I just arrived in Paris (November 2014). Are there any programs for foreigners that you can learn French? I would prefer something free if it is possible. Like if there is a state program. Time is not an issue, as I'm planning to stay here.
Free French Courses
I am not aware of publicly advertised free French courses in Paris, and a quick google search seems to agree with me. However I can speculate that you could find local cultural/religious groups that might offer such courses. You could for example go to your local church/mosque/synagogue/temple and try asking people there.
I would also say it is safe to assume that the local expatriate communities might have organised something. It would be up to you to find them.
Paying for the Courses
This website lists various possible non-free cost-effective solutions, including municipal course, activity centres and cultural associations. Lucky for you, the website is in French. :)
The municipal course by the Mairie de Paris (Mayor of Paris) look fairly cost-effective. They offer annual courses, both day and night lessons, for all possible language levels (A1-C2) and educational groups. More information can be found on the website of the Mairie de Paris.
Another option could be the Alliance Française which offer various paying courses. These are more expensive than municipal courses, however they might be better in terms of one-to-one tutoring and "reputation" of the school. The full syllabus can be found here.
It maybe isn't a formal (free) course, but I would recommend teaching English. When I stayed in Paris I lived for over a year in the cite universitaire. On the campus there was a Espace langues, where volunteers taught foreign languages to French speakers.
I volunteered to teach English. Not many french are interested in learning Dutch :(. The courses were typically 4-6 weeks and mainly consisted on conversation courses. While I was teaching English, I learned that I actually got to practice my French as well. It appeared to be a great opportunity to meet locals and I still have some good friends among my former pupils. Usually we spoke english during the course, but afterwards at party the main language was French.
While in Paris, I wouldn't rely to much on formal classes, since you can have the real thing everywhere, every day.
I actually started formal classes after leaving france, to keep the level I had while living there.
Here are a few options I know of:
- Everywhere in France, the local GRETA, a part of the Éducation nationale (the government department in charge of education), offers lifelong learning opportunities, including French as a second language courses for immigrants. Here are links for the Greater Paris area and Paris itself (the website is not very easy to use, scroll down to “Rechercher une formation” and select “Langues - FLE” under “Domaine”).
- The CNED is another part of the same department, in charge of distance learning. They have French courses as well.
- The Alliance française is a private organization funded primarily by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It's mostly tasked with promoting French culture abroad rather than helping migrants in France and therefore offers (pricey) courses in various places around the world but it does also have a center in Paris.
- A peculiarity: In Paris the municipality offers French language courses for adults.
- The Ministry of the Interior also provides courses through the OFII (not sure if you have to pay for them or not, apparently they are more-or-less mandatory for some people applying on a specific type of visa/residence permit so maybe not the best environment to learn).
- Universities offer French language courses as well. Usually, they are only intended for their own students (including international students) but do consider the fact that registering at the university in France is not very expensive and also comes with cheap health insurance and can be helpful to get/renew a visa. Depending on your situation, pursuing some university degree could be interesting for you.
FLE.fr is a private website with many links to private and public institutes. I didn't know it before looking up info to prepare this answer but it seems useful. The Ministry of Culture has some useful links as well.
Useful to know: What you are looking for is called “Français langue étrangère” or “Français langue seconde” in French (technically “langue seconde” is something slightly different).