Learning French is an investment. It’s an investment in time and money. It takes at least 2 years to speak French fluently. As an adult, if you have a career, kids, it may probably take longer.
When you speak a language, it’s forever and that’s the reason why it’s always worth learning French at least until the level B2 to make a great return on your investment. Nevertheless, even if we all know it’s an investment, I understand that sometimes, especially living in a city like Paris, we can’t all afford to join a class for a few years in a row. Some people just don’t have the budget and it’s ok.
In this article, I’m sharing with you all my tips and tricks to practice and learn French for free in Paris. Please bear in mind that for every option listed below, there may be a limited number of spots and you may need to book them in advance in order to join them.
Disclaimer : I can’t guarantee the availability all year long and you may still have a few entry costs to cover. To contact these organizations, you may ask a francophone friend to help.
Alpha vs FLE
In France, when we are looking to join French courses, you’ll find them most of the time under the French expression “Français langue étrangère” or “FLE” which is the equivalent of French as a second language.
You also have to know that there are two categories of courses, especially in non-lucratives associations : FLE and Alpha.
- FLE is the regular French course, for a second language.
- Alpha comes from “alphabétisation” and it’s mainly offered for students who need to learn the French alphabet. Both French courses and the content will slightly be adapted based on the needs of the students and their background.
Les bibliothèques nationales
The National Public libraries in Paris offer a few workshops to help you practice your French for free. You can find workshops in the François Mitterand and Pompidou libraries.
Bibliothèque François Mitterrand (BNF)
The François Mitterand is one of my favorite spots to work in Paris and it offers two kinds of French courses:
- Writing workshop (B1-B2)
If you are creative and want to write in French, this workshop is for you. This is not a grammar class and your spelling won’t be judged. Come as you are.
- Conversation workshops (intermediate level and upwards)
The librarians invite you to join them to have conversations in French. You’ll also be shown all the resources available at the library to help you boost your French.
In my opinion, to make the best out of this experience, I recommend you to have at least a level A2.
You’ll find more information about the Free workshops at the BNF here.
Bibliothèque du centre Pompidou
The Pompidou offers conversation Workshops. You can boost your French for free every Friday for 1h15 à 14h, 16h et 18h. Workshops are hosted by native speakers. More information here.
They also offer other languages and if you are a polyglot in the making, you can find more information here.
Language exchange in person
Meetup is an app and also a website where you can find events to meet new people all around the world. There are tons of language conversation exchanges and conversation encounters to help you practice your French.
Yes, I know, Facebook is considered as a bit ‘has been’ BUT please don’t underestimate the power of groups. There are a lot of international groups in Paris and some of them with the specific purpose of practicing languages and French.
Ladies, I need to add a special note for you. I want to share my personal experience with you. I’m a huge fan of Facebook groups but as much as we can find a lot of valuable information, it comes with a cost. The cost is when you are a woman, and you ask a question in mixed groups, you may expect to have a few weirdos coming in your DMs just to start dating.
To be honest, I don’t think this kind of approach is even successful but it’s annoying, without a doubt.
If you identify as a woman living in Paris, consider checking groups such as “Women living in Paris”, “social women (30+) in Paris” or “Expat Women in Paris” where you are less likely to receive unsolicited messages.
Not free but very cheap options in Paris
OFII stands for “ l’Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration”. It’s a governmental organization that promotes and helps integration of newcomers in Paris.
For more information to see if you are eligible to attend their French course, you can visit their website here.
La ville de Paris
La Mairie: the town hall offers free (or very cheap) French classes in Paris. As they cost (almost) nothing, you may have to wait to be able to register as the classes are full very fast.
Groups may also be too big to practice.
I have to share a secret with you. When the French administration works (and when you understand it) you can survive. But there is one thing that the French administration is not good a,t is sharing information online. This is the case for the French classes offered by the Ville de Paris and the Mairie.
The websites are not user friendly and it’s impossible to know where and how you can find information about their French course… even if they exist.
This is the website I found : https://scap.paris.fr
To find out more information about the French courses at your closest Mairie, don’t hesitate to go in person.
Le secours populaire
Le Secours Populaire is a non-profit organization with the objectives to help reduce poverty and promote inclusion in French society. They offer group French classes to help people integrate in France.
On their website, to enroll, they suggest you go directly to the location of your choice when there is a class.
Here are the locations of the Secours Populaire where you can find a French course in Paris.
Here is the phone number for more information and to join a course : 01.53.41.39.39
La Croix Rouge
La Croix Rouge also offers French courses in Paris. They have different locations in Paris and the best is to go immediately there to have more information as their website doesn’t show more information about their classes.
You can find your favorite location here .
This is a platform created by two French teachers to help people who need to learn French no matter their situation in France. The website collects all courses available. This is a good resource to check different options but as there are many offers available, it can be a bit overwhelming to seek information by yourself.
If you are not in Paris, just about to arrive, or you just left and you want to continue practicing, there are a lot of options online and they are amazing. You can find a language friend (Language partner) or group conversations.
If you are interested in language exchanges and group conversations and how to attend them, I did a full podcast episode about how to make the best out of conversation exchange wherever you are in the world and you can listen to it here.
I want to share a few tips about attending exchanges and finding the right partner to practice your language. A language exchange is a relationship that you build. You have to consider it as a friendship where trust and commitment are mutual. With that said, here are a few tips for you :
- If you don’t feel comfortable with the person, you are free to stop the language exchange and you definitely should. It should be only pleasure, fun and increase your motivation to boost your skills in French.
- Be reliable and find someone reliable too. If you want to make progress, you need to find someone available on a regular basis. If your language partner changes plans all the time or cancels, you are better to find a new one.
- It’s ok to have several language partners at the same time. Again, they’re like friends and you are free to have as many friends as you want.
- Make sure you have a nice connection with your language partner.
I have a language partner for my portuguese. Every week, we meet on the same day at the same time and we do one hour in Portuguese and one hour in French. We are friends and we are always happy to meet, share tips and talk about our life. I really enjoy them and for nothing on the planet would I change them. I want the same connection for you.
Hellotalk is a free platform online to find people around the world to practice a language and also to make friends.
Tandem is another online platform to help you find a language partner.
If you are on Facebook, you’ll find a lot of groups to practice your French and here is a little selection I made for you :
As mentioned earlier in this article, some mixed groups may bring some unsolicited DM’s for women. To avoid this, I created a ladies only language exchange group on Facebook. You can join me here.
- I don’t teach French for free and as I also live in Paris, I teach for a living.
- Some of the pages suggested and links were correct as of December 2022. By the time you read the article some of the information may change.
- At the time I’m writing the articles, prices of the listed options might change too.
- *I’m an affiliate of these platforms which means that if you decide to join them with my link, you support my business and my content. It’ll help me create even more content of high quality.
- Please do not contact me to provide more information about these courses as I’m not working with or for them.