Frequently Asked Questions
We are experts at teaching French and take you from beginner to fluent through a carefully structured syllabus. We have more levels than anyone else because we want to ensure that groups are formed of people who are truly at a comparable level. Because of this, and because we only employ the very best teachers working to a detailed and comprehensive syllabus, your chances of success are higher with us. The London Alliance is a friendly charity dedicated to sharing French with you. We have been in London since 1884. We know what we are doing and no-one does it better.
You should decide first whether you want to join a group class - you will be among like-minded people at the same stage of learning - or whether you want one to one tuition. Personal tuition is more expensive, of course, for not sharing the cost with others, but progress can be faster as the tutor concentrates just on you. If you want to join a group class then fill out the form here. For one-to-one tuition use this form. You are also very welcome to call in at our teaching centre at 1 Dorset Square.
There are two steps. The first is when you answer a question on the enrolment application. This provides a rough idea of your current level of French. The second step is when you come in for an assessment. This is a friendly meeting. It is purely conversational, and gently probing to find out what you can and cannot do with French, and lasts about 10 to 15 minutes. At the end of that meeting you will be advised what level of class is most suitable for you. For Bespoke tuition you are assessed at the initial meeting when we plan a course for you.
We understand that sometimes people cannot attend a class and then worry that the group has moved on. If that happens then you can connect to our web based platform from home and see what has been covered during the class that you missed and download extra material. Often, that is sufficient to keep you in touch with what your class did while you were away. But we also offer catch-up classes in which you can buy an hour with the tutor who will teach you one-to-one on the topics that you missed. No-one need fall behind. Catch-up classes are booked at Reception and are available while you are registered on a course. A catch-up class cannot be postponed or refunded.
We try very hard to form groups of people at the same level. Indeed, our levels structure is more fine-grained than anywhere else. But sometimes, though quite rarely, a student may need to move up or down a level. Anyone finding a class too hard or too easy should talk to the tutor or course manager about a move to another level. It is quite normal, though, to feel lost at times when learning a new language and you should not let such feelings get the better of you. Teaching technique has improved immensely over the years but the requirements of a student are much the same - perseverance, patience, practice. Your tutor will do everything he or she can to help you and the only real question is how much you will do to help yourself. You would not expect to learn any new skill or knowledge set - ballet, a musical instrument, a sport - without putting in time and some effort. So it is with a new language.
The communicative method, in which you are immersed in French from the word go, as this is the fastest way to get you speaking. Language is viewed as a communication system and you will practice communicative activities. This contrasts with the old fashioned way of seeing language as a grammar system and the goal as translating written texts. This way of teaching was fine for dead, classical languages but was not conducive to speaking a living language. With the communicative method the reality of life and real life exchanges made their way into the classroom reflecting that the spoken language is primary and not some inferior version of the written language. Initially, therefore, grammar is picked up in context. Later you study French grammar in detail when it will be relevant and easier because you already speak French.
The focus on communicative competence means you will learn how to use French for a range of purposes and functions, how to use French according to setting and people (formal, informal etc.), how to produce and understand different kinds of text (conversations, reports, interviews, narratives) and how to keep conversation going despite limitations in your knowledge of French.
Stick with us and you will learn all aspects of French from elementary spoken communication to formal grammar, from low-brow to high-brow, and much more.
At the very least you should go over what was covered in your last class. You should also attempt any homework that the class agrees to do. Learning a language is about constant exposure to it, continual practice no matter that mistakes are made (as children we did not get it right at first) and having those mistakes corrected by your tutor. You can keep up exposure to French by borrowing films from our video library and by tuning your radio to a French station. It doesn't matter that you do not understand much in the early stages. You will understand more and more as you progress. Do as much as you can between classes. Making time will be a problem but just ensure that each day you at least do a little. Keep a notebook for new vocabulary, when you have 5 minutes spare conjugate a verb or two, practice with any friend who has some French ... keep the language in mind each day until it becomes part of your mind.
Groups are between 5 and 15 people except for intensive classes which have a minimum of 6 people. (If, as occassionally happens, there are fewer enrolments for a particular class then we will offer a modified schedule to reflect the smaller group.)
Bespoke tuition has been made as flexible as possible as we know that business people, parents and others have a lot of commitments that mean a regular timetable cannot be planned. So, timetables can be whatever suits you. Days and times can vary, subject to tutor availability, and gaps for holidays, work commitments etc., can be put in the timetable. Further, give us 48 hours' notice and you can reschedule a lesson when new commitments prevent you from following the original timetable. Up to a third of lessons can be rescheduled in this way. And if all the lessons still cannot be fitted into the original course period there is a four week overshoot period to give you time to take lessons that could not otherwise be taken. All in all a very flexible arrangement because we really want you to succeed at learning French.
Our tutors are very skilled at teaching you only in French (true immersion) and that is so even with complete beginners. C'est possible! They may very occasionaly use English to explain a concept though only at the very early stages and only if necessary. It is true that you may feel a little lost at times. That is quite normal and does not mean you are not learning properly. You have to trust your teacher, understand that you will not understand everything at first attempt, but just as you did as a child you keep going, keep trying to figure things out, keep practising, don't panic when you make a mistake, and give yourself time. You will learn to speak French because we have ways, many ways, ...
Yes, we can provide you with a certificate at the end of a course. Ask at Reception when you have completed a course.
You will be given your course book on the first day of your scheduled class. Please note that the Alliance provides one book for each main level (1 to 5), each of the first four books covering the four sublevels a, b, c and d. Each book comes with a CD of the dialogues you listen to during the class. Take care of your book as you will have to buy a replacement if you lose it.
Generally, for group classes no. But if an equivalent course is available in which places are still available then we will consider the request. If granted there will be an admin fee of £25.