I started studying French in the late 2011/early 2012 (I don’t remember very well). In the beginning, I have not had much idea of how to study alone. I did a little search on the internet and decided to try to use the FSI course.
Despite the difficulties, I was able to follow the course with no problem until the fourth chapter, but the course began to get hard and I gave up. Then, I spend several months without studying. This did not happen just once, but several times over the years and with other methods. In 2014, I started taking French more seriously; it was then that I managed to finish several courses, such as Assimil, FSI French and Duolingo.
However, I took a break from my French studies to dedicate myself to the DELE (Spanish Diploma as Foreign Language), and after succeeding, I decided it was time to dedicate myself 100% to French. It was then, in late 2014, early 2015 that I started to look for a place to study in France.
Choosing the city
The French consulate has a website where you can search for places to study in France, from language courses to post-doctorate. While seeking a school, the first thing I did was to exclude Paris for being a very expensive city. I also avoided very small towns in France.
At first, my preferences were studying in the north of France or a little more to the west, in the Loire region. But the few cities that interested me had a rather high price for my budget. When I started looking cities further south, I found an interesting city that had a cheaper course: Lyon.
Lyon is the second largest urban area in France and beyond its powerful economy; it is famous for its gastronomy, cultural life and history. The city has a great transportation system, including bicycles. Despite being a big city, Lyon is not a bohemian city like Paris.
The landscape of Lyon stands out by its two rivers (Saône and Rhône) and its two hills (Fourvière and Croix-Rousse). On top of these hills, you can have an amazing view of the city, especially at night. Still, when the sky is clean and clear, you can see on the horizon the Mont Blanc.
Before deciding if Lyon was a good place to study, I search on the Internet and asked French people how the accent of Lyon was. Luckily, the accent in Lyon is not strong like in other cities in the south of France, so I had no more doubts and chose Lyon.
The school – before arriving
I chose to study at the Alliance Française – Lyon, my choice was due the price. It was the cheapest school I had found. After reading the information on the site, I sent an email with questions, which were as follows:
If I could start a course in the middle of the month.
Answer: No, at most a week later and anyway I would have to pay for the entire month.
If I could pay the course in my arrival.
Answer: Yes, but there was the risk of no more places available.
I also asked, if there was forecast dates for the DALF C1 exam in July or August (in the site there were available dates only until June).
Answer: contact the other sector.
Detail: I received this answer after 10 days. I also send a message on Facebook and despite having received a return, it came without the information I asked, because another sector is responsible for the matter. In short, the customer service is usually bad. If you want information about the course, only one person answers; information about exams is another, payments is another…
Because of the information I received, I decided to study there only two months: July and August. I chose the intensive course (60 hours per month), plus a conversation one (20 hours per month). I also chose the accommodation through them; there are several options and I chose a college room with private bath. I made the booking through the website and the payment method I have chosen was bank transfer.
Then, I had other problems. The first was that there were no rooms with private bathrooms, the only cheap option was a private room with shared bathroom and because of the price, I accepted. The second was that it took 14 days to confirm my payment. In the meantime, I did not know where my money was. The bank in Brazil claimed that the money had already been sent and the school had not received the money. It is normal that the transfer take a few days to come through, but not two weeks. In the meantime, I went into despair without knowing who was to blame for this, the school or the bank.
Fortunately, after the confirmation of payment, things began to improve. The school sent me the receipts via email and mail. To determine my level, I made an online test and the result was level B2.3. In addition, I received information about the residence, André Alllix.
First days in France
My first three days in France were rushed. I arrived on a Sunday and stayed in a hotel. On Monday morning, I checked out of the hotel and left my luggage there. I went to school and had a great impression of teachers. The service sector was full (as every beginning of the month). Later, I picked up my bags and because of them, I took a cab and went to the residence.
The reception at the residence was also horrible. After one hour in the office, I was able to pick up the apartment keys. Internet and bedding are paid separately. In total, the room costed about 200 euros. The password for the internet should arrive by email, but I never received. Also, for more than a month stays, you need to make an insurance.
The complex was quite big, had several buildings, the rooms were small, but equipped with the essential. Nevertheless, the kitchen and bathroom were never cleaned for more than one day. Over the weekend, they were very dirty. The internet was excellent most of the time. But twice we had a whole day without connection.
The residence was on the hill, so walking to school was not a good option (especially with the heat wave of that summer in Lyon). The school makes a student card, then you take to the public transport company and they make the transport card immediately. Students pay half price and can use all means of public transport in an unlimited manner. It took me between 20 and 30 minutes to go to school depending on the way I did.
Still, the residence is in a residential area so it is difficult to find a good market around. Nevertheless, there is a good bakery and a McDonald’s across the street.
The Alliance Française
The Alliance Française is in an old building in the city center, close to the subway and in an area with plenty of restaurants, shops of all kinds, bakeries, etc. Classrooms are quite comfortable. The number of students per class is large, usually between 8 and 13. Conversation classes usually have more students and mixed various levels of students.
In class, we used the book Alter Ego. Unfortunately, in my second month I had a teacher who I did not like (as far as I know, she did not please anyone). She talked endlessly (on subjects most often uninteresting and not related to the subject of the class), she jumped exercises that she did not like and worse, she gave no written exercise (for the students was clear she did not want the work to correct them).
I had no problems to follow the course, but I was nervous when I had to talk to strangers. In the first month, sometimes my head was “heavy” of thinking in French. But in the second month, I’ve felt more comfortable to talk to other people and started to think in French, I felt a great improvement in my level of understanding and vocabulary.
Each month in the Alliance Française corresponds to a “sub-level” of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. In my case, as I was two months there, I did the B2.3 and B2.4 levels. At the end of each level, they do a test similar to the official exam. The only different thing is that it has no oral test (in this case, we are evaluated during class). I passed the exam school without difficulties. If I had continued my studies there, I would have begun the C1 level.
I returned to Brazil without doing the C1 level exam, which was what I wanted, I am not sure if I would have been able to pass a test of this level. Since I came back to Brazil and after I started to dedicate myself to the German, my French level is a little lower, so if one day I want to do the DALF C1, I know I will have to study a little.
For the curious, the time required at the Alliance Française of Lyon to reach the C2 level is 17 months. The level A1 has two “sub-levels”, A2 and B1 each have three levels each, B2 and C1 have four levels and the C2 only one. The reason the C2 has only one level is that often there are not enough students for a class, imagine several classes.
In addition to the classes, the Alliance Française of Lyon offers some cultural activities. The main one is the film session. On July 14, they had a party with games and several awards, in which I had so much fun. On the ground floor, there are several places to sit and chat, which facilitates interaction between students. Still, there are some computers that can be used without restrictions and free Wi-Fi in all areas.
The administration of the Alliance Française de Lyon is not the friendliest in the world, but with patience, you can get information. Most teachers are very good, but unfortunately, not all of them. As for the structure, it is excellent, no complaints there. Although the course was expensive for me, it was the cheapest I found in France. For me, it was worth having studied there, although the headaches I had.