Australians may well be speaking French today if history had been slightly different.
In Botany Bay, where Lieutenant James Cook landed in 1770, is a beach called Frenchmans Bay. It is so named for French explorer, Comte de La Pérouse, who landed there only a few days after the First Fleet arrived in January 1788.
The Count actually stayed for 6 weeks, enough time to build a stockade and put in a garden, before he sailed away and was not seen again. The mystery is memorialised via a monument and a display in the Cable Station Museum — and it does make you wonder what might have been.
French has always been one of the most commonly taught languages in Australian schools and today it remains solidly as 2nd on the list of foreign languages studied by students in Australian schools.
In the country's capital city, the Alliance Francaise de Canberra was established in 1944 and remains strong in its active community promotion of French culture and language study. In schools, French is one of the priority languages, and approximately one-third of Canberra schools, primary through to college, offer French studies.
If you're no longer at school, however, or your school does not offer French, where can you find French lessons in Canberra?
The Decision to Choose French Lessons
There are multiple reasons why students want to learn a foreign language — travel, love, business, heritage or fascination with the culture. Some only want to learn the basic greetings, while others strive for native-level fluency. Whatever the reason, learning a foreign language opens up your world just a little more and it can be great fun.
If you just want to learn a language, but haven't decided which one, let us give you a hand (and then keep reading to discover where to go for great French lessons in Canberra).
French is an international language
There are over 300 million French speakers spread over five of the world's continents. It is the second most widely learned language in the world and, globally, its the fifth most commonly spoken. It stands to reason, then, that speaking French can open international doorways to a broader job market.
French is the language of culture and travel
Think cooking, fashion, the arts, architecture, literature, theatre ... they have France and French influence stamped all over them. Think about the sheer number of our 'English' words that have French origins.
Travelling to France is on almost everyone's bucket list — it's the world's most popular tourist destination, in fact. Learning even a little French before you go can bring greater insights and understanding of culture to your travel adventures.
French is fun to learn
Listening to a fluent speaker of French is like being wrapped up in a warm hug. The sounds are melodious and romantic. Even better, the vocabulary and grammar structures are easy to learn. Knowing some French also carves a pathway towards further language learning as many of the 'romance' languages, including Spanish, Italian and Romanian, have roots in the French language.
So, do you want to go past bonjour, croissant and béret?
Apprenons le français!
Where to Find French Classes in Canberra
Whether you've never learned French before, or you've been learning for years and need an advanced-level course to hone your skills, you have plenty of options for French classes in Canberra.
Alliance Française de Canberra
Part of an international network throughout 138 countries, the Canberra branch of the Alliance Française offers private courses for all levels, for adults, teenagers and children. Tutors are all native speakers and trained in up-to-date languages pedagogy and methodology.
Apart from coordinating French lessons in Canberra, the Alliance Française also runs cultural events throughout the year, regularly hosts café style discussions on science, history and literature, and showcases over 40 classic and modern French films through the annual French Film Festival.
Canberra French Language Institute (CFLI)
At CFLI, you can enrol in private tutorials or group classes for a beginner, intermediate or advanced course. Group and online classes include standard French (using academic textbooks), conversation classes, and French for International Affairs, as well as corporate lessons and French for Professionals classes.
Canberra French School
Julie is a French tutor in Canberra who began operating the Canberra French School shortly after migrating to Australia from France. Beginners through to advanced students are all catered for in a friendly, relaxed classroom environment with groups no larger than 4. Private lessons are also available and are tailored to suit the individual needs of students.
If you're looking for a French tutor in Canberra who will come to your home, or meet you in your office or at a café, Voulez Vouloz may be worthwhile contacting. All of their tutors are native speakers and many are qualified teachers with considerable experience. You can organise conversation sessions, kids' classes, business-focused lessons or academic exam preparation support. An hour session will cost you $88 and there is also an option for online tuition.
Make sure you also check the Superprof platform, particularly if you are specifically searching for a private French tutor in Canberra. Many Superprof tutors are either qualified teachers or top-level students of French. In both cases, you can be assured that tutors will fully understand the languages curriculum and the expectations of schools when it comes to foreign language outcomes. If you'd prefer a native speaker, you'll find plenty of tutors in this category on the platform as well.
With an average hourly rate of $33, your first session free, and flexible options including online, you can't go wrong.
Specifically for children aged 0-12, Piou Piou offers small group and private play-based French lessons in Canberra with a native speaker. All lessons focus on learning natural language in an interactive environment with no expectation of reading or writing — just as native speakers do when they're learning their first language.
Programs are term-based, and holiday activity programs are also provided.
In Canberra, students can study French at the Australian National University (ANU) and the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT).
At the ANU, levels range from introductory through to advanced French and a range of culture units are also available, as well as Selected Topics in French Studies where you'll be required to use French for the entire course.
At the CIT, you can choose introductory, intermediate or continuing French, and French conversation is also available.
What to Expect from Your French Tutor in Canberra
One thing you shouldn't expect is instant fluency. Keeping up with a native speaker of any language takes years of dedication and in-country practice. However, with the right environment, and a French tutor who works within your abilities and interests, you should be feeling more confident to communicate using basic greetings and when asking simple questions within a few weeks.
Here are a few more things you should expect during your first few lessons (and embrace, if you want to maximise your learning opportunities):
Pre-course assessment or informal test
The best way for your French tutor to know what level you're at, and what you already know, is to assess you.
Don't freeze! This assessment will probably happen without you realising it. That greeting as you walk in? Assessment. Round-the-class introductions? Assessment. The look on your face when your tutor says something longer than a greeting in French? Assessment.
Speak — in French
Believe it or not, some people go along to language lessons and don't want to speak. Yes, it can be overwhelming and scary trying to communicate in a new language. What if you make a mistake and people laugh?
You may say something highly amusing, but tutors, and your fellow students, will be laughing with you, not at you. To learn, you need to make mistakes. To make mistakes, particularly in a language class, you need to open your mouth and give it a go.
Get your 'ear for French' working
Do expect your French tutor to give you instructions, and many explanations, in French. They don't do this to confuse you but to help you develop an ear for the sounds of the French language. Pay attention, try not to worry, and look for gestures and facial expressions which can be great clues. Before you realise it, you'll know exactly what's being said.
So, don't hang back if you really want to study this beautiful language. There are plenty of options for French lessons in Canberra.