Recently, I wrote about language programs in Antibes and Paris. The program that I know the best is the Institut de Touraine in Tours. Tours is about an hour south-west of Paris on the TGV; in fact, you can get on a train right from the Charles de Gaulle airport. For many years, the Touraine region was known as le berceau de la langue française (luh baresew duh lah lahn frahnsays), which means “the cradle of the French language” because the local accent was considered to be the purest form of French. Several language schools were born in Tours as a result, including the Institut de Touraine. While the need to live here to access standard French may have changed with the arrival of national television, the school continues to thrive 100 years later.
There are many great aspects to this school. I attended it three different times, taking courses for students as well as ones designed just for teachers. My daughter attended twice – one month advanced her a full year compared to traditional schooling. I also took a group of students there three years ago. Most of my teachers were great, although one thought we were there to hear him talk, and talk, and talk. This month alone, I’ve used activities I learned there three times in my own classroom.
The school helped me find a furnished apartment twice, for the years I attended with my daughter, and a home-stay for the year I attended by myself. I became so attached to my mère d’accueil that I specifically asked for her again when I returned with my students. Living there really helped to advance my French, whether it was shopping for food in the market stalls near the school or chatting with my hostess or the other students in her home over dinner.
Another great aspect of living there was the city of Tours itself as well as the proximity to the chateaux of the Loire valley. Chenonceau, Chambord, Azay-le-Rideau, and Villandry, among others, are all easy to get to from Tours. If you don’t feel sufficiently comfortable traveling by yourself, the school organizes frequent outings that you can sign up for. Tours’ Place Plumereau dates to medieval times and is a great place to people watch while doing homework.
Studying in France is amazingly cost effective (compared to courses in the US) as well as being an ideal immersion experience. All three of the schools I’ve written about are solid bets with different geographical and educational advantages to offer. Why not check one out this summer?