Our French Life, Our School Life

How To Avail Of Intensive French Lessons

greta 3.png

Firstly you’re welcome! When I first arrived on Normandy soil I found that some English speakers could be a little, how shall we say, secretive about various aspects of living in France. I suppose people would think that if they had to experience hardship, then others should suffer the same fate. We never expected anyone to do anything for us and we did work out stuff for ourselves. My French is okay – this is because I was launched into phoning various organisations rather than ask someone else to do it. Clearly if it was very technical or out of my depth I would pay someone. You always need to weigh up time, effort and money. I also had friends who helped me out in some sticky situations.

We were also fortunate to know people that did volunteer helpful information.  People that would, just through a passing comment, give us some really useful advice. For instance, one retired electrician who had worked for EDF helped Mr Normandy enormously with advice regarding what the Consuel would pass/not pass with the electrics.

Another person happened to point out, that to import our Nissan pickup truck to France  all we needed was a letter from Nissan to say it was not eligible for an EU Certificate of Conformity. We just needed a piece of paper with all the technical stuff that also said it was not a Certificate of Conformity. You see it was a display model that was shipped to the UK from Japan and was 14 years old. A ‘grey import’ I do believe they call it? We were then able to get said Nissan truck onto French plates.

Nowadays, you have forums which are also a great source of info. And little old me sharing my own experiences and what not.  So if you are sitting comfortably I shall begin:-

Greta is a company in the Manche that organise ‘formations’ that is an intensive language course for non-French speakers.  The nearest one to us is in Avranches but I know there is one in Granville and I think Caen as well. You will have to do some research as to which one is nearest to where you are living in Normandy.

retro phone
Man Up In France! Pick up the gawd dam phone!

They work in conjunction with the Pole Emploi – that is the name for the job centre here in France.  Now, to get on one of these courses you will need to register with the Pole Emploi for work.  You can explain that you are unable to obtain a job because your language skills are poor. They should give you details of the course run by Greta, if they don’t you will need to ask for it.  By the way, if you are shouting at me “but I can’t speak French”. Tough. You have google translate – google it, write it down and what you think they will say back to you. Man up people. Grow a pair and any other male reference to finding a back bone.  This ain’t the place to be all meek and timid now.

The amount of times I see “my French isn’t good enough yet to..” insert various things i.e to phone the bank, to phone EDF, to speak to the Maire. Guess what? Your French will NEVER be good enough if you cannot sit with google translate and pick up the phone. That is how you learn and do you know what? You will manage it and you will get better and better until you suddenly start (as I call it) ‘free styling’ aka going in without preparing anything. Please note this can have hilarious consequences but it’s all blog fodder.

Once you’ve done that you will need to call Greta and say you want to go on their course. They should tell you if you can join one that is already up and running or when the next one is. You will need to go in with various documents, social security number (if you don’t have one they should be able to help you with this) etc and then you are good to go!

Now I don’t know how it works if you are a Micro Entrepreneur and you will need to make enquiries with them about this.  But am assuming any business you have will benefit enormously if you can target French speaking customers? The idea of the course is to get your French to a standard whereby you will be employable. You will also need to take one of the many different levels of the DELF diploma at the end of the course.  Mr Normandy is working towards B2 I do believe.

united nations

The hours of the course, well this one, runs from 9am – 5pm with an hour for lunch and half day on Wednesday. You also get a few half days working from home. This particular course runs from September – January so is well underway. However, people do join and exit. It really is a mixed bag of united nations. There are refugees from Afghanistan and people from Mongolia, Iran, Norway, Britain, Itay and so on. The age range varies enormously. Everyone has a story to tell about how they have arrived in France. Some are fluent in French but cannot read or write others can barely say Bonjour.

How can they run a course like this you may ask? And ask I did! You get put into groups accordingly to your level and are set a lot of homework. The course is on average over 400 hours and is, like the name suggests, intensive.

If you have children, there is a degree of flexibility with regard to leaving a tad earlier and arriving a tad later to accommodate this. Once you sign up to the course, you sign an undertaking that you will commit to it and no shows etc have to signed off and doctors certificates produced.

One mum I know, who goes to my exercise class, was the person who told me all about the course and how good it was. She has subsequently found gainful employment and she happily chats away to our fitness instructor.

You will be learning how to write your CV, make business phone calls, letter of motivation and all the normal stuff like past, present verbs etc. In addition, you will be required to do a ‘stage’ that is work experience but paid at the going rate aka a normal salary.

You will have to find that yourself but they will help if you have been unsuccessful. Mr Normandy has a 3 week stage in our village with the Maire. He just rocked on up and asked if they knew of any local businesses that could assist.  The Maire responded by saying you can work for me! You don’t get the normal half terms off only the Xmas Break of 2 weeks. So school hours but without the school breaks. Dommage.

Mr Normandy does want to get a full time job with a French company that isn’t as full on as his old landscaping job. His CV has been tailored made for the type of work he is looking for. Mr Normandy had worked for French companies but felt, after a while, his French was not progressing any further.

pole emploi

And the best bit? You get paid to go on this course. Yes, you did hear that right.  You get paid expenses of approximately 150 euros a month to cover transport costs and the rest is approximately 4 euros an hour which equates to about 600 euros a month in total. Not too shabby I would say.

It is a lot of work but if you are frustrated with your French and want to find employment in France (which might help your Carte De Sejour application should you require one) I’d say it is well worth it.

Now obviously this has made me raise my game on the learning French front in between walking the dog, taking the kids to school and back, working on my own business, blog, cleaning, cooking and insert any other martyr mum job. I am also loving a chap called ‘Learn with Pierre’ on Youtube. I also have a group lesson once a week nearby and will speak to my neighbours about popping in and talking to them a few times a week. They  previously said anytime but I didn’t want to impose but now I will. Oh yes, now I will because if Mr Normandy corrects my pronunciation one more time….I feel he may not be able bodied enough to attend the course….

You have been reading Our Normandy Life!

Here are some useful links you may find helpful in relation to this post.

How To Get A Job In Normandy, France

Top Ten Tips To Learn French

All About Delf Diploma

Greta Academie Caen

Pole Emploi

Learn French With Pierre







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