October 2007 issue

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France holding on

Language schools in France report that the high value of the euro, competition from other languages and a change in key student markets are all factors affecting business. Bethan Norris finds out more.

French language schools have been facing changing market conditions in recent years and many report that they are adapting courses in order to broaden their appeal to all sectors of the market. Overall, business growth seems muted, with most schools reporting little change in their overall business in the past year.

“We had a global reduction of 15 per cent [in the past 12 months],” says Christian Rouet from Institut International de Rambouillet. “Not in the number of students but number of days. This means that the average length of stay is shorter than previously.” In contrast, François Pfeiffer from Accord in Paris says, “[We had] the same number of students during the first six months [of 2007] but a small increase of around seven per cent from July 1 [in bookings] for the summer period.”

One particular issue currently being faced by language schools in France is a perceived decline in the popularity of French among language learners. This was an issue raised in last year’s Market Report on France (see Language Travel Magazine, August 2006, page 27) and Karine Joly-Patrouillault from the Institut Savoisien d’Etudes Francaises at the Université de Savoie in Chambery, believes that this is likely to be an ongoing problem for French language schools in the future. “I am not sure students continue to learn French [anymore]. They prefer English or Spanish. French looks like an old language,” she says.

In order to stay relevant, therefore, schools in France have been adapting their courses in order to meet demand from students with a specific reason for learning the language. Pfeiffer says that they have recently introduced more specialised courses, such as “Business French in mini-groups with a maximum of three persons, afternoon courses – including specialised workshops like preparation for the TCF and TEF exams – Parisian civilisation and culture, summer French courses for kids from six-to-12 years and summer family programmes at the Saint Nicolas campus”.

Florence Pajot from Centre International de Langues in Manosque says that their school has also started offering courses to appeal to different sectors of the market. “[We now offer] more [French] courses to local foreign companies,” she says. “Plus many more English courses for French people in the province – personal and business.”

Investing time and effort into developing new courses can be a bit of a gamble, however, and Joly-Patrouillault says that they have seen little rewards from their efforts to add new programmes and increase the number of activities on offer. Rouet adds, “We have developed two new courses, one for students who want to pass an exam and one with more cultural activities. Both seem to be attractive even if our investment in time is not yet refunded.”

One clear trend that is noted in the last two Status Surveys conducted on the French language teaching market is the dramatic decline in students from the USA. In 2004, according to Status statistics, the USA was the number one student market for France, with US students making up 23 per cent of the total student body (see Language Travel Magazine, September 2005, page 39). In 2005, however, the USA did not appear in the list of top 10 provider countries for France (see Language Travel Magazine, October 2006, page 48). Pfeiffer and Pajot put this down to the rising cost of the euro compared with the US dollar. “Without a price increase, between last year and 2007, our fees increased for US students due to the exchange rate,” exclaims Pfeiffer.

The high cost of the euro is also affecting other student markets, according to Joly-Patrouillault. “We lost a lot of [Mexican] students who cannot pay for a trip to Europe,” she says. However, while western European and US numbers might be down, other markets are growing.

“We have more students coming from South Korea and other Asiatic countries and they stay longer than they [used to],” says Rouet, who adds that they are also considering focusing on younger-aged students in a departure from their usual student profile. “There is great demand [for courses] from young people and this is a client we have never looked at until now,” he says. “If we decided to welcome them, our activity will change – more students, [smaller] average length of stays etc.”

The development of two new accreditation schemes by language schools association fle.fr and the French government could provide a boost to the industry in the future (see box) but individual marketing efforts by schools are also crucial. Pajot relates that they have recently created a new Japanese version of their website in a bid to encourage more students from this country to study at their school.


After remaining relatively unregulated for many years, the French language teaching sector has now found itself with two accreditation schemes – both rolled out within a year of each other (see Language Travel Magazine, September 07, page 7).

François Pfeiffer from Accord in Paris, believes that the quality label introduced by three government ministries in April 2006 will give the industry a boost while also directing students to high quality schools. “As Accord always focused on high quality courses, high quality premises and services [we have] no doubt that more students will choose Accord as one of their selected Parisian schools,” he says.

Another issue that Pfeiffer hopes will be helped by an accreditation scheme for French language schools is that of visas. Students who in the past have experienced problems when applying for a visa to study in France could find that the process becomes easier in the future, if they are applying to study in an accredited school. “Let’s be positive,” he says, “and hope that students registered in schools which have the official quality label will have no problem at all getting visas.”

However, while many see increased regulation as a positive step, in terms of raising standards, there are still some issues to be addressed – such as the costs involved in such schemes. Florence Pajot from Centre International des Langues in Manosque says, “There is a new [quality] label [introduced by fle.fr] but the enrolment is much too high for our school.”

Contact any advertiser in the this issue now

The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Language Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.





English Australia

InterGlobal Ltd

Malta Tourism

Alphe Conferences
CEC Network

English Australia
Milner International  
       College of English

Cultura Wien

       Services (CISS)
College of New
Global Village
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Hansa Language
       Centre of Toronto
National School of
Ottawa International
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Pacific Language
Richmond School
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Mandarin House

Bell International
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LAL Language and
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       College London
Queen Ethelburga’s
St Giles Colleges
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Study Group
       (Australia, Canada,
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Wimbledon School
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Alliance Française
SILC - Séjours
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Carl Duisberg
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International House
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Lichtenberg Kolleg

Dublin School of
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Durbe Ture

EC English
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Malta Tourism

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University of

EF Language
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ALCC - American
Kaplan Aspect
       (Australia, Canada,
       Ireland, Malta,
       New Zealand,
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University of
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University of
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Zoni Language
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IH Vancouver

Tellus Group
Training Partnership
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Twin Group (Ireland,