French offered English lessons on board trains

After a recent poll suggesting the French were pretty depressed about the level of their English, compared to their European neighbours, the country's rail operator SNCF may have found a way to fasttrack them up to speed.

French offered English lessons on board trains
French commuters get English lessons on aTGV train. Photo: Marsupilami92/AFP

French commuters travelling to and from Paris are now able to take an English course as they whizz through the French countryside.

The scheme, which was launched this week, is designed for commuters who travel to and from work by train everyday to help them make the most of their time on board.

Lessons do take place in the buffet car as might have been expected but in a special carriage that has been converted into a classroom. 

You won’t find English classes taking place on all French trains just yet, however. The scheme has been rolled out on certain TGV and TER trains between Reims and Chalons-en-Champagne and Paris in the north west of the country.

THe scheme is the brainchild of Calum MacDougall, an English teacher who has lived in France for 32 years.

"The idea came to me when I was on a trip out to the country from Paris to teach English," Macdougall told The Local on Friday. "On the way back I was just thinking of new ways, places and times to teach people English and I thought about all the time people waste commuting and how much better they could use it. It just made sense to provide formal English lessons on trains.

MacDougall took his idea to SNCF who showed a keen interest. "The interest from the public has been astounding", he added.

SNCF recognise that the learning environment on a noisy train that tilts from side to side as it hurtles past eye-catching scenery might not provide the best learning environment, even if it is preferable than the average box classroom in an English language academy, so have reduced their prices compared to the average cost of English lessons.

“I think it is much more constructive than having two-hour classes per week. The advantage is that the course is repetitive. If I take it four times a week it can help to boost my vocabulary, which I will then be able to put into practice at work,” one student Jerome, told Europe1 radio.

The 40 courses that he has signed up for, that he will take daily on his commute to Paris will set him back €690.

There are two main types of on board courses on offer – the "Locamotion" an intensive programme of 40 lessons of 45 minutes and "On Track", which involves 30 sessions of 60 minutes. 

If the initiative takes off SNCF will consider launching other commuter courses such as German or marketing, Europe1 reports. For more information on the scheme, you can visit

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