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Learn French in… Bordeaux

Learn French in… Bordeaux

In the series “learn French in…”, Vacances Actives Linguistiques takes you to the destination of good living par excellence, where gastronomy and wine combine perfectly around a festive table: it’s Bordeaux! The Gironde metropolis has been on the rise for several years, notably with the inclusion of its urban centre and the Port de la Lune as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, and the opening of the Cité du Vin in 2016. 

Learn French… without moderation!

It is a city praised for its very pleasant living environment, between vineyards, river and ocean, 2 hours by train from the Parisian capital and with an airport located 10km from the city centre.
Very attractive, it is also very young with no less than four large campuses in the metropolis, and it welcomes nearly 90,000 students. Everything is in place to welcome our French as a Foreign Language learners for an optimal language study holiday in Bordeaux!

Ready to wander the Bordeaux wedges (the ceramic cobblestones of Gironde streets), to immerse yourself in the world capital of wine, and to learn French without moderation?

Bordeaux destination sejour linguistique en francais - tramway

Learn French in Bordeaux fashion

In Bordeaux, the French language is spoken in accelerated mode; the words are pronounced at high speed with a small Gascon accent which shows that the South is near. You will learn to punctuate your sentences not with swear words like in Marseille, but with the interjection “gavé”, used as a superlative (“gavé bien”, “gavé bon”, “gavé sympa”, “gavé beau”) and others “ça daille” (it sucks)…

One way to discover Bordeaux by mixing history and literature is to follow in the footsteps of the philosophers and great travellers who have marked the history of the city of Bordeaux. 

Michel de Montaigne - Bordeaux - sejour-linguistique-en-francais

Montaigne, a Bordelais philosopher and traveler

One way to discover Bordeaux by mixing history and literature is to follow in the footsteps of the philosophers and great travellers who have marked the history of the city of Bordeaux.

Starting with Michel de Montaigne, literary genius and philosopher (he was educated at the College of Guyenne in the Saint Paul district, a major centre of Bordeaux humanism) then advisor to the Parliament of Bordeaux. The author of the Essays became Mayor of Bordeaux in 1581 (against his will! While he was on an exploration trip in Italy… ah! Trips…). Michel de Montaigne’s cenotaph is preciously preserved at the Aquitaine Museum in Bordeaux, a must visit to learn all about the history of the city and its region.

chateau-la-brede-montesquieu sejour-linguistique-en-francais-a-Bordeaux

Montesquieu, philosopher and vineyard owner in Bordeaux

150 years later, Montesquieu takes up the torch as President of the Parliament of Bordeaux. The philosopher of the Encyclopaedia and author of Persian Letters was married in the Basilica of Saint Michel, and lived in several residences in Bordeaux, including one now occupied by the largest independent bookstore in Europe: the Mollat ​​bookstore rue Porte Dijeau. And to follow in the footsteps of the great thinker of the Enlightenment outside Bordeaux, you can visit the Château de la Brède, wine property of the Montesquieu family.

An exceptional stay in the heart of a dazzling architecture

Saint André Cathedral in Bordeaux, facing the Palais Rohan – Hôtel de Ville, is a key stage in discovering the city. It was there that Aliénor d’Aquitaine married Louis VII and became Queen of France in 1137. Bordeaux: royal city! 

The majesty of Bordeaux is expressed above all at Place de la Bourse, a royal square from the 18th century, open to the Garonne, featuring splendid stone facades, and decorated with the famous mascarons, sculptures depicting characters, fantastic animals, female figures, faces of the carnival, which can be found on the facades of opulent residences in Bordeaux.

Cathedrale-saint-andre - sejour-linguistique-en-francais-a-Bordeaux

The square is all the more famous now that we find its reflection in the Miroir D’eau, a granite mirror on the ground where the mirror effect alternates over 2cm of water, and the fog effect thanks to a light mist rising to over 2m high. Enough to freshen the air, and organize a photo shoot to immortalize this language travel in a magical and world-famous setting. 

The visit of Bordeaux can continue with a stroll on the quays, on foot, by bike or by segway: the place has been specially designed for pedestrians and cyclists! The transformation of Bordeaux and the redevelopment of the Garonne quays have made them a great place, which is very appreciable for our students and foreign travellers!

Bordeaux-miroir-deau
quais de Bordeaux - destination sejour linguistique

Learning French in the contemporary Bordeaux

Bordeaux has recently opened up new spaces that are both contemporary and alternative, dedicated to art, creativity, social economy and solidarity. 

Oustanding submarine base

Students will be amazed by the visit to the Bassins à Flots submarine base. A submarine base built by the Germans in 1941. This site steeped in history now hosts a cultural space and the remarkable Bassins de Lumières.

Street art and alternative places in Bordeaux

Cross the spectacular new Chaban Delmas Bridge, and join the Darwin space on the Right Bank of the Garonne, a vast barracks rehabilitated into a place of creative economy and business incubator, which has become known in particular for its large skate park designed and built with recycled materials by the young skaters themselves. An original and lively place for a French course against a giant graffiti background!

To the delight of students on language travels in Bordeaux, the visit can follow a route linking the most beautiful works of street art, very expressive in these areas of the city.

Street art à Bordeaux
Bordeaux-skate-park-

A language stay in the world wine capital

Even if French language learners are not yet old enough to taste the aromas of wine, there is so much to discover around the fascinating world of wine like the Quartier des Chartrons in Bordeaux with its houses and shops with vaulted ceilings, installed in the old cellars. The Cité du Vin, contemporary temple of wines from around the world, allows you to learn everything about the history of wine, geography, landscapes, techniques, aromas, colours, in a fun course full of experiences for all ages! And for adults, tasting is essential!

Bordeaux-cite-du-vin

For a very tasty language travel

bordeaux-canneles traditionnels

“You can overindulge only in good things” (The Essays.)  

That is well said Mr. Montaigne. And there are many good things abound in Bordeaux

This is an opportunity to work on your French culinary vocabulary! And it is much easier to learn Molière’s language with a full stomach…

What is the city’s sweet specialty? Bordeaux cannelé! Very fragrant little cake that takes its name from the fluted copper mold which gives it its original shape. The cannelé is a small well of history, because it is composed of ingredients from the triangular trade, at the time of the colonies where all kinds of products passed through the Port de la Lune: rhum, vanilla, cane sugar, etc. 

Another source of energy for our French as a Foreign Language learners: the Dunes Blanches, little puff with whipped cream, ultra light like the air of Cap Ferret, where they were created. 

If you prefer savoury things, it’s hard to miss a platter of fresh oysters from the Arcachon Bay, accompanied by buttered bread: a unique experience for the palates of our foreign students (beware of the grimace)!

A culinary journey in French in the “ventre (Stomach or inside) de Bordeaux”!

Emile Zola could have romanticized to perfection the hyperactive and gourmet life of the Marché Couvert des Capucins, in the Saint Michel district of Bordeaux. This historic market is an invitation to tasting, in a good mood and a popular atmosphere. Foreign visitors will appreciate this must-do to meet the cosmopolitan crowd, taste local specialties or world cuisine, grab a platter of oysters on the fly or bite into a cannelé after a good coffee.

Arcachon, Saint Emilion, Dordogne, La Rochelle … for a long summer school

It is difficult to leave Bordeaux without going through emblematic places located a few minutes away from the city. Groups of travellers who will take the time to learn and discover Aquitaine will be able to appreciate the panoramas over the vineyards from the perched village of Saint-Émilion, the outlook on the estuary from the Citadel of Blaye, or the wide-open ocean at the top of the Dune du Pilat. Between Arcachon Bay and the ocean, there are plenty of opportunities to taste some seafood and cycle along the Atlantic Coast for example! 

Beyond the Gironde borders, other tourist stops are worth a detour for our students: the Dordogne and its thousand castles, or the Port of La Rochelle and its majestic boats.

village de saint emilion proche bordeaux
bassin d'arcachon proche bordeaux

We do not know what is holding you back from organizing your language study holiday to Bordeaux!

Your students will be more than delighted to learn French and to spend a holiday in this dynamic and exciting city. 

Are you a French as a Foreign Language teacher? Do you want to organize a language stay in the metropolis of Aquitaine? 

Vacances Actives Linguistiques, your language travel agency in France, organizes the entire trip and French courses in Bordeaux and the region, through a tourist circuit between châteaux and huts on stilts! Discover our holiday offers here.

A Royal day at the Châteaux in the Loire Valley

A Royal day at the Châteaux in the Loire Valley

 While waiting to find the way back to our language stays and our cultural outings, let’s travel by thought and discover together the fine arts of France in texts and images… 

Vacance Actives invites you to follow in the footsteps of the Kings of France who left Paris to come and recharge their batteries and go hunting for a few weeks on vacation in their homes in the Loire Valley. Leave the urban effervescence, and join the Châteaux of the Loire Valley: here is the beautiful program of this royal day, led by our guide-driver, and for all audiences: students, adults, French as a Foreign Language (FFL) learners (we promise that in our cultural stays, there are no hunting parties on the program!). Our escape in the Loire Valley makes you discover two mythical castles: One is the filming location of the 1970 film Peau d’Ane; the other houses an astrological observatory designed by Catherine de Medicis and the magus Ruggieri… 

Did you guess? 

Head for the Château de Chambord and the Royal Château of Blois

toits-et-cheminees-du-chateau-de-chambord
blois-chateauroyal-201506-©jpthibault-jdavid

Heading to the Châteaux in the Loire Valley

The Loire Valley, a rejuvenating getaway

Blois et Loire

Departure for a day of change of scenery along the longest river in France, marked by so many witnesses to French history. Between the fields of sunflowers in summer, the towns and villages developed in medieval times, their lively markets and the vineyards that line valleys and hills, everything comes together to appreciate this region with its exceptional cultural heritage.

The castles of the Loire Valley, a wonder at every step

chaumont-sur-loire

Traditionally, the Loire Valley has been the chosen retirement destination of the French aristocracy for hundreds of years. These great owners have embellished an always luxuriant, green and soothing countryside from which sprang castles, each more fabulous than the next, both symbols of fairy tales and witnesses to an eventful political history.

chateau-de-chenonceau

For a day, the driver-guide will share anecdotes and historical knowledge throughout the trip, to discover the Loire Valley and appreciate its most remarkable heritage elements. On your way, you will see the castle of Châteaudun considered as one of the first castles of the Loire, Cheverny whose architecture, more sober than that of its neighbours, inspired Hergé for the creation of the castle of Moulinsart of Tintin; the château of Chenonceau known as the “castle of the ladies” in memory of its famous inhabitants Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Médicis; Villandry and Chaumont-sur-Loire, which have splendid gardens among the most beautiful gardens in France. 

Why are there so many castles on the banks of the Loire?

chateau-de-villandry

The majority of the castles built on the banks of the Loire saw the light of day in the 15th and 16th centuries, following the Hundred Years War between kings of France and kings of England, allied with the Dukes of Bourgogne. Many fortresses were built on this vast combat territory in the Loire region, the demarcation line of the two camps. These buildings served as a refuge for the kings of France who fled from Paris. At the end of the war for the Renaissance takes place: regents and nobles re-invest, modernize, enrich and transform these vast properties thoroughly.

chateau de cheverny - Moulinsart

This architectural renaissance is embodied by François 1er who plays a major role in the development of the great estates along the Loire. The Loire Valley then constitutes a unique concentration of architectural gems, all competing in splendour and majesty by their architecture or their landscaping. The figures are impressive: there are 11 royal castles out of nearly 3,000 castles listed in this region of unparalleled wealth.

Organizing a day of visits to the Châteaux of the Loire Valley thus creates a cruel dilemma: which one to choose?

Vacances Actives has opted for the Château of Chambord and the Château of Blois. 

Stage 1: visit of the Château of Chambord

François 1er, Leonardo da Vinci … the mystery of the architects of Chambord

portrait Francois 1er

After having crossed the beautiful country of the Loire Valley, our guide sets his sights on the Château of Chambord and its French gardens. Located in the Loir-et-Cher, it is undoubtedly the most emblematic one of the Renaissance, represented in France by the orders of François 1er from 1519. The latter decides to build a huge hunting estate on the marshy lands of the Loire Valley full of game, near the Cosson river.

The name of the architects of the Château of Chambord however remains a mystery: fascinated by the talent of Italian artists, François the 1st undoubtedly brought in one of the greatest, the engineer Leonardo da Vinci. He would be the designer of the central plan and the majestic double staircase. The King, however, will not see the final realization of this highly strategic project which aimed to demonstrate his power to his rivals. After so many campaigns of works and modifications, the Château of Chambord as we see it today is largely in its original state, a Renaissance jewel rich of French and Italian influences. 

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chateau de chambord-entree

Unique architectural achievements in Chambord

Visiting the Château of Chambord takes time! It is one of the largest castles in France, (perhaps too big!) with its 440 rooms, some of which are completely empty! And the property does not stop at the castle: the hunting reserve which surrounds it constitutes the largest enclosed forest area in Europe, the same area as inner Paris. 

During the visit, we discover its impressive architecture first of all by its facade, surmounted by hundreds of chimneys and richly sculpted towers. Then its double revolution staircase, one of a kind, is THE curiosity of the place. In the centre of the building, it rises in a spiral, in two segments turning in the same direction but which never intersect: magic! (an ideal during a pandemic, right?).

chambord-escalier-a-double-revolution
chambord-appartements-royaux

The place of fairy tales par excellence, Chambord was used as the setting for the filming of the film Peau d ‘Âne by Jacques Demy in 1970. Several scenes of the film were shot at the castle, such as that of the fitting of the ring by all the women of the kingdom in front of the prince, with the mythical double-spiral staircase in the background. But we won’t tell you everything, so many surprises still remain to be discovered when you visit the interiors of the Château of Chambord…

Visit the French-style gardens of Chambord

chambord vue aérienne

It’s time for a walk! And what an honour to stroll through the reconstructed 18th century garden: it is the result of 16 years of research and several months of work, in the spirit of those of the Grand Siècle. Four squares, each arranged differently. Lawns cut with delicate embroidery; alleys of lime trees, rows of flowers, bowers and flowering cherry trees. A rectilinear decor perfectly measured in harmony with the ordered facade of the Château of Chambord. By accessing the floors of the castle, we can easily appreciate the meticulous cut-out of each space. 

The restitution of the gardens of Chambord is a plunge into the historical landscapes of the heyday of royalty. 

Stage 2: visit of the Château of Blois

Blois: 1 monument, several centuries of art and history

The Château of Blois has remained the favourite residence of 7 kings and 10 queens of France, who have each left their imprint … The result is also a number of plots, anecdotes and power games that our guide will not fail to share with you during the visit! Proudly posted on a promontory, the castle offers a perspective embracing the Loire Valley and the streets of Blois. 

Cour du château de Blois

Arriving in the courtyard of the castle, the visitor can see a synthesis of the history of the architecture of France. The eyes fall in turn on a medieval facade then a Gothic one, then a Renaissance one and finally a Classical one. Four wings, four eras, four architectures: 

  • the royal fortress of the 13th century, with several towers of the François I building, part of the rampart, the tower of Foix and the Hall of the States General.
  • the Gothic wing of Louis XII, with his equestrian statue above the entrance.
  • the Renaissance wing commissioned by François I, adorned with the famous staircase.
  • the classical wing of Gaston d’Orléans (brother of King Louis XIII).

The Château of Blois: a museum of decorative arts

chateau de Blois-escalier

The Castle of Blois is the first site launched by François Ier upon his accession to the throne in 1515. Italian influences are already evident there. As in the Château of Chambord, he placed an unusual massive spiral staircase in the centre of a facade inspired by the Vatican boxes built by Bramante. The Classic-style main building is only part of a vast and ambitious project of complete reconstruction ordered by Gaston d’Orléans. He wanted an entirely new castle: he would have “only” one unfinished house but built by Mansart, in a style announcing the grandeur of Versailles. Inside, the vault adorned with trophies and masks, surmounted by a dome, makes it a dazzling setting. 

The visit continues in the royal apartments, where the era is changing again: we like to dream of the life of a castle in these 19th century furniture and decorative objects sumptuously restored by the architect Félix Duban, particularly designed for the time! 

Proof of the richness and density of the heritage of the Château de Blois: it is labeled Musée de France and houses the town’s Decorative Arts museum. Over 35,000 works to discover, including masterpieces by masters such as Ingres, Rubens, Boucher… for the pleasure of the eyes and of culture!

-blois-chateau royal-©fchristophe-FC14892
-blois-appartements-royaux-
blois_chateau_salle-etats generaux_©dlepissier

The new gardens of the Château of Blois

Blois-jardins du chateau

This green setting evokes the royal gardens that have long since disappeared. Century-old trees; refinement, tiered terraces of old shrubs and flowers…. The walk is an invitation to relaxation and contemplation in a place rich in essences and species, recalling in particular Anne de Bretagne, emblematic figure of Blois, and her passion for botany.

Vacances Actives organizes language stays in France and offers tours and excursions for the general public to discover French culture and heritage. 

10 best steps in Brittany

10 best steps in Brittany

What are the impressions of an American traveller discovering the Breton land and folklore?

Let’s follow in the footsteps of Ava, a French as a Foreign Language (FFL) student from Philadelphia who landed on northern Breton soil, exploring from the Côtes d’Armor to Finistère with the Vacances Actives team. What are her favorites throughout this journey? How does she see her trip?

Let’s read Ava’s travel diary, and its 10 best steps in Brittany !

Visit Brittany with Ava : her travel diary in 10 steps 

château fort Blandy-les-Tours

Here is my travel journal dedicated to northern Brittany, from Saint Malo to Brest.

I share with you the best moments of this wonderful week spent with my class of students in French as a Foreign Language, guided by Valérie and our teachers. A trip in 10 favourite stages, to describe this wonderful, very gourmet and fascinating getaway, during our Summer Camp in Brittany !

1. Saint-Malo : Boarding !

After a fantastic week spent in Paris, where I discovered the most beautiful museums and mythical monuments of the French capital, the trip of my French as a Foreign Language group continues in Brittany, on the north coast of the region. Our bus took us directly from Paris to Saint Malo. The change of scenery was guaranteed!

Arrival in Saint Malo.

We started by exploring the historic center and its ramparts, built in the Middle Ages. The history of this city is worthy of an adventure and pirate novel! In the 17th century, the port of Saint Malo housed privateer ships appointed by the king to hunt, pillage and sink enemy ships, mainly English and Spanish. 

It is here that our guide introduced us to the life of Jacques Cartier, a navigator and great explorer born in Saint Malo. It was he who made the discovery of Canada and part of the Great Lakes!

chateau-vaux-le-vicomte-dome
chateau-vaux-le-vicomte-dome

2. Falling in love with a kouign amann

At tea time, I fell in love with a kouign amann : a typically Breton pastry made with butter, butter and… sugar! It is said that this cake was invented by mistake by a Breton baker… He would have missed the realization of his famous croissants. By not respecting the croissant recipe, he invented the kouign amann!

This cake is so crunchy, melting, delicious and comforting after our walk in the city under a little rain! So irresistible… If only I could take it in my luggage…

3. The sculpted faces of Rothéneuf: worth Mount Rushmore!

In the afternoon, we walked along the coast to Rothéneuf, following the “customs trail”. I particularly remember this unusual place: the granite rocks by the sea are sculpted and form faces and characters! This work was carried out by one man, a Breton priest, who spent 14 years sculpting a total of nearly 300 works! Unbelievable ! It reminded me a bit of Mount Rushmore…

The next day, we spent a whole day at the so famous Mont Saint Michel ! But I will devote a chapter of my travel journal to it soon, because a few lines would not be enough to describe this experience!

4. Cap Fréhel: the hallucinating lighthouse

After visiting Dinard (so chic!), On the way to the West, along the coast road, we stopped at the Cap Fréhel lighthouse. Lighthouses are monuments that I find really fascinating. I imagine the extraordinary life of the guards alone in their tower facing the sea…  

This work is impressive with its square tower and its powerful architecture. Its lantern dominates us from more than 30 m! When the sky is clear, you can see the island of Bréhat off the coast. The island of Bréhat…. our next destination!

5. The island of Bréhat: a flowered haven of peace

We were able to access the island of Bréhat only by bicycle: farewell to  the bus! The whole group got on bicycles and we followed the guide. What an experience! We went all around the island, in single file, and discovered its very unspoiled landscapes and its citadel.

The island is a huge protected nature reserve, and the few inhabitants are very respectful of their environment. No car on the island! Thanks to our guide, we were able to observe many species of colorful flowers, sometimes exotic. I discovered a lot of flowers that I had never seen in my life! Mimosa, camellia… and especially agapanthus, a blue-purple flower that is very common on the archipelago.

Then we visited the glass factory of  Bréhat located in the heart of a fort in the citadel. There I discovered the work of glassblowers and their very fine and delicate creations. I took the opportunity to buy some souvenirs to take back to my family.

6. The port of Paimpol and its timber framed houses

The next morning, after the hot breakfast croissants (yummm), we took a tour of the old town and the fishing port of Paimpol. The old center is so charming! Strolling through its picturesque streets, we discover a number of well-preserved timber framed houses, while in the port, the architecture changes: it is the fishermen’s houses that dominate.

Around a small square, we stopped in front of the Jézéquel house, an old 15th century building classified as a Historic Monument. You have to enter into it out of curiosity! Because behind its timber framing walls, it has housed a hardware store and a family cutlery since 1886. Inside, it’s a Prévert-style universe: all kinds of objects, handles, door knobs, endless kitchen utensils, knives and scissors! I don’t know how they manage to put things in order…

At 12 noon, I was not very enthusiastic about the oyster tasting : I tasted them for the first time without being totally convinced… The appearance is weird but it’s still refreshing !!!

7. The Pink Granite Coast: view from my paddle board on the sea!

The pink granite coast takes its name from its more or less smooth massive rocks that outline this part of the Breton coast. 

The rocks, the Celtic crosses and the lighthouses define a marvelous setting that can be admired by the coastal path or from the sea! We were very lucky that day because the sun was with us.

Our group was split into two teams: one went in a kayak to explore the contours of the coast with a paddle, and the other group, of which I was a part, embarked on the stand up paddle board ! An opportunity to try a new sport and have a good laugh. Half the group ended up in the water, luckily it was not freezing!

8. Perros Guirec, a city of artists

The pink granite coast of Brittany shows its most beautiful profile from Perros Guirec. I found this city particularly photogenic! As proof, it has collected a large number of famous painters. I, who studied art history, felt very inspired there!

Perros Guirec is the stronghold of the Nabi painter Maurice Denis, who settled in the Villa Silencio. This neo-medieval style residence overlooking the sea was built in 1894. The painter was undoubtedly inspired by the panoramas offered from his window, to paint splendid pictures of the landscapes of the Breton coast. We stayed there until sunset: the atmosphere was magical!

9. Brest, and the traces of History

The journey ends in the big city of Brest, located at the tip of Brittany. This region is called Finistère : the end of the earth … The closest continent on the opposite side is America! 

The visit to Brest, a city completely destroyed by the Allies during the Second World War, was a shock. Its architecture is so different, modern, massive, geometric … The port and the military activities occupy a large part of the coast and the city: huge boats, liners, shipowners are present in the arsenal. This atmosphere really impressed me, it is really a city apart and rich in history. 

10. Crêpes, sausage buckwheat pancakes and cider

In the evening, on the port, we had the best tasting pancakes (crepes) and buckwheat pancakes! We already knew well about pancakes with Nutella! But the local specialty is the savory salted pancake, or galette, made with a very tasty flour: buckwheat. The most typical is stuffed with sausage: the whole group loved this recipe !!!! I think I can reproduce it at home. 

Traditionally, crepes and buckwheat pancakes are accompanied by a glass of cider that is drunk out of a bowl. This sparkling drink, made from apples, is low in alcohol, and super fresh! For our last evening, it was perfect!

Are you inspired by Ava’s trip?

Do you fancy a linguistic and cultural stay in a French region to improve your French and discover the most beautiful sites in the country? 

Contact VAL and let’s organize your stay in groups, schools and adults!

Telling your holidays in French

Telling your holidays in French

Drrriiiiiiing !!!

It is the start of the new school year, students and learners of French are back to lessons! 

How to restart the brain gently? Telling your holidays in French is an excellent back to school exercise to keep your mind on vacation a little longer.

Vacances Actives gives you the right tips to make the start of the new school year a pleasant one that refreshes your French as a Foreign Language (FFL) skills and stimulates exchanges!

Recounting  one’s holidays: a complete linguistic exercise

Holidays, a good subject to create an exchange and integrate

château fort Blandy-les-Tours

At the start of the school year, the first lessons of the year can impress students and it is important to facilitate dialogue between them. Whether a learner is shy or not, speaking is never an easy exercise in a new group whose members you don’t know. And the task falls to the teacher to stimulate the pupils and to encourage them to speak. Recounting your holidays in French is an excellent “ice breaker” : in turn, or as part of a two-person dialogue, the pupils share their experience and describe their holiday destination. Travel, sport, leisure, geography: so many subjects that allow students and teachers to find common points and perfect topics of conversation to facilitate their integration.

A story that mobilizes a lot of knowledge in French

“En juillet, je partis à Nice et j’ai allé à la mer”. ( = with mistakes :“In July, I left for Nice and I went to the sea”. )

Coming back from vacation can be hard for the learner’s brain. We will not hold it against him, these mistakes are very common!

First of all, recounting one’s vacation requires using the concordance of times from the past. Here is an opportunity to work on the conjugation and use of the past tense, simple and imperfect past. This exercise is not suitable for all language levels, but it can be adapted with a simplified version, using only the past tense. Here is a good introduction to discover this grammatical tense, if it is on the program for the year.  

Also, recounting one’s holidays is an opportunity to express one’s preferences, feelings and emotions. ‘I liked, I preferred, I loved, I regretted, I hated…” : so many personal formulas to testify to a moment or a pleasant or not pleasant activity. This exercise opens up many possibilities for discussion. And for those who have not had the chance to go on a trip, the exchange can be oriented towards the wish, the future desire to discover a destination, or to do a particular activity. 

chateau-vaux-le-vicomte-dome

Describing one’s holidays: a wide range of vocabulary

The description exercise is an effective way to mobilize a lot of French vocabulary words. Many lexical fields can be used, depending on the activities and the destination in question. It is a good idea to provide students with vocabulary sheets to help them describe their vacation. The sea, the mountains, the countryside, sport, leisure, transport, accommodation, weather, geography, etc. are among the main themes that can be used for this exercise. 

In particular, very dense vocabulary supports can be found on the site: https://www.lepointdufle.net/pseigner/lexique_vacances-fiches-pedagogiques.htm#h

Exercise materials to tell about one’s holidays in French

Orally: a set of questions relating to the holidays

In pairs or in the form of a group forum, the exercise which consists of recounting one’s holidays can be easily set up with a set of questions. It is true that at the resumption of lessons, learners generally have difficulty finding their words and developing a speech in front of others. It is up to the teacher to guide them through a framework of dialogue:

  • Did you go on vacation this summer? 
  • Where did you go? 
  • At what period? How long ? 
  • With whom did you go)? 
  • How did you spend your time? What activities? What visits have you made? 
  • Have you had any meetings? (a question open to several interpretations!)
  • Did you speak French during the holidays? 
  • What do you plan to do for the next vacation?

If the speaking is still too timid and the students are not very verbose on the subject, then an ultimate exercise can help them. The idea is to ask them to identify which student in the group has had a vacation most like theirs ! As a result, the pupils question the others in the form of a game and discover a maximum of common points. A good way to untie tongues.

In writing: essay or travel diary

For higher French as a foreign Language (FFL) levels, it is interesting to work on written expression on this question. In writing, an essay for example, the story of the holidays can be developed further but the exercise will lose its interactive and playful side. 

On the other hand, to tell their vacation, students can rely on their travel diary. This can be used as “summer homework”. The travel journal is a very effective activity for working on students’ written expression and creativity. We have devoted a generous article to it with tips and suggestions: Create your linguistic travel diary. Some teachers go so far as to organize contests within the class!

The postcard exercise

Writing a postcard is a tradition that is being lost… It is an opportunity to revive it and to suggest that the pupils tell their holidays in French in a reduced format. It only takes a few minutes for learners to address the postcard to the person of their choice.  This approach is well suited to the first levels of FLE: it allows students to give a synthetic account of their adventures. Borrowing in the telegraphic style or with a more literary tone, they use a few well-chosen words to quickly describe the destination and give their impressions. 

The teacher can play the game to the end by printing a nice photo in the appropriate format to illustrate the vacation destinations of his students, or provide a set of ready-to-use postcards!

Tell your holiday stories on Instagram !

Why not do this exercise on social media? Teachers, you can create an Instagram account dedicated to your class, and start the exercise. Students should choose and post a photo and then write a clear description. Destination, anecdotes, exciting visits… The end result: an aesthetic and complete picture illustrating the holidays for the whole FFL class, to show and share!

Summer peregrinations are an excellent topic of conversation and story to mobilize knowledge and develop French vocabulary. 

The exercise can very well be applied when returning from a language study trip, where each of the learners will share an anecdote or an opinion on the trip made. 

So many good ideas to encourage travel and learning French!

8 ideas for learning French while playing, in class or online!

8 ideas for learning French while playing, in class or online!

Tell me and I forget ; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I learn.

– Benjamin Franklin

How to make teaching a language fun? Through the game! Learning French while playing is an excellent teaching method to energize the class and us, another way of expressing yourself and memorizing. By drawing, mime, word games, role playing, learning is much easier!

Here are our 8 ideas for learning French while playing, in class or online!

Good reasons to learn French while playing

Game : an icebreaker propitious to learning a foreign language

château fort Blandy-les-Tours

Playing in French as a foreign language allows you to combine the positive aspects of the game with didactics. Play is a motivating activity, and above all an icebreaker. Far from homework and corrected exercises, the game creates social interaction, and allows students to get involved spontaneously, to take part in discussions or writing in a relaxed manner. Whether in class or in “video”, the French teacher manages, thanks to the game, to create a playful environment. The student forgets that he is in class and becomes an actor in his learning.

Play : biologically develops learning through endorphins

Play provides pleasure, which generates the production of endorphins. The decrease in anxiety, the establishment of a kind of predisposition of the student to listen allows a better understanding

By playing, the teacher can get rid of the usual exercises based on somewhat tedious repetition, or sometimes forced speaking. Entertainment allows a form of casualness, lightness. “No headache” some would say! The pupil falls in with the game and dares more to pronounce, write, and formulate sentences, with spontaneity and less stress.

chateau-vaux-le-vicomte-dome

The game banishes failure

This does not mean that the spelling, the syntax, the conjugation are assimilated with a wave of a magic wand! But mistakes are better accepted by the learner who feels less anxiety about making some in front of their classmates. The game gives as many chances as there are possibilities to participate. It allows you to focus on the mistake and start over to do better: a way to gain confidence. 

Capturing pupils’ attention, regaining concentration

chateau-de-fontainebleau

Play physically promotes learning. It acts on the attention of the pupils. The students’ lack of concentration is a real scourge for teachers! We need challenges, objectives to be reached in order to refocus the students on the French course. 

After a long phase of listening exercises, rehearsals, and complex dialogues, the students’ concentration decreases. They dissipate or are no longer attentive to the subject, and the work becomes tedious. How to bring them back to the centre of the French course? Thanks to a game, where everyone participates, and focuses on group spirit, wins, laughter, answers … A way to get away a little, to change the pace, to awaken the spirits and to put in application the vocabulary words that the students have learned.

Ideas for learning French while playing in class

 

The twenty questions game

The teacher prepares a series of cards with a personality name written on them. Each student draws a card that they must place on their forehead without ever looking at it. All together, facing each other, the learners note the names of the celebrities of each of the participants. Each student has 20 questions to find out who is hiding… on their own front! 

A good exercise to use a diversified vocabulary, because the questions can be open or closed.

The pictionary or “Dessinez, c’est gagné”

The pictionary, or “Dessinez, c’est gagné” (Name of a French TV game) in the French version, is a cult game loved by children and parents. Just write words on different pieces of paper that will be drawn by each participant in turn.

The goal? Each player must make guess the word he drew by drawing in a limited time. Ideally, he draws on a board facing others. The clock is ticking, the hourglass empties, and the other learners must mobilize as quickly as possible their insight and their vocabulary to find the answer!

This game is a real positive one, where the most eccentric words fuse from all sides! The student who guesses the secret word wins a point. This game can be played in a team: it is even more effective in terms of interaction and inclusion. Two teams, two drawers for one word. The fastest team to guess wins the round! 

The teacher can ask as a bonus to spell or write (for visual memory) the word he thinks he has guessed … To work more on French spelling!

Time’s up :

Even more dynamic than pictionary, Time’s up combines both riddles and mime to introduce a character, a celebrity, a film,…  Officially, Time’s up is played with solo or team players (students can learn by all playing together like this), in three rounds. It is a question of making guess the secret name:

  1. with words (free description) 
  2. with only one word (this game is diabolical!)
  3. With mime and sound effects. Nothing else! 

Here is a quick tutorial to explain the rules of Time’s up game

To learn French while playing this particularly spicy entertainment, it is better to have an intermediate or high level of FLE (at least B2), to make exchanges possible. It is possible to do away with round 2, which is particularly complex and considerably lengthens the game. Let us not forget, to be efficient and keep the learners’ concentration, the game session should not draw out.

Ideas for learning French while playing online

Games on the Lumni platform

The LUMNI platform (formerly FranceTV Éducation) provides a variety of games, videos, support for organizing quizzes, team role-playing games, and developing students’ oral comprehension and expression. We can play with topical subjects such as the Tour de France or Quid or Book of Records type questions! 

With LUMNI, teachers can lead a course with interactive quizzes, to learn French vocabulary, history or even French geography with ease!

Blind test and song translation

This is a simple and fun idea to learn while playing in the classroom or online. The teacher selects French songs, rather popular, well-known tunes (like the essential Vie en Rose!). The pupils must first try to guess the title of the song. Secondly, the exercise consists of translating the chorus, or a few passages, or translating the vocabulary specific to a theme that the teacher will have worked on previously, in a limited time (10 to 15 minutes).

Without dictionary or Smartphone! Learners must mobilize their knowledge of French. 

At the end, everyone can correct themselves, or be corrected by their neighbour. The teacher gives the solution and explains the context, the meaning of the song. This game is perfect for entertaining and memorizing vocabulary, idiomatic expressions, grammatical forms… and develops the French musical culture of FLE learners!

“Dessiner c’est gagné” or Pictionnary online

The famous drawing and guessing game exists online: students can connect to a common session using a link that the teacher will have created beforehand. The concept is simple: the designated player gets a word for the other participants to guess. To do this, he can draw with his mouse on a virtual whiteboard. The other players try to guess by writing their answer in a shared chat. The faster a player guesses the secret word, the more points they earn! Here are 2 sites where you can play pictionary online:

The 7 mistakes game

A classic ! The differences game or the 7 errors game is a game of attention and speed. Several models exist online as well as on the Ouest France site, with a stopwatch and interactivity. The goal is to detect the 7 differences between two images which nevertheless seem identical. Once found, it is a matter of explaining to others where the 7 well-hidden anomalies are located! An ideal game to exercise your observation skills, encourage concentration and find calm while speaking French!

The educational effectiveness of games in the classroom is well established. Learning French while playing becomes easy with all the support and ideas that we have offered you in this article. The game is above all a means of facilitating the integration, the participation of all the pupils coming from different cultures and countries, and speaking a different mother tongue. This is the challenge: to allow the expression and the feeling of sharing within a multicultural French as a Foreign Language (FFL) class, for one and the same goal: to learn the language of Molière with joviality!

 

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