France pulls you in from the very first second. From its village markets and cafe terraces to its vineyards and world-class art, France makes you feel alive. Friendly people, great food, and wonderful culture and history will only make a visit there that much more amazing.
But you don’t have to travel to France to learn the language.
French is one of the fastest-growing languages in the world, with half of all French speakers living in Africa. It is the official language in 29 countries, and through colonization and diaspora, became the sixth most widely spoken language in the world, following Mandarin Chinese, English, Hindi, Spanish, and Arabic. More than 300 million people speak it in some form, either as native speakers or as speakers of varying dialects and creoles.
If you’re interested in learning French or want to improve your French language skills beyond your high-school textbook lessons, consider a language travel adventure that places you in daily contact with native speakers.
Volunteering or interning in a French-speaking country is an awesome idea, and it gives you lots of great options to learn about a new culture, improve your language skills, and even make a positive impact on a community that welcomes you. Use this guide as a resource to choose the best volunteer or intern program abroad, either in France, in one of the many French-speaking countries of Africa or the French Caribbean!
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French Language Immersion in France
Travelers from around the world flock to France each year. It’s the world’s most popular travel destination, usually getting between 80 to 90 million visitors annually. Although France is certainly ready to accommodate guests, you should take time to familiarize yourself with the local language, religion, culture, and values. Your understanding will go a long way toward making your trip go as smooth as possible.
Know that France is amazingly diverse. Paris is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, while Brittany is where you’ll find a still-flourishing Celtic culture. The French Alps offer incredible scenery and great skiing, while the long Atlantic beaches call for you to relax and breathe in the ocean air. Take time to explore all the different experiences this country provides.
The French people are immensely proud of their history. As one of the globe’s oldest nations, France has long been a leader in the arts, science, and industry. Come with appreciation and knowledge for all that France has accomplished, and you’ll get more out of your stay.
If you hope to intern or volunteer in France, you have an array of opportunities.
As a major global economy, France offers internships ranging from finance positions in Paris to jobs in the wine industry. No matter where your major or career aspirations lie, you can intern abroad in France and gain valuable experience.
France has a need for English language instruction since knowledge of the language represents a pathway to more job opportunities. If you want to teach English in France, you’ll find positions are typically available through organizations like International TEFL Academy. Even better, such organizations often offer the chance to get your TEFL certificate along with job placement. That will make you qualified for all sorts of English positions in France and throughout the world.
While France may not seem like it requires a lot of volunteering help, the country as a whole does have needs to address. From helping with village construction to agricultural assistance to environmental conservation, you can make a positive impact when you volunteer abroad in France.
Additionally, you can go to France to do something fun, like learn French or take a skiing course. You probably know that France has arguably the greatest cuisine, so why not learn to make some French food while you’re there? You can even learn how to sail by going on an expedition from the UK to France (how exciting would that be?).
Travel with Frontier to France
Frontier has placed more than 20,000 volunteers and travelers abroad since its establishment in 1989. A well-known and trusted name in the industry, Frontier has many programs that center on immersing participants in the country’s culture.
Frontier offers several programs in France, including a program where you can learn French in Lyon. Experience the rich heritage of Lyon, one of France’s most historic cities, as you learn French and make connections with locals. You take classes in the morning and then test your skills during the afternoon. The program runs one week or longer, and costs start from $795.
Another fun program hosted by Frontier is the London to Paris Climbing Adventure trip. Develop your bouldering skills surrounded by the splendid scenery of Fontainebleau – the adventure lasts 3 days and costs $395.
French Immersion in Madagascar
France’s influence on other countries began in the 16th century, once Spain introduced Europe to the New World. France then colonized territories in Africa, until 1960 when it peacefully ended relations. Traces of French culture, architecture, and language remain embedded in many places and can be found mingling into food, music, and customs.
Madagascar, an island country off the coast of South Africa, is home to some of the world’s most spectacular animals, including lemurs and sea turtles. It also is home to world-class beaches, deserts, and rainforests! Take time to explore the Indri Special Reserve and national park, famous for its lemurs, large chameleons, and the rare blue boa constrictor. The landscape is phenomenal, and there are amazing adventures to be had in Madagascar. Include time for activities such as swimming, snorkeling, diving, horseback riding, hiking, and even mountain biking when you visit Madagascar.
For 25 years, Projects Abroad has offered quality, affordable volunteer programs, placing 120,000 travelers worldwide since its founding. With more than 600 trained staff members, Projects Abroad is considered one of the world’s leading international volunteer organizations.
Join Projects Abroad in Madagascar on a French Language Course. Based in the small town of Andasibe, you’ll spend 15 hours of personal classes per week, and staying with a host family will help you rapidly improve your language skills. When you complete the course, you can choose to spend time on a volunteer project to keep practicing French.
Combine your French and your English language fluency on a teaching placement, helping to improve the lives of young people ages six to 17. The official languages here are French and Malagasy, and English is a desirable language to learn because it opens the door for better employment opportunities in the travel and hotel trade. You can contribute more than basic education when you share in the social development of children, providing friendship and emotional support. The fee for the project is $2,565 for two weeks.
French Immersion and Volunteering in Morocco
Morocco, the exotic gateway to West Africa, is separated from Spain by the Straits of Gibraltar. In one week you can hike the Atlas Mountains in search of Berber villages, go camel trekking in the Sahara Desert, swim in both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, and shop the glitzy markets of Casablanca. Enjoy getting lost in Fez, with its maze of buildings that confound even the locals, then relax with a cup of mint tea and people watching when you’ve found your way back to familiar cafes. Visit a Moroccan spice market and then have dinner in Marrakesh’s central square, Djemaa El Fna – a must for all foodies!
Immerse yourself in the fascinating African culture of Morocco with a Projects Abroad French Language trip. The official language of Morocco is Arabic, however, Rabat’s business and politics mean that French is a culturally important language here.
You’ll live with a host family and work with a tutor for three hours each morning. When you spend your free time absorbing the Francophone culture through access to libraries, cinemas, and music, plus making friends with other volunteers in the program, your language skills will improve quickly. Add a volunteer program to your language lessons and help with the Nomad Project. Spend two weeks near the city of Guelmim, known as the Gate of the Sahara, helping your Berber host family build nomadic homes, cook bread and traditional meals, and herd camels and goats across the dunes to search for sources of water. Become nomadic for two weeks at a cost of $2,765.
French Immersion in Togo
From coastal communities to traditional African villages set against dramatic backdrops, Togo is a geographically diverse country. This tiny sliver of land boasts palm-fringed beaches, rolling forests and hills, and even dry savannahs where some of Africa’s wildlife still roam. Hikers find Togo to be exceptionally easy to travel, and when you’re done with exploring, you can head for the laid-back city of Lomé. An urban oasis, Lomé has restaurants, and nightclubs, and beaches and charm that harken back to the day it was named “the Pearl of West Africa.”
Travel to Togo to learn French with Projects Abroad for a two- or four-week intensive course. Togo gained independence from France in 1960, but the official language of this West African nation remains French and is used in formal education, administration, and commerce. Meet with your tutor each day for lessons tailored to you, then practice your conversational skills with your host family. The maritime city of Lomé is home to a busy French Cultural Center, which shows francophone movies and hosts live music events.
Add a childcare volunteering placement to your language immersion experience, and help the street children of Lomé. You’ll work at a childcare center, helping with homework, teaching hygiene, and organizing activities like sports or arts and craft lessons. Program fees for two weeks on this project are $2,365.
French Immersion in Senegal
Senegal, on Africa’s west coast, is home to more than 15 million people, most of them crowding into cities like Dakar that combust with a mixture of Creole-inspired restaurants, colorful markets, traffic jams, and madcap nightlife. A country of contrasting locales, you can spend quiet days on the beaches of Cap Skirring, or travel north to Saint-Louis – a Unesco World Heritage Site with preserved colonial architecture. If you’re adventurous and crave open spaces, you can go kayaking, hiking, or mountain biking in national parks. Senegal is proud of its storytelling tradition, practiced by griots, who have told the West African history for thousands of years through words and music. It’s also known for its musical heritage, and the playing of Mbalax, a fusion of jazz, soul, Latin, and rock blended with sabar, the traditional drumming and dance music of Senegal.
Volunteer with Frontier in Senegal
Develop your French linguistic skills when you immerse yourself in the Senegalese culture and traditions with Frontier. This two-week program includes one week of private French lessons with a qualified teacher to keep you on track. You’ll stay with a host family, giving you the opportunity to practice French every day. Your second week is spent participating in either music and cultural class, or on a media placement.
If you choose to take a music class, you’ll learn how to use various African instruments such as the Djembé, the Sabaar, and the Tama. You’ll also learn traditional dances, including the Mbalax. On the media placement, you’ll volunteer at a local radio station or television center, working alongside professionals to conduct interviews, write articles, or make programs in English.
French Immersion in Guadeloupe
Guadeloupe is located in the Leeward Islands, part of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. It consists of two main islands: Basse-Terre to the west and Grande-Terre to the east. Because these are separated by a narrow strait and crossed with bridges, they are often referred to as a single island. All five islands of Guadeloupe have been designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. Christopher Columbus named the island Santa María de Guadalupe in 1493, on his second trip to the Americas. When it became a French colony in 1674, it retained the name. The island became a desirable location because of the sugar trade, built on the backs of slaves, and was seized by Great Britain several times, before eventually returning to France in the Treaty of Paris.
Because of its succession of invading countries (Spain, France, and England), and its large slave contingency, the island’s population is a mix of people of European, Asian, African, and indigenous descent. Most of the residents observe the Roman Catholic religion.
It is heavily influenced by French cuisine and the Caribbean reverence for the natural environment, resulting in French culture with a Creole twist. The official language is French, though Antillean Creole is spoken by most of the population.
Travel to Guadeloupe, the Pearl of the French Caribbean, for a language immersion experience and community service project. Your French will improve daily as you interact with the locals and take language classes through a placement with Global Leadership Adventures. Founded in 2004, this organization provides programs abroad that combine community service with hands-on learning and adventure for student travelers.
The GLA Experiential Language Curriculum integrates learning (or improving your skills with) the French language into all aspects of the adventure, through community service, excursions, and participating in cultural events. Your work with a community service project is important to the island, where 77% of its territory is classified as natural reserves. You’ll help in a community garden, cultivating native species that preserve the natural heritage of the country. You’ll also learn about sustainable farming methods that protect the environment while providing a livelihood and help with an ecological project that restores mangroves in damaged areas. Another service project places you at an English camp for Guadeloupe children, teaching them about your language and culture.
Spend your free time exploring the old forts, or sightsee the colonial homes and markets. You can hike through lush, tropical forests to Le Carbet waterfalls. You’re on an island, so spend some time snorkeling the pristine Caribbean waters. Expand your learning with a cooking class or a traditional music workshop. Guadeloupe music is a mix of Afro-Caribbean rhythms and many singers prefer to write lyrics in creole.
Ready to Travel?
From French language classes and English teaching positions to environmental conservation and cultural homestays, there are many ways you can visit a French-speaking country and have an amazing experience that helps both you and the people you visit.
When looking through programs, consider your budget, preferences, and goals. By doing your due diligence, you should be able to find the perfect program. Then, all that’s left to do is plan your adventure! À bientôt!
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The mission of Volunteer Forever is to make it easier for people to volunteer, teach, intern, and travel around the world by helping them find and fund their trips abroad.