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How to get the government to pay for your French classes

French language class
French classes can be expensive. Photo: Patrick Baz/AFP
Learning French is pretty crucial if you live in France, and French classes can be expensive - but you could get the government to pay. Here's how.

If you are working in France, then you are entitled to Mon Compte Formation – which is an annual budget for training and professional development.

It was introduced back in 2015 under François Hollande’s government but in 2019 an app was created. The online application process was simplified and the scheme’s popularity soared. 

It is open to salaried employees who work at least half a week, and since 2018 has also been open to self-employed people who are registered in France.

The money is credited to your own training account (not your bank account, so you can’t spend it on wine instead) and it’s up to you to decide what course you want to spend it on.

You could do courses to improve your workplace skills or courses on becoming an entrepreneur or running a business, but if you’re not French you can also take French language courses.

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How to register

First you need to set up an account on the Mon Compte Formation website here or on the app – Mon CPF. Do make sure you’re on the official government site, as there have been quite a few scams linked to this scheme.

The account asks for basic personal info, plus your work and education history. You will need your social security number, which if you are working, you can find on your payslip.

Once registered, head to the ‘Droits’ section on the app or website to check how much money is in your training budget. 

Unskilled full-time workers get €800 a year while skilled full-time workers get €500 a year, with pro-rota allowances for part-timers. You can carry your allowance over for one year if you have your eye on an expensive course.

When you know how much you have to spend, head to the ‘Recherche’ section to find a course. You can search by subject (français étranger for French classes for foreigners) and set your location to find courses near you.

You can only use this budget for approved providers, so you will have to pick a language class from the list on the website, but in the big cities there is plenty of choice and quite a few language schools are now signed up to the scheme.

If you find a course that is slightly more expensive than your allowance then there is the option to use your CPF budget and pay the rest yourself.

Once you find a course that looks right for you, and is within your budget, then click on ‘submit dossier’ – this bit is surprisingly easy, just fill out the online form with your details and click submit. 

The next stage is that CPF contacts the language school that you have chosen so you will hear from them, either by phone or email, asking you to confirm the course.

Once you have confirmed this with the school, the status of your dossier on the CPF website moves from ‘pending’ to ‘approved’ and your total available training budget reduces by however much you have spent.

After that it’s between you and the language school to arrange times, dates etc for classes.

Other ways to learn for free

The training budget is only open to people who are working, but there are some other ways to learn French for free.

Unemployed

If you’re unemployed and registered with the Pôle emploi (French unemployment office) then you could be entitled to French courses if it would improve your prospects of getting a job. Ask your Pôle emploi agent what is available to you.

Language exchange

If you can’t afford professional classes there are other ways to learn, and one of the best is through language exchange. As a native English speaker you have a valuable skill to offer, and there are lots of exchange programmes where you buddy up with a French person and help them with their English, while they do the same for your French.

Search online for language exchanges near you, or try the app Meetup. Exchange sessions are usually free, but if you’re meeting in a café you will be expected to order something to eat or drink. 

If there are no exchanges near you, why not set up your own informal exchange with French friends or neighbours who want to improve their English?

Cheaper classes

If none of these work for you, there are options to get classes that are not free, but are still cheaper than language schools.

Once of these is classes through your local mairie. These tend to be during the day, so are often not suitable if you are working, but offer cut-price classes.

Ask at your local mairie if this on on offer and when the next sign-up date is – in big cities places go fast so be poised to sign up as soon as the next enrolment session opens.

The other option is the Université Pour Tous programme, which offers classes in the community in a variety of subjects, including French as a foreign language. Search online for your local Université Pour Tous and see what classes it offers.


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