Teaching English in France: Five Steps to Success


Essential Reading

Teaching English in France: Five Steps to Success

This article presents the path to take if you want to teach English in France, with links to suggested schools and diplomas, wages and costs, details about the auto-entrepreneur system and working in universities, plus a few tips on how to get ahead!

One of the main advantages of being an anglophone in France is the never-ending supply of work for English teachers! There is a whole range of jobs, from babysitting with babylangues.com, to help with homework with academia.fr, to group classes with the British Council or International House, and then work as a ‘vacataire’ in Universities. For those of you who don’t mind doing a few new diplomas, and can speak French, by taking the 2-year MEEF (Masters in Teaching, Education and Training) and then the difficult competition Concours d’agrégé, where you can get yourself a job for life in French universities and schools. So in many ways, the world is your oyster, but you will need some recognized qualifications these days, as competition has increased over the years.

1. Getting Started as an English Teacher in France

The best thing to get you started is a CELTA (University of Cambridge), which can be done in one month, at the British Council every July or ILC more frequently throughout the year. This diploma is always recognized and impresses people. These days, ILC offers a blended version, with a few weekends in Paris and the rest online, so most people should find one that suits their lifestyles. One advantage of doing the intensive month is you will make friends for life who will become part of your network. It is such a unique, rather stressful, but extremely beneficial experience that people really bond! Since 2020, several new online schools have developed, too, such as Cercle de Langues, so you can teach from the comfort of your own home using your computer! Most people make their money back from the course cost within 3 months.

Once you have your certificate, you will need to open an auto-entrepreneur account. This is by far the best option as there is very little administration, and the social security costs are at 23%, whereas with companies (sociétés in France require an accountant and have much more administration) after VAT and social security costs, you will keep only about 1/3 of your earnings. In any case, most schools and universities require the auto-entrepreneur status nowadays. Each month you will send a bill to your school, who will then pay you according to their usual time delay (between a few days to one month). You can choose to make your declarations on the government website every month or every quarter.

When looking for work, the school where you take your CELTA will give you information on places to contact. You can also check www.fusac.fr and there is a newsletter by Denny Packard you can sign up to if you have a Masters – he regularly sends notice of university work. There are also numerous associations that look for teachers regularly. Some of the most famous language schools in France are the British Council, International House, Wall Street English and ESL Base has a good list that you can explore too.

Many schools will ask you what your teaching methods are and what materials you use, so be ready to explain such things in your interviews. Also, have a CV and covering letter ready in both French and English – just because a school offers English lessons doesn’t mean anyone there speaks English!

2. Wages and Contracts for English Teachers in France

Wages vary enormously! The more diplomas you have the higher you can expect your wage to be, but having said that, many schools offered a fixed wage that won’t increase with inflation or expertise. The minimum is around 10€ an hour, the most common between 15-25€, with a Masters/DELTA/Trinity Diploma 30€ and universities offer 27€ – 100€ depending on your specialty (law, environment, medicine, business, etc.) and what type of teaching they are offering. They have TP, which means speaking practice, and TD where you mark essays and are better paid.

However, one important thing to note with universities. For university teaching, you will need to have a Masters (not necessarily in English and not necessarily the MEEF). But, be aware, the payment system is rather peculiar. If you have the ‘vacataire’ status (which is the most common status) some universities pay monthly, but most pay in August and March so you will need other work to live off whilst waiting for these payments. You will also need to prove that you have earned 6,000-9,000€ elsewhere the year before in order to qualify, as these university jobs do not pay any social security so they will only hire you if they know that this has been paid either by you or someone else. If you get the agrégé status you are on a different system and are paid monthly.

You should get a contract and, in fact, you must insist on this. Universities are notorious for not paying on time, with some even paying a year late! So if they don’t give you one, don’t start, and this should be the rule for every teaching job you do in France. You should always legally have a contract (usually in French), not only for insurance and civil liability reasons, but also so that if you have a problem you have proof. Some schools, however, may ask you to buy civil insurance, which you can get from companies like MAIF and its called Assurance Responsabilité Civile Professionnelle.

3. Travel Costs and Expenses

For part-time work, most language schools do not pay any travel costs. The largest schools, British Council, Wall Street or Berlitz may offer a percentage, as well as a restaurant card like Sodexo, which helps to pay for lunch when working.

One disadvantage of the auto-entrepreneur system is that you cannot deduct any costs whatsoever – you pay the for price of simplicity this way!

4. Handling Students and Lessons

Many different types of people need English classes. It could be young children whose parents want them to start early, school children, teenagers taking their baccalaureate, university students who need English to obtain their degree and then any number of adults working in any sector. You will be asked about exam English, such as the TOEIC and IELTS, so it would be good to have knowledge and experience in those.

Many French people have had a bad experience with English at school and as a result, lack confidence and are terribly afraid of making mistakes. You will need to be a bit of a psychologist and find ways to encourage and reassure people so that they start to relax and have fun. Luckily the CELTA method works exactly this way. Speaking is the most required skill, followed by listening and then writing.

Many schools will allow you to make your own classes, so being able to lesson plan and create courses is a useful skill to have. If you feel creative, you can also make your own materials. Some schools like to provide course books, with the most popular being Cutting Edge, English File, and New Headway, amongst other well-known titles.

5. Top Tips for Teaching English in France

  • Learn how to speak French – you will get different types of opportunities and it will allow you to step out of the expat network and into the real France!
  • Dress up for your interviews – don’t come in jeans and sneakers – you will be representing the school and they like a professional image.
  • Be flexible – timetables can suddenly change
  • Be patient and calm – some students will try to get out their frustrations on you from past bad experiences, so we have to be able to take it calmly and show them how much fun English can be
  • Create an excel file to keep a record of all your classes, invoices and payments dates – this will help you at the end of the year with taxes and also follow up on any unpaid invoices.
  • Follow a model for your invoices: Employers address, Your Address, Date, Invoice Number, Contact details for both parties, Date-Service-Hourly Rate – Total and remember to put TTC by the total amount. You can find examples on the internet and for those of you who speak French have a look here.

Working in France?

Whether you’re working as an English teacher, setting up a business, or taking a CDI (permanent job) at a French company, FrenchEntrée is here to help you settle into your new life in France. Our Essential Reading articles cover all the bases, from writing your French CV or setting up as an Auto-entrepreneur to running a gite business or navigating the French workplace. 

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