Here’s why the Alpine French School will help you learn French

We have been visiting Morzine in the French Alps for years. We regularly visit during both the summer and winter months but it was only last year that I learned about the Alpine French School, a school in the heart of Morzine that offers intensive French courses to fit in around your holiday. 

Founded by Helen Watts, a British ex-pat who moved to the French Alps in the early 2000s, the Alpine French School has been designed to help kids and adults to learn French. During the winter months it offers French lessons in the morning, timed so that you can hit the slopes (or take ski lessons) in the afternoon and, during the summer, months it holds French camps for English-speaking kids and adults. 

Alpine French School Morzine
Photo Credit: Alpine French School

I grew up speaking French on and off but my three kids are only just learning. Plus, the oldest, Alfie, will be taking GCSE in the spring of 2024. All three are at school in the UK where the focus is on grammar and writing rather than speaking and listening.

It is always so much easier learning a language in situ (you can read about the benefits of learning Spanish in Valencia here) and so I thought that a week doing an intensive course in France would be just the ticket to give them the French boost that they needed. 

Not surprisingly, perhaps, the kids were not thrilled about spending their valuable summer holidays taking French classes at a language school. Nevertheless, I signed up the two oldest for a week-long summer course in August and waved them off with a “Bonne Chance!”. 

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Alpine French School
White water rafting. Photo Credit: Alpine French School

The Alpine French School

The Alpine French School started in 2014 and the summer school has been running since 2017. Founder Helen Wills has a background teaching English for business and saw a gap in the Morzine market to provide weekly lessons for the local expat community and visitors who want to learn or improve their French language skills (they have subsequently started offering English lessons and English courses too, aimed at the local French community who want to learn or improve their English skills). 

The main school sits on the road between Morzine and Montriond, a bright wooden chalet housed with a handful of classrooms. A wide variety of French courses are offered here throughout the year – from beginner through to advanced – with an emphasis on small groups and plenty of speaking and listening. Private lessons are also available.

During the winter months students combine ski holidays with lessons in this building with the option of taking 10 hours of classes per week (two hours per day) or 20 hours of classes per week (four hours per day for five days each week). The school has recently opened another outpost in nearby Samoens

Alpine French School Morzine
Photo Credit: Alpine French School

Summer French Camp in Morzine 

We opted for the summer French camp option. The French Alpine School offers a French Summer Day Camp for children aged between 5 and 17 years old. Children can choose to enrol for the mornings only, when lessons are held, or opt for the full day. The full day option includes lessons in the morning and fun activities in the afternoon.

The younger age groups (6-11 years) take part in activities including swimming, hiking, art, drama and a high ropes course and the older age groups (12-17 years) participate in mountain biking, canyoning, white water rafting, mountain karting and more. 

The school also offers summer camps for families. During the family camps, adult students take morning French lessons and children can take part in the half-day or full day junior summer camp.

The French Alpine School can also help arrange accommodation in the Morzine or Les Gets area (the school has an apartment above the main building) and airport transfers. 

What particularly appealed to me were the classes aimed at teenagers preparing for their GCSEs; students studying for exams are placed in a group focusing on exam preparation and exam skills.

Alpine French School Morzine
Canoeing on Lac de Montriond. Photo Credit: Alpine French School

Our Experience at the Alpine French School

Alfie and Tess enrolled for a week-long full day camp for the second week of August. The summer camps are held at the Ecole Sainte Marie Morzine, a primary school in the heart of town.

This primary school is the perfect setting for the camp; bright classrooms and plenty of outdoor space. The days start at 8.45am and pick-up is generally late afternoon, around 4.30pm if you the full-day camp. Class sizes are restricted to a maximum of 15 children

On the first day, the kids are informally tested during the class and then groups are rearranged if necessary. Alfie was placed in a class with other teens his age, many of them who were also preparing for upcoming exams. One of the things that I really liked about the school was the wide range of international students present and the number of returning students

The teachers are all native speakers and Alfie had a great experience with his teacher, Matilde, who was creative, engaging and made the lessons fun. One morning, when learning about the weather, they had to work in pairs to create a fictional country and discuss the weather forecast.

Another day they created environmental organisations and had to present their eco-credentials in front of the class. And one morning they headed to the Morzine market to test out their language skills with the stall traders. 

In the afternoons the kids headed out to enjoy the many adventure activities that Morzine offers during the summer months. The afternoon of day one was spent at the large swimming pool complex, which sits just a short walk from the school. The kids are given a quick swimming test to ensure that they can swim and are then left to enjoy the large 50m outdoor pool and the waterslide. 

Day two they went zip lining at Cascade Adventure near the Nyon Waterfall, on day three they went mountain karting (essentially mountain go-karts!) near Saint-Jean-d’Aulps, day four saw them white-water rafting and on day five they spent the afternoon paddle boarding at the Lac de Montriond.

Kids were ferried to the various afternoon activities by staff employed by the French Alpine School and then run by the activity staff. Activities are French-led but not exclusively held in French. 

Alpine French School Morzine
Lac de Montriond, the perfect place for stand up paddleboarding. Photo Credit: Alpine French School

Our Verdict

Overall the kids did enjoy their time at camp. Alfie said that even though it wasn’t his ideal summer holiday he found it very useful and made some good friends that he is still in touch with.

Tess’ initial teacher was not as engaging as she had hoped he would be but the school were very accommodating and moved her to a different class, which she really enjoyed. She loved all the activities and made some good friends. 

I was really pleased with how the week went and I really noticed that the kids had so much more confidence and willingness to try and speak French. We spent another few weeks in France after the camp had ended and they were both happy (or, happier!) to use what they had learned at the camp. I will definitely be signing them up again – and will probably enrol the youngest as well.

Alpine French School Details

The summer camps do get booked up so it’s well worth booking in advance (they have previously had to turn students away). For more details and booking, take a look at the Alpine French School website

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