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Top 10 French Schools for Waves, Wilderness, and Bons Temps

Australia Languages
by Sandra Konta Nov 19, 2007

Looking to learn French while you surf, dive, or spend time in the mountains? The following schools give you access to some of the world’s most revered terrain. And, yes, they provide top-level schooling and offer internationally-recognized diplomas and certificates.

1. INSTED makes it their business to combine extreme outdoor fun with high caliber language study courses. Nestled at the base of Europe’s highest mountain, Chamonix Mont Blanc, France offers premier glacier descents, ice climbing, snowshoeing and alpine skiing (primarily red and black resort trails and a range of primo backcountry couloirs). Take a break from your studies and hut ski from Chamonix to Zermatt, Switzerland on the “haute (high) route,” one of the world’s premier backcountry routes. During the summer months, Chamonix’s playground shifts gears but is equally alive — mountain biking, rock climbing, mountaineering, rafting, paragliding, canyoning and trekking, just to start. The school is partnered with the Université Stendhal in Grenoble and offers a wide array of levels, credits and certifications (TCF). Classes range from 440 euros (two weeks of study) to 2,250 euros, depending on what level of language proficiency you wish to attain. Priced separately, studio, apartment and homestay options are available.

2. Check out INSTED’s school in Biarritz if your adventure setting of choice is the water. Biarritz is considered Europe’s surfing capital. INSTED Biarritz teaches according to the levels defined by the Council of Europe. Open April through October, INSTED Biarritz is priced at 275 euros per week with a minimum commitment of two weeks. Homestays and shared or independent apartment living options are available.

3. Le Cours d’École in Papara, Tahiti is a family-run school set on an exquisite lagoon. You’ll be able to snorkel on your lunch break! There are legendary surfing beaches in both directions. Head up into Tahiti’s mountains for a tropical hike. The school evaluates its students according to the levels defined by the Council of Europe. Students can then choose between individual or group instruction, which ranges in price from 400 euros per week for group instruction (four hours/day) to 900 euros per week for 4 hours of private instruction per day. School staff will assist in finding homestays (half board and full board options), an apartment or room for accommodations.

4. The Center for International Cultural and Educational Exchangescalls New Caledonia home, a small French territory in the South Pacific, it boasts the world’s largest tropical lagoon and second largest barrier reef and is a diver’s paradise. The school is located in Nouméa (tons of dive shops), the island’s capital and is a two-minute walk from white sand beaches. The Center provides DELF instruction along with study options catered to your level, individually or in groups. Homestays can be arranged.

5. Media Langues Caraïbes enjoys a Caribbean landscape on Guadeloupe, which is known as “Karukera” or “island of beautiful waters” by the Caraïbe Indians. Kayaking, surfing, deep sea diving, windsurfing and sailing are all readily available. The Council of Europe also guides how the school assesses and teaches its students. TEF certification and semi-intensive (20 hours/week) and intensive (30 hours/week) individual and group (limited to seven) lessons are available starting at 290 euros per week. Another option – French lessons combined with surf camp or hiking and kayaking. Homestay, self-catering apartments, hotels and tourist residences are available.

6. Point 3 Language Center in Montreal, Canada teaches French in the morning and has its students out on the slopes skiing or snowboarding in the afternoon. During the summer, the school offers a French study and hiking combo. The school doesn’t advertise a recognized system of instruction. Individual, group and intensive French study options exist. Classes start at 525 Canadian dollars per two weeks. The school offers a homestay, apartments, and a student residence.

Alliance Française: The following four schools profiled are Alliances Françaises. They are part of a worldwide network of independently-run associations (in 130 countries!) that originated in France and have the joint goal of spreading French language and culture. They offer extensive, high-quality French instruction and varying diplomas and certificates. Most evaluate and teach according to the levels defined by the Council of Europe. Check with each school for details. You will need to arrange housing independently in these locations.

7. The Alliance Française in Cape Town, South Africa provides an extreme landscape nestled between Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean. Whether you’re kloofing Cape Town’s suicide gorge, sandboarding down South Africa’s dunes or cage diving with great white sharks, you’ll wonder why you didn’t visit earlier. Other adventure opportunities: abseiling, kite surfing, skydiving, surfing, abseiling, paragliding, mountain biking, rock climbing, sea kayaking and hiking. South Africa’s Alliance Française is the largest and oldest French language school in Africa. Looking for a quieter setting? The Alliance Française offers classes in Fish Hoek, a beach town 35 miles southeast of Cape Town on False Bay.

8. TheAlliance Française in Auckland, New Zealand, is found just south of the Bay of Islands, where you’ll find world-class sea kayaking. Interested in whitewater rafting? Check out the Christchurch Alliance Française where Zealand’s extreme (class 5) rafting on the Rangitata River is only moments away. Email for details.

9. Alliance Française (site in Spanish or French) in La Paz, Bolivia is an idyllic city setting for those of you who find your peace hanging of the face of a mountain — it sits at an altitude of 11,181 and provides a perfect opportunity to combine French lessons with world-renowned climbing trips. Favorable exchange rate currently available.

10. The Townsville Alliance Française is on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Enough said.


One of Matador’s newest contributors, Sandra Konta is a writer turned social worker turned writer with a social conscience. She currently lives in Denver.

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