You’ve been happily learning french online for a while, you’ve been harassed by the Duo Owl, and deciphered the Memrise accents. But you can still barely pick out the word “bonjour” while watching Mother is Wrong on TVNZ on Demand. While the french courses available online are great for reinforcing vocabulary, there is nothing like finding a french class in Te Aro (or Petone) to see rapid improvement in your language skills.

It’s not just that a local french teacher can correct you immediately, and help you to hear the different between “elle est” and “il est” (she is and he is). But when you join a french class in a Wellington suburb like Te Aro, or work with a french tutor, you pick up a lot more non-verbal clues when they are speaking. This is also why you should watch TV shows in the original language rather than an overdub, as you need to see the lip formation, the hand gestures, and the facial expressions that go with the words to truly cement the language in your brain.

Learning french in Te Aro provides additional benefits that you can’t find anywhere else in Aotearoa. You have access to the French Embassy, who do have cultural events that the public can attend from time to time. Supporting activities like:

  • French Language and Francophonie Week
  • Te Whare Hēra’s residency program (with Massey), bringing contemporary French artists to live, work and exhibit in New Zealand
  • Randell Cottage - a rotational residency for French and New Zealand writers.
Learn French in Te Aro Park
Practice your French in Te Aro Park by Halbergman from Getty Images Signature
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Starting French with Alliance Française near Te Aro

One of the first places many people head to when they first think about learning French is to Victoria Street where they find the Wellington branch of international organisation Alliance Française.

While AF has different French classes to fit all levels, one of the biggest advantages to being a member no matter what your level is to embrace the culture. One of the primary goals of the organisation is to promote French culture, so to do this they have books, music, and movies available for members to borrow. This includes an incredible range of children’s books and movies, which are notoriously difficult (and expensive) to get anywhere in New Zealand, even Te Aro (although if you have a favourite bookstore feel free to comment and let us know!).

If you’re looking at attending a French for Beginners class in Te Aro, it’s good to note that the teachers with Alliance Française are qualified to teach French as a Foreign language (FLE), which is a qualification similar to the ESOL you have likely heard of. Just knowing how to speak French doesn’t mean that someone knows how to teach it, so look for a French teacher with experience as a teacher, not just advertising themselves as a native speaker.

Woman behind French Flag
Don't hide learn French - Nemchinowa from Getty Images

French Classes in Aro Valley at The French Institute

Like the French teachers found on Superprof, French tutors with the French Institute are native French speakers who follow the Common European Framework for Reference (CEFR) for all French levels (A1-C2).

Although there is an emphasis on promoting private French language lessons, the French institute is also happen to arrange lessons for a group when students are at a similar level or have a similar purpose. This might be a company department about to head to New Caledonia for a conference, a family heading to Disneyland Paris, or a group of friends heading off to Madagascar to undertake some voluntourism. The key is that no matter what your goal, talking with a private tutor can move you quickly from French lessons for beginners to speaking fluent French faster than in a class with a set curriculum.

While the main French classes are held at the Aro Valley Community Centre, the French Institute also says that have different courses available nearby for people in  Wadestown, Wellington CBD, Aro, Kelburn, Brooklyn, Newtown, Hataitai, Lyall Bay, Miramar, and Evans bay.

The Wellington High School Community Education Centre (CEC) French Teachers

Attending night classes with CEC can be an inexpensive way to take a French for beginners’ class in Taranaki Street, Te Aro,Wellington. The introductory classes help students learn to introduce themselves and share basic information with French speakers. These French classes also start to cover pronunciation and basic grammar.

Another class that isn’t strictly a French class but might be exceptionally useful to any language learners is the short course “How to Learn A Language”. Only half a day, the course helps language students develop strategies for remembering your target language and remaining motivated. The course is held at Wellington High School and is only suitable for fluent English speakers.

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More Than Beginners French at Victoria University of Wellington

While you can, of course, take French 101 papers at Vic, there are far more reasons to look at the university for really interesting French classes. Vic Uni is in Kelburn, with Massey University being directly in Te Aro, however, many students live in Te Aro or Aro Valley, creating a great culture for learning in the suburbs.

For starters, students of Te Herenga Waka (Victoria University of Wellington) can join the French Society. This is a social club for French students that runs a range of activities that provide opportunities to immerse yourself in French language and French culture.

Vic also has other courses that might interest passionate language learners like Literary translation where you can learn about how “ideas and meanings are received, explained and transported around the world”.

Formal qualifications in French can lead to jobs as a diplomat, translator, interpreter, marketer, import/export manager or researcher. However, learning French through university can be difficult if your goal is to become a fluent communicator. It can be beneficial to not only throw yourself into as many French events as possible, but also to engage a private French teacher who can help fill in any gaps in your knowledge.

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Catch the Train from Lower Hutt the Cable Car to Vic Image by Kerstin Wießer-Buchholz from Pixabay

Multilingual Staff at Euroasia Help Students learn French

As a private language school, Euroasia really does everything they can to promote multilingual fluently for Wellingtonians. There is an expectation that all staff should speak a minimum of two languages, and it is this dedication to language learning the permeates all areas of the business.Although classes are located in Willis Street, getting to the Wellington CBD from Te Aro or Aro Valley is a quick bus trip.

While, obviously, learning French is a strong goal at the Wellington school, but this is not the only goal. They also want to ensure that students leave with a strong understanding of French culture, French history, and how learning French can take students from Wellington to across the globe. One thing they can help with is advice on how kiwis can get working holiday visas to head to France, Belgium or Canada.

Another quite unique aspect with the French school is that they offer taster lessons. These courses provide an introduction to learning French, and you will leave with an understanding of how the language can help you, where it could take you, what aspects of French culture you can develop a passion for, and a few basic keywords.

Learn French by sunset in Te Aro and Wellington Harbor
Is your French tutor in Te Aro and Wellington Harbor - Halbergman from Getty Images Signature

Engaging A French Teacher

We’ve mentioned that you can find a great French tutor via Superprof. But of course, this isn’t the only place that you can source French tutors who can help you learn French from the comfort of your Te Aro home, your Kelburn office, or a great café out at Seaton. However, whether you are looking for a French tutor on Superprof, through Facebook, via Shopless, or any other online platform, there are a few things you should look for:

  1. Price isn’t everything. There is the old adage “you get what you paid for”. However, if you are looking for someone to practice your conversational French with you could look for a less expensive tutor than when you are a complete beginner learning a second language for the first time ever. There are methods to teaching a second language, particularly French, that do require training in teaching, not just an ability to speak French. While those educated in France do generally have a much better grasp of grammar than we tend to get in New Zealand, this still doesn’t mean they have enough knowledge to teach you French.
  2. Accent matters. Just as American’s generally need subtitles to understand someone from Glasgow, so different French accents exist. You also need to be aware that French from France, Canada, Belgium, and Switzerland are all different. While learning French for general use means it doesn’t matter so much what style of French your teacher will share, if you are trying to learn quickly (which is one of the best reasons to hire a French teacher) then you probably have a specific location so why not learn French is that countries style.
  3. Qualifications in Teaching French. So there is the French equivalent of ESOL called teaching “French as a foreign language” (FLE). Obtaining this qualification within New Zealand is difficult, so most people who have their FLE have earnt this while in France. However, you can also find retired French teachers who were registered teachers working in New Zealand schools. There are advantages and disadvantages to working with a kiwi French teacher and a teacher from overseas. While a teacher from a French speaking country will have been immersed in French culture that they can share, a teacher from New Zealand will understand more about your culture and be able to incorporate this into their teaching.

Finding French Media Resources

Reading in French is difficult for new learners. Try and keep your reading material short. Looking at headlines in a French newspaper can be ideal, and news outlets like France 24 are available online, in English and French, and with video as well as written articles.

Don’t forget that there are a number of French language television shows available free through TVNZ on Demand, and many kiwi library’s provide free access to movie streaming site Beamafilms which have a range of movies and series in French.

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Alison