So, you’re learning French… If you’re like many students, part of your motivation while you climb over its grammatical hurtles may be a desire to visit France–to stroll picturesque Parisian boulevards, meander through the lavender fields of Provence, or take a dip in crystalline waters of the French Riviera. While France is certainly a worthy destination, rich in history, culture, and cuisine, it is far from the only place to practice your newly acquired language skills. In fact, French is spoken by about 300 million people globally (almost 80 million natively) and is the official language of 29 countries.
Here are just four (of many) other global destinations worth your visit. On y va!
For many Americans, Canada can be the closest vacation destination to practice one’s French. The Canadian province of Québec has French as its sole official language, and the majority of the population speaks or understands French, even if non-natively. Québec boasts the two major cities of Montreal and Québec City, and the province is also renowned for its natural, northern beauty. While several varieties of French are spoken in Québec, you will likely find that the most common, Québécois French, has some notable differences from the French you may have learned in your lessons. Québécois French has many minor differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar that can at first befuddle the unsuspecting student. These differences stem in part from the specific dialects spoken by the region’s earliest French colonists, as well as contact with First Nations indigenous languages and English-speaking neighbors, and the region’s complicated political history with English/anglophone governance. Students of French may find these differences a fun and interesting challenge, but can also rest assured that their French will be understood there, too.
Are you more of a beach person? This one could be considered cheating, since Réunion is technically an overseas department (département d’outre-mer) of France– this means legally it is considered an integral part of France, like any other area within metropolitan France’s borders between Spain and Germany. But despite this special status, the island of Réunion is located over 5,000 miles away from France in the Indian Ocean, just east of Madagascar. The trip there –especially for Americans– can be long, but visitors who make the journey are well-rewarded. The island is known for its natural beauty –volcanoes (both dormant and active), rainforests, beaches, and reefs make for spectacular sights. And because of its unique history and location, travellers to Réunion will find a delicious cuisine that blends fundamentals from African, Indian, Chinese, and French cooking. As it is a French department, you will be able to hear and speak French (you will also hear the related Réunion Creole) and use Euros, just as in France.
The Caribbean island of Martinique is also an overseas department of France, with French and Martinican French Creole being the two main languages. The small island is famous for its lush climate, impressive mountains, and sprawling beaches. Originally settled by indigenous Caribbean peoples before being colonized by the French, Martinique today is home to a culture that blends indigenous Caribbean, African, Indian, and French traditions. Martinique has also produced prominent francophone writers, including the poet and author Aimé Césaire, a founder of the Négritude literary movement, or political philosopher Frantz Fanon, whose work critiquing colonialism and racism was highly influential in the development of postcolonial studies. Martinique’s museums and historical sites allow students of French to learn more about the complicated history behind the French language’s proliferation around the globe.
Still seeking a European adventure? Consider heading east of France to Switzerland. Switzerland has four official languages, with French being the second most widely spoken after German. French is the official language of the western districts of Switzerland, and many people in the rest of the country speak French as a second language, too. French-speaking Switzerland is known for the cities of Geneva and Lausanne on the shores of the shimmering Lake Geneva. Come for the French practice, stay for the breathtaking views of the Alps, rich cuisine, and winding medieval old towns.
And these are only four of the many places learning French could take you. Haven’t started yet? With the French Language Salon, you can learn French quickly in personalized, one-on-one lessons. You’ll be speaking French, packing your bags, and heading out the door in no time.