Free French Class Program

COVID-19 information [updated September 2nd 2021]

Classes are held virtually (Zoom) until further notice.

The application period has ended. Please visit this page in August 2022.

Please note that you need to be registered to attend the classes.

From September to the end of June, Saint-Esprit offers free French lessons on Sunday mornings from 9am to 10am and 10 am to 11 am in classrooms at 109 East 60th Street, next door to the church (or via Zoom during the pandemic).

Yes, these French classes really are free! We have offered this as a service to our fellow New Yorkers since 1884. If you are lucky and get a spot in our classes after applying, we will only ask that you purchase your textbook (from any book store, currently about $10-20).

The application process is followed by a draw of chance. It takes at least 1 hour of full attention and based on availability, the acceptance rate is 50% or less.

An introduction by the Rev. Nigel Massey


[Please, note that the levels and information have changed (updated 07/31/2021]

Common questions and answers:

  • Can I just register? There is an application process followed by a draw of chance. You will be registered only if your application is accepted and your name is drawn out. The purpose of this application is to test your motivation and attention. The application takes about 1 hour to fill in. It is hard and requires your full attention for the whole hour. Most answers are in the question or at least an explanation on how to come up with the answer is included, all you need to do is pay attention and process the information, which is what you will need to do in class anyway. Students with the best grades will be put in a pool and then we will proceed to a draw of chance. This year, we expect the acceptance rate to be 50% or less! If these odds are not worth 1 hour of your time to fill in this application, you may reconsider applying now.
  • Which class should I apply for? Please, read through each class description below, the requirements are clearly stated and you should be able to know if you qualify.
  • What if I apply to the wrong class? You cannot change level once you applied, and you can only apply to 1 level, so as stated before, read thoroughly and take time to choose wisely. This is unfortunately due to some students trying in previous years to apply to classes with lesser-demand only to not meet the requirements and ask to be put in the beginner level. In our best effort to keep the application process fair for everyone, we ask you to take your time and make sure you meet the requirements before you apply. You have the whole month of August to figure it out. Take your time. Applications are not time sensitive.
  • How do you select students? The test is designed to make sure you will be able to follow through our lesson plan and are motivated enough to take the time to study on your own and commit to attending. However, there is still a chance factor because of the great number of applications we receive every year. To put it in perspective, when in person, we receive on average 1,500 applications every year. We try to accommodate about 300 students while our classes are best fitted to teach about 200 students, and this includes students who completed a level in the previous year and come back the next year. So even if you score 100%, your name may not be drawn out.
  • I applied for several years and never got in, can I get a special pass? Unfortunately, this is the case of many prospective students and we cannot make any exception. Even if we were to accept every student who applied for 3 years in a row without getting in, we would not have enough room for everyone. If you don't get in this year, please, try again next year.

Now, please proceed to read the class descriptions as you will have to choose yourself for which level to apply. You cannot apply to 2 different level (automatic deletion).

Beginner Level

Who should apply?

People who have no knowledge of French grammar. But also people who refer to their French knowledge this way: "I took some French in...", "I know some French..." If these are sentences you would have used to decide which level you should apply for, the Beginner level is most likely for you. The reason is that it is very important to perfectly know the basics. Without a stable grammar and spelling foundation, you will most likely stall and feel frustrated. Every year we see students who think they should apply for the Intermediate level or even conversation, but they end up feeling lost and quit. Please, refer to the "Who should apply?" section of other levels and make sure you KNOW the requirements. If not, please apply for begginer.


Philippe: Philippe is a native French speaker and French citizen. He was a business manager working in the cosmetic ingredient business until he retired a couple of years ago to explore new career opportunities. He was born in the United Kingdom to French speaking parents and educated at the French Lycée in London. As a child, he would spend the long summer breaks in France, either in Burgundy, Poitou-Charentes or Aquitaine with his relatives, exploring the landscape and culinary culture!

Frédéric: Fred was born and raised in Paris, France. He graduated in Applied Foreign Languages from the university of Paris West University Nanterre while completing his last year at San José State University (CA). He also holds a Masters Degree in Theology from the University of Strasbourg, France and he is the Office Manager of Saint-Esprit therefore you will hear mostly from him about administrative matters.

About the class

The Beginner level is following a steady fast pace. This means that you are expected to spend time on your homework during the week. It is our experience that 1h a week of French in class is only enough if you spend at least 2h a week at home working on your homework. Please, be aware of this before applying. There will be competitive tests throughout the year. Passing grades are expected to continue the course.

What is expected of students

To attend class, be on time, and participate. You are expected to know the previous week's lesson when you come to class (study) and have done your homework.


Who should apply?

People who KNOW how to conjugate and spell all most common verbs using these tenses in the indicative and imperative modes: passé-composé, imparfait, recent past (venir de + infinitive), present, near future (aller + infinitive). If you can take this sentence "Je mange" and put it in all previously stated tenses, it should be enough. A good knowledge of French basic vocabulary is also expected, along with correct spelling.


Nigel: The Rev. Nigel Massey is the Rector (Priest) of St. Esprit, where he has been working for almost thirty years.  Before coming to America he lived and worked in Paris and London after graduating from Birmingham University (UK) and Oxford University (UK) in Ancient Egyptian, Theology, Ministry and Islamic Studies.

Ruth: Born in Brooklyn, Ruth is an enthusiastic Francophile. She received her BA in French from Queens College and her MA from the U. of Nevada. She taught French and Spanish in Reno and Sacramento high schools for many years before returning to Brooklyn five years ago. Her French travels have included Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux and Rouen. In 2017 she attended the Sorbonne Summer University to continue her life-long study of French Literature. Currently involved in several French meet-ups, she also participates in two French book clubs!

About the classes

Nigel: We will quickly start by reviewing the passé-composé and the imperfect, and move on to study the compound tenses, the future and the subjunctive. Grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary and conversation exercises will often be taught through supplementary handouts and audio-visual materials.

Ruth: The emphasis is going to be on pronunciation and use in context what you have learned in Beginner and Intermediate classes. We will start with very basic lessons (correctly introduce yourself, pronounce the basic words and avoid common mistakes) and will quickly move to harder lessons (describing places, recounting stories, etc.)

What they expects of their students

Nigel: Consistency in attending the classes, as we frequently build on materials from previous weeks to speed up conversation proficiency.  Complete sentences in replying to questions (not just "Oui" or "Non" !) And not to forget to bring previous weeks' handouts to the class!

Ruth: To attend class, be on time, and participate. You are expected to know the previous week's lesson when you come to class (study) and have done your homework.


Ceux qui parlent français couramment. (To avoid beginners applying for conversation to get in, students who apply for conversation and do not meet the requirements will not be able to move to a lower class.)



About the class

Les sujets changeront selon le professeur au cours de l'année.

What is expected of students

Ponctualité et participation. Tout le monde est invité à parler et participer.


The application period has ended. Please visit this site in August 2022. A new link will be provided.

Great! You will need:

  • a strong internet connection on a computer (no tablet or phone)
  • at least 1 hour of free time
  • to have read this page (seriously, some answers might be in here, and some rules if not followed are ground for automatic-deletion)
  • to chose which level you want to apply for