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Aix-en-Provence in southern France

Philip Lange/Getty Images/Hemera

The question: I want to learn to speak French in France. Where should I go?

In my experience, whether I'm struggling with Spanish, Italian or Nepali (I was being ambitious there), locals always welcome your efforts to speak their language. Even if they can't make out a word you're saying.

But it sounds like you want to get beyond the "I'll-order-the-duck" conversation, so Jamie Ehrlich, editor of Frommer's France ( frommers.com), has these suggestions for you:

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"The university city of Aix-en-Provence is a wonderful place to learn French," she says. "There are several programs to choose from – we recommend IS Aix-en-Provence ( is-aix.com), which has been in business since 1972. It has a maximum class size of 10 people, with the option of 20 or 30 French courses per week." The classes are held in a restored mansion and there's the tempting option of skipping afternoon school in favour of painting, sailing or cooking lessons.

Just outside of Nice, there's the Institut de Francais ( www.institutdefrancais.com), which offers two-to-four week immersion courses. "Each day includes eight-and-a-half hours of lessons, plus breakfast and lunch taken together with professors," says Ehrlich, who describes her own French as proficient, albeit with a bad American accent. The Institut, set in a hillside villa, is based in the picturesque fishing village of Villefranche, not far from Nice, Cannes and Monte-Carlo for after-school diversions.

If your heart is set on Paris, Ehrlich suggests these two schools: The international cultural network Alliance Française ( alliancefr.org) runs a language school on Raspail Boulevard, near the Luxembourg Gardens. "Among the options are evening courses, comprising four hours per week; general French classes at nine hours per week; and an intensive course." There's also the opportunity to learn French using theatrical techniques.

And then there's the historic cultural institution, the Sorbonne. "You can also immerse yourself in student life in Paris at the famous Sorbonne ( ccfs-sorbonne.fr), which offers French-language classes at all levels," Ehrlich says. "There are four semesters per year, and within each semester a range of different classes are offered, including a two-week conversation class, and a 12-week intensive summer session."



Send your travel questions to concierge@globeandmail.com.



Follow Karan Smith on Twitter: @karan_smith. Special to The Globe and Mail

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