Teaching English in France

France is many people’s dream destination, but life here can be isolating if you are not working or don’t speak French

Teaching English provides a way of making a living, and a way to make new friends.  A 4 week TEFL Certificate course is the minimum qualification you need to start teaching and the place to start.  There is good news too – contrary to popular belief, outside Paris and some  Mediterranean hotspots, most of France is still FAR from being saturated with TEFL teachers. There really is lots of work available.

But it’s not easy choosing the right TEFL course. If you do some “googling” you will often find a course in an attractive location, but something doesn’t feel right. It just doesn’t seem academic. Prices are in dollars, it seems to be targeting American gap year students, it seems too glossy, or you find that the course is not accredited, all online or even held over a weekend in a hotel! Be careful: either you won’t get a job, or you still won’t have good teaching technique upon qualifying, having paid all that money.

It’s essential to choose a course which is going to give you enough quality training to be able to teach your future students to actually speak good English. The vast majority of private language schools in France now consider an externally accredited 4 week TEFL course with at least 6 hours of observed teaching practice, as a minimum requirement to be called to interview. If you can find a course which includes (ie 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.

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What type of work is out there? How much will I get paid? Well, Business English still seems to be No.1. “Young Learners” are on the up in France. Teaching teenager groups after school will probably take off soon, as it did in Spain in the 90s. Telephone or Skype lessons are common in France – and you can do this from home. The student calls you, you teach for half an hour slots usually, and then the school pays you.

You ought to think a little about what kind of teaching you want to do. Would you rather spend your days in the language school staff room and classrooms with other teachers, or is going out to businesses more your thing? Think twice – the latter will integrate you quicker! Does the intimacy of “one to one” lessons appeal, or would you prefer big groups that you can “entertain”? How would you feel about a teaching a group of ten 14 year olds after they park their skateboards at the back of the classroom? Could you cope?

Think about timetable too – the great thing about teaching is that you can work the hours you like – up to 30 a week if you want to make money, or just mornings or evenings for periods when you want to spend more time on a hobby or with family.

So, to pay. Language schools pay 13 to 20 euros an hour and if you can get work teaching at the Universities (“grandes ecoles”) then they pay much more, although you will need a degree as well as your TEFL certificate to teach there. Here in Toulouse TEFL teachers are lucky - there are 5 main universities, and they are often looking for teachers and pay up to 50e an hour. Not many other cities in France can offer such well paid work for TEFL teachers.

Many teachers are now setting themselves up as freelancers (“autoentrepreneurs” under the recent Sarkozy scheme) which has added flexibility – you can bill language schools for hours you do for them, and also bill individual clients that you find yourself. You can even 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. It’s a fun time to set up business in France, and really not that complicated at the start these days.

A TEFL course is highly recommended if you want to get working straight away when you arrive in France or if you are following a partner here. It forms part of a great relocation package. In fact many teachers find lucrative work VIA teaching – 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. The TEFL Certificate gets your foot in the door to kick off your new life in France.

It is advisable to start getting a grounding in French as soon as you arrive. Despite not needing French to teach – good teaching technique that you will learn on a good TEFL course, involves rarely having to translate or explain in French – many schools still prefer you to be able to speak some. Also you will get more private students if you can explain your prices and conditions over the phone! Some TEFL courses (ours does) can offer a French course at a discount rate for trainees.

Whether you choose to teach to make friends, make ends meet, to restart a new career, to be able to integrate in France, or even if you just want to sharpen your business presentation skills, 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! Just imagine!

Jonathan Davies is the owner and course director of TEFL TOULOUSE www.tefltoulouse.com – the only externally accredited 4 week TEFL course in SW France.