Teach English in France

Teach English in France

Teach English in France – the following comments are from English teachers who have taught, or currently teach English in France.

French administration is fine as long as you get the paperwork right regarding things like residency and work permit; that includes any family. Tax and state contribution issues also need to be well in hand with both UK and France if you are to avoid double whammy or problems later on return to UK. Once you are ‘pigeon-holed’ in France it is a hell of a job to change it! You will need to a) speak French and b) drive. France is a big country by UK standards and not all areas use much English or choose to, and that, along with the different working hours and odd shop closing days/times can make working schedules and shopping trips a bit of a juggle, especially as they vary from region to region.

I found north France (Paris included) more problematic with language than middle and southern France… but I spoke very well quite quickly; you will need to try to do the same so upgrade/refresh any skills before you arrive. Your family should also learn to drive and speak asap for obvious medical/administration and schooling reasons. We lived in a remote village with no English speakers so be warned – it may look idyllic on the TV but it takes some handling!

Take all documents on everything – often originals are needed so don’t end up with social security, professional and medical stuff safely in an English high street bank vault!

Don’t be fooled by the laid back attitude of the southern French; they can be quite inscrutable and that includes students and families of them.

Be prepared for a bit of old fashioned chauvinism – this is often a (rather good and deep) disguise as it is often ‘maman’ who really pulls the strings. Professionally it is rather male dominated but the minority of French lady professionals are very competent and tough; they have to be so treat them as real or risk earache and severe ‘red-taping’ on procedures otherwise.

Students are surprisingly ‘primitive’ quite often in English even though (allegedly) they learn English as a first second language in early school; as usual passive skills are often high and laziness rules OK viz homework and projects time frames. Watch out for humour – it takes some very exotic forms in the south particularly where they often have a rather ‘colonial’ view of England and English teachers. Music often works well as a teaching vehicle… surprisingly poetry does as well. Politics and social life in other countries is cursory knowledge but stimulating with teen learners – the Royals can be both fun subjects and mystifying if too much detail is given or asked for.

Education admin is quite refreshingly traditional (committees, reports) but as a teacher you will have quite a lot of templated forms and procedures and (at higher levels) quite a bit of accountability for progress reports and real goal attainment. Not so ‘cosy’ as some English language schools for example… more real and demanding with the irritating French obsession with terminology exactitude which can be a problem if you do not speak French well; the usual concept translation problems.

That will do for now maybe. Social/family life issues vary from region to region so best to do thorough homework and visit the area if you are moving over as a family. Short term solo existence can be as ‘business trip’ mentality as you choose to make it; ranging from ‘where is the nearest expat support group ie. pub… to ‘I wonder what happens if’ with phrase book and a big smile adventures. The second one is far more fun and near zero-risk believe me! France is not (yet) Papua New Guinea so the natives bite sometimes perhaps but do not chew!

Mike, 18 April 2006


Finding ESL teaching work outside of Paris can be a challenge and it takes time to orientate oneself. Forget trying to find work between June and September as the summer holiday period is long and unless you have an interview lined up beforehand, you will need lots of luck on your side. However, I suggest you email your CV and letter of motivation (in French) to as many addresses as possible (try www.pagesjaunes.com) and above all don’t give up, keep trying. There are jobs out there and you don’t have to be bilingual, just very persistent. Bonne chance!

Colette, 8 May 2006


I live in Amberieu (small town half an hour outside Lyon) and I teach English freelance to adults. There seems to be a great demand for English native speakers, and we are thin on the ground outside the big cities in this part of France. My advice for anyone considering coming over to teach – go for it, if you are a good teacher you will have no difficulty at all in finding work and the quality of life over here is better than that in England (weather, food, open space, sports, culture etc etc) and it’s the best way to improve your French, actually living in the country.

Wendy, 12 December 2006


I have lived in France for 13 years and I think that it is not so much what you know but rather who you know. The French seem to focus on what qualifications you have (often without checking them) and if it looks good on paper that’s what counts! I am a nurse and have taught English for several years. I have just completed a specialised course in “teaching medical English” if anyone out there is interested to know more about that, do send me a mail (contact Jane through eslbase).

Jane, 4 October 2007


In France you will pay a lot of tax and many students will not be interested in learning English because the French government makes companies provide staff with English lessons. French people can also be quite rude and seem to enjoy it. It is best to move to France to find a TEFL job.

Paul, 18 October 2007


France is very expensive – food, clothes and drinking in bars is very expensive, more expensive than any other country in the EU, it is much more expensive than the UK. Finding a place to stay in Paris which is where most of the TEFL jobs are is very very hard because most ads you phone are gone or at least 50 people will call in a day, it can take a month to find a place unless you get lucky.

Carl, 15 March 2008


I am American but have been living in France for over 25 years. My husband is French, so I had no problems getting a work permit. If you want to do ESL for professionals, you probably can ask for a bit more if you are American. Of course it is harder for us to work here, which explains the shortage of qualified American English teachers. If you are planning on staying in France, I would recommend getting another job, training, etc. where your English language skills are necessary. Then as a second career, or perhaps if you have kids, want to work part-time, etc. doing ESL training . You get to meet great people, visit lots of companies, and learning is a win-win situation. Of course you will not make loads of money and there will be very few fringe benefits, so you have to know what you are getting into. But once you are known in this field, you will be able to work for higher paying agencies. Good luck!

Jacquie, 2 June 2009


I teach English on the phone to Europeans. My adult learners’ companies pay for their lessons. My learners are very polite. Perhaps, it is the fact that they are adults and are earning okay incomes for Europe that they are interested in learning English or that they get a 5 week holiday. As much as France sounds beautiful and appealing (sometimes my learners describe their weekend in Versailles or sailing in the Cote D’Azur when you basically were able to just step out to grocery shop), image is very important for Europeans, so there is pressure to have this “bourgeiosie” lifestyle which can be deceiving and plain false. You feel that many are “boasting” even about their adventures to Corsica or Majorca. There is a constant need to fulfill their teenage-like egos, and all they keep on talking about is their previous 5-week holiday or their upcoming sojourn in the next trendy spot in Europe. They are OBSESSED with pleasure and travelling, keeping up appearances. You can surmise then that they are not hard-workers. They do not have a strong working ethic even though Germans and French will tell you otherwise. They also have a bit of a superiority complex and entitlement issues, one learner just bluntly made fun of Americans, arguing that France has more culture and history. Because of this, they do not have to work as hard or prove themselves. However, I never opened a discussion for debate or incited any competitive duel. She just basically imposed the “we are better than you” motto. In conclusion, I cannot believe how entitled they feel to a vacation. They are ALWAYS talking about their next holiday, and plan months in advance. Most people I know just take a week or two weeks and go to a cheap all-inclusive. These learners were going skiing in Austria, get-aways in Budapest, visiting relatives in Spain, and exotic holidays in Thailand, all in one year! Weird!

Anna, 27 August 2010


France is a beautiful country. I worked in Paris for 2 years as a TEFL teacher and I really enjoyed it. I found the French people to be very warm and eager to learn. The cost of living is high but the wages are very good. I saved a lot of money while living there.

Anonymous, 11 February 2011


I much prefer the the south to the north. I couldn’t believe how cold it got up there! There is lots of work going in the Toulouse area at the moment – I really recommend that region as it’s close to Spain and the Pyrenees, isn’t too touristy and has a lively nightlife. It seems that the teaching kids thing is just taking off too if that’s your thing.

Jimbo, 12 October 2011


I’m into my second year of TEFL in central France and already spoke B2 level French before I started. My first year was spent teaching at a University, a good hourly rate but only paid twice a year, at the end of each semester. The work fell away to almost nothing after February because English lessons are stopped to let the students concentrate on their final exams. This year the University was administratively very slow off the mark (apparently typical) so in the meantime I had got work at a higher education college where I teach Business English. Word of mouth then led to me to becoming self employed in order to teach Business English in a company… So what? So, there is plenty of work out there but it’s not necessarily advertised; you have to use your initiative and contacts. The French don’t respond to your job-searching emails and letters, instead they contact you at the last moment hoping you’re available to start the next day. Literally! Language schools charge their clients loads but pay you the teacher badly. So work at a University or higher education college for double. Or go your own way and earn triple while still undercutting the rates charged by language schools. Mix and match, get to meet lots of enthusiastic people and have a great time (but spend weekends terribly confused about which class you’re preparing for and where!)

Richard, 18 October 2011


I live in Bordeaux and have hardly had any work at all as an ESL teacher. Not even private students, I don’t understand. There are lots of young American and Canadian students, so maybe this has something to do with it. I lived in Normandy and always had students. In Paris too, people are so eager to learn English but not the case here. This is the most bourgeois and arrogant city in the whole of France, perhaps that has something to do with it. There is also a climate of distrust. The mentality is closed. You have to know someone who knows someone before you can get anything. Hardly anyone I encounter speaks English, and when they do it’s none too fluid. I can’t wait to leave and was offered a job in a place called Arar. I need to find out more about it, as I’m not sure whether I’m ready for the desert yet, though Bordeaux is a bit like a desert with lots of wine.

Grace, 31 July 2012


I came to France in 2005 with 18 years teaching experience and a good CELTA qualification. I don’t live near any large cities, but am willing to travel. I have found it very hard to find work paid at anything like a living wage. Cost of living is high too. I love living in France, but finding work here is much harder than I was advised.

Alison, 26 Dec 2012


This is a respectful question for Jacquie.

Regarding your statement: ‘If you want to do ESL for professionals, you probably can ask for a bit more if you are American’

Why is this? I thought native ‘English’ speakers would expect the better return if any. Did you mean that some people might be interested in going to America, thereby preferring American English? I am intrigued. As an English born teacher with a 4 yr Hons degree in education, a Trinity TEFL qualification and years of experience I was thinking of taking up Business English. Do you think it worth doing? Thank you for your time. Em x

Em, 6 Feb 2013


I studied and taught in France many years ago. All the varying comments above do hold truths. Both the negative and positive mentioned seem to ring a bell. I taught English and cross cultural communication in a language school in Paris and liked it. I liked my English speaking colleagues and had problems with my French peers. I ended up going back to the States where I have been teaching French and Spanish. As I am now in Mexico and about to return “home” I am just as anxious as any other foreigner. As a French native who has been 20 years abroad and willing to “replant ” himself, I am slightly on the edge. yet, I am excited for as the grass is greener on the other side life in France offers what many countries don’t. The job situation is tough but possible. It takes a good working knowledge of the national psyche and putting up with it–I say it as a native who lived there for 24 years. No country is perfect, that’s for sure. One has to prioritize and appreciate what he/she has. France offers excellent social and medical benefits. Who wants to live and maybe earn more money but with no insurance? There are some basic needs that are simply not covered in some of the so called “developed” nations. Take your pick…

Dominique, 25 April 2013


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2 comments and teachers' experiences of France

  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.

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