A Guide to Teaching English in France

Teach English in France

Why do a TEFL course in France?

It makes sense to do a TEFL course in France if you intend to teach English here afterwards. By doing a TEFL course you never have to have French qualifications and the transition between the course and then living and working in France is much easier than arriving “cold”, having done your training somewhere else.

One of the reasons to get qualified here is that you need to know things like how to set yourself up as a freelancer (“auto-entrepreneur”) in France. It is very unlikely that your TEFL course in Barcelona or Bristol will give you that information!

If you want to teach English in France it also makes sense to do your teaching practice on French people while you are getting trained. You can identify right away what the French tend to struggle with in English and what they enjoy doing in class, so you get a head start.

You will also make connections locally rather than arriving off the plane with no contacts, no friends, no work and nowhere to live. You’ll need a local address and local mobile phone number to be taken seriously, remember. Your TEFL course will help you with all of these things.

France has a reputation of being one of the most bureaucratically difficult countries in the world, and you definitely need a helping hand to get started teaching here. So it is worth remembering that good TEFL courses not only train you to teach English, they also help you get set up locally (bank accounts, mobile phone, accommodation, contacts with local language schools, voluntary teaching jobs to get you started…)

With Brexit it is also possible that UK-based TEFL qualifications may soon not be accepted, so having a TEFL qualification from France (still internationally recognised of course) may help considerably.

All in all you will begin your job search as someone already integrated into local life and knowing how to teach French people. Ready to start working and earning.

Can I do a TEFL course in France – and then work in Asia?

All of the above doesn’t mean you should only do a course in France if you intend to stay and work in the “hexagone”. Many trainees opt to do their 4 week TEFL course in the South of France because of the pleasant sunny and gentle environment in which to train, then head off to Asia or South America. There is little risk of feeling too “depayse” (culturally too far from home) in France. It’s a “low risk” studying environment, i.e. it is unlikely you will be kept awake all night while trying to study (unlike in a few countries to the south of France!)

A lot of the big money in TEFL is in Asia, so that may appeal to those who want to put money in the bank. An established TEFL course in France, such as this one from TEFL Toulouse, will of course have connections all over the world if you want to go and teach in China or Brazil straight away. In any case, wherever you do your course, make sure it is accredited by an external body that specialises in TEFL and that you get at least 6 hours observed teaching practice and 120 hours class time. Beware of courses in big cities (expensive accommodation) and in tiny villages (can they really get students in every afternoon for you to practice teaching on?)

Accommodation and making friends during and after the TEFL course

You should have a fairly easy transition from accommodation during the course to finding something more permanent, and your TEFL course admin people should be able to help you with this. And you will probably also make life-long friends on the course, with whom you can sit in the sunshine with a coffee most days – especially if you choose the south of France for your course.

Also beware of accommodation costs for 4 weeks if you want to do your TEFL in London, Paris, New York, etc. You may end up spending as much on a room for 4 weeks as you do on the TEFL course itself! A good course will have accommodation options to suit all budgets. You shouldn’t be obliged to spend more than about a third of the course fee on accommodation for the 4 weeks.

Note: Beware of 5 week and longer courses – as your accommodation and living costs will spiral.

Can French people do TEFL courses in France?

The answer is a resounding “oui- bien sur!”

There are more and more French people who have returned from living in an English speaking country (e.g. due to Brexit) who also want an easy route into employment in their own country, without having to spend a year or more retraining.

During the COVID outbreak, more and more French people trained to be TEFL teachers in France, as France closed its borders to English speaking countries, and a lot of French people lost their jobs in the tourism sector in the UK. They have been delighted to have found a “short term fix” in terms of getting back into work.

“Se former pour devenir enseignant d’anglais”

Training to be a schoolteacher in France traditionally involves the dreaded CAPES course – up to 5 years of training only to be sent to a rough school to start your career. But you can avoid all this by getting TEFL trained in one month and opting to teach English for language schools, privately or even at universities once you get a bit of experience. And avoiding rowdy kids of course.

A TEFL course is also a quick and easy way to find out if teaching is for you. You may then wish to go on and do the CAPES course if your ultimate goal is job security in France and you find that you enjoy teaching young learners. Good TEFL courses include sessions on teaching “Young Learners” (TEYL) and offer add-on professional development courses in this and other areas.

Can I get funding to do a TEFL course in France?

If you are already registered as unemployed in France, the Pole Emploi will often fund the entire course for you, saving you up to 1700 euros. TEFL Toulouse sends the applicant (just apply online) all the documents they need to show their Pole Emploi adviser to make a claim for funding. About 80% of cases are successful. You just have to make sure your Pole Emploi adviser knows that TEFL is teacher training – not the same as the TOEFL English exam!

If you have been working in France, there is also a chance you may be able to use your CPF (it used to be called DIF) training money to spend on the course.

What advantages do the French have over native speakers of English when training to be English teachers?

  1. As long as they are fluent speakers of English they should have few problems with the TEFL course (they know what an adverb is, unlike many native speakers!).
  2. Language schools love employing teachers who are likely to stay around longer term and are already integrated into the local culture. Nothing annoys language schools more than taking on a new British teacher only to find that 2 months later she has decided to go back home or move to Italy.
  3. French speakers are very good at teaching English to low level students as they can always explain things in French in case of confusion.
  4. French native speakers understand the challenges that French students have learning English – for example the difference between “I ate” and “I have eaten”, and “je suis sensible” and “I am sensible”.
  5. French people are likely to have their own car and can teach those classes in more remote areas.
  6. French speakers can also use their TEFL qualification to teach French as well as English, using the same techniques learnt on the TEFL course.

What kinds of teaching job can I expect after a TEFL course in France?

The main booming area in TEFL in France is Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL). Good TEFL certificate courses will include sessions on this on the course and also offer a “Cert TEYL” extension qualification as an optional add-on module.

Business English is always big everywhere worldwide and France is no exception. One difference in France is that the state pays for training for nearly everyone who is in full-time work, so you get Business English students who just want to talk about rugby!

Online teaching is obviously gaining in popularity. You just need a laptop and a GOOD internet connection (as do your students…) During the COVID pandemic, many classes went online, with very mixed feelings from both students and teachers. Love it or hate it, if you are going to be an English teacher, you really need to know how to teach online, as you will almost certainly be offered some online teaching jobs. Good TEFL courses will include how to teach online in the course rather than make you pay extra for it.

Finally, training people to get through exams such as the TOEIC and TOEFL is very common. More and more businesses require staff to have these exams now, so demand is ever increasing.

Where are most of the teaching jobs in France? Can I teach in a village as well as in a city?

This is a very common question with quite a simple answer. Of course, there are more existing TEFL jobs in big cities, but there is also more competition there. In a village, you may have only 20 people who want to learn English, but perhaps you are the only teacher in the village, so if you can rent a cheap “classroom” in the village hall you could do very well indeed. Or have people coming round to your house (thus saving a lot of money by cutting out the language school and the renting of classrooms).

Of course, in cities you are more likely to have business English students, in the country you are more likely to have pensioners and people working in rural tourism (hotels, restaurants, local guides…)

France street

Do I need a degree to teach English in France?

It depends on the language school. You don’t usually need a degree to get qualified as a TEFL teacher, and it is the TEFL qualification which is important. To get onto an accredited TEFL course you obviously need to have a very good level of English and be able to cope with degree level of study (being able to absorb quite a lot in just 4 weeks).

Do I need a visa to teach English in France?

I could write pages about this, and Brexit means things are changing all the time, but I will try and keep it simple.

  • Americans – yes
  • Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders – yes but under 30s can come on a working holiday visa for a year. Easy to get – just enquire with your local French consulate or Embassy.
  • EU countries (including Ireland) – no

* Remember that even people who need visas can come to France as a tourist for 90 days and do a TEFL training course while they are here.

So how can I get a visa to teach English in France?

If you need a visa to teach in France then there are all sorts of ways of doing so, but don’t expect it to be cheap!

The most popular way is to book a French course of at least 6 months at somewhere like the Alliance Francaise. While doing the course you are allowed to work for around 20 hours a week (not far off a normal teaching timetable anyway). This is going to cost you about 500 euros a month though, so it is going to be tough to pay this, and pay rent and then earn enough to stay afloat. Think of it as a “treading water” approach, if you already have some savings to live on to enjoy life in France.

There are much cheaper French courses available at universities in French cities starting every September, but competition can be high to get accepted. Applications usually take place in January or February for a matter of weeks only. Because these courses are state-run, there is little advertising so they can even be quite hard to find out about. These French courses are not supposed to be used as cheap ways of getting a visa, so to get on the course you need to be clear when applying why you want to improve your French at that particular institution and what you hope to get from the course.

Finally there is the “APS visa”. France wanted to attract more students from around the world to do Masters courses, so they lowered the fees drastically and decided that those who do one can stay on for a year (and even possibly renew after that) while they find work in their field.

The information is on the Campus France website – but there are questions still left unanswered here:

  1. Do you have to work in the field of your Masters?
  2. Can you set up as a freelancer and work that way, or do you need to get a contract from an employer? (many TEFL teachers in France are freelancers – see below)
  3. Can you work during your Masters course, or only after it?
  4. Once your “post Masters” year is up, do you have to give up your job and go home? How do you carry on?

How much money can I make teaching in France?

It is important to realise that most TEFL teachers work for several different language schools as well as teaching privately. Hourly rates are between 15 and 35 euros an hour. Teaching at universities can be paid at up to 50 euros an hour but you need to have been teaching for a few years in France to get those positions (you don’t usually need higher level TEFL qualifications though).

Bear in mind that 20 hours a week “contact time” (i.e. in class) of teaching feels quite light, whereas 30 hours and above feels quite intensive. But it all depends on things like travelling and preparation time too. If you can get block hours at a language school then it is easier to pile on the hours, as it is the travelling between lessons that can be tiring and eat up your day.

The most common scenario is for a language school to hire the newly TEFL qualified teacher tentatively for up to 10 hours a week at the start, before offering you more hours when they realise how good you are!

Can Brits teach English in France after Brexit?

At the time of writing, the UK has left the EU. This means that essentially Brits become “like Americans” in terms of needing a visa to work in France. What is for sure, however, is that France and the rest of Europe still need their usual flow of native-speaking English teachers, so there will no doubt be ways of setting up as an English teacher legally here.

Brits are likely to become like the Swedish and the Swiss, so there shouldn’t be too many problems moving to France and working here, provided that the employer can justify needing you. This shouldn’t be too difficult as most language schools will need native speakers to satisfy their clients and can easily justify this need. It is almost impossible to imagine a scenario where native English speaking teachers cannot get work at language schools in France.

What are the French contract types for TEFL teachers?

Many French language schools will give you the choice: Do you want to work for them as a freelancer (see below) or do you want a contract? Ideally you should go for a contract (unless the hourly rate is more than 20% less) as it gives you the right to unemployment benefit when it ends.

If a language school offers you a contract, it will usually be either short term (“CDD” – contrat à durée déterminée) or if you are very lucky a long term (“CDI” – contrat à durée indéterminée) or even a CDII (a sort of zero hours) contract. After doing a few CDD contracts, companies should legally offer you a CDI, although in these uncertain times most schools would rather avoid this.

Being a freelance teacher (auto-entrepreneur) and having a CDD or CDI contract

More and more language schools prefer their teachers to be registered as freelancers (“autoentrepreneurs” in French). A good TEFL course in France will show you exactly how to set yourself up, and you must know how to do this. You then just bill the language school or individual student at the end of each job or month, just as a plumber would. It’s important to work for several schools for you to be a genuine freelancer, but of course this is what you want anyway – plenty of work!

You’ll pay a little more in tax as a freelancer so you should insist on a higher hourly rate – but you have greater flexibility (“I’ll be away at Easter”). Of course if you charge too much or keep going on holiday then language schools are less likely to take you on or renew your contract.

And before you ask… yes you CAN work on a contract with a language school and also work as a freelancer at the same time. You don’t have to pick one or the other. Just be a bit careful that you are not paying twice for healthcare insurance!

TEFL Toulouse’s 4-week course tells you exactly how to set up as an autoentrepreneur and find teaching work in France.

When is the main hiring period in France for TEFL teachers?

Language schools in France look for teachers year-round. It’s a simple equation: language schools need teachers at the times when people buy their English classes. If you wanted to learn Italian would you only consider starting your course in September? Of course not. But you are unlikely to start on December 20th or on July 10th…

Bear in mind that almost everyone is on holiday from July 14 to the end of August, so there is very little money to be earned then in French cities. However, language schools often interview in the summer for the September start, so it is great if you can be around to apply for jobs then.

If you live in a nice house, why not offer intensive immersion (live with the family) courses in the holidays?

How long after the TEFL course will I start earning money?

Generally, trainees who stay in France start teaching professionally around a week or two after finishing the course, then build up hours to get a full teaching timetable by around a month later. So you will need some money to survive for the first 6 weeks or so until you get your first paycheck.

What are the healthcare and living costs for TEFL teachers in France

As a rule of thumb, eating and drinking wine is cheaper, drinking beer is generally more expensive than the UK or USA. Eating out at night in France can be much cheaper than most imagine – a fabulous French dinner with plenty of wine can be had for 25 euros in Toulouse – and for about 12 euros at lunchtime. Street markets are a wonderful French experience! A bottle of wine costs about 4 euros at supermarkets. You can travel very cheaply within France and around Europe using Flixbus. For renting after the course, a room in a shared flat goes for about 400 euros a month, your own little studio flat for about 600 euros a month.

Finally: A brief history of TEFL in France

TEFL is actually quite a young profession in France. Throughout the 80s, the French didn’t want to learn English for anything except impressing friends by quoting Shakespeare at the dinner table. But then the fast train from Paris to London opened in the 90s, and young Parisians realised they could work in London and earn London money – if they spoke English. They also realised they could make friends with the Spanish and Italians when on holiday if they could only find a mutual language to use. And travel the world!

But even into the early 2000s, language schools all over France were hiring any native speaker with a degree, as long as they knew what an adverb was (many didn’t). One of the reasons for such a blind attitude to hiring is that there were few, if any, proper training courses in France to learn how to be an English teacher, and France doesn’t trust “foreign” qualifications. The problem wasn’t solved overnight. In protectionist France, schoolteaching of English is still largely done by French people who have had to undertake the dreaded CAPES schoolteaching training. Few native English speakers would dare to even attempt it. The training couldn’t be more traditional, with kids and students often having to memorize poems and recite them in front of the class, before being made a mockery of by teacher and peers alike. One can hardly imagine a worse way to get young people confident and fluent in English.

When all of this is taken together you can see the need for proper quality English teaching in France, and the French can too, now. The floodgates opened in roughly 2010 and now it is possible to live the dream of living and working in France as a foreigner, and you may have noticed that many French people are starting to sound pretty good in English.

Jonathan Davies

Jonathan Davies

Jonathan Davies is the founder and director of TEFL Toulouse. He has 30 years of experience teaching English in France, Spain and the UK. He first fell in love with Toulouse during his 6 months as an exchange student in 1991, so he was thrilled to return to the city 18 years later to offer what has become the biggest and best known TEFL course in the South of France.

Related

Teacher training courses in France
Teaching jobs in France
English language schools in France
Ask a question about France in the forum

2 comments and teachers' experiences of France

Note - Some of these experiences were shared before the article above was written

  1. Joanne Millar

    Good afternoon everyone

    I am very interested in teaching English in France as a native speaker and have four TEFL qualifications – are there any tips or assistance you could give

    Thank you in advance

  2. Eslbase

    Hi Joanne

    You won’t see a huge number of language school jobs in France listed on TEFL sites. They tend to rely more on freelance teachers who are already living there. Most teachers in France build up work from a variety of sources – a few hours with a language school here, some private work there… For this reason it is probably best to think about a city in France where you’d like to be, move there, and then find work. You would probably want to register as a freelance teacher or “auto-entrepreneur” first – Google something like “setting up as auto-entrepreneur in France”).

    I know that moving to a country without work can pose financial problems as you’re looking for / building up work. One solution is to start with babysitting / tutoring with one or more agencies (have a look at our TEFL Jobs page for some examples). I know it’s probably not what you’re looking for, but can be a way to survive financially while building up ESL work.

    Hope that helps.

Add your comment or experience of France

Your email address will not be published.