In February and March 2022 I spent three enjoyable weeks studying French at LSF Montpellier. Montpellier is a charming small city in the south of France. Read on for tips to learn French in Montpellier, France.
Why Learn French in Montpellier, France
Montpellier is the second most popular city in France for learning French as a foreign language after Paris. Pre-pandemic, the Mediterranean city had 20 French language schools teaching 10,000 students a year.
However, the drop in tourism hit this industry hard, and my LSF teacher told us several smaller schools had closed. LSF itself has just merged with another school, IEF, allowing it to acquire more students and another classroom building.
With 25% of its population of 285,000 being students, Montpellier has a dynamic, youthful spirit. It is one of the oldest and most important university cities in France. Locals are used to a multicultural student population, and in my experience were friendly and patient with imperfect French.
Montpellier is in the Occitanie region, less expensive and overcrowded with tourists than neighboring Provence.
The pedestrian center features many lively restaurants, bars, and shops. You can explore Montpellier’s medieval alleyways, parks, and plazas for hours. Montpellier’s streets are filled with vibrant street art. The city is close to Mediterranean beaches, and the surrounding region provides many interesting day and weekend trips.
Montpellier offers an impressive array of cultural events for a city of its size, and even has two opera houses. For these reasons, and for relatively affordable housing costs, this fast-growing city is becoming a popular destination for American retirees and expats.
Getting to Montpellier
Montpellier has an airport, but it can be cheaper to fly into Marseilles and take the two-hour train ride to Montpellier.
Personally, I flew into Paris from the US and spent a few days there before taking the low-cost TGV (high-speed train) called Ouigo to Montpellier. One-way tickets are as low as 10 euros, although adding luggage and seat reservations increases the price.
If you come by train, ensure your ticket is to Montpellier’s central Saint-Roch train station and not Montpellier Sud de France, a new station on the city’s outskirts still poorly connected by public transport.
When to Study French in Montpellier
Montpellier boasts 300 days of sunshine a year. The weather was sunny but chilly in February and March, with average highs and lows of 54° / 37° F or 12° / 3° C. I chose Montpellier in part to avoid the cold and rain of Paris or Lyon in winter.
Choosing a French School in Montpellier
The high number of Montpellier language schools means intense competition, and there are multiple courses with excellent reputations. I really enjoyed my time at LSF, but other students also recommended Institute Linguistic Adenet (ILA) and Accent Français, so I think you could have a good experience at a number of French courses in Montpellier.
I recommend choosing a school that is nationally accredited by the French government with the Qualité français langue étrangère certification, which guarantees a baseline of quality. View all accredited schools in France on this map. LSF, ILA, and Accent Français are all accredited.
I ended up choosing LSF Montpellier for its excellent reviews. Try Googling “LSF Montpellier reviews” to read student reviews on a variety of sites.
I turned 50 during my stay in France, and was looking for a mix of ages in the program with at least some attendees my age or older. European language schools are often dominated by teen or twenty-something students, especially in summer. I considered the French school Institute Linguistic Adenet, or ILA, in Montpellier because they have a program for people 50+.
However, age turned out not to be an issue at LSF. The majority of the students were in their 20s, but there were enough students my age and older to connect with too. Everyone, students and staff, was unfailingly friendly and welcoming, and I enjoyed spending time with fellow students of all ages.
Most students I met came from European countries like Spain, the UK, or Germany, with a few from North and Latin America but none at that time from Asia. This reflected the makeup of the tourists I saw in France during this time too. My understanding is that during non-pandemic times there is even greater diversity of nationalities in the student body.
French Classes in Montpellier at LSF
I chose the Standard French course, which includes 20 group lessons and two optional afternoon workshops. Classes are from 2-4 pm on Monday and 9 am-12:30 pm from Tuesday to Friday, with a break from 10:45-11 am. Monday’s classes are in the afternoon to accommodate the new student orientation and city tour in the morning.
The afternoon workshops were open to all levels. Many topics seemed targeted at lower levels, but I attended one workshop on la Francophonie and enjoyed the discussion and opportunity to meet students from other classes.
The standard course was plenty intense for me and left my afternoons mostly free for doing homework, exploring, and attending the school’s group activities. Other students did sign up for the intensive course, which includes more lessons in the afternoon. They found it beneficial if also tiring.
Often the quality of the teacher is the most important factor in a language school experience. In the C1 (advanced) class, I had the same excellent teacher, David, for three weeks. He was patient and explained concepts clearly.
My class sizes were generally small, from three to seven students. We covered a mix of grammar, listening, reading, speaking, and writing.
While the classes were challenging, the pace was relaxed. We often veered off into lively discussions about French culture and current events. Classes always started with a fun report of what each student had done the day or weekend before.
LSF has its own proprietary e-learning platform we used for class exercises and that you could access for extra practice outside of class.
LSF also has an app that provides scheduling information of the location of your classroom for the week. I had classes in both the main school and the annex, a historic building a five-minute walk away.
LSF is right in the city center, and there are many bakeries, food halls, and cafés for grabbing a snack and coffee during break or lunch after class. Be sure to try Des rêves et du pain, a prizewinning boulangerie (bakery) behind LSF’s main building.
Preparing for a French Course in Montpellier
While LSF (and most French language schools in Montpellier) accommodate total beginners, I always recommend getting at least the basics down before doing in-country study. To provide an immersive environment, almost all communication at LSF, including the first day orientation and tour, is in French, with brief explanations in English if needed. You’ll get much more out of your stay if you already understand the fundamentals of French.
Your daily interactions with French locals will also be easier and more rewarding if you’ve already mastered the basics.
LSF has a busy calendar of activities. Generally they offer two types, activities organized by the school itself and tours offered by a third party agency. There are often multiple activities daily, one of the factors that attracted me to the school.
Activities organized by LSF include bar, café, and film outings; wine and cheese tastings; dance lessons; or painting classes, all in French. LSF’s Instagram gives a good impression of the diverse offerings.
LSF also partners with OCulture, a travel agency specializing in tours for language school students, to offer day trips on afternoons and weekends. These tours are well-organized, affordable, and a lot of fun. Tour guides speak clear French with brief English translations as needed.
The tours are a great way to meet students from other language schools in Montpellier as well as native-speaking French tourists. Jérémie, the main tour guide, often brings his guitar and leads sing-alongs in French in the van. Check out OCulture’s calendar or Instagram for more details.
Besides weekend excursions with OCulture, there are plenty of other interesting day and weekend trips you can do on your own.
The nearby town of Sète, known as the Venice of Languedoc for its canals, makes a great day trip.
I also spent a fun weekend exploring Marseilles, a two-hour train ride from Montpellier. Marseilles is vibrant, gritty, and multicultural. If you go, I recommend the No Diet Club food tour, which introduces you to local food and culture while allowing you to practice your French on this bilingual tour.
LSF and other Montpellier French language schools offer homestays. I’ve done these in the past, and they can be an excellent way to have a more authentic experience and intensify your language immersion.
Drawbacks include possible lack of privacy and comfortable study space as well as lack of control over your meal schedule, laundry, etc. Families also often live in outlying areas, requiring a commute to class.
However, many students find the tradeoff in privacy and comfort worth it for a closer connection to the local culture and increased language practice opportunities.
On this study trip I opted to stay alone in an Airbnb apartment I found myself, in part to minimize risk during the pandemic. It was comfortable, spacious, and affordable, and just a short walk to class.
My Airbnb in Montpellier was in the former Logis du Chapeau Rouge, or Inn of the Red Hat, which dates from at least 1447. The Marquis de Sade stayed there in 1776! The pilgrims’ path Chemin de St Jacques, or Way of St. James, went right by the front door.
More Travels in France
Since I flew in and out of Paris from the US, I bookended my Montpellier French course with sightseeing in the capital. Parisians may be notorious for rudeness, but that wasn’t my experience. People were kind and helpful everywhere.
However, I suspect it’s essential to speak a reasonable level of French. And of course, as a white woman, my experience may be different from that of others. Still, I enjoyed Paris so much I decided to return there to study French in autumn 2022.
Future French Study in France
I loved my séjour linguistique (language study trip) so much I’m planning to return to study French in France again, first in Paris later in 2022 and then possibly Lyon or Bordeaux in future. Read about my experience finding a course to study French in Paris!
You may also like:
Are you planning to attend a Montpellier French language school? Please share your questions and tips on Montpellier French courses in the comments.