In fact, even experienced teachers are now being asked for the certificate, and the whole TEFL industry is being regulated and overhauled. The good news for you, is that outside of Paris and some touristy or Mediterranean areas, most of France is still far from being saturated with TEFL teachers, just at a time when the whole of France seems to want to learn English!
But it’s not easy choosing the right TEFL course. If you do some “Googling” for TEFL courses, you will often find a course in an attractive French location, but when you click on it suddenly you're back to a homepage and being offered a discount on a course on the other side of the world. Or you find that the course is not accredited, only available online or takes place over a weekend… Suddenly, the TEFL course and your new career is just being sold as a working holiday for young backpackers – and we haven’t even got past choosing the location.
It’s essential to choose a course which is going to give you enough quality training to get you a job. Most language schools insist on an externally accredited (CELTA, Trinity or IATQuO are respected TEFL course accreditors) four-week TEFL course with at least six hours of teaching practice as a minimum requirement to get you an interview. Online or weekend courses won’t get you a job on the whole, because employers need to see you have had plenty of experience standing up and teaching. If you can get a course which includes modules on teaching young learners (language learners aged five to 17) or business English then that's an added bonus as these are growing areas. Here at tefltoulouse we have decided to incorporate both to give trainees a strong start.
What type of work is out there? How much will I get paid? Well, business English still seems to be No.1. Young learners are on the up in France – the current trend is for teaching toddlers. Teaching teenager groups after school will probably take off soon, as it did in Spain in the 90s. Telephone or Skype lessons are common in France – and you can do this from home. The student calls you, you teach for half an hour slots usually and then the school pays you.
You ought to think a little about what kind of teaching you want to do as well. Would you rather spend your days in the language school staff room and classrooms with other teachers? Or is going out to businesses more your thing? Does the intimacy of one-to-one lessons appeal? Or would you prefer big groups that you can “entertain”? How would you feel about teaching a group of 10 to 14 year olds?
Think about your timetable, too. The great thing about teaching is that you can work the hours you like – up to 30 a week if you want to make money, or just mornings or evenings for periods when you want to spend more time on a hobby or with family. In terms of income, you need to accept from the start that you are unlikely to get rich by teaching. Language schools pay 13 to 20 euros an hour. You can charge the upper end of this scale and maybe even more if you choose to teach privately or the lower end to get more clients. Many teachers are now setting themselves up as freelancers (“autoentrepreneurs” under the new Sarkozy scheme) which has added flexibility – you can bill language schools for hours you do for them, and also bill individual clients that you find yourself. You can even be a freelancer and have contracts – you don’t have to choose one or the other. Of course, if you are a freelancer you can choose your own rates and conditions too. It’s a fun time to set up a business in France, and really not that complicated.
If you can get work teaching at the Universities (“grandes ecoles”) then they pay much more, although you will need a degree as well as your TEFL certificate to teach there. Here in Toulouse, there are five main universities, and they are often looking for teachers and pay up to 50 euros an hour. But beware - they often pay freelancers several months in arrears!
A TEFL course is highly recommended if you want to get working straight away when you arrive in France or if you are following a partner here. It forms part of a great relocation package. Many people just teach for a few years before they find other possibly more lucrative work. In fact, many teachers find lucrative work via teaching. Some companies offer teachers work n another capacity, such as administrative or business development.
It is advisable to start getting a grounding in French as soon as you arrive. Despite not needing French to teach – good teaching techniques that you will learn on a good TEFL course rarely involve having to translate or explain in French, although many schools still prefer you to be able to speak some. Also you will get more private students if you can explain your prices and conditions over the phone! Some TEFL courses can offer a French course at a discount rate.
One final word – if you are from outside the EU then read this paragraph: You are probably going to need a visa to work officially. You can get one by applying for a French course run by a recognised institution such as the Alliance Francaise or some university language departments. Visas can only be applied for while still in the US ,so all this needs to be done a few months in advance of your TEFL course. You also need to explain to everyone – ie Alliance Francaise and then your Consulate) that you need a visa that allows you to work. Some visas don’t, but having said all that, research shows that there seem to be a huge number of Americans all over Europe whose visas have run out and who are just teaching cash-in-hand to make ends meet.
Whether you choose to teach to make friends, make ends meet, to restart a new career, to be able to live in lovely France, or even if you just want to sharpen your presentation skills, an accredited four-week TEFL course is the place to start. And doing your TEFL course here doesn’t limit you to working in France. Once you have your certificate you can get working straight away, in any city or country you turn up in, worldwide for the rest of your life!
This article has been submitted by Jonathan Davies, the owner and course director of TEFL TOULOUSE - www.tefltoulouse.com