A dynamic, cosmopolitan city with so much going for it, tourists and immigrants flock to Montreal from all over the world. But not everyone understands the importance of the French language in this North America city. In fact, French is the official language for business, government and education in Montreal and throughout the Province of Quebec.
For practical purposes, Montreal may be a bilingual city. But living here without a basic competency in French will inevitably lead to challenges and inconveniences. Fortunately, Montreal has a wide variety of public and private institutions where you can learn to read, write and speak French as a foreign language. These language schools are open to anyone living in Montreal or simply visiting on a tourist visa.
Refer to some of the following articles to learn more:
- Enrolling children in English schools in Quebec
- French and English neighbourhoods of Montreal
- Do you need the IELTS to move to Canada?
- Cost of living in Montreal vs. Toronto
Is it necessary to learn French if you live in Montreal?
Because French is legally the official language in the Province of Quebec, all signs, menus and business communication must be available in French. That’s the basic premise of Bill 101, also known as the Charter of the French Language. Realistically however, almost everything is also available in English. So you can certainly survive in Montreal with knowing French, but you surely miss out on a great deal of what’s going on in the city.
Language is an essential component of a culture, so if you want to relish in the rich and wonderful culture of Montreal, learning French should be a high priority. Roughly two thirds of the 4 million residents of the Greater Montreal Area speak French as their mother tongue or primary language.
It has become a cliche to describe Montreal a melting pot. Close 1 million Montrealers, or 25 percent of the population, were born outside of Canada. And another half million are second generation Canadians, born to first generation immigrants. So you can hear hundred of different languages and dialects spoken in this remarkable city.
But the French legacy in Quebec dates back to the 17th seventeenth century, and the Quebeckers are quite proud of this European heritage. Quebec separatists even launched a powerful political movement in the second half of the 20th century. The idea of declaring Quebec an independent nation gained widespread support across the province, but ultimately failed.
French Canadians did succeed in passing the language law (Bill 101) in 1977, and this was a crucial (if not symbolic) step in preserving the cultural heritage and identity of the province. Failing to gain at least a rudimentary command of the French language then shows a lack of respect for the people and the culture of Quebec.
How can you study and learn French in Montreal?
Most of the colleges and universities in Montreal offer French courses, but they typically require study permits and student visas in order to attend. Of course, if you’re already a resident of Canada, you can also enroll in one of those institutions.
But if you’re new to Canada and do not have residency, you may prefer another option. Many private language schools are available for those who just want to get on the fast track to French language mastery. In most cases, anyone in Montreal, even on a tourist visa, can attend one of these language schools.
French language schools in Montreal
Académie Linguistique Charlemagne: Offering individual and group language classes, in both English and French. In-person and online classes available. Specializing in test preparation.
Place du Cercle, 3565 Berri St Suite 200, Montreal, QC
Academie Linguistique Internationale: Offering language classes in both French and English, with 25% Canadians and 75% international students.
1425 René-Lévesque Blvd W #163, H3G 1T7, Montreal, QC
Bouchereau Lingua International: With 2 locations, in Montreal and Quebec City, and 40 years of language training experience. Offering small classes and flexible schedules.
70 Notre Dame West, Suite 400, H2Y 1S6 Montréal, QC
EC English Language Schools: Offering language course in 30 cities around the world. With specialized French classes for general, academic and business purposes.
1610 Saint-Catherine St W #401, H3H 2S2 Montreal, QC
The French School: Offering intensive French immersion courses in a casual setting
1030 Cherrier Est, suite 300, H2L 1H9 Montreal, QC
GEOS Languages Plus: Offering classes, activities and accommodations for international students, with IELTS test preparation.
ILSC – Montreal: An official language test centre for IELTS, Cambridge Exams FCE and CAE, TEF Canada and TEFaQ and OET (Occupational English Test). The new and modern downtown location features 26 classrooms and 2 student lounges.
550 Sherbrooke St W 8th floor, H3A 1E3 Montreal, QC
Languages Across Borders: With multiple locations in Montreal, Vancouver and Melbourne. Offering a variety of courses and language workshops in either French or English.
2000 Sainte-Catherine Street West, Suite 1300, H3H 2T2 Montréal, QC
Montreal International Institute of Language Arts: Specializing in French and English classes and activities for students.
8255 Ave Mountain Sights #150, H4P 2B5 Montréal, QC
Sprachcaffe Montreal: A French language school for adults in Montreal. Sprachschaffe offers classes around the world and online.
630 Sherbrooke Street West, H3A 1E4 Montreal, QC
Upper Madison College: Offering a variety of language programs in French and English in both Toronto and Montreal.
360 Mayor St, H3A 1N7 Montreal, QC H3A 1N7
YMCA International Language School: Specializing in language courses for international students and professionals.
1440 Stanley St 5th floor, H3A 1P7 Montreal, QC
Since 1996, ARIANNE Relocation has been helping families and professionals relocate to Canada from all over the world. To make their international transitions run more smoothly, we prepare them with tools and information about local housing, schools, services and transportation.
Check out some of these links to learn more about Montreal and about the services we provide.
- Online Relocation Guide for Montreal
- Reasons to love the Quartier des Spectacles
- Language laws in Montreal and Quebec
- International Schools in Montreal
PHOTO CREDIT: Montreal seen from Mont Royal (Unsplash)