A move to France, for British expats and others alike, is a unique opportunity to learn both about French culture and to perfect your level in the language.
According to Campus France, a website for students looking to make the international move, there were about 340 thousand students who moved to France for a study abroad in March 2019 alone. Because so many people have chosen to move abroad to France, it has actually made the country with the most non-francophone speakers in the world.
For those looking for a chance to work in France as a step towards understanding the language, France has many long stay programs for those looking to work abroad.
Whether you’re looking to find a job in France or simply want to live abroad, the first place to start is by assessing your level in the French language. What level do you need for your more overseas? This guide will walk you through it.
Preparing for Your Stay in France
Whatever your motive to live in France, a good grasp of French will be necessary in order to be able to express yourself not only to those living the expat life, but to French people themselves. This also means you will probably start working on your French accent.
Students who are looking to experience French culture and language will have to demand a visa in order to stay in France, with the exception of countries in the EU as well as the European economic area. This student visa, depending on how long you will be living overseas, will either be a long or short term stay visa.
For foreigners, and this is a general rule for those who are planning to live in different countries within the EU, any stay longer than 90 days will require a long stay visa. This long stay visa is basically anything longer than a tourist visa, which will not only allow you to move freely within France – through regions like Dordogne and Languedoc – but also to other countries in the Schengen area.
For those looking for the visa requirements, you’ll have to complete for your life abroad, make sure you give yourself at least three months before the date of your departure to gather all the necessary documents.
Here are some example of some of the visas you might be eligible to apply for if you’re looking to study abroad or work, whose duration goes from 4 months to one year:
- A long stay visa, type D or a “titre de sejour” type visa (VLS-TS)
- A work and travel visa
- The costs involved with getting these visas, at minimum, is 100 euros
Whether you’re an American expat looking to move to other country, want to get an education in France, or simply want to work and travel abroad – these are the kind of visas you’ll need to look into. Work and travel visas exist, currently, for only 15 countries:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- Hong Kong
There’s no need to look into relocation services or storage services yet! There are several other ways you can move to Paris, Lyon or Montpellier and perfect your language skills - all of which will have different price points, pros and cons.
Learning French through Linguistic Immersion
Whether you’re looking for private tutoring, courses at cultural institutes, linguistic studies, internships or cultural exchanges: learning French doesn’t have to be limited to a classroom. For some, to move and live abroad is simply not a viable option. This can have to do with many factors, such as the costs involved in international relocation, international removals, and international movers.
If you’re interested in preparing for your time in France, or simply want to learn French without the costs of relocation, it might be a good idea to try an immersive French program. As anyone will tell you, from a fellow British expat to anyone who as spent time in France, the helpful thing about learning French is that they follow the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
Whether you’re living in Spain, Brazil or Madagascar, here are some of the components you will likely encounter in an interactive, fulfilling language course:
- French vocabulary
- French grammar
- Oral and written comprehension
- Oral and written expression
- French phrases and idioms
- Cultural knowledge
Another common way people can cut costs if they’d like an immersive experience is to live oversees with a local family. Throughout France, many host families offer their space in their property in France to those looking to make a living abroad for either a couple of months to a year.
Not only does this mean you will get to avoid the fees of local movers, but you will also get the chance to eat traditional French food, learn about tax in France, and get the most out of your time in French cities.
This will also allow you to advance in your French in ways you may not have thought possible, such as:
- Learn to read in French
- Acquire conversation skills
- Acquire a great level of oral expression
- This is especially important for those looking to surpass the skills lade out by standardized tests.
Check here for French classes London.
French Tests to Take for Getting into French Universities
Before you stress over how to open a French bank account, the price of living in Paris, how work permits work or how to get an insurance card – the first thing you should try to ascertain, if you want to attend a French university, is what level of French will be necessary for your move.
In general, anyone who moves abroad to study in France will need at least a B2 level of the language, which is intermediate.
While it may seem like another unfair article limiting foreigners from moving to France, not understanding the language can severely hinder those trying to attain a diploma. Here are some of the language tests you’re likely to encounter before and after you move internationally.
The TCF, of the “test de connaissance du francais” as it’s known in French, is the French language equivalent of the TOEFL.
Created by the International Centre for Pedagogic Studies, the test is aimed at appraising your level of language in five steps. Implemented in 2002, it’s actually on of the criteria for obtaining French nationality. These steps are also based on several studies examining the length of time it takes to learn a language like French.
To give you an idea of what this test will be comprised of, a B1 exam will be structured like this:
- Oral comprehension: 60 questions, 40 minutes
- Written comprehension: 50 questions, 60 minutes
- Written expression: 2 subjects, 60 minutes
- Structure: 40 questions, 60 minutes
Diplomas for French Language Study
Delivered by the French Ministry of National Education and Higher Level Teaching, studying French as a foreign language is awarded a diploma through a test known by the acronyms DILF, DELF, or DALF.
Living in France will probably mean that, along with getting used to your new life, you’ll also have to take many language tests. Created in 2006, the DILF exam awards students with a diploma for the most basic level, A1.
The exam lasts for 1 hour and 15 minutes and involves a total of 100 points. The four steps you must pass are:
- Oral reception
- Written reception
- Oral expression
- Written expression
The minimum amount of points you will have to receive to pass is 50 out of 100. If you’re interested in getting more information for this exam, email your local consulate or cultural institute.
The DELF & DALF
If you’re a foreigner in or will expatriate to France, you will have to encounter these tests in your new country. Created in 1985 and revised in 2005, these diplomas for the French language award students with six language levels: DELF A1 & A2, DELF B1 & B2, DALF C1 & C2.
If you are planning to make your foreign country into your home country, that is become a French citizen, you will have to take one of these exams to prove your grasp of the language. Here is what each test is composed of:
- DELF A1: written and oral comprehension, 80 minutes
- DELF A2: same requirements, 100 min
- DELF B1: same requirements, 1 hour 45 min
- DELF B2: same requirements, 2 hours 30 min
- DALF C1: same requirements, 5 hours
- DALF C2: same requirements, 5 hours
For some tips on how to make the most of your course, check out these tips.
Learning French in France: Other Options
Learning French in France doesn’t have to be limited to language courses only. While getting over your culture shock can take some time, having the right paperwork will help alleviate some of that stress.
Here are some other options you can take if you’d like to immerse yourself in the French language:
- Study French or French literature in a university in the UK or in France
- Attain an internship with a French company
- Take part in a work or exchange program
No matter what path you take, make sure you understand the boundaries of your visa. Residence permits have vastly different rules than travel and work permits in terms of what kind of jobs you can take and for how long you can work. Either way, bon courage!