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Alliance Française, a worldwide cultural and educational organization...

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Headquartered in the French capital city of Paris, the Alliance française (AF) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote French language and culture outside France. Its primary concern is teaching French as a second language.

The Alliance was founded in Paris on July 21, 1883 by a group of eminent men, including the scientist Louis Pasteur, the diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps, the writers Jules Verne and Ernest Renan, and the publisher Armand Colin.

Louis Pasteur
Louis Pasteur, French
microbiologist and chemist

It finances most of its activities through the fees for its courses and from rentals of its facilities. The French government also provides a subsidy, covering approximately five percent of its budget (nearly €665,000 in 2003).

More than 420,000 students learn French at numerous centers run by the Alliance, whose network of schools includes:

  • a center in Paris,
  • locations throughout France for foreign students, and
  • 1,135 locations in 138 different countries.

The organizations outside Paris are independently-run country federations, which are further divided into regional chapters. Each one has its own officers, language teachers, and program committees.

In the U.S., for example, the Federation of Alliances Françaises (founded 4 March 1902) reported a total of 130 chapters in 45 states during 2007. In the United Kingdom, there are 11 chapters and more than 40 French clubs supported by the Alliance Française de Londres. The Federation of Alliances Françaises in Australia boasts 31 chapters.

The Alliance française brand is owned by the Paris center. In many countries, the Alliance française of Paris is represented by a Délégué général.


Although language courses are the organization's mainstay, Alliance chapters offer many other social and educational programs to members and non-members alike, which vary by location. These run the gamut, and may include Beaujolais nouveau and French cheese tastings, Bastille Day celebrations, conversation groups, travel presentations, film series, scholarship committees, and conferences on a wide variety of topics (poetry, music, literature, current events, etc.).


Membership in the Alliance is open to anyone with an interest in French language and culture. Dues and member benefits vary by chapter. Discover France is proud to be a member of the Alliance; we encourage all our visitors to contact their local chapters and discover the wealth of activities available!


In 2005, along with the Società Dante Alighieri, the British Council, the Goethe-Institut, the Instituto Cervantes and the Instituto Camões, the Alliance française was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for outstanding achievements in communications and the humanities.

Alliance Française Timeline

The "Association nationale pour la propagation de la langue française dans les colonies et à l’étranger" was created under the aegis of Pierre Foncin and ambassador Paul Cambon.
On March 10th, the Paris Alliance’s board of directors was established. Some of the illustrious names on the board included : Ferdinand de Lesseps (diplomat), Louis Pasteur (chemist and biologist), Ernest Renan (writer), Jules Verne (writer), Armand Colin (publisher), among others. Barcelona was the first European city to welcome the Alliance. The Spanish network would thenceforth spread very rapidly. The Alliance also set up shop in Senegal and in Mauritius that same year. Thanks to the initiative of a group of friends, a chapter of the Alliance Française opened in Mexico and to this day the Alliance is still highly regarded in Latin America.
The Alliance became accredited by the French state.
The Alliance broadened its horizons to Asia with its first chapter in India.
Berthe Mouchette, an art professor, created the first Australian Alliance in Melbourne.
The Paris Alliance taught 516 students.
Mac Gill University in Montréal opened a chapter and a Federation of Alliances Françaises started in the USA.
The Alliance had 150 committees in France and 450 abroad.
The Dominican Republic opened the first chapter in the Antilles.
The Paris Alliance (i.e. École pratique de la langue française) at 101 boulevard Raspail opened its doors. By 1930 the Paris School had 4,800 students.
After a difficult time, the Alliance began making a comeback. An exhibit on the teaching of French as a foreign language brought in a thousand or so visitors.
The Alliance archives were taken to Berlin where the Nazis planned "the destruction of the instruments of the propagation of the French language and notably the Alliance Française".
During its 60th anniversary, General de Gaulle made a historic speech in Alger, wherein he reaffirmed the Alliance’s mission. In 1944 the Paris School reopened its doors after a long period of closure during the Occupation.
Many of the School’s staff and students from before the war returned to the Alliance.
The Paris School was called "École internationale de langue et de civilisation françaises" ("The International School of French Language and Civilization").
After a building renovation, 101 boulevard Raspail added on two more floors. The Georges Duhamel Center was inaugurated and the student in-take capacity of the Alliance was henceforth doubled.
A banner year at the Alliance: 32,000 students registered for courses in Paris.
The Alliance was set up in 80 countries.
The Alliance celebrated its centenary in the presence of the President of the French Republic, François Mitterrand.
The Paris International School welcomed students from 187 countries.
A new framework agreement was signed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Alliances throughout the world stepped up a modernization program. In Paris, a large multimedia resource center opened its doors.
The worldwide Alliance network experienced significant growth (over 9%). Launch of a pedagogical web site and creation of an online directory of the network ( The Alliance Française’s associations numbered 1,072 in 130 countries.
The Fondation Alliance Française (Alliance Fran¨aise Foundation) is formed.

Content edited and portions written by Ian C. Mills.
Image credits: Photo of Louis Pasteur by Félix Nadar, French photographer (1854-1910), Paris.


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