by Steve Sutherland
Going abroad to study French in France or elsewhere should be an amazing experience and you should have the time of your life. However, your experience will be directly related to the school that you choose, their academic program and the services that they offer to students.
In France, as in other countries there is a huge range of schools competing to attract international language learners. Naturally there is also a huge range in standards between schools. Some run high quality programs and care about the wellbeing of their students while others leave students feeling ripped off for a variety of reasons.
So how can you find out which language schools are the best in the French city where you want to go to study? Looking at a schools website will only tell you so much about them and the information presented there may be biased.
To really find the best French language schools you need to do a little research. The time that you put in will be time well spent as you will undoubtedly be spending a considerable sum to study abroad. Make sure that you are getting value by enrolling with a great school that is reliable and offering the highest standard of both tuition and learning environment.
Here are three ways that you can go about separating the best schools in France from all of the others.
One of the best ways to find out what to expect from a school is to look for feedback from students who have already studied there. Schools provide testimonials on their websites and may even let you contact some of their current students directly but these methods are both open to bias.
You will find a lot of student reviews scattered over the Internet on forums, blogs and other sites. Bear in mind though that these kinds of reviews can also be subject to abuse. It is hard to believe everything that you read and sometimes unclear as to who wrote it. In some cases there is nothing to stop school staff posting positive comments about their own school or posting negative reviews about a competitor.
Before taking any opinion seriously you should first look at the requirements for posting a review on the site. If the reviewer has definitely studied at the school in question then you may decide to take it seriously. If anyone can come along and post a review on a site then these kinds of opinions are of little value. For the most part online reviews should be used as a rough guide only to help you build up an overall impression of a school.
A better way to separate the quality schools from the undesirable ones is to check and see if they are members of any associations or feature any 'Quality' seals on their websites.
Schools that are accredited members of associations usually have to agree to maintain high standards and they are sometimes subject to routine inspections. Associations also often have systems in place for receiving and dealing with student complaints.
Some French language schools are members of international associations like the International Association of Language Centres (IALC). Others operate at the national level like Souffle, which is an independent French language schools association. You will also see that some French language school sites display a quality mark that is associated with the French government and shows their commitment to offering quality French language programs.
Association membership should be seen as a good thing overall and most reputable schools will join one of the associations.
Not many people are aware that there is an annual award ceremony for the best language schools around the world. It is hosted by 'Language Travel Magazine' and it takes place in London every year.
Voting for these awards is done by language travel agents. These agents book hundreds of language courses for students each year and they are constantly getting feedback from students. They vote for the schools that they feel offer the best quality, service and value for their students. Enrolling with a school that has recently won one of these awards would be a great way to know that you are in good hands.
There is an award for the best French language school each year and there are usually five or six nominees with one winner being announced as the 'Star French Language School'. Check out the latest winners here.
Steve Sutherland was a language school agent for many years. Find out how to find the best schools and save money on your booking by reading his free guide Language School Secrets.