“…I was in France and no one would speak to me in anything but French. Not only that, they expected me to talk back to them in their own language.

The people were, in fact, teachers at the Institut de Français in Villefranche-sur-Mer, a small town overlooking one of the loveliest bays on the Riviera.They are specially trained to teach adults to speak French as correctly and as fluently as possible, and to teach it in the shortest time.

The four-week course runs for eight hours a day, five days a week. It is a total immersion into the French language. The results are stunning; within days even beginners are conversing in French.

Such is the success of the methods that people have been coming from all over the world to the school since its establishment 28 years ago. It is recognised by the diplomatic corps, the United Nations, and international business organisations.

This total approach to French is the only way to learn French in a hurry, and it can be fun.Sometimes the “immersion” is so great that you sink, but it soon passes. The teachers know all about it – they even warn you of it.

If you cannot speak French at the beginning, you are advised not to speak at all until you can. And that is where the “miracle” takes place. You soon can. Emphasis is on the oral rather than the written word.

The teachers talk only in French. If you do not understand the first time, they simply keep on explaining it in different ways until you do. They use a basic vocabulary of 1500 words, those most used in everyday French.

The great drawcard of doing the course at Villefranche is that you are in France. Once school is out, you are out among the French of Villefranche-sur-Mer. You continue to speak to them in a real-life situation. And you find they are only too delighted to help you in your efforts to speak French; they are used to students from the institute.

Villefranche is a gem of a place, sitting tranquilly between the two giants of the Riviera, Nice and Monte Carlo. Across the water is Cap Ferrat, where Somerset Maugham and David Niven once lived.

Despite its position in such a famed area, Villefranche has not been taken over by the 20th century. There are no huge hotels, no discos, no casinos, no shops full of luxury goods. It has retained the atmosphere of its beginnings as a 14th century free trading port, with its fishing harbor, 16th century citadel and old streets. Therein lies its charm…”