When people think of learning French in France, do people think of Marseille? Most likely not, but you should. Marseille is the second largest city in France after Paris -- its misunderstood best friend -- as well as the largest city on the Mediterranean coast.
Due to its primary location on the Southeastern coast, it's also the one of the most visited cities in France and as a long-standing trading post and immigrant gateway. Marseille is a major center for trade, industry, art, and, naturally, learning French.
In terms of language, while the majority of Marseillais speak French, some of the older populations still speak Provençal. While there's a bit of a southern accent, learning French in Marseille is both doable and enjoyable, and if you're the type of person who prefers a laid-back, quiet, and diverse atmosphere, look no further than Marseille for a French course abroad.
Private tutoring/group courses
Both of these are great options for those who are not able to attend universities. These can also take advantage of the small amount of people and encourage communication between students, which tends to be the best environment for language learning. Beware however; private tutoring tends to be double the price of group courses.
Taking classes in a university are great and easy ways for students because not only will they be able to earn credit towards graduation, but also allow students to understand the French perspective on an interesting topic. Popular universities include the University of Aix-Marseille.
A homestay is the ultimate way to immerse yourself in the French language. This allows you to learn the language while living with a host family and while taking courses at the same time; usually the program provides the courses for you. Some programs also offer a combination of living and teaching homestays to keep the costs low, as well.
- Check out the crowd: Marseille isn’t called a melting pot for no reason! 1/3 of the population traces their roots to Italy, and there is also a significant population of Corsican, Armenian, Maghrebis, Turks, Comorians, Chinese, and Vietnamese in Marseille. Most can speak French, however.
- Since when…? Although Marseille has existed for centuries, French was only introduced into the city when the Frankish kings took it over in the 6th century! It didn’t become the official language until the 18th century.
- Did you know…? Marseille has been designated as the European Center of Culture for the year 2013!
- Don’t Miss: Old Port! it's the main port of Marseille, and is the reason why it was so important from historic times up until now. Go take a look! The view is gorgeous!
- YUM: Bouillabaisse, Marseille’s most famous seafood dish, is a delicious fish stew worth trying while you're there.
As emphasized earlier, Marseille is a
melting pot of many different cultures. One in three Marseillais are not natively from the area. it's an area filled with diversity, with anyone from Italy, Corsica, Turkey, China, Vietnam, Comoros, Russia, Algeria, Greeks, Armenians, Spanish, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, and Vietnam! Whew!
Marseille has a Mediterranean climate with mild, humid winters and warm to hot, mostly dry summers! However, it known for several phenomena to occur, such as Mistral, which is a harsh cold wind that blows from the Rhône Valley in the winter and spring, and for the rare Sirocco, a hot sand-bearing wind that comes from the Sahara Desert. These are both extreme cases, but you should be prepared if they should happen when you go to Marseille!
Costs & Funding
Overall, Marseille’s cost of living is quite low -- especially compared to Paris -- and is often one of the reasons why French learners opt for a language course in Marseille over Paris.
If you're staying long term, expect to spend about 450 - 550 euros per month on your apartment. 1 liter of milk is about 0.8 euros, a loaf of fresh bread is 1.1 euros, and a water bottle 0.55 euros. A one-way ticket on a bus is 1.5 euros, and an inexpensive meal at a restaurant averages about 12 euros.
Housing is sometimes included with language courses, so be sure to check on this before adding rent into your budget!
If you're still in college / university, you may be able to subsidize learning French in Marseille with a scholarship:
If you are studying through a university in the United States, you may qualify for the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships Program, sponsored by the US Department of Education! Also consider the Critical Language Scholarship Program, which focuses on intensive language study over the summer.
If you are enrolled in a university, connect with your school’s study abroad office for scholarships that they provide!