to date?
As it turns out, I was very pleasantly surprised after being convinced by Isabelle Nicolas-Johnson, owner of local online language school Prêt à Parler in Geneva, to test the school by taking 3 one-on-one online lessons.
I was so impressed, in fact, that I have decided to have another go at finally being able to speak French by enrolling in one of their online language programmes.
WHAT IS PRÊT À PARLER?
An online language school specialised in teaching French to native and non-native English-speaking expats living or working in a French-speaking environment. Their clients are busy professionals and parents with limited time to spend on improving their French.
It was started in 2015 by Isabelle, who was born and raised in Quebec, Canada, by a Belgian mother and a French father. She is a professional opera singer living in Geneva with her husband and one toddler and is expecting her second child.
Her opera singer qualifications brings a special emphasis on pronunciation.
WHY LEARN FRENCH ONLINE?
The first obvious advantage of online learning is the flexibility – I did my 3 x 60 minute courses during the holidays at 8am in my PJs before anyone else in the house was awake. I did brush my hair, though, as you are live on camera!
No time wasted getting dressed, driving or parking. You simply switch on your computer and dial into the Zoom conference call.
If the dog barks or there is someone at the door, the lesson is paused for a few minutes and resumes after – perfect!
My previous French group course in town lasted only one hour, but with the logistics, parking and transport involved, took a good 2,5-hour chunk out of my day.
You schedule your lesson online using a 24-hour online scheduling system, integrated with Google calendar and Zoom.
FOCUSED AND EFFICIENT
Did you know that a 60-minute lesson done online can achieve the same results as a 120-minute face-to-face lesson, minus the disruption to your day?
I was skeptical about this claim at first, but my lessons with super prof Yohann were very intense and focused and I spoke more French than I’d done in a long time. I also felt that I’d taken in a lot more and that we focused exactly on the things I wanted to work on. No disturbance from other students. The class was really well structured and Yohann was very well prepared.
100% PERSONALISED APPROACH
Yohann took time to understand what I wanted out of my lessons before we started and he tailored the course to my needs. He quickly assessed my level of French, but also understood that my focus was to learn to speak fluently – I want to feel more confident in social situations. We focused on specific phrases that I’d been wanting to use more confidently, as well as the dreaded imparfait and passé composé, which I still mix up. The lessons were interactive, practical, dynamic, interactive and fun.
This part impressed me most. Zoom is seamless and easy to use with a better connection than Skype and fab interactive tools. Yohann could share his screen to show me the materials and type suggestions and vocabulary notes in the chat bar while I was speaking! It was awesome. I didn’t have to take a single note. It also means any online material such as newspaper articles or videos online can be used as course material.
The best part is that the entire lesson is recorded and you get not only a PDF with all the notes taken during the lesson – via screen shots, but also the full video recording. It was the first time I heard myself speak French and could observe my own body language and pronunciation.
Very interesting and useful.
French lessons are personal and you reveal a lot about your life and feelings, so it’s important to feel safe and trust the teacher. I’ve had some horror experiences in the past, including a teacher who tried to copy my business idea after milking me for information for months.
Yohann is based in Lyon and has never been to Geneva, yet he has lived around the world and could relate to my experience as an expat – there was no judgement and I could express my feelings and frustrations in a safe environment. He was encouraging and positive and I felt confident to speak.
He is also 100% bilingual English/French, as are all the Prêt a Parler teachers, so no time is wasted in lost in translation moments. This makes a big difference!
I love the fact that there are no heavy folders to carry around, no photocopies flying everywhere or lost homework sheets. All the homework is done online.
All you need is your computer, a good internet connection and a reasonably quiet spot. This is also very environmentally friendly – even the contracts you sign are paperless.
Prêt a Parler offers an online learning platform with 200 hours of French lessons designed for English-speaking expats, a forum where you can get feedback from the teachers and premium webinars as part of their online programmes for additional support.
PREPARING FOR PERMIS C – FIDE EXAM AS OF JANUARY 2020?
According to Isabelle, in January 2019, in the French-speaking cantons of Switzerland, if you are a non-Swiss resident whose mother tongue isn’t French, you will most probably be asked by the OCPM (Office cantonal de la Population et des Migrations) to pass the A2/B1 oral and A1/A2 written exams in order to obtain your Permis C (régulier/anticipé) or Swiss Naturalisation
Right now, the DELF certificates are still accepted, but rumor has it that as of January 2020 the FIDE Passeport des langues will become the go-to exam for every Permis C and Swiss naturalisation applicant in the above situation.
THE FIDE exam focuses on the practical use of French for your everyday life.
Prêt à Parler has helped dozens of expats to successfully prepare for their oral and written exams in order to obtain their Permis C and Swiss naturalisation. Their success rate is 100% since 2015!
As of 1 September, Prêt à Parler will offer a free webinar and fiche pratique (review sheet) on La préparation à l’examen FIDE, to watch directly in the e-learning section of our website. People can sign up here.
The cost depends on which programme you choose, but you’re looking at around CHF90 per one-on-one class, with access to the online learning platform and webinars.
This is not cheap, by any means, but from what I’ve seen so far, I believe I’ll make much faster progress in this focused way of learning than some of the ineffective cheaper classes I’d wasted my money on before.
Prêt a Parler offers a FREE trial for anyone interested in learning more.
You can also learn more about them and start improving your French by checking out their social media channels:
They also have a special Rentrée 2019 Promotion which offers an extra 10% discount if you book your language program of 20 lessons or more before 15 September 2019.