How to make a living in France without French qualifications


Looking for a way to earn an income in France? Getting a TEFL qualification means you will be able to teach English in France and it only takes 4 weeks

Isn’t it frustrating that France doesn’t recognize your qualifications and experience? You didn’t expect that when you arrived. You managed fine to work as an electrician when you spent that year in Australia. So why not here?

How can I obtain French qualifications when my French isn’t good enough to understand the course?

Well, you can’t really, unless you drastically improve your French.

So why not gain a qualification that is recognized in France and worldwide… in something you are already an expert at?

Many people train to become teachers of English as a Foreign Language (TEFL teachers) when they are still in the UK. But now you can also do this same qualification in France, and in just 4 weeks. This means doing your teaching practice teaching French people, and getting to know the TEFL market approaches to employment here. The even better news is that if you are unemployed, the Pole Emploi may even pay for you to do it.

Not only that, but there is a lot of work about once you qualify. The French have finally accepted that to work with Europeans and to travel and do business worldwide, they need to speak good English. Hence a big demand for teachers all over France. Most of France is still far from being saturated with TEFL teachers.

How to find a good TEFL qualification course?

The course needs to

– be externally moderated and accredited by an official organisation that specialises in checking up on TEFL courses

– be entirely onsite at a well equipped training centre, with little to no online element

– be at least 4 weeks long

– give you at least 6 hours observed teaching practice, with detailed feedback from experienced and qualified teachers

– give you help planning your lessons

– contain at least 120 hours of input altogether (i.e. 30 hours a week of class time)

– contain sessions on teaching one to one lessons as well as group classes

– offer modules on teaching Young Learners and teaching Business English (either free or as paid add-ons)

Unfortunately though, if you do some “Googling” for the above, you will often land on a TEFL course in an attractive location (pictures of Monaco, Desert Islands, the Eiffel Tower…) but… where is the address of the training centre? A pop up box tells you to “give us your email and we will send you a brochure showing all our dazzling TEFL locations. Suddenly, the 4 week TEFL course in France you Googled has taken you to a weekend TEFL course… in a hotel… in London. Or to a “prices slashed” 200 hour course… all online… or “TEFL + internship, Thailand”.

Remember that language schools around the world, quite rightly, will be unlikely to employ someone who hasn’t had proper training, ideally at a local training centre that they have heard of and has a physical address.

TEFL courses with Young Learners and Business English modules

If you can find a course which includes (i.e. doesn’t charge extra for) modules on teaching Young Learners (language learners aged 5 to 17) or Business English then that is an added bonus as these are growing areas. Or just pay extra for an add-on one or two week module if you want to focus particularly on one of those areas. Many language schools like their YL teachers to be in their 20s or early 30s, while they can still handle kids with energy! The best /most sought after Business English teachers are often in their 50s, so you are never too old!

What type of TEFL work is out there?

Business English still seems to be the most popular, just edging ahead of General English and teaching English to “Young Learners” (aka 6 to 17 year olds).

In France, salaried workers are given allowances which they can spend on any training course of their choice, and many company employees opt for English lessons provided by the local language school. The language schools in turn, need Business English teachers. Incidentally, Business English teachers do not always need a grounding in Business themselves, as Business English students often want to learn how to socialise with clients, or follow a book to pass Business English exams.

Another reason not to panic if you don’t have a business background is that often Business English classes just turn into General English classes, once the students realise they need the basics first!

Teaching English by telephone or Skype

Telephone – or more recently Skype – lessons are common in France, and you can teach them from your home. Quite a few websites have sprung up recently, playing the role of middle man between Skype teacher and student. Of course you still need to know your stuff with one to one lessons… as students are more likely to “hijack” the proceedings and ask grammar questions!

How many hours a week do I need to teach to make money? How much do language schools pay?

The fact that you will most likely be will be topping up your work at language schools with private teaching work, means that you can work the number of hours you like – up to 30 a week if you want to make money, or just mornings or evenings for periods of the year when you want to spend more time on a hobby, another job or with family.

Language schools in France pay roughly 18 to 35 euros an hour, (depending usually on how much THEY make from the lesson). After a few years’ experience in France you can get work teaching at universities as a “vacataire” (supply teacher) earning over 50 euros an hour, teaching big groups. France is exceptional in this respect, that you can do so well after just a 4 week TEFL course and a few years’ experience. In other countries teachers often need the DELTA (next qualification up after the TEFL) to teach at universities.

Should I set up as a freelancer (auto-entrepreneur) in France, or do CDD work? Or both?

Many TEFL teachers are now setting themselves up as freelancers (auto-entrepreneurs as they are known officially in France) which has added flexibility – you can bill language schools for hours you do for them, and also bill individual clients that you find yourself. If all of this sounds confusing to you, just consider yourself not as a teacher but as a plumber, who provides a service and leaves a bill!

You can be a freelancer and have contracts – you don’t have to choose one or the other. Of course if you are a freelancer you can choose your own rates and conditions too, although the client or language school will say a sharp “non” if your rates are too high. Sometimes they will just tell you the amount that they are happy for you to bill them, which is easiest for everyone. Just remember that you would need to charge about 20 – 25% more as a freelancer than you would on a CDD (aka short term) contract, as you have to pay your own taxes.

Why do a TEFL course? Are there any downsides?

A 4 week TEFL course is highly recommended if you want to get working straight away when you arrive in France, avoid having to get French qualifications, integrate into French working life, plan to leave France for another foreign country at some point, are sick of office jobs, or if you are following a partner here. It forms part of a great relocation package, and you will also be likely to remain friends with the others you did the course with.

If you are registered unemployed in France, the Pole Emploi may well fund your course at TEFL Toulouse.

The only downside is that you are unlikely to become a millionaire teaching English in Europe. If your aim is to make big bucks, then you might want to look elsewhere. But…

…TEFL can lead to great things!

Maybe you are still not sure that English teaching is for you. So the last word here is that many teachers find lucrative work via teaching English. It’s not at all rare for companies to ask the visiting teacher if they would like to come and work for them in another capacity or to be a full- time, in-house teacher. Darren Tulett, a familiar French face and bearded “BEIN Sport” anchor man, kicked off his life in France with TEFL teaching!

So whether you choose to teach to make friends, make ends meet, to restart a new career, to integrate into French life, or even if you just want to sharpen your business presentation skills or gain confidence addressing groups, an accredited 4 week TEFL course is the place to start. And doing your TEFL course here doesn’t limit you to working in France. Once you have your certificate you can get working straight away, in any city or country you turn up in, worldwide for the rest of your life! TEFL gives you wings!

Jonathan Davies is the owner and course director of TEFL TOULOUSE

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