"Boy, those French. They have a different word for everything." - Steve Martin
French is the fifth most-spoken language in the world and the second most-learnt foreign language and a lot of people are looking to study French as a foreign language.
So if you studied French at university, how do you become a French teacher? Who and where will you teach?
In this article, we’ll look at the teaching opportunities for French teachers and more generally, anyone studying a linguistics or language program looking to move onto teaching once they've graduated.
While we're focusing on French here, a lot of this information can be used for anyone with an aptitude for modern languages to help their students become bilingual or fluent in their foreign language.
Teaching French as a Foreign Language
As a teacher of French, you’ll be teaching those who don’t speak French as their first language.
This is different from how students in France would learn French, for example. French is the second most common second language for people to learn since if you want to learn French in France, you can do so through immersion. Of course, there are students in France learning French as a second language as they don’t speak French at home. This means they learn the language just as they would any other foreign language.
However, teaching a language as a foreign language is different from learning your native language. French can be taught to anyone and in French-speaking countries, it’s often taught to immigrants and refugees. Since everyone’s in the same boat when learning a foreign language, anyone can learn a foreign language, making your classes quite diverse.
A French teacher has three main goals:
- To teach French vocabulary, grammar
- Promote the language and French culture through your teaching
- Set learning goals that each student can achieve as they achieve language proficiency or fluency
- In schools, colleges, or universities, their goals may be to help students with their coursework, preparing for exams, etc.
In order to do this, you need to have good teaching skills. You need to be patient and empathetic and understand each student’s difficulties. You also need to observe and quickly adapt to your students. As you’ll have already learnt a foreign language, you’ll understand exactly what the students are going through.
That said, you don’t have to become a French teacher in the British school.
Teaching French Abroad as a Language Assistant
You could always become a French teacher abroad or a teaching assistant and help teachers in their language classes.
Generally, teaching assistants or language assistants are looking to become teachers in the future.
A French language assistant helps the French teacher throughout their lessons. Generally, they are never tasked with teaching the lessons on their own. That said, they may have to work with small groups of students.
Language assistants may work for a single semester or an entire school year. Of course, most language assistant positions are for native speakers as they can help the teacher with their knowledge of the language.
In rare cases, a non-native speaker can become a language assistant with the right DELF or DALF score. There are usually around 1,400 places for French foreign language assistants in various countries.
Generally, applications are done at the start of the year (between January and March). For these places, you need to be between 20 and 35, a French national, living in France, and at least in the second year of your degree. They also require that you have a B1 level in the language spoken in the country you’re applying to.
The language assistant contract lasts for an academic year but can be renewed if the school requests it.
Teaching French Abroad
You could also teach French in other countries. You can work in language centres teaching foreign languages or, with the right qualifications, in schools.
Depending on the country, there are many different ways to become a teacher. In this situation, you'll be teaching French to students who mightn't speak English either.
Regardless of the country, though, you’ll probably be providing French lessons to help children or adults improve their language skills.
Much like in the UK, you’ll need to have studied French and teaching. Unlike being a language assistant, you’ll be the teacher in front of the whole class. Of course, this usually comes with more work and better pay.
In addition to traditional lessons, you may be teaching language workshops. These give students an opportunity to use their new language skills and work on their speaking and pronunciation. Students can also work on projects together.
In some countries, you can apply directly to school and establishments whereas in others, you’ll have to go through a process to become a teacher. The working conditions and expectations can vary wildly by country so choose carefully.
Generally, you’ll need an undergraduate degree in the language and a post-graduate degree in teaching. You’ll also be expected to have a very high level of French (C2, for example).
Of course, French mightn’t be the only subject you teach. If you speak multiple languages, you might be able to teach them all if they’re taught at the establishment you’re applying to. Thanks to the internet, it’s never been easier to find teaching jobs around the world.
So do you fancy being a French teacher in a foreign country?
Teaching French as a Foreign Language as an Independent Teacher
To teach French as a foreign language, you could always be a freelance teacher.
You can become a freelancer online in just a few clicks. You’ll have to register as a sole trader.
Whether you’re teaching over webcam or in person, you can teach in a language centre, at your own home, or at your student’s home. You get to set your rates and plan your schedule.
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You’ll pay tax in accordance with what you earn. If you don’t earn, you won’t pay. It’s very easy to register as a sole trader. You just need to complete the form on the government website and you’ll be ready to go.
You don’t have to pay anything to become a sole trader. If you find yourself on a site that’s asking for money, it’s a scam. You should do it on the gov.uk site.
You’ll have to create an account on the gov.uk before you can complete the form. If you earned more than £1,000 through self-employment the previous tax year, you’ll have to sign up as a sole trader. As a sole trader, you’ll be responsible for filing your own taxes. Of course, you can always employ an accountant to help you with this.
Don’t forget to take your business expenses into consideration, too.
So how will you teach French as a foreign language?
If you need help with your own language learning, you might want to consider getting help from a French tutor or by attending language courses at language schools. Tutors can teach you exactly what you need to know or even teach French courses for teaching French in the future.
On Superprof there are plenty of tutors offering to tutor in different subjects and skills. Generally, there are three main types of private tutorials: face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials. Each of these has their advantages and disadvantages so you'll need to work out which one works for you, your learning style, and your objectives.
Group tutorials are a lot like your traditional classes at school as there's one tutor teaching multiple students. These tend to be the cheapest type of tutorials as the cost is shared amongst the students in attendance. If you and a few friends want to learn a new skill, for example, you could get together to hire a tutor.
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Face-to-face tutorials involve one tutor and one student. Since the tutorials are tailored to the student, the tutors tend to charge more. However, these tutorials are also the most cost-effective since the tutor is focused on you every minute of the lesson.
Finally, online tutorials make use of modern technology to teach students remotely. With an internet connection, webcam, and a video conferencing programme like Skype, you can get private tutoring from tutors all over the world. With fewer expenses, the tutors can pass their savings onto the end customer, you!