Saturday 12 January 2019

Why should you learn French before arriving at ESSEC?

“You live a new life for every language you speak. If you know only one language, you live only once.” – Czech proverb

Let’s be honest. Boarding a plane, travelling thousands of kilometres to finally land in Paris to join the Masters in Management Grande Ecole at ESSEC is not an easy ride. It involves some inherent form of courage, a great curriculum and definitely a clear willingness to improve your future in every possible way. It means being aware that it is finally time to think big and walk the talk.

This is why, when you finally board that plane holding your admission letter in one hand and the heavy luggage in the other, you may be tempted to think that it is finally done.

Everything has been handled with great care. There is a flat waiting for you close to ESSEC, VISA and passports ready to be stamped and, finally, you have clothes for every season.

But there is something you forgot to pack: a basic knowledge of the French language.

You are not convinced? Let me better explain. ESSEC is an International Business School, meaning that your future studies will be entirely in English. On the campus everyone speaks English. You can write emails and communicate with people expecting a fluent level of English from their side.

But outside ESSEC you will not always find people speaking fluently English. This is particularly true if you want to experience the real culture of France and not only the most famous touristic spots in Paris.

So, what do we do now? Let’s assume we can go back in time and let’s check out our options to learn some basic French before landing at Charles de Gaulle Airport.


If you want to maximize the ROI and have fun during the process the app Duolingo is the perfect choice for you. It is divided in levels, and it focusses on lexicon and basic grammar, but also on pronunciation. You can use it wherever you want, and you can even compete with your friends. It helped me a lot during my first weeks in Paris.


When I was studying English, I remember that my teacher suggested having a “pen pal” as a mean to learn faster. Thanks to the app Slowly, you can have many French pen pals matched to your interests (art, science, culture) and practice written French. Your “message in the bottle” will take the same amount of time that it normally takes to physically go from your country to France and this is done to incentivize users to write long, well-written and interesting messages.

French Cinema

According to research on neurosciences & learning behaviours, you learn faster when you associate a word in a new language to an image or an emotion instead that just to its translation in your own native language. Cinema is the perfect way to do so, and in addition French cinema is full of interesting directors and genres (who said la Nouvelle Vague?). To start, try this list of great French cinema masterpieces.

Alliance Française

If you have time and if you want to start your experience at ESSEC in the best possible way, one of the options could be to follow some class at Alliance Française. There are “ateliers” for every level of language and for every topic like grammar, oral speaking, listening… If you live in a big town, you can probably find an Alliance Française near-by. If you are far from an Alliance Française, you can always follow their onlinefree MOOCs.

Real Life

No need to exaggerate and over-study. After all, the best teacher is real life. When you will arrive in Paris, your level of French will definitely improve much faster. Of course, the best way of learning French is by talking with French people, exploring the country and its history and experiencing the Parisian life and everything it can offers. I call this last technique “learn by living”!

Written by A. Carletta, Student Ambassador for the MiM program

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