Learning french through cooking

French culture | learning French

Which activity can combine French culture and language? Cooking, of course! To speak French also means being able to talk “gastronomy”. When one can talk about recipes and good products, one knows the basic of conversation in the country of cheese. That is why a language study holiday includes learning food vocabulary.

French is called “the language of Molière’ but it is also the language of Pierre Gagnaire: so, to combine business with pleasure and to study in the best conditions, what is better than a cooking lesson in French (or a French lesson in a kitchen, as you choose) ?

Cuisine experience, travel memory

Back home, everyone gets caught up in the game: after eating tasty specialties of a country, we enjoy pronouncing accurately and with some pride the name of the ingredient of the dish in its original language. Thus, back from Roma, you don’t say any longer “parmesan”, but “parmiggiano”, rolling your r’s… And after one week in Seville, you pronounce the word “gazpacho” with a singing intonation, and you certainly don’t mix it up with “carpaccio” any more.  It is also through the impalpable memories brought from travels that cuisine takes up much room in a language practice. 


Talking French cuisine, or how to be sociable with the French


The French are said to talk only about gastronomy, wines and good food, cold meats, cheeses, duck confits and roasted chicken, lemon tarts and ‘Paris-Brest’… Everyone has his  tastes, his recipes, his grandma’s secrets half revealed, and the discussion never ends. The French even talk about cuisine with their mouth full ! For some it is a tradition, it is French heritage, French culture. For others, it is an obsession, a monomania, but anyway, it is such a Frenchy trait !

For Vacances Actives Linguistiques, French cuisine – like in many other countries – is an ideal way of integration ! Gastronomy is an important item in most cultures of the world, and a discussion theme full of resources, thus very good for sociability .It is an endless subject of conversation, a way of forging links and building friendships easily. Gastronomy goes together with cordiality, good living, courteousness, festivities… and for learners of French, cuisine suits language practice !

Stan, 15, student from UK

“It is so easy to speak French when you begin talking about cuisine. Food has been the first topic of conversation at my host family. It was easy, we could compare our traditions, Christmas dishes, cakes, etc… At the end of the stay, I was even deciding on the evening menu!” 

Cooking workshops to learn French


That is why our language study holiday agency offers cooking lessons in many French destinations in the form of workshops in small groups, solo or in twos. All over the country, in Paris, Lyon, Nice, Strasbourg, cooking workshops in French are led by local chefs in order to cook a recipe of the area the learners of French are visiting. These workshops are, for students and teachers, a tasty chance to work on a specific vocabulary, keeping hands and minds focused, discovering regional culinary specialities!

The goal of our activities is to create memorable travel experiences, where students learn French in a fun context. They mainly work on oral understanding and expression, and then the vocabulary is memorized in writing after the workshops.


“French macaroons” workshop in Paris

A specific recipe and workshop is offered for each destination. That way students can discover at the same time accent and savours of the region they are visiting! For example, the agency V.A.L. offers French cooking workshops in Paris and challenges learners of French to try the recipe for the famous coloured macaroons: Yes, we don’t spare apprentices technical difficulties! Macaroons, famous thanks to Pierre Hermé, won’t have any secrets any more for our students of French!

paul bocuse institut à lyon

Cooking workshop in French in Lyon, the Capital of Gastronomy

You can’t miss a cooking workshop during a language study holiday in Lyons: it is a unique experience to learn French through cooking in the French Capital of Gastronomy.

Immersion begins with exploring the Old Town, across courtyards and “Traboules”, these hidden pedestrian passageways, typical of Lyon, dating back to the ancient Capital of the Gauls.

Then it is time to taste specialties in a “Bouchon” where our students enjoy a typical experience: entering a little boutique, sitting at a wooden table covered with a checked tablecloth, counting hanging saucissons, toasting with a glass of Beaujolais and sharing local meals. “Cervelle de Canuts, quenelle de brochet, tarte aux pralines…” This gives the French language a particular flavour!

After this foretaste, the culinary and linguistic trip continues for our learners: Let’s go to Paul Bocuse Institute! Vacances Actives Linguistiques works with the school of the undisputed master of French gastronomy, and organizes with this high level institute unique cooking workshops. Gathered to cook a traditional dish (a different one for every session), foreign students are going to experience something that will be etched into their memory.

 Amanda, 17, student from the USA

“I was proud to attend this cooking lesson at Paul Bocuse School. He is famous even in my country and I made many friends jealous when I told about my experience! I was afraid at the beginning when I discovered the name of the recipe “Cervelle de Canuts” but everything went ok in the end, and I learned many words and many things about the history of gastronomy”.

Leniency for the culinary vocabulary!


Our French teachers and chefs are lenient with students as we know how difficult it is to pronounce perfectly the word “pissaladière” at a cooking lesson in Nice or “Flammekueche” in a cooking workshop in Strasbourg ! But the interest is to acquire some specific vocabulary from this so useful domain in daily life, and to help learners to be at ease in conversations about this topic.

Remember the adventures of Meryl Streep in the film “Julie & Julia”. The actress plays the part of Julia Child, an American chief who made French cuisine more accessible in the US by publishing a best seller recipe book and by presenting the TV show “The French Chef”. She learns French cuisine at cooking lessons in Paris and works hard ! Here are some extracts :

Once back in their country, travellers will enjoy reliving the moments they shared during French lessons, by cooking the recipes they have learned, pronouncing “Boeuf Bourguignon” and “Gratin Dauphinois” with their charming accent.

Share with us your culinary anecdotes abroad! Contact Vacances Actives for your next culinary and linguistic travel!


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