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“Look forward to going back again!”

Institut de Francais
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: Language immersion courses for adults.
Reviewed 21 October 2013

I just returned from spending part of the month of September at the Institut de Français Villefranche sur mer. This was my third time there. I have stayed in several apartments. Some are better than others but my friends and I have generally been satisfied with the accommodations. To me, the accommodations have never been the most important thing about my stay there.

Having gone to other schools, I have always appreciated the organization of L’Institut. Frederic Latty, the Director, does a fabulous job of keeping everything running smoothly. He has a good sense of humor and the students who had him as a professor told me that he is a great teacher. The staff is fantastic, whether in the office or in the dining hall, they go out of their way to make you feel at home.

The language lab isn’t modern, but it is effective. Although the students joke about it and talk about dreading going there because it is challenging, it is a great tool in helping you learn to understand and speak french.

In my opinion there is no other place in the world where you can: be immersed all day in well organized lessons of french language and culture; work with dedicated, enthusiastic and experienced teachers; enjoy breathtaking views of the Mediterranean every day; have the opportunity to live in and explore the south of France; and have the opportunity to make friends from all over the world.

For me, it has been an unbelievably positive experience and I look forward to the time when I can go back to study there again!

5  Thank Susan B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
YTTALFr, Responsable commercial at Institut de Francais, responded to this reviewResponded 21 November 2013

I would like to rectify the wrong impression of the above student as to my title in the Institut de Français. I am its Executive Assistant and not its Director. the Director is Mr Jean Colbert.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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"learn french"
in 28 reviews
"four weeks"
in 15 reviews
"learning experience"
in 12 reviews
"speaking french"
in 10 reviews
"fellow students"
in 9 reviews
"language school"
in 7 reviews
"yogurt"
in 7 reviews
"beautiful location"
in 5 reviews
"bread"
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"entire month"
in 4 reviews
"having fun"
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"anyone who wants"
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"morning news"
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89 - 93 of 142 reviews

Reviewed 20 October 2013

I attended in February, and liked it so much that I paid my deposit to come back, before leaving. I'm now back in October, and am sad to be leaving soon.

Upon my first arrival, I was in awe at my apartment: spacious like a townhouse, with an awesome view overlooking the bay, Cap Ferrat and the Mediterranean. Apartments aren't guaranteed, due to variable factors, but I was more than delighted that the Director, Frederic Latty, considered my request, and was able to accommodate me in the same apartment again this time.

There are eight learning levels: Beginner I, II; Intermediate I, II, III, IV; and Advance I, II. In February, I tested into intermediate IV, and felt lucky that the director was my teacher. I volunteered to give my presentation first, and after my evaluation, Frederic recommended my advancement and placed me into advance II. I was dumbfounded, excited and scared. I didn't want to leave Frederic's class because I really like his jovial personality, but am grateful for his insight with my placement. He knew where I needed to be, which made my whole experience worthwhile! I returned to review the last two weeks, to solidify the new material I learned in February, and my teacher, Jean, is amazing! I really like his style.

I could go on and on, but overall, I highly recommend it here. The staff is incredible, the food is delicious, activities abound, and the method is effective!

7  Thank tumblerid
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
YTTALFr, Responsable commercial at Institut de Francais, responded to this reviewResponded 21 November 2013

I would like to rectify the wrong impression of the above student as to my title in the Institut de Français. I am its Executive Assistant and not its Director. the Director is Mr Jean Colbert.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 October 2013

The Institut de Français exceeded all my expectations. I feel that, although I still have a long way to go, my french had significantly improved by the end of my stay as evidenced by the way I handled conversations and everyday situations in France for two weeks after my departure from the Institut.

The professors that I came in contact with at the Institut were uniformly excellent and accessible. They mixed rigor with humor to make the learning experience enjoyable. The administration was helpful when assistance was needed, the food was very good, and I had nice premium studio apartment close to the school with a "to die for" view overlooking the Mediterranean. Finally, the school arranged many extra-curricular activities to provide insights into french culture and history, including a visit to two medieval french towns and the Matisse designed chapel that would have been difficult to reach on your own without a car.

Villefranche sur Mer, where the Institut is located, is a small charming city located just outside of Nice. It has an old quarter and is a destination point for cruise ships on the Riveria. It has restaurants and a nice beach. Access to other places on the French Riviera is relatively easy since the town has a train station and reasonably convenient bus service (late night excepted). Nice is less than 10 minutes away by train and maybe 20 minutes by bus. The Institut is located in a non-touristy area of Villefranche mid way up the fairly steep hills that comprise the city. The hilly location does present a challenge for someone who has mobility issues or who is not in reasonable shape. The school facilities are modern, charming and include gardens with an incredible view. Several older reviews complain of inadequate toilet facilities. Whatever their merit at the time, that issue has been fully resolved by the construction of additional toilets.

I attended in September and was placed in one of the advanced intermediate groups. I had studied university french and have taken courses at the Washington Alliance Française and a continuing education course at a local community college. We had a class size of nine, with a good mix of nationalities, ages, backgrounds, and motivations for studying french, including two who planned to work in francophone Africa. Two were attending the program for a second time - which was not unusual and speaks to the quality of the program. As a retiree, my motivation was personal enrichment mixed with adventure and a desire to spend time in France in a non-touristy context. I wanted a strong immersion program but, for privacy and flexibility reasons, preferred one that did not involve living with a family and would allow me to do some traveling on the weekends. I feel the Institut met my objectives.

The academic program is rigorous and English is not permitted at the Institut. You definitely need to be strongly motivated to learn french. There is no textbook but there are occasional handouts, particularly with special vocabularies/idioms used in certain social or business settings. The emphasis is on oral speaking and comprehension, particularly in practical everyday situations. Grammar is taught in that context with a focus on the rule and not the exception. The classroom and language lab drilling is intended to make french language more instinctive and to help students discard typically anglosaxon structures used in communicating. Our teacher was very skilled at moving the conversation around the class, and the class developed a fair amount of trust so that no one was made to feel uncomfortable when they made the inevitable mistake(s). Given the criticisms of the language lab in some of the other reviews, I must say that, while sometimes tiring, almost all of my classmates felt that the lab was useful and that the technology was absolutely fine.

The class sessions designed to familiarize students with idioms or vocabulary used in social or situational settings were again very well done and handled with humor. These included handling yourself in a restaurant, store or an airport or plane, how to answer a phone, understanding french kitchen expressions /measurements/numbers, asking someone if they want to do something etc.,. Since some of the instruction involved roleplaying by students (which I am not good at), I was a bit wary of this. However, frankly, it was fun and not stressful and a good way to get this type of information across. I found the optional business session to be useful. Additionally, there were optional sessions listening to the news on TV with the aim of improving listening comprehension.

With regard to living accommodations, the Institut offers a range of apartments based on price corresponding quality. It is true that you don't know the specific apartment until you arrive and that the Institut could do a better job of the initial handoff of keys/location of apartment for the arriving student. My french (and the location markers) was not good enough to really understand where my apartment was and I got very lost on a hot day with luggage in hand on a steep hill. There also was no set of instructions for the apartment beyond appliance manuals.

That being said, I was pleased with my apartment when I found it. Nothing fancy, adequate appliances (many have washers but no dryers), adequate bed, nice TV, spectacular view, pool, and very close to the school. To my surprise, there was also housekeeping service once a week. Wi-Fi (for a small fee). However, there was no air-conditioning. While some units do have AC, many in Southern France do not. If you are planning to attend in the summer months or September, I recommend that you request an apartment with AC if available.

Finally, with regard to a prior review's recommendation not to rent through the school, you should understand that there are pros and cons to that advice. You might get a better price on the internet but you might be much farther away from the school or necessary shopping. Distance and location are very Important in a hilly location like Villefranche, particularly if you do not have a car. When I thought I had a problem with a malfunctioning fan, the school contacted the landlord to resolve the problem. I did not have to track down the landlord and deal with him in my not so great french. Similarly, the security deposit was handled with school and I did not have to make special arrangements on the last day. Having rented a short-term apartment elsewhere in France, it can be a hassle with lease forms in French and unexpected cleaning/key return/security deposit return issues on departure. Unless you are familiar with Villefranche and your french is pretty good, I think your best bet is to rent through the school and accept the uncertainty of not knowing exactly what you are renting until you arrive. I could be wrong, but I believe that the school was able to assist a few students who for one reason or another were unhappy with their school assigned apartments.

In sum, my experience in September was fantastic - a great language program, interesting people from around the world, exploring the French Riviera, and the adventure of living in France.
Would I recommend the Institut to a friend? Absolutely. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

11  Thank freestateguy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 17 October 2013

Ten students in a class is too many if you want to learn to speak.

The professors were very good, though with an 'edge'. If you don't take their abruptness personally, it's not a problem.

I have read reviews criticizing the food and apartments. I thought the food was great! The breakfasts are French breakfasts- bread, coffee and yoghurt, but the lunches are 3 course creations, and in my opinion, delicious! As far as apartments, I know several people who had problems with wifi and electricity, but I think most were satisfied.

The reason I would not return and would not recommend it to others is the size of the classes. If I added up all the time I spoke in class over 4 weeks, it would come to less than one hour. I spoke French with other students of course, but that's not the same as speaking to a teacher who can correct you. I believe that for the cost, there should be no more than 6 students in a class.

15  Thank Betsy K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 14 October 2013

Avoid renting the apartments from them. You won't get a picture from them of the flats beforehand because they're in shambles. They're also overpriced, you must pay extra for the internet and the toilet paper and if something goes wrong you'll have to lump it. I couldn't sleep on their futon frame with the dilapidated mattress bed so I was shattered the whole month I was there. Thus, I had to drink the strongest coffee from the awful (not free) coffee machine. They ignore your requests to be placed with others to maximize their earnings. When I queried people, many people had issues with their flats and every person who requested a shared flat, that they were placed in a studio or alone in a two bedroom flat, proving they had they ability to put people together.
The MC Latty is so unfriendly, condescending and unhelpful, people prayed he didn't sit at their lunch table. They give you scores of information about how to pay them for things but basic, common sense things like a map of your whereabouts is lacking. The furniture seriously needs to be refurbished and the language lab is so antiquated, I'm surprised it still functions. I feel sorry for the professors because they have to work under these unfortunate circumstances and they're the ones who make the school a success.
With that all said, I can tell you I've gone to many programmes and this one has been the most useful because it just wasn't about grammar but its usage and the why behind it. I had a number of aha moments. And coming from a TEFL English Teacher that's saying a lot. The teaching methodology is effective but some things can be improved. Besides renewing the language lab, it could be leveraged better as a learning tool. The place closes down promptly at 5:30pm so there's no where else to hang out after hours unless you're having a dinner at a restaurant or drinks at a bar. They get away with these glaring deficiencies and poor attitude because of their programme's success so I don't see them changing their stripes anytime soon unless more people confront them. Otherwise at least you have been fully warned. Thus, if the methodology wasn't good and the professors weren't so nice, they'd get a (1 star) poor review.

27  Thank JO B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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