Want to improve your French? Fancy learning a new language? Love to ski or snowboard? Well you can now combine the two and learn French on a ski holiday in Morzine. Find how I got on with my 25 year out of date GCSE language skills in this Alpine French School review.
Advance warning: I have included quite a bit of my rudimentary French in this article. I expect I have made mistakes, so please accept my apologies in advance… Pardon pour mon Francais!
I spend a lot of time in France. Now I always try to speak a bit of French. But my language skills have been deteriorating ever since I got a D in GCSE French more than quarter of a century ago.
There have been sporadic improvements, usually after a few drinks. But beyond ordering beers, baguettes or bacon I get quite stumped. Of course the pleasantries I have dialled in; ‘bonjour’, ‘au revoir’, ‘si vou plait’ and ‘merci’ have stayed with me – so at least I am polite.
But actually having a conversation, asking and answering questions – beyond ‘Ca va? Oui ca va bien’ – has been lost. To be fair I have also forgotten how to solve simultaneous equations and which Louis was the last king of France. If you don’t use it you lose it.
To be honest I find my French embarrassing. That beyond ‘je voudrais un baguette’, ‘où est la gare’, ‘je m’appelle Luke’ and ‘je suis seize ans’ – this definitely needs updating – I just can’t communicate. And understanding the reply? No chance!
France are our closest neighbours and from my home town in Newhaven I can get the ferry to Dieppe. I visit France more than any other country, my mum and dad even lived there for a while, so I really should be able to communicate better.
To add to this I have been to the French Pyrenees a few times in recent years. The locals learn Spanish and Catalan before English, so my terrible French has made communication very difficult.
As a snowboarder I am always excited to visit the mountains. I love Morzine, and the excellent Portes Du Soleil is one of my favourite ski areas. So the opportunity to learn French on a ski holiday in Morzine was too good to miss.
We flew from Gatwick to Geneva and had a shared transfer with Skiidy Gonzales. It was all on time and the transfer was very efficient without costing a bomb. You can get a quote at www.skiidygonzales.com or by calling +33 (0) 4 50 37 36 85.
Crystelle, One of the directors, met us on arrival at the Alpine French School. She showed us to our apartment above the school – there would be no escape! – and explained how our time with them would work.
During this Alpine French School review we were to have tuition for two hours a day from four in the afternoon. Normally they offer group lessons from 9-11 am and 4-6 pm. However, as we were the only guests we’d be getting one hour of one-to-one coaching then an hour of computer based learning.
Apparently, most guests stay for at least two weeks to learn French on a ski holiday in Morzine. In fact many stay much longer so are very serious about learning the language whilst doing some skiing or snowboarding.
I have to admit I was a little nervous to be going back to school. But my teacher Lucile was amazing. Teaching is fully immersive, so English is not spoken in the lesson. You are taught in a way that is fun, engaging and easy to follow.
After ascertaining my level, we began by expanding upon my general chit chat. Re-introducing phrases such as ‘sante’ (cheers/bless you), ‘a bientot’ (see you soon), ‘bonsoir’ (good evening),’ bonne soiree’ (good night), ‘enchante’ (nice to meet you) and ‘bon appetit’ (enjoy the meal). Things I had known but forgotten.
We then added terms that were less familiar. Still simple phrases such as a ‘tout a l’heure’ (see you later that day), ‘pas de soucis’ (no worries), ‘volontiers’ (I accept) and ‘de rien’ (your welcome).
Next up was ordering drinks and food plus other phrases used in restaurants. My homework was remembering it all and using some over dinner that evening. It was a lovely meal at La Rotonde with Crystelle and Helen another of the directors.
The next day Lucile used a game to introduce 25 common verbs – about 20 more than I thought I’d remember. Such as ‘voyager’ (travel), ‘manger’ (eat), ‘habiter’ (live), ‘travailler’ (work), ‘laver’ (wash), ‘regarder’ (watch) and ‘commander’ (order).
We then moved onto asking and answering simple open and closed questions. The teaching was easy to understand and constantly built upon your knowledge. Ultimately making it easy to learn French on a ski holiday in Morzine.
Lucile used phonetic spellings to help with my pronunciation. For example ‘Qu’ est ce que’ (what) and ‘Est ce que’ (is/do) respectively became ‘keskuh’ and ‘eskuh’. When learning French at school I seriously struggled with those phrases – if only my teacher had told me that trick.
We also covered days of the week and a range of adverbs for frequency. Such as ‘tous le jour’ (everyday), ‘tres souvent’ (very often), ‘quelques fois’ (sometimes) and ‘jamain’ (never). By this point my brain was melting out of my ears!
The third day was all about bringing together everything that I had learnt. Lucile introduced words that go in front of ‘est ce que’ to formulate different questions. For example, ‘ou’ (where), ‘pourquoi’ (why), ‘comment’ (how), ‘combien de’ (how many/much) and ‘qui’ (who).
By combining the verbs with the questions, and ‘tu’ (you), ‘il’ (he), ‘elle’ (she) it becomes easy to ask conversational questions. Such as ‘ou est ce qu tu travailler?’ (where to you work?) or ‘Qu’ est ce que il mange?’ (what does he eat?).
Answering those questions uses most of the same words. So for example ‘je travaille a la Newhaven’ (I work in Newhaven) or ‘Il manges la boeuf’ (he eats beef).
Closed questions are even easier. For example, ‘est ce que tu habit a Morzine?’ (Do you live in Morzine?), is either answered ‘Oui j’habite a Morzine’ or ‘j’habite pas a Morzine’. Of course you could also say ‘Oui’ or ‘no’.
It was all relatively simple stuff. But during this Alpine French School review I’d only had three hours of one to one tuition so I was very impressed. It would all be put to the test that evening as we were due to go out for a French speaking social.
I also spent an hour each day learning on a computer using Kwiziq.com. It tests your ability and tailors learning to your level, targeting weaknesses in your knowledge.
The one to one lessons were not strict on tense or gender – they teach you enough to be understood. Conflictingly, Kwiziq is all about using exactly the right tense, gender etc. This reminded me of learning French at school.
For example, if you answered ‘je habite a Brighton’, rather than ‘j’habite a Brighton’ you get it wrong. However, in conversation they both sound very similar so it doesn’t matter too much.
I found the computer learning frustrating. Having said that I certainly picked up a lot and through repetition and improved my understanding of the French language. The computer learning is very personalised, so although it was a bit like school I learnt quickly.
The idea is anyone can turn up and practice their language skills. To add to their learning all students are encouraged to attend. There were six of us during our visit.
I surprised myself by being able to ask and answer various questions. Among other things I found out where Justine was from, where she lived and how long she had lived there. I answered many similar questions myself and came away very pleased with what I had learnt.
The other three attendees were all British expats living in Morzine who’d been having regular lessons. As the volume in the Bec Jaune increased, my ability to understand French decreased. As it got later the conversation turned to Brexit – it was time to leave!
The Alpine French School has a couple of self catered apartments above their offices. These offer shared accommodation and are of a very good standard. They are not luxurious but very comfortable with plenty of space.
A stay costs €225 per week if you don’t mind sharing a room. There is a €200 single supplement for a room to yourself. Everything was clean, in good working order with nice powerful showers and comfy beds.
The kitchen is fully equipped, so you can cook up your own meals. The large dining table has views towards Morzine and a big balcony for good weather. It would be very sociable when there is a big group of students staying there.
The location is pretty convenient, it takes around five minutes to reach the footbridge across the river. The Super Morzine gondola leaves from the other side of the bridge. Alternatively buses stop very close to the accommodation which head into town, or to the Ardent Gondola.
On the first day we headed to the Pleney gondola to explore the Les Gets/Morzine ski area. We caught the funky little Morzine train to get across town.
There are an impressive 110 km of slopes in just this area. It is not lift linked to the wider Portes Du Soleil’s 600 km of slopes, but plans are afoot to join them.
We did a circuit of the ski area taking in the peaks of Ranfolly, La Rosta, Chamossiere and Nyon in the morning. One of the highlights was visiting the quirky La Turche drag lift. It is the only independently owned lift in the Portes Du Soleil.
The father and daughter who own and run it showed us around. They insisted we have a glass of wine – it was before 11 am but when in France….
The pistes were in very good condition, although slightly hard in places early morning. As the day wore on they became softer and spring like – as expected in April.
We stopped for a late lunch at Chez Nannon in the Nyon area. They serve a traditional mountain menu with a local twist. I had their speciality of braised knuckle of local ham with mustard sauce. It was big, tasty and came with potatoes and salad. Perfect!
In order to learn French on a ski holiday in Morzine we needed to be ready for lessons at 4pm. We finished lunch after two, so we did a couple of runs before heading back to Morzine.
We squeezed in a quick apres beer at Le Tremplin at the bottom of the Pleny slope. Then rushed back to the Alpine French School to get showered and changed before our first lesson.
The next morning we decided to explore the wider Portes Du Soleil. So we walked to the Super Morzine gondola and headed up the mountain. The snow in the Super Morzine area was quite icy and patchy towards the bottom. So we headed up towards Avoriaz.
Rather than ski through Avoriaz we dropped down into the Lindaret Valley and took the Chaux Fleurie chair over to Chatel. We did lots of runs and ended up in the Linga area. The pistes were in excellent condition and very quiet.
From there we started to head back, stopping for lunch in the Lindarets valley. After lunch we headed to the Chapelle Park for a bit of freestyle. I had spent a lot of time their earlier in the season during the Snowparking week, so the kickers felt familiar and were a lot of fun.
Once I’d had my fill of freestyle we took the Star Wars run down to Ardent. It is one of my favourite pistes in Portes Du Soleil because there are so many side hits to enjoy. We took the bus from Ardent to Morzine, where it had started to snow.
It snowed most of the night and there were 15-20 cm of powder in town. I had arranged to meet a local snowboarder for a day on the slopes. Powder day in April… it’s safe to say we were very excited to see how much snow there was up top.
Heading up Super Morzine there was more snow than we expected. We did a quick lap of the area laying plenty of fresh lines. Heading up to Avoriaz we dropped down into the Lindarets Valley for a run through the trees.
There we met up with a large group of local snowboarders. From here we headed over to Chatel, where there was knee to thigh deep powder and virtually no one on the slopes.
I don’t know where we went – visibility was not great. The powder so deep that at times I didn’t know if I was on the piste or off-piste. We stayed away from anything steeper than 30 degrees.
We eventually ended up in the Linga area and were the first to descend since the slope opened. It was steep, wide and covered in perfect powder. So we did it a few times. At lunch everyone was buzzing, declaring it to be the best day of the season.
The powder fun continued with some time in Happy Valley in Chatel and Satellites above Lindarets. We finished with a run down into Ardent where everyone piled into the Happy Hours Bar.
The bar was banging, and it looks like everyone was up for a party. But I had to get the bus back to Morzine for my final French lesson.
Prior to this trip my French was embarrassingly bad. But after just three hours of tuition and three of computer learning it had improved hugely.
To be honest I have not used it since, but I have been thinking about it trying to keep it front of mind. However, four months later my French has certainly deteriorated.
But going through my notes to write this article has bought most of it back. So I am certainly better at French than I was before the lessons.
If you would like to learn French on a ski holiday in Morzine then spend two weeks at the Alpine French School and you will improve greatly. Stay for longer and you will see even better results.
To conclude this Alpine French School review I’d say it is a great concept. The accommodation is really nice, the skiing in Portes Du Soleil is excellent, Morzine is a great destination, the teachers are amazing and how they help you learn is fun and very productive.
Est ce que tu vouloir a apprendres Français? Visiter Morzine et apprendre
Français avec Alpine French School.
I hope you found this Alpine French School review useful. If you want to learn French on a ski holiday in Morzine visit: www.alpinefrenchschool.com to find out more about Morzine go to www.morzine-avoriaz.com