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. It’s close to Mediterranean beaches, and the surroundings provide 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. The pedestrian center features many lively restaurants, bars, and shops. You can explore Montpellier’s medieval alleyways, parks, and plazas for hours. The streets are filled with vibrant street art.
For all these reasons, Montpellier has been the fastest-growing city in France for the last 25 years. Due to its sunny climate and relatively affordable real estate, it’s also becoming a popular destination for international 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. Class 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. You can learn the basics cheaply anywhere, so why pay to learn them in France if you can’t yet truly benefit from the main advantage of in-country study, real-life conversation practice?
In addition, 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.
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.
Where you are on the introvert/extrovert spectrum is another factor to consider. As an introvert, I need lots of alone time, and I knew classes and excursions would already provide lots of socializing.
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 helpful 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 studying French in Paris!
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Are you planning to attend a Montpellier French language school? Please share your questions and tips on Montpellier French courses in the comments.
Hi Ingrid. I enjoyed your write up of LSF. I also had David for class- I had his class for 2 months last summer and I loved it and him. If you want to compare notes I am an attorney in Washington, DC and would love to chat. I hope to be in Paris in the fall also.
Hi Cynthia, that’s great you were at LSF also. Would be fun to connect in Paris. Sent you an email. 🙂
Thanks for the guide, it’s really helpful.
Glad it was helpful! Would love to hear about your experience if you end up learning French in Montpellier.
That was a superb read and I found it very helpful, thank you. I am new to French (around the A1 level) and need to nail my level properly as I have learnt a lot here and there but struggle in places that I’m sure I’m not supposed to. So I want to go to an LSF school in Montpellier near the end of this year but like you say, I want to make sure I can at least speak the basics proficiently first. I was thinking about a Homestay but I do agree that I think an Airbnb maybe better for me (I can always go back for further studies in a homestay), besides I am 52 this year and think maybe they are best for the younger students. I am on the e-learning platform at the moment so want to make sure I can get through their A1 course on that easily first.
Would you say that it is best for me to at least take and pass the A1 DELF exam first before going?
Hi Martin, I think having A1 down before you go is a great idea. To be honest, I was surprised when the first-day orientation and tour were almost completely in French. It was OK for me, but it does throw complete beginners into the deep end a bit. Having the basics will make daily life much easier, and allow you to get the most out of the excursions with OCulture, which are also in French.
I did meet some 50+ students in homestays who enjoyed it, but it does require a certain flexible attitude. I think it also depends where you are on the introvert/extrovert spectrum. I’m an introvert who requires lots of alone time, so tend to prefer Airbnbs.
I don’t personally take language exams, but many independent learners find them useful in providing a clear goal as well as accountability. If your French knowledge has gaps, preparing for the exam would be a good systematic way to reveal and fill them.
Bon courage, and let us know how it goes!
This was very helpful. I am from India and currently pursuing A1 from Alliance Francaise here. I want to maybe pursue A2 in France and have repeatedly come across the LSF Montpellier. This article will definitely help me make an informed decision in the near future.
Hi, Vaidehi, thanks for your comment. I think Montpellier is a good choice. In my four weeks in the city, I only heard locals and visitors say positive things about it. Similarly, I didn’t hear negative feedback about LSF from any of the students I met.
By the way, I’ll be studying at the Alliance française in Paris later this year. You can read about my process choosing a school here: 🙂 https://www.secondhalftravels.com/alliance-francaise-paris/.
Ingrid, thank you so much for your response. This is extremely helpful in preparing as well as setting my mind as I am not used to this at all so will be jumping in at the deep end. You have confirmed all the things I have been thinking about in order for being ready for this wonderful experience.
Once again, thank you for your advice and I will indeed report back after 😉
Hi Martin, no worries! If you’ve been out of school a while, that first day of language class can be nerve-wracking… I was overwhelmed my first day of Spanish school in Buenos Aires 13 years ago! But getting out of your comfort zone is so worth it. Studying at home first will help a lot too. Best of luck 🙂
Very interesting read. I’m retiring in November and the idea of learning another language abroad ceetainly appeals to me. I will be following you closely over the coming months and look forward to your post on Bordeaux.
Hi Alex, thanks for stopping by. Language learning combined with travel makes such a great retirement pursuit. I’ll be studying in Paris later this year, but am keeping Bordeaux in mind for future. Several students I met at LSF raved about studying there. Bordeaux also seems very popular with the French, as this video by innerFrench explains: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQ46LiwHGTY.
I came very close to attending LSF Montpellier this summer. I had heard mixed reviews about the town itself. I ended up going to AF Nice for five weeks. And what an experience! The city itself is charming and an excellent base for exploring the Cote d’Azur. AF Nice has on-site studio accomodation which is tailor made for students with ensuite, a kitchenette etc. The neighborhood itself is so convenient. The courses themselves were very beneficial and instructors were great. They were definitely running a C1 or C2 class with older people. I highly recommend you put this on your radar for next summer. If nothing else, it is a cost efficient way of basing yourself in southern France during a peak period.
PS Have you looked into CAVILAM in Vichy?
Hi Omar, thanks for your comment! AF Nice sounds like a great school, and having low-cost student housing as an option is a real benefit.
I’ve been intrigued by CAVILAM since seeing the rave reviews in innerFrench podcast’s list of schools recommended by listeners:
Bonne chance and let us know where you study next!
Hello Ingrid. Thanks for your blog and the info on LSF. Very helpful! I’m 66 and thinking of spending a month or two at LSF this summer. I’m an intermediate French speaker. My interest is mainly in improving my speaking/ oral comprehension rather than passing a formal DELF/DALF test. Any opinion on how well LSF might work for that? And any thoughts on how many weeks is best? Do you hit a point of diminishing returns in learning?
Would appreciate any thoughts you could offer. Thanks! Jay
Hi Jay, while the program at LSF isn’t specifically focused on oral communication, I thought they did a good job incorporating speaking and listening in the classroom. If you can, I’d recommend avoiding the peak summer months of July and August to keep class sizes smaller and get more speaking time in class.
You can also maximize speaking and listening opportunities with the extracurricular activities like workshops and tours in French. Try to stay in French outside of class and resist the temptation to slip back into English. I found that older students and those at higher levels were more committed to staying in French outside of class. I try to spend time with other students interested in practicing.
Another way to get more practice is at language exchange meetups outside the school to meet locals eager to practice English in exchange for French. Great way to give back to the locals and make friends.
A month or two sounds like a great length of time to improve your fluency and get to know the region. Personally, after three or four weeks of study I start getting tired. The mental effort is intense, and when I travel, diet, sleep, and exercise all suffer a bit. However, since costs go down the longer you study, perhaps you could take time off from class as needed. The long-term students in my class often attended sporadically.
Bonne chance ! Would love to hear how things go.
Thanks Ingrid! That’s good feedback. I’ll let you know how it goes. Appreciate the advice and thanks for your blog. Jay