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Ooh-la-la! A Practical Guide to
Teaching English in France

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Visualize those croissants, patés, baguettes, culture, literature, chateaux, all at your feet after a hard day's work teaching English in France...

Why not you?

teaching English in France - chateau de ChenonceauOne of France's many chateaux

Travel costs money, and giving language classes is one way to refill that empty purse or to spend a bit of time in this wonderful country. But then, I'm a bit biased, living in France as I do.


If you're a citizen of the European Union, it's a piece of cake. Come to France, get a job. Period.

If you're not...

Teaching English in France if you're not an EU citizen

It is not impossible to teach English in Europe (legally) if you're not an EU citizen but it is very very difficult. There are thousands of Americans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders teaching in Paris right now, but many of them do so illegally.

According to French law, a company or school can only hire a non-EU citizen if it can prove that those skills can't be found in the country. With the high number of British and Irish teachers available, there's little chance of hiring anyone from outside Europe.

If you're still willing to brave the odds and go the legal route, at least make sure chances are on your side by doing the following:

  • Get certified. Get your TEFL or CELTA. (Quote the promo code SCRIBE35 to get a 35% discount with my TEFL link).
  • Prepare your employment package: a French CV, translation of your diplomas and official documents.
  • Brush up on your French - it'll be hopeless to try finding a job without at least some French.
  • Decide where you want to apply. Use the Yellow Pages (Pages Jaunes). Visit the schools in person.

TIP: Remember, you can usually stay in the country as a tourist up to three months, so that will give you more time to find work.

To work legally, a company will have to request a visa for you, so the competition is fierce. If a company offers you a job teaching English in France, it will get you the work permit. If you're specialized, say in IT or something similar, you'll have a far better chance. Otherwise, it may be a question of luck, of being at the right place at the right time.

There are several other ways of working in France legally: through a working holiday visa, by becoming an assistant, or with a student visa.

Teaching English in France: working holiday visas

For now, working holiday visas - which allow you to work for up to a year - are available for citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Colombia.

Here are some of the basic qualifications for this type of arrangement:

  • Be between 18-30.
  • Be a first-time participant.
  • Have a return ticket in hand.
  • Have proof that you have enough money to cover at least some expenses.
  • Have travel insurance to cover your entire stay.

The good thing about this program is that you get a one-year multiple-entry visa, which means you can go in and out of the country - and the entire Schengen territory, which covers a large part of Europe.

This particular program doesn't seem to be available to Americans.

Becoming an Assistant is one way to teach in France

There is a way Americans (and citizens of a lot of other countries) can teach English in France legally and that's by becoming an Assistant. You don't even need to be in the country to apply.

Here's how you qualify:

  • Speak French (at least the basics)
  • Be 20-35 years old
  • Have a college degree (or have at least two years towards a foreign language degree)
  • Be a US citizen. In some cases, having a Green Card may be enough.

The pay, at around 950 Euros a month, is nothing to write home about, although you can survive on this if you're outside Paris or the Riviera. You can choose your region, but the government will assign you a town. And you can do the program twice if you want to!

I live near Annecy, a jewel on the shores of a major alpine lake. It has canals, a moat surrounding the prison, fantastic food, a fabulous flea market or brocante under the ancient arcades each month, and it's half an hour from Geneva, if you feel like a change from France. If you ski, you can't do much better!

And since the Assistant's workload of 12 hours a week is relatively light, you'll have plenty of time for sports.

You'll find some more tips in the Teaching Assistant in France Survival Guide.

Obtaining a student visa

This isn't perhaps the most orthodox way of getting a job but you can usually get a student visa in France as long as you are a bona fide student. You used to have to be a student at a real university but France now allows you to be a student at a language school!

Foreigners have been using this avenue for teaching English in France for years. Once you have the coveted student visa, you're allowed to work part-time while you study, up to 20 or so hours a week. Many people then supplement this legal work with private lessons which they don't declare.

BUT - the French government isn't stupid and it's onto this. At a few hundred euros a semester, registering at university is cheap and a preferred way to get into the country to work. I've met students well over thirty who have never even set foot in a classroom and who have been working in France for years on a student visa.

Teaching English in Paris

Teaching English in Paris is probably more challenging than in other parts of France. It's the most popular city, the most fun, the most fashionable - and the one with the greatest competition.

French companies are expected to spend part of their budget on employee training and education, so many opt for English, since it makes such a great contribution to the workplace. Since most large companies are located in Paris, it stands to reason that this is where most of the jobs will be.

I wouldn't neglect France's other great cities - Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Lyon... even Grenoble, with its large R&D base.

Some teaching tips

  • Make sure you arrive in France with plenty of cash. If you need to rent an apartment or studio, you'll have to pay up to three months' rent deposit - your money will disappear fast.
  • Learn some French. There are plenty of schools or university courses to be had. This is imperative if you're looking for work.
  • France isn't like many English-speaking countries: don't expect to make a phone call and get all the information you need. You may have to visit a number of offices in person to get things done - and you may need an appointment to do so!
  • When schools send you out to clients, they may not always pay for your transportation. Nor is tax deducted at source. Make sure you check first, or your hard-earned money may be eaten up by buses and income tax.
  • The most common work for non-EU English teachers is private tutoring. Put up an ad - there are English churches and bookshops, university boards, and plenty of online forums - and mention you're a native English language speaker! This is, of course, not legal.
  • There's also substitute or supply teaching, as a vacataire. You'll probably make even more money than through a school, although you'll have to work harder to find it.
  • The best time to find a job teaching English in France is just before each semester starts, in September or January.
  • The pay is wide-ranging, starting at around 15 Euros an hour for private lessons to 60 Euros or more in the business sector.
  • There are plenty of English language teachers, which means strong competition. If you have another skill, like IT or marketing, try providing that course in English at a business school. You may find you've got more takers than for language alone.
  • Last but not least - and sorry to be a downer - stay off the roads on Friday and Saturday nights. French - especially the men - drink and drive, regardless of the penalties. Country roads are littered with small memorials to accident victims.
  • A final word: France is a wonderful country and I love it to bits. But, it can be hugely frustrating if you're used to efficiency. At times things appear illogical and time-consuming - don't worry, they are! You'll probably get used to it but until you do, just look around at the beauty, taste the delectable food, study the arcane political system - in other words, just grin and bear it.

Resources for teaching English in France

French Embassy in the US
FUSAC - French USA Contacts
MyTEFL (use my promo code "SCRIBE35" for a 35% discount)
TESOL France
Shared Accommodation

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