In New Caledonia, there are 20-something Kanak languages that did not make the cut of being the official language in New Caledonia. This may come as a surprise but the official language of New Caledonia under French rule is actually *drumroll*… French!
If you are living in New Caledonia you should definitely learn French because out of all the things that will lubricate your experience, knowing la langue française is in the top 2 hacks of being successful in New Caledonia (#1 is being rich). While it would be nice to learn an indigenous language, there are very few learning resources available and their medium of teaching is in French too. Whatever your position, you need to start with French.
If your French is unbearable, most people in Noumea can revert to English for you. “Unbearable”, to a French person, is everything in between zero and fluent. This can be a relief if you only want to speak English, OR, consummately crushing if you’re actually trying to practise your French on a native speaker but it’s quickly shut down as unworthy. The further away from Noumea you venture, the higher your odds of putting your French into real life practise.
Your first test will likely be at the bread shed buying your first baguette.
YOU: Je prend un baguette, s’il vous plait?
BAKERY MAN: UNE! UNE baguette!!
*unes will be accented by your baguette being repeatedly slammed on the counter
Ok, so let’s get our head around the fact that everything has a gender in French. A baguette is feminine which requires an une, while a croissant is masculine so it needs an un. Ok, got this… but someone still needs to explain to me why une dick is feminine, but un vagina is masculine.
This is why you should learn French. Don’t get caught out saying un dick, like a dick.
The first place Google will tell you where to learn French in New Caledonia is CREIPAC. CREIPAC is a school de langue française and sits pretty on the edge of the city in one of the old bagnes (prisons) next to the ocean. Gotta say, the French got it right when they plonked their penal colony here.
With the best marketing out of all the other French schools in New Cal, everyone with an interest in learning French knows CREIPAC and this is why it draws learners from all over the world. CREIPAC offers one-on-one tuition, group classes, exam prep, homestays, and immersion courses.
I signed up for a week-long immersion course that runs several times a year. Unfortunately, my level was smack in the middle of two levels: too talkative for the lower level, but I has too bad a gramma for the higher level. I had to choose one of the two so of course I picked the higher level since I was paying big bucks to be there. Plus, there’s nothing quite so motivating as being at the bottom of the class.
Although the course was good overall, it could have been better if there were more in-between students to warrant a level in between levels. I experienced two teachers and they were fantastic: attentive, intuitive, and generous with their speaking opportunities. It’s full immersion so don’t expect explanations in English. I came away with a working knowledge of l’imparfait and le conditionnel, a badly woven leaf-plate and a stomach full of bougna (a traditional meal usually cooked underground). I’d say that’s a success, non?
The best activity was the bagne tour: the French guide talked slow enough to make everyone feel like they got their money’s worth out of their French classes. As a standalone activity, it’s worth visiting the bagne as a paying tourist.
Would I recommend CREIPAC? Sure. Although I still prefer the flexibility of online classes with Italki, CREIPAC is nice for a hearty kick up the butt. Like your gym subscription – you go cos you paid for it, not because you want to. You might not leave with French Language abs, but you’ll be one step closer to French Language Abland.
Where CREIPAC is the spendy option, Croix-Rouge (Red Cross) is the cheapie option. They’re so cheap, good luck finding a mention of the language classes on their website. Croix-Rouge has daily classes during the week run by lovely volunteers. You’ll spend less for a year of classes at croix-rouge than an immersive week at CREIPAC. To find out more about their language classes, contact Croix-Rouge on their facebook page or visit them in person during the day.
Here’s a joke.
Why do French people only use one egg to make an omelet?
Because one egg is un oeuf.
Don’t get it? Please see learning suggestions above.